It is more than a little daunting to sit down and participate in such an opinionated act: writing a play review. As I settled into my seat in the Albert Theatre, I found myself nervously anticipating the start of the show. Having already seen “A Christmas Carol” a few times before, I had a vague idea of what to expect, but as a first-time theater critic, I felt completely out of my element. I grabbed my small leather notebook and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. When the curtain rose and I prepared to take notes on the play, I dropped my notebook into my lap and couldn’t find it in myself to pick it up until the play had finished.
A Christmas Carol is a phenomenal Christmas tradition: any attempt at note taking was shot down by the brilliance of the costumes, sets and the actors’ enthusiasm. Clearly the show has done well for itself. In its 35th year, A Christmas Carol established itself as a family Christmas classic. In his fifth year as Scrooge, Larry Yando returned to delight the audiences with his amusing, albeit somewhat overplayed stomping and harrumphing. That being said, it is his over-exaggerated glares at Bob Cratchit contrasted with his excitable antics as wakes up from his night of ghosts that enforce the story’s message.
A story of transformations, Tom Creamer’s adaptation of Dickens’ famous novel stays true to the themes laid out by Dickens 169 years ago. The story is not new, the costumes, though beautifully designed, were not new, the set designs were the same as the year before, and yet, I like to believe it is something other than tradition that brings audiences to the Goodman every year around Christmas time.
I wasn’t expecting much when I sat down. I knew that there weren’t going to be any shocking surprises or revelations because, well, I had seen it before. That too might be the plight of many readers. If that is the case, I have only one word of caution. This production, unlike many others, can and should be seen again. If nothing else, the warmth and reminder of holiday spirit that resonates in the voices of the Fezziwigs and their guests as they sing together in Act Two is reason to pick up a ticket.
While yes, the play reminds us of time spent with family and yes, it is reminiscent of childhood, A Christmas Carol leaves audiences with a message of hope: everyone has the capacity to change, and that gift is not to be taken for granted. Everything about the show remains authentic to that very theme.
All of the technical aspects of the production create an ambiance unparalleled to any I’ve ever felt. Robert Christen’s light design held my attention for the sole reason that any good lighting should: it set the tone for the scenes. Children beware because Christen’s gloomy choices for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come scene made even the above-it-all teenage shiver. From music to costuming, the show is the epitome of Christmas cheer. And yet without such a fantastic ensemble of actors, as in any show, “A Christmas Carol” wouldn’t be the same. The playful mix of humor and honesty in the actors’ movement and delivery of lines is what makes the show enjoyable for all ages. The comedic relief provided by Bob Cratchit (Ron Rains) in Act One, when contrasted with his performance of familial humility in Act Two provide the show with a heightened humanity. And of course, I’ve yet to meet a person who can “Bah Humbug!” Tiny Tim’s (Matthew Abraham) blessing at the end of the play!
I hope that you see what I see when I think of the Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”; a beautiful sentiment that reminds us to spend time with the people we love during the holidays. I do know one thing: the moment the Goodman Theatre opens its doors for “A Christmas Carol”, the holiday season has officially begun.
Running time: Approx. 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission
Runs through: December 29
Buy Tickets online at http://www.goodmantheatre.org/Tickets/
Or call 312-443-3800