Christmas has come early to the Campbell House Museum with Three Ships Collective’s latest rendition of A Christmas Carol. The plucky, pleasant production, presented with the support of Soup Can Theatre, makes for a lovely evening at the theatre, regardless of the weather.
I attended the show during a cold, rainy storm but completely forgot about the outdoor conditions within minutes of the show’s start. Director Sare Thorpe’s spirited immersive production stays true to the classic story, but with a light, cheerful tone that keeps the tale from getting too dark. For example, having Scrooge respond with a grumpy “Bah!” when offered a humbug was a fresh, clever choice that nodded to the original tale with a fun twist.
Set against the backdrop of Toronto’s historic Campbell House Museum, I felt transported into the past, an experience that was only elevated by the beautiful, vintage-looking costumes, and cheerful holiday songs.
Moving from room to room, audiences are invited to follow Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve as he reckons with his past and gets a somber glimpse of his future. The audience roams the house, guided by the ghost of Scrooge’s late business partner, Jacob Marley. Played by a delightfully exhausted Marcel Dragonieri, Marley leads the audience between settings and scenes, ensuring they’re in position and out of the performers’ way without ever breaking character. It’s a clever little bit that is as entertaining as it is necessary: Dragonieri improvises with the audience when appropriate, with plenty of eyebrow wagging (his brows are practically a character of their own) and many a beleaguered sigh.
Although this is a promenade production, audiences need not worry about being on their feet for too long. Approximately every other room has seats available for audiences, and the staff have ensured there is a reserved chair in every room for attendees who request it. Unfortunately, the venue does not contain any elevators, so the show isn’t accessible for all. But if you’re able to attend, remember that there are plenty of stairs — wear comfortable shoes!
The Campbell House Museum comes with all of the drafts one would expect from one of Toronto’s oldest properties. Audiences are invited to leave their belongings in the first room of the production — the only scene that happens there is the first — so I’d recommend wearing layers. You’re on the move and won’t have time to pop downstairs to grab your coat if you get cold.
Originally conceived in 2018, A Christmas Carol was beginning to become a Toronto Christmas tradition before it was forced to take a two-year hiatus. But now, for the first time since 2019, Three Ships Collective is back at the Campbell House Museum, and it’s obvious that the cast is excited to be there.
Kat Letwin in particular, who played Bailiwick and the Ghost of Christmas Present, is an absolute bundle of energy. Both of her characters are riotously fun, with plenty of expression and knee-slapping enthusiasm. Thomas Gough, the production’s Scrooge, handles the role with a seriousness and intensity that feels appropriate to the character, and he fully leans into the more light-hearted moments of his character’s journey. And Michael Hogan’s Young Ebenezer is well-tuned to Gough’s performance: it’s obvious they’re playing the same character without either actor attempting to imitate the other.
As a whole, the ensemble cast is excellent, despite some slightly questionable accents (overall, they’re pretty good, but it’s definitely a challenge to do a show entirely in a variety of dialects). Particularly during the crowd scenes, it’s clear that this is a group that works well together, and are committed to creating a fun atmosphere for the audience. This is particularly evident during the songs, which are accompanied by Cihang Ma on the violin. It’s a spirited affair — quite literally — filled with enthusiasm, ghosts, and more than one scene involving punch.
(Unfortunately, I found it difficult to hear the dialogue in a few of the larger scenes where characters who weren’t central to that moment whispered over punch bowls as the story played out. While the intention seemed to be maintaining the action of the scene while the main plot played out, I found the real, whispered conversations behind me distracting.)
The 2022 production of A Christmas Carol is sold out for the duration of its run, but for anyone who missed out on tickets, I’d recommend keeping an eye out next year. This is a fun, cheerful production that perfectly captures the spirit of Christmas, whether you celebrate the holiday or not.
The sold out run of A Christmas Carol plays at Campbell House Museum until December 23. To find out more information about the production, visit the Campbell House Museum website here.