Having a hard time getting into Christmas this year? If the old holiday rituals seem a little rote right now, the Soulpepper Theatre’s A Christmas Carol will warm up those heartstrings. This is one family activity that will immediately get you into the holiday spirit — and introduce the kids to a new tradition.
If you’ve seen the familiar plot laid out before – and by now, who hasn’t? – Soulpepper’s version will remind you why it’s rightly viewed as a classic. Although it’s still highly kid-friendly, this is no cutesy, simplistic take on Charles Dickens’ famous novella. Adapter/director Michael Shamata has won a lot of praise for being true to the source material, sparing audiences none of the genuine loss and regret, and even fear, in the original story.
And there’s possibly no better theatre (this side of London, anyway) to stage this play: To get to the quaint Soulpepper Theatre, set in the Distillery Historic District’s Young Centre for Performing Arts, you walk among lovingly restored, Victorian-era distillery buildings and down a pedestrian-only cobblestone lane. With red brick and wrought iron on all sides, you feel as though a horse-drawn carriage could pull up at any moment. What better place to celebrate the spirit of Christmas past?
The theatre itself is also clever in its production. Its theatre-in-the-round configuration provides a unique, communal perspective for the audience, especially for this play. You watch as all the action onstage seems to unfold naturally, with each interaction appearing as spontaneous and sincere as if you were gazing at passers-by on the street outside. You’re almost like Scrooge yourself, an onlooker off to the side … possibly with a tear in your eye.
On stage, old Ebeneezer has your family’s undivided attention as he sputters and spouts his complaints until his great revelation at the end that it’s love, not gold, that makes you wealthy. This is Joseph Ziegler’s sixth time playing the role with Soulpepper, and he plays him with a sensitivity that most TV versions of A Christmas Carol seem to have missed.
As you glance at your kids’ faces during the play, you see they’re wholly immersed in the story, especially the beautiful Victorian set details and costumes, and the big emotional moments. They even laugh along during the witty, old-fashioned dialogue. By the time “God bless us, everyone!” echoes around the stage, you feel moved, as though you could hug everybody in sight. Yep, it must be the holidays.