This first section refers to the one man show The Night Before Christmas Carol in which I played Charles Dickens and about a dozen characters from the famous story. I collaborated with the renowned Victorian Literature scholar and lecturer Elliot Engel and with Tim Morrissey, then the Artistic Director of The Temple Theatre in Sanford, NC. It was Tim's idea and he directed and produced it. I performed the show over five seasons in 1996-2002 and in three different venues. Fresh Vision Films recorded it for DVD release.
This is a full review from Bill Morrison of the Raleigh News and Observer:
Dickens does double duty in two very different productions
By BILL MORRISON, Staff Writer
RALEIGH -- As the English would say,
"The Night Before Christmas Carol" is a
right treat, a fanciful retelling of Charles
Dickens' most famous story as revealed
through the writing of it. Jeffery West
stars as the man who invented Christmas in
this production at Peace College. West's
work is so riveting that the play seems less
a one-man show than an ensemble piece
performed by a skilled company of English players.
The audience watches Dickens at work behind the
locked doors of his study as he coaxes forth the
characters who will people his great tale of love and
redemption in 19th-century London. Like timid mice, the
characters emerge. But mice can roar, to the delight of
the author. He tests out the characters before a mirror.
In one vignette, he holds up a human skull, a substitute
for the skinflint Scrooge.
Like West, Dickens was an eternal child, a man of
the theater. And the two are well met here in a
production as handsome as a Victorian valentine. West
plays a dozen characters (there are 22 in the novel),
including Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the boy's outspoken
mother. He dons a dust cap to become a giggling harpy. A
curtain tie approximates the chains wrapped around
West gives each character its own voice, look and
walk. But most memorable is the Dickens he conjures, a
child of poverty who never forgot seeing his father
locked away in a debtor's prison.
London provides the backdrop for this play, as it
did for Dickens' novel. For Dickens, the city was a place
of night and fog that did not treat the poor kindly. The
author's long, nocturnal rambles remind him of the fate
In this play by Elliot Engel, Dickens is the equal
of any of his characters. He was a serious man, but also
known for his humor. The running joke in the play is the
author's ear for good lines and titles for his novels.
This play marks a triumphant end to West's most
successful season ever -- remember he gave an
award-worthy performance in the Manbites Dog Theater
production of "How I Learned To Drive" and followed that
with a ravishing production of "Arcadia," which he
directed at Duke University.
Kids will love this intimate evening directed by Tim
Morrissey, who staged the original production at the
Temple Theatre in Sanford. I suspect that many people who
see this production will want to read Dickens, watching
wonderfully eccentric characters tumble off the page to
take up residence in our hearts.