A Christmas Carol spreads yuletide cheer once again – By Frankie Hermanek

January 8, 2013 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

For 35 years, the timeless tale of A Christmas Carol has been presented at Goodman Theatre as an annual Christmas celebration. With breathtaking technical prowess and an exceptional cast, the Goodman recreated this beloved story. The audience entered the theater, glowing with the excitement that is Christmas. Pre-show anticipation enveloped their conversations as the theater gradually began to fill. By the time of opening curtain, the entire place was consumed with eager theater lovers, adults and children alike.

A musical number, the segue into the show, took center stage as carolers and their young ones circled around each other, singing of Christmas. As they ended, they began to hint at the bitter man that was Ebenezer Scrooge, preparing the audience for the story to come. Interestingly enough, most of the audience members knew the tale of Scrooge. Many of us have read the story in grammar school, have heard references all throughout pop culture, or have seen motion pictures. Yet despite our knowledge of the story, the Goodman production instilled a sense of suspense and entertainment. Perhaps this was due to the marvelous technical efforts of the crew, or the colorful personalities of the actors. Maybe it was simply because we saw a childhood tale brought to life right before our eyes.

Larry Yando, the play’s memorable Scrooge, portrayed a man of a very complex nature. Bringing the legend to life, Yando brilliantly displayed his character’s inner turmoil. Emotion pronounced itself to be nearly tangible. One of the most striking moments of the play presented itself at the end of Act I, right before the curtain closed for intermission. As the Ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge to the time of his youth, he experienced once again the moment Belle left him as a result of his greed and bitterness. Scrooge begged with agony in his voice to show him no more; he could not bear to relive his experiences that had shaped him into the man he had become. My heart sank with sadness as I watched the shaking man on stage, overcome with emotion. Larry Yando’s performance left an unforgettable mark in my mind.

The technical aspect of the production was outstanding; in that sense, it was the most advanced play I had ever seen. The crew clearly spent months on end perfecting the set. From trap doors to moving units, flying actors to fog, and advanced mood lighting to impressionable sound effects, the tech of A Christmas Carol set the bar very high. Tony Award-winning set designer Todd Rosenthal created a lively setting to tell a story; he succeeded beyond expression. The entire work of it all was truly remarkable, reminding me why thespians coined the phrase “the magic of the theatre”; simply because the Goodman production was truly magical in the sense that the entire audience entered the make believe world of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Prior to this show on November 24 I had never seen A Christmas Carol at the Goodman. I had truly been in the dark, for I had never been so impressed with a play before. This magnificent show proved to be something of magic. It was truly one of the greatest Christmas treats the city of Chicago has to offer. It came as no surprise the production has been running for 35 consecutive years. Something so breathtaking cannot go ignored, especially during the greatest time of the year. A brighter holiday season is to come; the magic of the Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol awaits.