A Christmas Carol – By Hayley Hartnett

January 7, 2013 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

The Goodman Theatre’s 35th annual production of Tom Creamer’s “A Christmas Carol” successfully highlights the emotional intensity of Scrooge’s transformation from a bitter old man into a loveable person.

The classic Christmas tale focuses on a grumpy, parsimonious man who despises Christmas time. He sets off on an adventure to explore the inner recesses of his self with three ghosts _ one of Christmas Past, one of Christmas Present and one of Christmas Future. The exploration of Christmases aims to galvanize change in the cantankerous man’s heart.

The Goodman, a veteran at producing the holiday favorite, continues to catch every little detail. The costumes especially grasp the attention of the audience, namely the ones for the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Present (If sensitive to flashing lights, make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses!). The attention continues even on the smallest of scales, such as when the presumed-poor nephew of Scrooge hides his gilded vest under his jacket. This minimal detail reveals Scrooge’s myopic point of view, ultimately overturned due to his realization. These underlying elements foreshadow events later in the play and invite the audience to become part of Scrooge’s metamorphosis.

Also, Goodman props supervisor Alice Maguire really lived up to the part with the beauty and historical masterpieces present in the sets of Scrooge’s townhouse and counting house as well as the Cratchit’s home.  The large, almost comical, proportions of Scrooge’s bedroom (a large portrait of Bob Marley, his former partner and an oversized bed with long curtains) juxtaposed with the intimacy of the meager family home (mismatched chairs at the table in cramped corners) reveal the loneliness and emptiness of Scrooge’s life. Another dual interpretation presides in Scrooge’s townhouse. Even though Scrooge is very wealthy, he adamantly refuses to heat the room at the beginning of the play (Bob Cratchit audibly sneezes multiple times to emphasize the chill). The cohesion of the script, the plot and the scenery furthers the development of the story.

The accuracy of the costumes helps familiarize the viewers with the era, drawing them into the play. The set design, with the almost toppling houses on each side, serves to envelope the audience and invite them into the story. This combination emotionally and physically binds the audience with the play, ultimately emphasizing the emotion in Scrooge’s transformation.

The actors in the production add another dimension to the play. Larry Yando plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge and beautifully captures the “bah-humbug” spirit, successfully illustrating the before and after of Scrooge’s transformation. An example of the emotional struggles Yando captures wonderfully is the parting of Belle and Scrooge. Yando displays the conflict between Scrooge’s sense of duty and his love of Belle, and his regret of choosing the cold and hard career path opposed to the warm and loving path of marriage. The Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Penelope Walker, artfully entertains yet deepens the story. Walker captures the hilarity of her character with her own personal touch with the happiness and joyfulness she radiates. Bob Cratchit (Ron Rains) elevates the emotional appeal of the story with his unforgiving love for his son, Tiny Tim. He attaches to the audience with his hard-working attitude and deep love for his family. Despite his meager financial success, it is Bob’s family and love that lead to the development and transformation in Scrooge. The mourning of Tiny Tim’s death in the Ghost of Christmas Future’s travel emphasizes the emotional attachment of the Crachits and the audience. The pathos in the scene invites the viewers into the intimate and emotional meal at the family home. Rains’ portrayal of the character wonderfully accomplishes this paramount idea of Scrooge’s transformation as well as artfully transcending sympathy for the family.

Aside from an excess of fog, there isn’t much amiss with the Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol.” The heartwarming tale reminds us of the true joy of Christmas; it’s perfect for children of all ages, and I highly recommend visiting and seeing this play, which is running from November 27th to December 29th, 2012.