Nobody knows Ebenezer Scrooge like David Coffee.
He is portraying the miserable miser from “A Christmas Carol” for the 26th time this month at North Shore Music Theatre, and he thinks the holidays are always a struggle for his character.
“The way Jon Kimbell originally put it to me, he said every year at this time, it’s so hard for (Scrooge), because that’s when he lost his only love, and his sister — the female people in his life — so it’s always rough on him,” Coffee said.
Kimbell was artistic director at North Shore Music Theatre for 25 years, before retiring in 2007, and he created the theater’s musical version of “A Christmas Carol” in 1989.
The original story by Charles Dickens was published in 1843 and depicts how tightfisted businessman Scrooge learns from a series of ghosts that people, and not profits, are what matter in life.
Kimbell believed that Scrooge’s terrifying visions and subsequent salvation are a more intense expression of his usual Christmas blues, Coffee said.
“He claimed, this year, Scrooge is going through a nervous breakdown,” Coffee said.
That may be due in part to the fact that, as audiences are told, seven years have passed since the death of Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley.
That period of time is often associated with cycles of change in people’s lives, Coffee said, including his own.
“I thought about it, and not through any of my own planning, it just seems every seven years, there’s an opportunity for me that comes up that I never thought of,” he said.
Coffee said that “A Christmas Carol” was originally inspired by a visit that Dickens made to some miners, where he was troubled by their work conditions and the way they were forced to live.
“He was going to make a speech and was trying to develop a fire-and-brimstone speech about how we need to treat our fellow man better, and he got this inspiration,” Coffee said. “Instead of preaching to them, he decided I can get to them better if I tell a story.”
So Dickens took an earlier work he had written, about a man who encounters some spirits in a cemetery and revised it to carry the message he wanted to share.
“He pulled out this old story and changed it up, and we’re still talking about it today,” Coffee said.
A third to a half of the cast is new this year, Coffee said, including two new Pearlies, or “spirits that travel with the larger spirits throughout the show.”
But this will be the fifth year that Andy Tighe has appeared in “A Christmas Carol.”
He played Young Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future for the first two years, but this will be the third year that he has portrayed Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, who is nearly the opposite of his uncle.
“He is the ultimate optimist,” Tighe said. “He believes in the holiday and what it stands for.”
Tighe, who is from North Reading, said that Fred is the closest to himself of all the characters he’s played. Tighe also describes himself as “passionately nerdy” about theater history and said he recently read a book called “Inventing Scrooge” that discusses Fred’s resemblance to Dickens.
“There were many friends of Charles Dickens who, when they saw his description of Fred, they thought, ‘That’s Dickens,’” Tighe said. “It was almost a manifestation of him.”
He said that the first theatrical productions of “A Christmas Carol” in the United States were performed by Dickens himself in a solo show in Boston, while he was on a speaking tour.
“Apparently, it was packed to the gills,” Tighe said. “He threw himself into it. It was a full performance with just him onstage with a carafe of water. When you read the reviews of the other performances, the changes in character in his voice was impressive, apparently.”
Tighe studied musical theater with an emphasis on acting at Boston Conservatory, graduating in 2015.
He made his professional debut as Rolf in “The Sound of Music” six years ago at North Shore Music Theatre and has lived in New York for the last four years, working steadily in regional productions around the country.
“It’s great to come home for the holidays and be working at the same time,” he said. “It’s almost too good to be true.”
He is equally pleased to be working with David Coffee, whom Tighe, 26, first saw in “A Christmas Carol” when he was 3 or 4 years old.
“I still have to pinch myself that I’m working with him, because he is Scrooge to me,” Tighe said.
But he can now also appreciate Coffee’s skill as an actor and his portrayal of Scrooge.
“What David does is really humanize him, and that’s what I love so much about his Scrooge,” Tighe said. “It seems real, within the confines of what the show requires.”
If you go
What: “A Christmas Carol”
When: Dec. 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 2 p.m.
Where: North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly
How much: $66 to $81. All seats on opening night are $30, plus $25 student rush tickets available starting one hour before each performance. Children under 4 not permitted.
More information: 978-232-7200 or www.nsmt.org