The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 6, 2013

One man show is a Dickens of a time

By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item

— With a woeful holler, Gerald Dickens falls to his knees and begins to weep. Hands trembling and a voice laced with regret, he begs for mercy and the chance to redeem himself.

Although the audience knows the outcome of the tale unfolding in front of them, all eyes are transfixed on the man with the top hat and black waistcoat.

It’s moments like this, during Gerald Dickens’ one-man theatrical performance of “A Christmas Carol,” that one fully appreciates the acting talents of this 50-year-old performer and experiencing a brush with literary history.

While the beloved tale of Scrooge is performed across the country and around the world at prestigious venues, theaters and high school auditoriums this time of year, none of the actors have the pedigree of Gerald Dickens since it was his great-great grandfather, Charles Dickens, who penned the iconic story in 1843.

This Wednesday, Dickens will bring Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and a host of other characters to life as he returns to Country Cupboard for two theatrical performances of his enthralling one-man show.

“This is a story that remains as fresh and relevant today as the day it was first published. People, especially those in America, embrace and love the story of this bitter miser and his journey to redemption,” said Dickens with a stiff, yet warm British accent. “It’s a story about regret and compassion, second chances and family with some of the best characters in literature.”

Since 1993, Dickens has been performing “A Christmas Carol” across Britain and America with nothing more than a couple of props, period garb and a commanding presence that draws the audience into a tale they know by heart, yet cling to every word.

His show was inspired by Charles Dickens’ own readings in the 1860s.

“The show is never the same. So many things come into play, such as my mood, the mood of the audience, even the weather,” said Dickens recently while traveling through the upper east coast with his show. “There is a lot of interaction with the audience, so that too can add an unexpected twist to the show.”

What doesn’t waiver is the way Dickens embraces each show as if it were the most important performance of his career.

With ease and occasional amusement, he can convince the audience he’s any of the 30 characters he brings to life including a miserable and lonely miser, a small child with a gimpy leg, a forgotten love and the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present, his favorite character in the story.

With animated antics Dickens can be partaking in a lively Christmas gathering, reeling in total shock at the unseen poverty in London or leaping across the room with utter joy when Scrooge discovers compassion for his fellow man.

“I never grow tired of performing this story. It’s an amazing experience to see how much this story has touched people. While the story is popular in England, it’s immensely popular in America,” he said. “Each year, as I visit towns across America, I am amazed at the amount of places and groups that stage a production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ I always, without fail, have people come up to me after the show and share their own personal memories of the story — that they were in a school production or the read the story to their children each year. It’s an honor for me to know that someone in my family wrote this story and how much it is loved.”

His Christmas tour this year finds him performing across the east coast right up until two days before Christmas at which time he heads back home to England and enjoys his own holiday.

“When I was growing up, Christmas was always a lavish affair with lots of activity. Now Christmas for me is more like an American Thanksgiving. It’s very gentle, relaxed and centered around my family,” Dickens said. “One of my favorite parts of the holiday is visiting America and seeing how much ‘A Christmas Carol’ is such a beloved tradition and a part of the holidays.“