A Christmas Carol – By Rylee Freeman

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

Every year, “A Christmas Carol” is brought back to the theater world to delight audiences with the spirit of Christmas and holiday giving. And for its 35th year, the Goodman Theatre lights up their stage with one-of-a-kind actors, beautiful set pieces and a show that is sure to bring around the Christmas spirit, even in the most ‘bah humbug’ of people.

Under the direction of Steve Scott, the cast of “A Christmas Carol” have had the hardest job of all; revisiting a show that is well-known, well-loved and even on occasion, over-done. Has the Goodman succeeded in, once more, bringing Tom Creamer’s adaption back to the stage for its 35th consecutive year?

“A Christmas Carol” is the well-known tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable old man who believes Christmas is just a time for people to skip work and expect handouts. But a visit from his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, sends Scrooge whirling through his past, present and future, accompanied by three ghosts who try to show him what Christmas really means or what can happen to his family and friends if, as the Ghost of Christmas Future shows him, his ignorance to other people’s needs.

With a set that is beautiful in its enormity, designed by Todd Rosenthal, recent designer for “August: Osage County,” the minute the show begins the audience will be drawn in by the expert use of stage portals; two leaning houses on either side of the stage that do not move throughout the course of the show and keep the audience immersed in the time period and the chilliness of a snowy winter.

Whether it be Scrooge’s immense bedroom or the tiny, rickety Cratchit house or even the occasional festive tree, the change of set pieces is fluid and with the help of accurate costumes and props courtesy of Alice McGuire and Heidi McMath, as well as period dancing and a few Christmas carols sung by the cast, “A Christmas Carol” has it in spades when it comes to a perfect production.

Larry Yando is once more taking up the reins as Scrooge, accompanied by the likes of Joe Foust (Jacob Marley), Ariana Burks (Belinda Cratchit), Ora Jones (Mrs. Fezziwig) and little Matthew Abraham (Tiny Tim Cratchit) making multiple Goodman Theatre debuts that are sure to bring a new take to an old show. The Goodman is not just in for a gorgeous run but has brought together a cast whose commitment to such familiar characters is warm-hearted and strong.

Yando’s refreshing take on Scrooge brings an enchanted feeling to the theatre-goers who are seeing  “A Christmas Carol,” once more. While the interactions between Scrooge and his apprentice Bob Cratchit (Rob Rains), as well as his nephew Fred (Demetrios Troy) leave me on the edge of my seat, waiting for Scrooge’s emotional shift. The shift Scrooge encounters, such as when he discovers that Cratchit is not just looking for handouts but is indeed destitute and just looking to spend the holidays with his family, is one instance that Yando uses to his full advantage to further the emotional arc of the play, and one that is captivating to behold on stage.

Along with Yando’s admirable shift of emotions; Scrooge’s reactions to all his past memories as well as his future, have shown me something new that I have not seen in many past productions of this timeless classic: hope for a change. In the world today, I can only hope that people like Scrooge; old, bitter, find a way to look at the world around them and see past the poverty and wars, not just on the fields, but in politics and realize that the world around them does not revolve just around themselves.

As a completed production, the Goodman Theatre’s spin (and more importantly that of the adapter, Tom Creamer) show a sense of detail that really drives home that this production is produced for the audience to draw them in and make it a life-changing experience, for them to reflect on their own lives, their own choices, not just for Scrooge but for anyone who has come to see the show.

With a cast that is sure to be remembered as well as top-notch sound, lights and an absolutely astounding set that will have you leaning out of your seat, the Goodman Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” is one that should be viewed every Christmas, especially at this particular venue bringing a wonderful sense that Christmas is finally around the corner to the Chicagoland area.

Written by Charles Dickens and adapted by Tom Creamer, “A Christmas Carol” is running at the Goodman Theatre from November 17th until December 29th, 2012 at 170 N. Dearborn Chicago, IL. To reserve tickets, www.goodmantheatre.org.