INTERVIEW: ‘Christmas Carol’ comes to life in Hudson Valley

This is a view of Dickens' 'Christmas Carol' at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. on December 6, 2014. The show is now playing at the Christ Episcopal Church in Tarrytown, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Tom Nycz.
Jonathan Kruk stars in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The show is now playing at the Christ Episcopal Church in Tarrytown, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Tom Nycz.

Jonathan Kruk, master storyteller based in New York’s Hudson Valley, is currently performing in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a production from History Hudson Valley that is currently running at the Christ Episcopal Church in Tarrytown, N.Y. The performance, lasting approximately 60 minutes, features Kruk interpreting the classic text along with musical accompaniment.

Hudson Valley storytelling fans will recognize Kruk from his successful performances in Irving’s Legend, a retelling of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Historic Hudson Valley, which produces the events, offers several history-minded attractions in the Hudson Valley, including tours of historic estates, a Halloween-themed haunted maze called Horseman’s Hollow and the famous Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze.

Tickets for Kruk’s performance in the Christmas-themed tale, which are moving fast, are available here. Adults are $25, and children under 18 are $20. Members, like this reporter, receive discounts.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Kruk about all things Dickens. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.

Where did the idea come from to adapt and perform the classic story, A Christmas Carol?

[T]he success of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow solo shows in the Old Dutch Church moved Jim Keyes, my accompanist, to suggest to Historic Hudson Valley I perform another famed ghostly tale, A Christmas Carol. I agreed, then discovered Dickens classic runs over twice the length of The Legend. Still, [with] my love … for a story a friend called ‘the most perfect tale of hope and redemption’ with inspiration from performances by Albert Finney and Patrick Stewart, I took on the challenge.

What are some unique challenges of this particular piece?

A Christmas Carol is a classic everyone knows. I needed to [do] something unique yet true to the tale. Thus, drawing on skills as a master storyteller, I transformed the story. It differs from all other versions in one way. This is a dramatic retelling not a set scripted play. My audiences enjoy a streamlined plot line, an authentic feel for the time, plus many of the timeless quotes. I endeavor to give people not only the characters, but Charles Dickens [as well] …

Is this the first time performing the piece in Christ Episcopal Church? What do you like about this location?

This is the first time performing at Christ Episcopal. Given the raised altar, stained glass, velvet seats and ornate setting, I feel even more reverential about performing Dickens’ classic. Plus, Washington Irving helped establish this church and inspire Charles Dickens. There’s a connection.

This is an interesting story for a number of reasons. First off, for a Christmas tale, it can often be quite scary. How would you classify the story?

Traditional Christmas stories often feature frightening elements. Look at … Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, “no room at the inn,” a birth in the manger, the slaughter of the innocents, and there is a precedent for scary Christmas things. Once upon a time, during the old 12 days of Christmas, people told ghost stories.

Here’s how Dickens classifies the story in his preface. “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly.” Given all how hectic the holidays get, commercialism, we all need to be scared into spirit of the season!

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • A Christmas Carol with Jonathan Kruk is currently playing at the Christ Episcopal Church in Tarrytown, N.Y. Click here for more information on Historic Hudson Valley and for tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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