20th Edition of Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles Opens Nov. 29, 2013

20th Edition of Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles Opens Nov. 29

Charles Dickens Skaneateles Suites

Charles Dickens Skaneateles SuitesS

No, you’re not seeing triple.

When the World’s Smallest Christmas Parade kicks off Nov. 29, opening the 20th anniversary season of Dickens Christmas, it will feature three renditions of Charles Dickens.

Jim Greene, who has played Dickens for more than a decade, will be joined by the production’s first Dickens, Ted Davenport, grand marshal for the parade, and Kim Tenreiro, who will present a one-man dramatization of “A Christmas Carol” during the show’s final weekend.

The parade starts at noon at the Skaneateles Village Hall on Fennell Street, proceeding east to Jordan and Genesee streets and arriving at the Sherwood House porch in time for the 12:10 p.m. grand opening.

Dickens Christmas is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Mirbeau Inn & Spa and the Skaneateles-area business community. It runs noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 22, with a limited show (noon to 3 p.m.) Dec. 24.

“The production wasn’t always the polished version it is today—in the beginning, we really struggled,” recalls Davenport. “That first year, we thought we had an arrangement with an acting group in Syracuse, but no one showed up. So I grabbed some friends, put them in costume, and about 10 of us did the show ourselves.”

The cast now numbers 70, and Dickens Christmas attracts more than 20,000 visitors each year.

In this Finger Lakes village, it is 1842, and Charles Dickens is gathering research for his soon-to-be-written classic, “A Christmas Carol.” On village streets, he encounters Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, the Hon. DeWitt Clinton (retired governor of New York who championed the Erie Canal), President William Henry Harrison, and a bevy of other characters ranging from finishing school girls to pickpockets.

Magic, music and merriment prevail, as the revels play and guests ride by in horse–drawn carriages.

“Street theater is up-close and personal, and it provides a wonderful experience for the actors, as well as for visitors,” Davenport says.  “I thoroughly enjoyed playing Dickens.”

Highlights of the 20th anniversary season include:

• The Revels Live—Christmas carol sing-along—2 p.m. every day at the Gazebo. Twelve groups form, each representing one of the 12 days of Christmas. The groups vie for attention, and at the end, Queen Victoria awards a silver teasel to the most spirited performer. Winners have been known to wear their coveted silver teasels throughout the season.

• Scenes from “A Christmas Carol,” featuring guests from the audience, performed at 12:30, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on the steps of the Masonic Temple.

• One-man dramatization of “A Christmas Carol,” presented by Kim Tenreiro, of Canandaigua, 3:30 to 6 p.m. Dec. 21 at the United Methodist Church. Suggested donation is $5.

• Horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides around the village, departing from the Sherwood Inn, provided by Mountainview Guest Ranch. Wagon rides are free; carriage rides are $20 per family.

• Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts donated by Tops Friendly Markets and Johnny Angel’s and roasted by Mid-Lakes Navigation, warm figgy pudding at Mid-Lakes Navigation, and Byrne Dairy eggnog (Saturdays only) served by the Girl Scouts.

For children, Mother Goose will read holiday stories at the Skaneateles Library and Father Christmas will hand out treats from the porch of the Masonic Temple.

And for children of all ages, the Wonderful Wizard of the North will perform comedy magic shows at 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15. The 3 p.m. performance Dec. 8 will be at the Skaneateles Historical Society’s Museum at the Creamery; all others will take place at the Skaneateles Library.

Everyone is invited to borrow Victorian-era costumes from the Chamber of Commerce, 22 Jordan St., and join in the fun.

“Our village becomes a magical place during the holiday season,” says Susan Dove, director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “We invite Dickens fans from near and far to step back in time and join us for a slower-paced, more enjoyable atmosphere, where shopping can still be fun.

“We have more than 70 shops and restaurants, sure to please any palate and pocketbook,” she notes. “Why not make a weekend of it, and stay at one of our lovely bed-and-breakfasts, hotels or inns.”

Behind the scenes

The cast of 70, which includes young apprentice talent, is joined by a variety of guest musicians and caroling groups. The show comes together in just six rehearsals.

“We pack a lot in and streamline the process of building a character,” says Jim Greene, of Dryden, who is producing director and plays Dickens. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build his character and become part of the ensemble.”

Greene is assisted by Maria Wechsler, of Marcellus, who is artistic director and plays Queen Victoria; Kristen Baskewicz, of Rochester, who is music director and plays Lady Charlotte Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch; John Decker, of Queensbury, who is associate director and plays Prince Albert; Brett Norsworthy, of Wolcott, who is managing secretary and plays undertaker Barry M. Deep; and Tracey Greene, of Dryden, who is wardrobe director.

More than 120 local businesses make Dickens Christmas possible through their sponsorship support. This year’s Presenting Sponsor is Mirbeau Inn & Spa; Royalty Sponsor is the Sherwood Inn.

Father Christmas sponsors include Doug’s Fish Fry, Johnny Angel’s Heavenly Hamburgers, Old Stone Mill/Village Inn, Skaneateles Town Square, Summit Auto, Tops Friendly Markets and Verizon Business Services.

Charles Dickens sponsors include Arbor House Inn and Suites, B&C Storage, Bluewater Grill, CNY Fertility and CNY Healing Arts, Community Bank, Creekside Books & Coffee, Empire Brewing Co., Fleur de lis Florist, The Garage Eatz, Group M Communications, Imagine, KeyBank, Mid-Lakes Navigation, Pomodoro, Rhubarb, Skaneateles Bakery, the Skaneateles Library, the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center and Wegmans.

The festival is further supported through ticket sales from a Dickens Raffle. First prize is a $1,000 gift certificate from Mirbeau Inn & Spa; second prize is a family membership to the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center; third prize is a shop-and-dine Skaneateles gift basket; fourth prize is a gift basket from Infused!; and fifth prize is two tickets to an SU Men’s Basketball game, courtesy of Galaxy Communications. Raffle tickets are $5 each, three for $10, 10 for $20, and are on sale at the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce and other local merchants.

Looking for still another Dickens-inspired way to celebrate the season? The Sherwood Inn will again offer Dickens Christmas Ale, made for it exclusively by Empire Brewing Co. with water from Skaneateles Lake, and Dickens Christmas commemorative glasses.

A 20th anniversary Dickens Christmas ornament is on sale at the Skaneateles Chamber, the Sherwood Inn gift shop and White Sleigh.

For more information on Dickens Christmas, go to www.skaneateles.com, call (315) 685-0552, or follow the event on Facebook (Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles) or Twitter (@DickensXmas).