A Christmas Carol – By Grace Meier

May 21, 2012 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

As the holiday season approaches, I always find myself wrapped up in the spirit of Christmas. Never mind that I get eight crazy nights rather than one, and I’m proud to be the 1% at my school rocking a menorah in my window rather than a tree. What gets me really going is the good-natured and high-spirited air Christmas brings. A Christmas Carol celebrates that the holiday season’s contiguity of the heart and the true ‘Christmas miracles’ that can occur.

Because Goodman Theatre has produced A Christmas Carol for 30 years, it might be easy to fall into an entertaining – but ultimately boring – rut. But the directors, technicians, actors and everyone involved in Goodman’s Carol year after year do anything but. Every year there is something new, from a light projection or set pieces to a monstrous entrance. “Where will Marley pop up this year?” This year’s production is a rollicking, heartening show that keeps the joy and warmth of A Christmas Carol fresh and innovative.

I have never before been extremely impressed by the technical elements of a Goodman show. However, the lights, sound and special effects in this production floored me. Every single spotlight and every sound effect enhanced the performance ten-fold. The sound was expertly balanced (except when it intentionally wasn’t) and even from way out in house right, I was able to hear and see every element, big or small, very clearly. Costumes were lush and smartly crafted, right down to the children’s fingerless gloves. With a show involving so many “magical” and technically challenging effects, the Goodman handled each one of the story’s challenges with style and creativity. I found it incredibly difficult to spot wires, levers or anything that would spoil the magic for the audience.

Actors can struggle to recreate the illusion of the “first time” for every single production. For some actors, these Christmas Carol roles are old friends they take on year after year and manage to keep fresh and exciting for the audience. Larry Yando has taken on the beast that is Ebenezer Scrooge for quite a few years now, and it gives me the biggest thrill to see that after rehearsing, researching and performing Scrooge, he manages to keep the part über-stylized, comical and rock solid. Yando is constantly brilliant throughout the entire show. The stunning Nora Fiffer is also a standout as Belle. In my previous experiences, Belle has been a bit static and easily forgettable. But Fiffer gives the part great substance, and deftly helps flesh out Scrooge’s development. The entire ensemble presents a polished demeanor that exceeded my expectations. Despite the occasional crooked painting on stage, the production itself is absolutely phenomenal.

A Christmas Carol runs the risk of being an over-rehearsed, lackluster and almost dull show. However, Goodman has managed to keep the holiday story new and thriving with fun and exciting ideas from year to year. Goodman’s charming and exhilarating Christmas Carol offers audiences the warmth and sparkle that should always accompany the holiday season.