Dickens to roam the stage at Strathmore -- Gazette.Net







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A Dickens Christmas at Strathmore
When: 7:30 p.m., Monday
Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
Tickets: $25-$50
More information: 301-581-5100, strathmore.org;
NOTE: If you call the box office and mention the code DICKENS2012, you can receive 25 percent off the ticket price. Offer valid on new phone orders only.

This story was edited on Dec. 12, 2012. An explanation follows the story.

Born in 1812, British author Charles Dickens wrote incredible works of literature: “David Copperfield,” “Oliver Twist,” and “Great Expectations,” just to name a few.

This time of year, one of his most popular novels becomes a holiday staple. Without Dickens, we never would have had Tiny Tim, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future nor a small, greedy little man named Scrooge.

The Cathedral Choral Society, under the direction of J. Reilly Lewis, will present “A Dickens Christmas at Strathmore,” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

Lewis, a native of Washington, D.C., received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the prestigious Juilliard School of Music.

“I love Dickens, everyone loves Dickens,” Lewis says. “This time of year, no matter what the event is called, it’s a time of universal harmony where the sense of caring is real.

“I think the writings of Dickens and the messages we get time after time presents a timeless message. So it seemed natural to use him to bring the entire community together —young and old.”

Lewis, who says the overall design and feel of Strathmore is like a secular cathedral, wanted to focus on not having just an average Christmas show.

“I think the average Christmas show is a bit of potpourri,” Lewis says. “If you try to do this in this day and age with music ... it starts with writings of a very great mind and that’s the thread that goes through the entire performance.”

Award-winning actress and director Catherine Flye wrote and directed the Dickens show at the urging of Lewis, her longtime friend.

“We’ve worked together for many years,” Lewis says. “I went to her and said, ‘I would love it if you could come up with a script,’ and she kind of zeroed in on Charles Dickens.

“She came up with this script, which I think is nice. So it started with [Flye] and we just kind of plunked in the music.”

Lewis began performing when he was eight and has been at it ever since. Of course, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have thoughts of a different career path.

“Most loving, caring parents don’t want their kids to starve,” Lewis says. “I was exposed [to music] at such a young age, I did resist it. When I was in college, I double majored with pre-med and, who am I kidding? I faint at the sight of blood!

“I simply couldn’t live [without music]. That’s something with kids, stressing the need for the arts. Even without that, kids some how get that spark. It’s an irresistible urge and that gives me hope.”

The one thing Lewis wishes he could change would be the date of the show.

“I know it’s a Monday and it’s a school night,” Lewis says. “Hopefully next year we can do something so kids will stay awake.”

In the end, the show is meant to entertain and to leave the audience with a sense of holiday cheer.

For Lewis, he hopes the show leaves a lasting impression with children.

“One of the most frequently asked questions is ‘When did you first start to play?’” Lewis says. “I hope they take away a desire to learn more about it. I’m biased, but I believe that’s a lifelong passion.”


Correction: the original headline information with this storygave an incorrect name for the Cathedral Choral Society.