|Jackson Enterprises, Inc.’s 1992 U.S. publication of the Dickens’ family’s Christmas with Dickens book led to my representing Gerald Charles Dickens as an actor in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. A 32-year-old British actor with top hat, frock coat, beard, and cane, he bore a striking resemblance to Charles Dickens, his great-great-grandfather. With energy, he commanded the stage, mesmerizing audiences as his ancestor had done on his 19th century American tours.
Together, Gerald Charles Dickens and I created the American Holiday Tour, beginning in 1996. Just as Charles Dickens had performed A Christmas Carol on every public program after its 1843 publication, so did Gerald, from East Coast to West, twice a day throughout November and December.
Historic Hotels of America first booked his performances at their elegant dinners and teas. Libraries, literacy groups, retailers, Dickens Festivals, theaters, universities, corporate and private event-planners sought one or more days on his 35-40 day Holiday Tour. He represented history, literature and biography brought to life in the 20th century. The “Man with a Top Hat and a Legacy” developed gestures and facial expressions for 26 characters within his great-great-grandfather’s holiday tale.
“Marley was dead to begin with!” he emphatically began. Reviving the ancient art of storytelling, Gerald became Ebenezer Scrooge growling “Bah, Humbug!”, the fiddler at Fezziwig’s Ball who “tuned like 50 stomach aches”, Mrs. Fezziwig with her “vast substantial smile”, grief-stricken Bob Cratchit foreseeing Tiny Tim’s death, Topper at his lecherous game of Blind Man’s Buff, Scrooge feeling remorse followed by Christmas morning joy, and completing the arc of his 75-minute show, Tiny Tim’s wishing for us all: “God Bless Us, Everyone!”
American audiences responded with laughter, delight, eruptive applause and sustained standing ovations. And as zealous Americans responded, Dickens’ performance grew bigger and bolder each year.
Governors and mayors issued Dickens Day proclamations. Advance newspaper and radio interviews were arranged by phone and e-mail. We flew red-eye specials all night when necessary, hoped for a “big breakfast” to fuel Gerald’s performance day, and waited for him to change into Victorian attire in a fast-food restaurant’s restroom. He sent digital Tour photos by laptop to post on our web site, www.jackprises.com, “On the Road with Mr. Dickens”. He arrived at performance sites by riverboat, limo, and horse-drawn carriage. Good Morning America, CBS This Morning crews and The New York Times staff came on-location to cover his performances. Tea and shortbread, wine and cheese welcomed him to his hotel rooms.
Show attendees felt history in the making. Following each performance, they lined up at the book-signing table for Gerald to sign with his green pen the books they had purchased onsite, A Christmas Carol, Christmas with Dickens, The Life of Our Lord.
A tradition is built one sound-check at a time. One “Bah, Humbug!” and one “God Bless Us, Everyone!” at a time. This CD embodies a Decade of Dickens’ tradition that spanned the 20th and 21st centuries. To Americans who shared this tradition with us, who opened their hearts and homes, we will remain grateful.
President, Jackson Enterprises, Inc.