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Marinated sirloin tips with scallion and goat cheese twice baked potato, and green beans, red peppers and onion. Photo courtesy of The Old Salt.




A Dickens of a Christmas

When: Wednesday, Dec. 10, Wednesday, Dec. 17, Thursday, Dec. 18.  Doors open at 6 p.m., show at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Old Salt Restaurant, 490 Lafayette Road, Hampton
Tickets: $39.99, call 926-0330 to register and select dinner entree
See: underbellyports.net/event/dickens-christmas or oldsaltnh.com




Dinner, Dickens style
Charles Dickens with a twist comes to the Old Salt

12/04/14
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com



 It’s dinner and a show, without boundaries. Old Salt Restaurant will host A Dickens of a Christmas on Wednesdays, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, and Thursday, Dec. 18, transforming the dining room into an 1800s Christmas party where diners and actors share the same floor. 

“An actress can come and sit in your lap while doing a scene,” said George Hosker-Bouley, who wrote, directs, produces and acts in A Dickens of a Christmas. “It’s a different experience when there is no clear line when the stage ends and the audience begins. … It’s a truly unique experience.”
The menu for A Dickens of a Christmas, now in its 12th season, changes each year, but always includes beef, chicken and fish dishes. 
“We try and keep it [the food] basic because we want to please everybody,” said Michelle O’Brien, manager of the Old Salt.
“This year we’re doing sirloin tips with a peppered mushroom gravy, chicken cordon bleu, and a grilled salmon with a lobster chive butter,” she said. “For starters is a Fuji apple and butternut squash soup and for dessert a pumpkin bread pudding.”
The actors perform amongst the tables in the dining room, making the staff at Old Salt a part of the show too. 
“You really have to [prepare],” O’Brien said. “I line up the staff and as soon as we get the cue the doors open and they’re ready to go.”
The show and the food work in shifts; 15 minutes of an act followed by a meal course. 
“There isn’t really a dull moment,” O’Brien said. “It’s showcasing [the] acting and our food. It’s a nice transition.”
Hosker-Bouley said he wrote A Dickens of a Christmas because he wanted to be part of something unique. 
“I like to push the boundaries a little,” he said. “Presenting a traditional story and letting it spin out of control a bit.” 
And that he does. In the play, Scrooge and Dickens are friends hosting a party on Christmas Eve. Dickens, who promised his children a story as their gift, is experiencing writer’s block, so he ends up writing a story based on the party guests.
While the plotline never changes, Hosker-Bouley updates the play each year to keep the cheekiness relevant. 
“We like to poke fun at the current political landscape,” he said, with Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Al Gore making the script this season. “I love adding topical humor. It keeps it really fresh.”
In a very “Vaudeville way,” Hosker-Bouley tells “the story of a man who worships money instead of simple things in life and through visits with ghosts becomes a changed man,” but in a way that is more humorous than serious. For example, Scrooge resents Al Gore because he’s waiting for global warming to come so his heating bill will drop, Tiny Tim is 6 feet tall, and Belle, Scrooge’s first love, leaves him because she wants to pursue her thriving Avon business. 
The partnership between Hosker-Bouley and Old Salt serves the dual purpose of bringing a unique performance and a unique dining experience together. Hosker-Bouley particularly likes the dinner theater environment because it allows for greater audience involvement. 
“When you’re on a stage, you have no interaction with your audience,” he said. “This way, actors get to step off the stage. … There are no boundaries in dinner theater.”
The tables in the dining room seat eight to 12 people, so guests will mostly likely dine with others, O’Brien said. 
“No matter where you’re seated, you’re part of the action,” she said. “When people arrive they’re a little shy, [but] by the end of the night people are exchanging phone numbers.” 
 
As seen in the December 4, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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