One thing is certain, witnessing Jonathan Kruk perform is an extraordinarily unique experience. He has been performing one-man-shows of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and A Christmas Carol since 2010 and 2011 respectively. My family and I have attended these two performances every October and December since I was seven. As a loyal fan, and after attending Mr. Kruk’s performance of A Christmas Carol once again this past weekend, I decided to examine why his performances are so unique and why he continues to captivate all who witness his magic.
Allow me to provide brief context as to this storyteller’s background. Mr. Kruk grew up in Westchester County, New York, earned a B.A. in English from Holy Cross College and an M.A. in Education from New York University. His study of literature and his experiences as a child telling his brother bedtime stories led to an epiphany: people enjoy being told stories and interacting with their storyteller.
Mr. Kruk went on to study creative drama in England, and later honed his craft by performing at over one-thousand children’s birthday parties. In 2010, he became affiliated with the Historic Hudson Valley Society, an educational and historic preservation organization in Tarrytown, New York, where he became well-known.
It cannot be understated just how impressive it is to witness Mr. Kruk, the master storyteller, weave a tale completely solo without missing a beat. But for minimal use of music and sound effects, the entire hour consists of him frolicking around the historic Old Dutch Church, shifting from narrator to leads, supporting roles and mere passerby with exceptional eloquence and charisma.
On every occasion that I have seen him perform A Christmas Carol, Mr. Kruk has effortlessly carried the immense weight of the literary classic on his shoulders. This evening was no exception. The audience was simply captivated by Mr. Kruk, who brilliantly shifted his cadence and accents portraying approximately thirty characters. From Scrooge, to Marley to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and back to the narrator again, he was miraculously able to balance joviality, humor and even a bit of horror.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ambiance of the Old Dutch Church, founded in 1685. Everytime I walk past the old cemetery up the candle lit path to see a performance, I half expect to see Marley’s apparition. It still has not happened, but one can wish.
Purple and blue lights shone eerily on the platform below the pulpit, wax candles dripped from the chandelier and a wood burning stove heated the room, as the audience was seated in wooden pews. Jim Keys, musical assistant for Mr. Kruk started off the evening with the Twelve Days of Christmas, engaging the audience in instant merriment. These traditional and homespun elements set the scene for the arrival of Mr. Kruk who assured us at once that “ Marley was dead as a doornail.” As he stood on the platform beneath the pulpit wearing a festive tophat and costumed in Dickens era garb, I was immediately drawn into the tale that I have cherished since childhood.
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As an aspiring writer with a tremendous adoration for literature, I truly admire Mr. Kruk’s ability to pare down the 27,000 words of A Christmas Carol, in order to tell it in less than an hour and make it accessible to his audience, all while retaining the essential elements of Dickens’ original text. This is no simple feat.
Even more miraculous was his superb rendition, poise, and eloquence of delivery. From the moment that the story began, Mr. Kruk embodied old Scrooge, as well as Bob Crachett and Tiny Tim, switching from simple props, such as night caps and sprigs of holly, he once again paid tribute to literary genius Charles Dickens, reminding us to keep Christmas well and in our hearts. Exiting the Old Dutch Church last Saturday night, I was quite appreciative of the opportunity to share an evening with a man who dearly loves literature and who has made a career out of making it come alive for his audiences. It is an experience not to be missed.
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** This is the first in a two part series - Come back to SuzeeBehindtheScenes for my after the show Interview of Mr. Kruk