Americans have loved Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol since they were first introduced to the work by the British author himself. In 1867, Mr. Dickens toured the United States, giving readings of his novel. Today, Gerald Charles Dickens is following in those famous footsteps. An actor, producer and director, the contemporary Mr. Dickens has brought his one-man show of the holiday classic to the United States every year since 1996. This year he will give a total of 47 performances in 10 states before returning to his home in Kent, England.
When the author of A Christmas Carol toured America nearly 140 years ago, "there were lines going around city blocks trying to get into the venues, with people peering through windows," says Gerald Charles Dickens. "People sat on the stage, because the theater had been overbooked and Dickens didn't want to turn people away."
Although the contemporary Dickens had previously distanced himself from his famous ancestor, he was persuaded to do readings in England as a fundraiser in 1993, the 150th anniversary of the publication of the novel. He agreed initially to do only two performances. But he reconsidered after receiving an enthusiastic reaction from his audiences and discovering that he had fun developing voices for the characters.
His first performance in the United States was at a Dickens Festival in Galveston, Texas. "I was totally unprepared for the passion for Dickens that the American nation has," says the writer’s great-great-grandson. Once he discovered that passion, however, Gerald Charles Dickens began an annual American tour. His appearances in both large and small cities have given him, he says, "such an affection for the country and people who live here.”
His production of A Christmas Carol is not the only one Americans have an opportunity to see each year. There have been more than 150 film and television adaptations of the story of a miser who rediscovers his humanity when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve. Several versions are broadcast during the holiday season on American television. In addition, theaters across the United States stage annual productions of the tale -- some of them lavish musicals, others modern adaptations, and some that remain fairly faithful to the original novel.
A performance by Gerald Charles Dickens, however, is the closest that modern day audiences can get to what it might have been like to see the author himself bring to life the novel’s famous characters -- including miser Ebenezer Scrooge…the ghosts who haunt him with visions of Christmases past, Christmas present, and the Christmas that awaits him if he does not change his greedy ways…Scrooge's poor clerk Bob Cratchit…and Mr. Cratchit's youngest son, Tiny Tim. Like his great-great-grandfather, Gerald Charles Dickens uses no props or costumes, although he dresses as his ancestor would have in the mid-19th century. Each character is distinguished through a change in voice, posture and facial expression.
The actor's tour of the United States is a demanding one. Over 43 days, he crisscrosses the continent from the east coast to the Midwest, back to the east, then west to California, and finally finishes up in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the northern Midwest, just two days before Christmas, on December 23.