Goodman’s A Christmas Carol Review – A Tale of Hope

Scrooge happy
Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge) in the 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre

Why the Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol?

Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig
Penelope Walker (Mrs. Fezziwig/ Mrs. Crumb) and Jonah D. Winston (Mr. Fezziwig) in the 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre

The first aspect of the question is easy. Simply put, the Goodman does the best Christmas Carol around. It helps, of course, to have an enormous budget on your side: the Goodman can, and does, hire the very best, from actors to designers to directors to stagehands. Not to mention their special effects are next level, from the terrifying entrance of Jacob Marley’s ghost to the elaborate flying of Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past to the eerie, stilt-walking figure of the Ghost of Christmas Future. In terms of pure magic, this production will take your breath away with every special effect, every inspired acting choice, every charming performance by the onstage musicians.

Ghost of Christmas Present throwing glitter
Jasmine Bracey (Ghost of Christmas Present) in the 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre

But what of the second aspect of the question? Why A Christmas Carol at all? After all, the story is 176 years old, and the world has plenty of Christmas stories (Linda Holmes from NPR recently rounded up more than sixty holiday movies being released this year). What draws us back to this old and somewhat creepy story again and again? Is it the comfort of familiar stories, as I proposed in my 2017 review of the production? Is it the ubiquity of the tale, popping up all over the place as it does at this time of year? Is it the prestige of Charles Dickens’ reputation and the work’s subsequent status as a “classic”?

The Cratchit family
The cast of the 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre

In some ways, I think, it’s got nothing to do with stage magic, or gorgeous sets and costumes, or spectacular performances from Chicago’s finest actors. It has to do with the beating, bloody heart of the story, and how all of us find ourselves in its center.

Scrooge
Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge), Penelope Walker (Mrs. Fezziwig/ Mrs. Crumb) and Susaan Jamshidi (Mrs. Cratchit/ Ortle) in the 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre

Yes, I think we’re all Scrooge. Not the robustly optimistic Bob Cratchit or the saintly Frida, or even the sickly Tiny Tim. Sure, we might not make horrible proclamations about how the poor deserve to die or make our money exploiting those who’ve fallen on hard times, but nonetheless, I think all of us can see something of ourselves in the story’s protagonist. Each of us holds in our hearts some measure of selfishness, of bitterness, of hatred, of greed. Each of us has chosen not to do good when the opportunity was presented to us. Each of us has, at one time or other, seen our needs as more important than those of others, has failed to remember that we are all just fellow passengers to the grave.

Jacob Marley and Scrooge
Kareem Bandealy (Narrator/ Jacob Marley) and Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge) in rehearsal for the 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre

Scrooge’s story, then, is one of hope. Embodied beautifully by the inimitable Larry Yando, Scrooge shows us how even the most selfish and uncompassionate of us can learn kindness and generosity, and it is that transformation that brings us back again and again, hoping the Christmas spirit infused in every moment of this production can inspire us to be better. To paraphrase Scrooge, the time before us is our own. Let us make the best of it.

Tiny Tim and cast
The cast of the 42nd annual production of A Christmas Carol directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre

Ticket Information

Location: The Albert Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, 170 N Dearborn Street

Dates: November 16 – December 29, 2019

Tickets: $25 – $89. Available at the Goodman Theatre website, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 N. Dearborn). Spanish-translation and sensory performances will also be presented.

All photos by Liz Lauren.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*