A Christmas Carol is a holiday classic. It’s been adopted or adapted by the Guthrie Theater, Bugs Bunny, The Muppets and community theater companies around the world. Wayward Theatre performance feels different because they have found a way to make the audience part of the story by performing Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story at the James J. Hill Mansion. The audience follows the characters from room to room as the story unfolds.
The James J Hill is the perfect location to bring us back to the era of story. You feel for Ebenezer Scrooge in his bed waiting for the spirits to visit because the room is cold, dark, remote and frankly it feels haunted. The trade off with a site-specific location as opposed to a traditional stage or movie is that the special effects are pared down but that does not lessen the impact. No pyrotechnics can beat the breeze from an unexpected door slamming a few feet away.
I won’t spoil it, but watching Ebenezer see his own death in the cellar of the mansion is chilling. The Wayward Players are not afraid to go dark or go bawdy. The performers strike a nice balance of interaction with the audience and sticking to the story. Lolly Foy, who plays older Scrooge, is powerful. You can see how the wear and tear of the night starts to melt the core of the character; the impact fear of the night came out more than it usually does. The costuming heightens the authenticity, especially with Daniel Vopava, the ghost of Christmas past, who is maybe the creepiest, yet coolest character on the stage.
The show is very fast paced as we move throughout the residence. It’s an amazing way to get to see the mansion, especially decked out for Christmas. It’s not scream out loud scary but it is goosebump creepy. My only wish – that there was a chance to applaud for the amazing performers and maybe a chance at the end for a few pictures.