OCEAN CITY — Erik Wagner isn’t new to playing a lead role in the school play. But portraying the bitter miser Ebenezer Scrooge holds a different type of challenge for the eighth-grader at Ocean City Intermediate School.

“I usually have an upbeat, happy personality. It’s kind of hard to transition into someone more mean and miserable,” said Wagner, set to play the lead part in the school’s production of “A Christmas Carol” on Friday in the high school’s auditorium. “But he’s happy in the end.”

In last year’s show for the intermediate school, Wagner portrayed The Baker, the protagonist of the musical fantasy “Into the Woods.” Two years ago, he enjoyed the part of Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka Jr.”

When the musical version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol starts 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 in the Hughes Performing Arts Center, Wagner will walk an audience through the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted moneylender who despises Christmas, until he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

The spirits show Scrooge the consequences of his actions, and that Christmas is a time for celebration. In the end, Scrooge has a new outlook on the holiday and races through the streets of London, attempting to make amends.

Michelle Tornblom, a seventh grade social studies teacher at the school, will direct.

The intermediate school, which ranges from students in fourth to eighth grades, is producing a full version of the musical. The school usually produces “junior” plays, shortened versions of their original stories with easier-to-memorize dialogue and music.

In the cast’s first rehearsal on the big stage at the high school before the show, Wagner said the full-length show presents a good challenge for the group, particularly the eighth-graders who could take part in a high school show next year.

“That is different for us,” said Wagner, who also portrays Scrooge’s father in the show. “With the full shows, there’s harder music and it’s more mature dialogue.”

Natalie Argento, a seventh-grader who plays the Ghost of Christmas Past, will take on her first major acting role in a school play.

“I’m pretty good at memorizing lines,” she said. “And I enjoy the singing part. This year I get to have my own song.”

She likes her character – an elegant spirit who wears pretty dresses.

“I did the pageant over the summer for Junior Miss (Ocean City). I kind of like wearing dresses,” she said with a laugh.

James Craver, also taking on the biggest role he’s had in a school play with the Ghost of Christmas Present, said he has his own way of remembering his lines.

“I hang them around my house,” said Craver, also in seventh grade. “I type them out and I make copies of them and hang them all around the house.”

Tickets for the show cost $7 for adults and $5 for children or students. To reserve a seat, call the school’s main office at 609-399-5611 or email Michele Dubs, secretary to the principal, at mdubs@ocsdnj.org.

The show’s cast also includes Max Fisher, Estelle Gimble, Ashley Meng, Lexi Hart, Sarah Rodriguez, Mark Faverzani, Ava Kelly, Kierstyn Kuehnle, Kiera Janto, Jemma Kraft, Jeremiah Craver, Julia Wilson, Lorelai Mullins, Katie Muller, Taryn Cupit, Brody McGrath, Taylor Pontari, Ellie Kutschera, Colin Dice, Sarah Huber, Sarah Gleason, Shea DeMarco, Caeli Barber, Sally Dahl, Mackie Segich, Julia Newman, Noelle Graham, Dillon Dwyer, Stephen Hincken and Johnson Hincken.

The school’s fourth and fifth grade chorus will also perform.