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A CurtainUp Review
A Christmas Carol

Bah! Humbug! . -- Scrooge
xmas carol
John Kevin Jones in A Christmas Carol.
Under the aegis of the Summoners Ensemble Theatre and in association with the Merchant's House Museum, John Kevin Jones gives Dickens' novella a fresh theatrical flavor and performs it in an authentic 19th century setting.

Here's the premise: Dickens, who embarked on a 5-month American tour to perform live readings of his works in 1867, came to New York City in December for a month of sold-out performances of A Christmas Carol at Steinway Hall. Supposedly, the literary lion also gave a special holiday performance of his mini-masterpiece to a coterie of cultural enthusiasts at the Merchant House. Built in 1832, it was home to the wealthy merchant Seabury Tredwell and his family for nearly a century, it would indeed have be the perfect place for Dickens to visit and present his famous work to an elite few.

Jones, as stand-in for Dickens, has a commanding presence and urbane air. Dressed in a formal Victorian-style black suit with a crimson vest, he looks at home, quite literally, in the Greek Revival parlor of the Merchant House and makes the audience (only 40 people per performance) feel likewise.

Don't expect any bells and whistles. This take on A Christmas Carol comes across like a piece of chamber music. With his endlessly expressive voice, Jones taps into the rich textures of Dickens' embroidered language and makes the iconic characters come alive one by one. Add to the presentation flickering candlelight, elegant period furniture, and a twinkling Christmas tree — and you'll be transported back to the 19th century and feel as if you're listening to the famous author himself reciting his ghost story.

The performance has no dull patches. Jones continually pulls the audience in by dramatically raising and lowering his voice, shading the monologue with rasping sounds, and injecting pregnant pauses into the yarn. He inhabits all the key personages without ever missing a beat: the narrator, Scrooge, his late partner Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Part of the fun of attending this Christmas Carol is seeing new converts to the story. But then, young or old, for the first or umpteenth time, who can resist this timeless tale about a miser who morphs into the most generous of men?

This year marks Jones' fifth anniversary of performing A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House Museum. The only drawback to the show is that the run is already sold out. But why not make it your New Year's resolution to catch the holiday event next year?

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Adapted by John Kevin Jones and Rhonda Dodd

Directed by Dr. Rhonda Dodd
Cast: John Kevin Jones.
Merchant House Museum, 29 East Fourth Street, East Village. 212-777-1089 or
From 11/30/17; closing 12/31/17.
Running time: 1 hour with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 12/3/17

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