Manual Cinema’s “A Christmas Carol” Adds a 2020 Spin to the Classic Tale

Activities at HomeWinter

Last Christmas season, my family attended our first play in a busy Chicago auditorium. This season, I didn’t think that we’d have an opportunity to see a Christmas show, but creativity has found a way! We were invited to “attend” a performance of Manual Cinema’s A Christmas Carol. We experienced it live as it was cast into our living room. We had popcorn, wore pajamas, and had a new experience.

Manual Cinema’s A Christmas Carol

Manual Cinema created this retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol just for this year. Widowed and grumpy Aunt Trudy needs to recreate beloved Uncle Joe’s Christmas Carol puppet show. Over a family Zoom call that includes a little Christmas ghost magic she pulls off the show, ad libs a few new lines, and has her own transformation through holiday memories.

Puppet Scrooge encounters a feast.

The show combines a live actor’s performance and different types of puppets including shadow puppets and detailed paper characters. N. LaQuis Harkins really shines and leads the show in her performance as Aunt Trudy. The puppeteers and musicians make worlds and memories flow together. The lights flicker and shift and quickly things are not what they seem. Everything feels just a bit eerie but the story and themes are familiar. It works well and we all enjoyed it. My daughter said she gives it five out of five stars. My husband and I discussed how much we liked it even after the kids were asleep. It appealed to everyone in my household.

Live Performance Streaming with Kids

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I introduced a puppet show based on a Victorian classic to my YouTube loving four-year-old and always Minecrafting eight-year old. They were happy to try it but would they focus and enjoy it for a full hour? Luckily they really did and it held their attention. My four-year old son played with blocks toward the end but he was still watching. My daughter and I stayed for everything and really enjoyed the after show peek behind the scenes. We got to see the puppets up close and how company members used overhead projectors and props. They answered audience questions submitted via chat.

I felt a little nervous about streaming the show and casting it to our television. I am not a tech savvy person and I sometimes have trouble with directions but the link I received via email was simple. Everything worked easily and I set up the feed in a couple minutes.

We all really enjoyed watching this together. This would be an opportunity to introduce puppetry or the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge to a new young audience. It is a true special treat.

Scrooge meets the ghost of Christmas present.

Best Ages for the Show

This is an all ages show and one of the perks of viewing it from home is you can talk, cry, or eat snacks the whole time and nobody will shush you. Nothing in the performance is inappropriate for kids or graphically scary. It’s visually attractive for the youngest audience members. Like any version of A Christmas Carol, there are some tough themes and Scrooge is cruel at the start. The gravestones and mentions of death might scare sensitive kids.

How to Get Tickets

Tickets are available for Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol from December 3-20, 2020. Shows are Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with a mix of afternoon and evening performances. We found the 7:00 pm start perfect for small kids and could watch and head straight to bed. The performance is exactly one hour with a live question and answer including the whole cast for a few more minutes after the show. Purchase tickets online at Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol (

Just like an in-person performance, tickets are purchased based on the number of audience members who will attend and for a specific live show. After purchase, a link for a live feed will be emailed to you. Each purchase, regardless of the number of tickets, is for one link to be viewed on one screen together. If someone is not in the same physical location, they must purchase their tickets separately for their own performance link.

Individual tickets are $15. “Duo or Trio” for 2-3 viewers is $30, and “Full House” for 4+ viewers is $50. A patron level ticket at $100 is available for those who wish to support the theater. A blind or low-vision ticket for an audio-described archival recording is available for $10. A deaf or hard of hearing ticket for a closed-captioned archival recording is available for $10.

Check out our winter activity guide for even more things to do this season!

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