Dickens of a Dinner


Last night I had the opportunity of seeing a dinner theatre production of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. The show was put on by One88. They were using the show as a fundraiser for their community ministries.  I was graciously provided with a ticket to the event. My connection with One88 goes back to when they were first scouting out locations. Greg Armstrong and Dave Ens who are heavily involved in the leadership of the church, are friends from years back with whom I reconnected around the time One88 was coming into being.

Dickens Stage

The Stage setting for the Dickens A Christmas Carol performance.

The reading of A Christmas Carol was performed by John D. Huston, in the character of Charles Dickens. I’ll have more about that below.

One88 is located in the old Mirlycurtois restaurant location. So, it makes an ideal setting for a dinner theatre performance. The evening was broken up into salad course, main course, and dessert. After each course was served, Huston would serve up a segment of the story.

Dickens Salads

Salads ready to be taken out to the table.

The salad was Romaine lettuce served with apples, cranberries and pecans. The apples added a pleasant, natural sweetness to the salad. The salad was also lightly dressed allowing the flavours of the rest of the ingredients to shine through.

Dickens salad.

A starter salad

The main course was Turkey, with Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, with Green and Yellow Beans. There was also Cranberry Sauce. I went with out the Cranberry Sauce as I feel the same way about it as I do about Ketchup (if you’ve read the blog before you know I’m not a Ketchup fan). The turkeys were purchased from and prepared for the event by Danny’s Whole Hog. My portion was mainly white meat and it was good and moist. An excellent job by Danny’s.

Dickens dinner.

Turkey at the Dickens dinner.

For dessert there was a variety of cheesecake slices on offer. I ended up with a slice of lemon cheesecake. The cheesecake was light, not too sweet, and just the right amount of lemon flavour.

Dickens varieties

Cheesecake varieties.

Dickens cheesecake.

My slice of cheesecake.

Dickens Reads Dickens

Not really, but Huston, who has performed A Christmas Carol over 550 times since 1992, brings the author to life in commendable fashion. Having read A Christmas Carol and seen several adaptations, I found myself hearing it as if it were the first time, last night.

I had a chance to have a brief chat with Huston after the show. He has performed at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival many time, and somehow I’ve never heard of him. After this show, I’ll be making sure that I keep my eyes open for his performances in the coming year.

John Huston as Charles Dickens.

John “Charles Dickens” Huston

This was a superb rendition. Huston switches character from young to old, male to female, coarse to cultured, flawlessly and effortlessly. In addition his silences are evocative and moving as his words. He brings genuine emotion and not just maudlin sentiment to the story and its characters.

He also does a great job in the editing of the story. Firstly, in the way in which he chose to do the three parts of the presentation. In particular beginning the last set with the end of the encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Present before moving into Scrooge’s encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Secondly, he captures the essence of A Christmas Carol. A Christmas Carol is a conversion story par excellence. The Scrooge we meet at the end of the story is completely transformed from the man at the start of the story. Scrooge lives to see many Christmases Yet to Come, and keeps the feast all year round. He goes from a miser to a generous, giving human being. Huston does a great job of capturing this transformation, and of highlighting the process Scrooge undergoes during the night.

Huston only has a couple of more performances left in the Winnipeg area. You can find out if there are any tickets left for them on his website.

Last night was a great evening. In addition to the wonderful meal and great performance, the evening was paced in such a way that there was plenty of time for people to visit while enjoying the meal. Particularly worth noting was the wonderful job of serving that the One88 volunteers did. Everything was smooth, efficient, and done with good grace and good cheer.

I shared a table with Dave Ens parents, and another friend of his named Louis. The company was every bit as enjoyable as the food and the performance. I also had a chance to visit with Greg’s dad Henry, my old boss back in the day when he was “The man who runs things in this town.”

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