With the holiday season upon us, many are looking for entertainment that reflects the warmth and fellowship Christmas is supposed to bring. Thankfully, Goodman Theatre’s 34th production of A Christmas Carol brings all that and more to its audience.
Because the Dickens classic is so well known, it is all too easy for A Christmas Carol to take on ho-hum familiarity. But while Goodman has been using the same stage set for several years now, its production doesn’t give audiences time to be bored; there is something to keep everyone entertained.
Not least in this recipe for fun are the actors’ performances in this year’s version. All of the actors are enjoyable, but Larry Yando’s Scrooge, stole the show. Although in the past performances I’ve seen at Goodman, Tiny Tim has been the showstopper, but this year was Yando’s time to shine: his varying depictions of Scrooge as menacing, frightened, thoughtful, and charismatic gave the character a depth I hadn’t even considered before. The vast difference between the nasty Scrooge who threw his nephew out of his business; the sentimental Scrooge who watched his lost sister Fan; and the joyous Scrooge who gave Bob Cratchit a raise, showed off Yando’s finely tuned ability.
He was so convincing I found myself silently cheering at the end, even though I already knew he would be redeemed. Elizabeth Ledo brought warmth and humor as the Ghost of Christmas past, and Rob Rains’ Bob Cratchit was sentimental without being melodramatic.
This year’s Tiny Tim wasn’t the usual actor that Goodman had chosen in the past; instead, Goodman reflected Chicago’s diversity a bit more in casting Roni Akurati. I heard some audience members talking as we left the theater about how they didn’t like that the show’s Tiny Tim didn’t match the Tiny Tim on the production’s annual poster. It didn’t matter to me; he delivered his two lines with strength.
It is Akurati’s casting that helps keep the show current. His casting really gives the line “God bless us everyone!” more power — it really does mean “everyone” . And really, while Tiny Tim’s character is important to the story, he’s not seen for most of the show — what he looks like should be secondary to how he delivers his lines.
As much a part of the Goodman performance as the actors, is the stage set. Actually, it is really four big, rolling sets, all of which the Goodman’s stage crew moves swiftly. Director Steve Scott blends the magical special effects and the performances so well they are positively seamless. Waiting to see where Marley would appear this year in Scrooge’s room added suspense to the show, and the sound and visuals that accompanied his appearance were startling enough that some younger kids in the audience cried. I would have liked to see more flying, but the fact that there is flying at all in this show, is a thrill in itself.
While the costumes were definitely Victorian in style, I felt that they could’ve used some more color to make them greatly different from last years performance.
A Christmas Carol is supposed to be a feel-good show that helps the audience add a dose of holiday spirit to the season, and Goodman’s production succeeds on all counts. It sticks closely to the classic tale, but adds enough modern technological touches to keep all ages glued to their seats. Even if you have seen it before, it’s unlikely this show will disappoint.