‘A Christmas Carol’: The perfect way to start your holiday season – By Theresa Pham

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

“A Christmas Carol”
written by Charles Dickens
directed by Steve Scott
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60640
Showtimes: Dec. 7 through Dec. 31
Running time: 2 hours
Tickets: $25-$92
Contact: 312-443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org

“A Christmas Carol” is a timeless holiday favorite that follows Ebenezer Scrooge as he rediscovers the meaning of Christmas. A bitter, isolated old man who has lost touch with humanity, Scrooge receives the opportunity to learn from his past.

The Goodman Theatre’s interpretation of “A Christmas Carol” is impressive and extremely heart-warming. The director’s concept remains true to the playwright’s intent and is executed beautifully. The ensemble cast singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is the best part and starts the play off on the right note.

The color-blind casting adds a refreshing element to an otherwise well-known production, but what ties everything together is the lead actor. Larry Yando’s brilliantly portrays Scrooge, bringing a new depth and vulnerability to the role. Scrooge starts as the least amicable character, but he becomes lovable and the transformation is absolutely tear-jerking.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, played by Penelope Walker, also makes a lasting impression. She truly embodies the spirit of Christmas present. Her costume is an elaborate red dress with gold glitter detailing that epitomizes a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift with a gigantic gold bow on top. Even Walker’s voice is warm and comforting, like sitting by the fireplace drinking peppermint hot chocolate.

All the actors are talented, but Tiny Tim’s performance disappoints. The entire play revolves around his life and how Scrooge should be grateful for what he has. When it comes time for Tiny Tim (Roni Akurati) to deliver his lines, the child actor falls short. His delivery is clear and precise but lacks true emotion. Another weak area: The Ghost of Christmas Past’s voice is distorted, as if she is using autotune. This unnecessary effect takes away from the true purpose of her visit to Scrooge.

Although appropriate for viewers of all ages, there are some scary moments in this production. Nathan Hosner’s depiction of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s old business partner, is haunting and frightening. His costume and makeup help add drama.

The set is clever as well as beautiful, especially Scrooge’s dark, cold, damp and musty bedroom. The movable set and props help the audience distinguish between different scenes. The play is a good length with an intermission, but the pacing is slow and drags at times.

Although “A Christmas Carol” is mostly a drama, little jokes are scattered throughout the play. Yando provides most of the comic relief. He often exaggerates his actions, which is funny, but his former mean self is also the butt of many jokes.

Christmas has unfortunately become a holiday centered around the exchange of materialistic objects. “A Christmas Carol” is a subtle reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and holiday spirit, and a perfect way to begin the holiday season.