Will Schutze and Scrooge (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

Will Schutze and Scrooge (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

The young man who has inhabited Ebenezer Scrooge each holiday season since 2015 at NorthPark Center said his final “Bah. Humbug” this past Christmas Eve.

His parents — Morning News editor Mariana Greene and author and erstwhile Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze — announced their son’s Dickensian marionette swan song via a Christmas Day IG post.

The elder Schutze posted a photo of family members watching the “next-to-last performance” and concluded his caption with “… After six years in a role pioneered by John Hardman 40 years ago, Will retired from the role this year. Something about spending Christmas at home in Austin with his wife.”

Greene followed the comment with, “Buried lede. Dec. 24 was Will’s last performance as Scrooge at Dallas’ NorthPark Center. It’s time Will spends Thanksgiving and Christmas at home in Austin. Christmas 2022 will be baby’s first.”

As Jim Schutze mentioned, Lake Highlands resident John Hardman was Scrooge at NorthPark for some 40 Decembers before he succumbed to cancer at 80.

But, while he could, Hardman taught his young apprentice everything he knew.

When Will was an aspiring actor at Woodrow Wilson High School, Hardman’s wife Patti taught drama. She introduced the two. Will came to work under Hardman on the State Fair of Texas “World on a String” show. The rest was history.

Will replaced Hardman in 2015. That year, Will told The Advocate that the experience was bittersweet. The apprentice missed his master.

“I get through the shows and they’re a lot of fun — a whole lot of fun, actually — and I finish and I turn off the microphone, and I just kind of sit down and wish that John was there.”

In 2006, Hardman described the annual show to The Advocate as “Scrooge, sitting up in his office window commenting on what people are buying, Christmas in general, kids, et cetera from a thrifty point of view.”

Who could even be the next Scrooge? So far there is no word, but we will check in with Will to see if he has been schooling any candidates. It won’t be easy to recast. Hardman got to know generations of families. Will Schutze kept his spirit alive. I hope his wife and baby appreciate the sacrifice. We are grateful he gave us 2021.

“… that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, before the Omicron variant)