The magic of the holiday season returns with the 29th edition of Dickens Christmas.
Enchanting holiday shoppers as it brings “A Christmas Carol” to life, Skaneateles’ iconic street theater production opens Nov. 25 and runs weekends through Christmas. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a limited show (noon to 2:30 p.m.) Christmas Eve.
Suspend disbelief, for the year is 1842 and Queen Victoria has arrived in town with Charles Dickens, whom she has commissioned to write a Christmas story.
During their monthlong stay, Dickens gains inspiration from a bevy of now-familiar characters, along with finishing school girls, pickpockets and other villagers. The story unfolds each week, as Dickens and his entourage interact with cast members and passersby.
“Dearest friends, I am overjoyed that this festive time of year has returned and Her Majesty Queen Victoria and I will soon be basking in the warmth of a Skaneateles Christmas!” says producing director Jim Greene, who plays Dickens.
Also visiting is Dickens’ friend Washington Irving, who is working on his latest ghost story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Dickens Christmas is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Skaneateles-area business community.
Highlights of this year’s season include:
- World’s Smallest Christmas Parade. Nov. 25, starting at noon at the Skaneateles Village Hall on Fennell Street, proceeding east to Jordan and Genesee streets and arriving at the Hannum House porch in time for the 12:10 p.m. grand opening.
- Midday Revels — Christmas carol sing-along — 2 p.m. every day at the gazebo. Twelve groups form, representing 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.
- Trunk shows, in which Washington Irving and Charles Dickens perform lighthearted versions of their Christmas stories with help from the audience, 12:30 p.m. at the gazebo and 3 p.m. at the library each day.
- Horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides around the village, departing from The Sherwood Inn, provided by Rt. 80 Quarry Ridge Stables. Wagon rides are $4 (cash only); private carriage rides are offered for a $50 donation.
- Appearances by the Bright Friday Brass, Nov. 25 and every Saturday (except Christmas Eve).
- Musical performances by the Classic Guitar Ensemble from the Music School of CNY (1 p.m. Dec. 3 and 10), MasterWorks Chorale Chamber Singers (1 p.m. Dec. 11) and a variety of other groups, and dance performances by the cast’s finishing school girls.
- A snowman-building contest in Clift Park Dec. 17 (weather-permitting). Bring your own supplies and creativity! Queen Victoria will judge the entries at 2:45 p.m. First prize is a $50 gift card from The Sherwood Inn; second prize is two Dickens mugs with cocoa.
- “Miracle on 34th Street — The Radio Play,” presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at Auburn Public Theater. Tickets are $10.
- Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts donated by Tops Friendly Markets, and Byrne Dairy eggnog served by the Girl Scouts (Saturdays only).
For children, Mother Goose will read holiday stories at Loft 42, and Father Christmas will hand out treats from the porch of the Masonic Temple.
“We can’t wait to welcome everyone back for another fun-filled holiday season — and the wondrous gift that is Dickens Christmas,” says Hilary Fenner, executive director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “While you’re in town, be sure to visit our unique shops and restaurants — the perfect complement to a holiday outing. And stop by the Chamber, at 22 Jordan St., for commemorative scarves ($15 with an embroidered logo, $10 without), mugs ($10), mugs with hot cocoa packets ($12) and ornaments ($5).”
Behind the Scenes
Dickens Christmas has over 40 cast members, including young apprentice talent, who are 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 Greene, of Dryden. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build their character and become part of the ensemble.”
Greene is assisted by:
- Maria DeMitchell, of Marcellus, who is artistic director and plays Queen Victoria
- Victoria King, of Syracuse, who is music director and plays Lady Mariah. King is assisted by Patrick Glaub, of Hazel Park, Michigan, who plays Washington Irving.
- John Michael Decker, of Queensbury, who is associate director and plays Scrooge
- Brett Norsworthy, of Wolcott, who is production manager and plays undertaker Barry M. Deep
- Tracey Greene, of Dryden, who is costumer
- Kristin Palazzoli, of Fayetteville, who is associate costumer
Paid parking is available in the municipal lot between Jordan and State streets; free parking is available at the Austin Park Pavilion, at the corner of Jordan and Austin streets. A horse-drawn wagon will shuttle between the pavilion and the village. Tickets for the shuttle, which leaves at 11:30 a.m. and noon from the pavilion and returns at 3:10 and 3:40 p.m. from the Skaneateles Boutique Hotel, are $4 per person each way, $15 per family of up to six people (cash only). Shuttle riders will receive a coupon for a free ornament from the Chamber.
For more information on Dickens Christmas, go to skaneateles.com, call 315-685-0552 or follow the event on Facebook (Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce or Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles, #skandickens22).