Roger Jerome: A Dickens of a Christmas

"I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year."

England's greatest novelist loved to have fun, which, in his day, meant games, recitations, songs, ghost stories and — his own specialty — conjuring. In the parlor, often with the acompaniment of food, drink and a blazing fire. Dickens was, in our terms, an inveterate party animal. This program, popular with all age groups, presents the essence of a Victorian Christmas party, where modern media are absent. Participants entertain each other and Dickens would take the lead wherever he was.

Jane Carlyle admired him as the best magician she ever saw. As the prestidigitator, Rhia Rhama Rhoos, Dickens shows "nothing up my sleeve," sends objects invisibly through the air, demonstrates the Indian Rope Trick and cuts off his own hand. And more. Astonishing!

Dickens was, of course, a master storyteller. His later success with his public readings proved this. He loved ghost stories, the more macabre the better. "Captain Murderer" is a story to give even modern audiences nightmares, but his most enduring Christmas ghost story was of course "A Christmas Carol". Here Dickens gives a shortened version of his enduring fable. Scrooge's nightmares on Christmas Eve lead to his famous reformation with the message for kindness reverberating down the years. The "tight-handed fist at the grindstone" becomes the man who knew how to keep Christmas well.

Finally, with a willing audience volunteer, Dickens leads the audience in the participatory song "Shiverandshakery". The volunteer shivers from indulging in a common eating pleasure and, despite the application of layers and layers of warm clothing, freezes to death. The moral is pointed out in the final lines of the song.

Shiverandshakery, yo! ho! ho!
Criminy crikey isn't it cold,
Boo! hoo! hoo! oh lo behold,
The man who couldn't get warm

Just the sort of program to entertain at Yuletime — or, indeed, any other time of the year. Dickens is seen here as the jolly, twinkle-eyed host that his family and friends remembered forever. Successfully presented in Columbus, Medina, Piqua, Oak Hill, Toledo, Springfield, Portsmouth, other venues in Ohio and elsewhere.