Nov 27, 2023 - Culture

Without a Cue spins "A Christmas Carol" into interactive murder mystery

Cast members from "Dickens of a Murder," a murder mystery based on "A Christmas Carol."

Someone killed Christmas, and this time it's not Scrooge. Photo: Courtesy of Without a Cue Productions

Scrooge was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

Driving the news: Actors at Without a Cue Productions are reprising "A Christmas Carol," the Charles Dickens' classic, into an interactive murder mystery.

  • Spoiler alert: The novel's miserly protagonist gets whacked, and it's up to you to solve the holiday whodunit.

Why it matters: The parody, which opened this month, has become as much of a holiday tradition for local families as putting out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.

  • Without a Cue says it's been putting on the show for a decade, but this is the first time performing it in the Red Rum Theater, its new, permanent home.

The intrigue: The story follows the ghostly intervention that transforms Scrooge into a generous soul who begins giving away his money.

  • But then something goes "horribly wrong," cast members tell Axios.
  • The audience soon finds out that Scrooge — not the ghost Marley — is "as dead as a doornail."
  • And Tiny Tim — he of "God bless us, everyone" goodwill — is all grown up and has become a big jerk.

What they're saying: "Scrooge spoiled him too much, and now he's one of those kids," Traci Connaughton, executive director of Without A Cue tells Axios.

Between the lines: Mary Tomson, who plays Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's maid, compares the production to "The Muppet Christmas Carol."

  • Actors don Victorian-era costumes and slip clues into spirited, comical exchanges with the crowd, some of which are ad-libbed.
  • Lesser-known characters from Dickens' novel narrate the story. Surprisingly, Scrooge doesn't make a single appearance.

Flashback: Without A Cue started two decades ago as a roving band of "minstrels" who performed shows at whatever regional venues would book them.

  • The theater company has now found a permanent home at the Red Rum Theater inside the historic Curtis building in Old City. It's coming up on its one-year anniversary in the building.

The big picture: Cast members who have been with the troupe for years say they're fortunate to be part of the journey.

  • While many actors lost work during the pandemic, Without A Cue's cast survived by putting on Zoom parties that connected them to nationwide audiences.
  • "We got it down to a science," Monica Fotusky, who plays Edwina in the Dickens' parody, tells Axios.

🧠 Be smart: The actors' advice for first-timers? Don't be a Scrooge. Have fun and don't be shy.

  • Oh, and for all the "bah, humbugs" expecting a serious piece of theater — well, there's always "The Nutcracker."

If you go: Every Friday-Sunday through Dec. 30. Tickets: $40.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more