Engage & Learn

Cindy Bandle Young Critics

Offered completely FREE to young women in the 11th grade throughout Chicago and the suburbs, this joint venture between Goodman Theatre and the Association for Women Journalists – Chicago introduces young women to theater criticism and the world of professional writing. Participants will receive press opening tickets to every production in the Goodman’s 11-12 season, one-on-one mentoring from professional journalists and have the opportunity to interview artists associated with Goodman Theatre productions!

Questions? We’re happy to help! Contact us at 312-443-5581 or Education@GoodmanTheatre.org.

YOUNG CRITICS APPLICATION 12-13

Applications are due by October 5th, 2012 (application requirements contained within).

Christmas Carol Delivers Cheer Once Again – By Jordan Waller

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

For 35 years, the Goodman Theater’s A Christmas Carol has been a Chicago tradition like the Cubs’ losing or hotdogs without ketchup.  These traditions work because they are classic, and for the most part, Tom Creamer’s adaption of A Christmas Carol works beautifully and effectively.  The show is a retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel about a man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who has lost himself and the spirit of Christmas as he ages, and is forced to reevaluate his actions as he is visited by three ghosts, past, present, and future.  Ultimately, Scrooge comes to realize the true meaning of kindness, generosity, and Christmas.

Equally as impressive as the richly decadent costumes and elaborate sets is Larry Yando’s transformation into Ebenezer Scrooge.  With four previous seasons of experience, Yando still brings a fresh attitude to the role.  He is best in his comedic scenes, where he seems most at ease.  At the beginning of the piece, his attempts to be serious seemed a little affected, but when he is cracking jokes he could not seem more at home.  He had the audience consistently laughing aloud, and was as endearing as the adorable Tiny Tim (played by Matthew Abraham) at times.  Despite his acting seeming slightly forced when he is playing Scrooge at his crankiest, Yando does the role justice and always looks the part.

The stellar ensemble also deserves credit for the overall success of the piece.  Of particular note are Nora Fiffer and Ron Rains, who play Belle and Bob Cratchit respectively.  They are both convincing and have excellent chemistry with Yando.  I don’t know if Rains has children, but his clear love and devotion to Tiny Tim in the show are touching, and seem heartbreakingly real.

There are four live musicians onstage playing music as parts of several scenes.  The violin is beautiful, and the every piece evokes a traditional British feeling.  The use of such music also really helps to envelop the audience and bring them into each scene.  In particular, I enjoyed the use of the music in the party scene at Mr. Fezziwig’s house.  It made the scene so lively I was sitting in my seat bopping up and down to the rhythm.

The only time that A Christmas Carol wavers from heartfelt and spirited is when it strays from classic and attempts to incorporate technology into the scenes.  Strobes lights are used several times throughout the play, and they seem superfluous and are nauseating.  They blink quickly and furiously, and I personally found them over stimulating.  Additionally, the Ghost of Christmas Past is decorated in something akin to large white Lite Brites, which are distracting when she is standing in the back of scenes.  Her distorted voice also becomes very grating after she delivers her first to lines.  By the time she had been on stage for three minutes, every time she opened her mouth it was like nails on a chalkboard for me.

Even with these few small missteps, A Christmas Carol will have you leave smiling and more excited about the holiday’s than department store Christmas music ever could.

The show is two hours and runs through Dec. 31st.  It is suitable for children of all ages.

A Christmas Carol – By Hayley Hartnett

January 7, 2013 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.

A Christmas Carol – By Margaret Donahue

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

There are few plays that can be watched over and over again and still produce the same feeling of childlike wonderment one gets the first time they see a production. A Christmas Carol is one of those plays. I have been seeing the show for many years now, and Tom Creamer’s adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas classic still awakens in me the Christmas joy one only really experiences as a child on Christmas day.

As far as I can tell, the script has remained unchanged over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing this show. However, director Steve Scott brings a freshness to this classic tale of redemption that creates an entirely new experience. Even the actors who are returning to the cast, including Larry Yando, who plays Scrooge, seem to have developed and come close to perfecting their characters.

The cast as a whole is superb, with a few slight exceptions. I found that Scrooge’s nephew, Fred (Demetrios Troy), lacked the mirth and likability I so enjoyed in past performances. These qualities are essential in connecting him to his mother, Scrooge’s sister Fan, and in establishing his and Scrooge’s one-sided friendship.

The woman playing Scrooge’s ex-wife Belle (Nora Fiffer) also failed to impress. Fiffer insisted on a poor attempt at an Irish brogue that detracted from her performance and was even, at times, harsh to the ears.

On the other hand, Larry Yando’s performance is particularly excellent. He plays the iconic miser with a peculiar charm. We simultaneously shake our heads and laugh in amazement at Yando’s perfectly harsh “Bah humbugs.” We cheer in mirth when Scrooge dances around his chambers to the horror of the Charwoman. We smile like idiots when he comes, vulnerable and penitent, to his nephew’s Christmas dinner.

What really brought Dickens’ world to life was the atmosphere onstage. The play opened with men, women, and children of various classes singing an old carol and beginning the tale with the famous opening line: “Marley was dead.” The hustle and bustle and feeling of cheer at Christmastime was well-represented in the ruddy visages and jovial voices of the actors, as well as in the quaint town setting and falling “snow.”

The scenes in the bustling streets of London bore a stark contrast to those in Scrooge’s counting house. Dark, dingy, and having a sort of chilly atmosphere, the set perfectly coincides with Scrooge’s own nature at the beginning of the play. Meanwhile, the Cratchits’ house is warm, homey, and comfortable, as is Scroog’es nephew Fred’s, even though the set for his home consists of only a hanging window and a few props.

Much of the attractiveness of A Christmas Carol comes from the appearances of the three Christmas spirits. Naturally, these specters would be the most difficult elements to translate into onstage characters. The Goodman, however, typically brings these spirits to life, so to speak, in unexpected ways.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is, in the book, supposed to be like a flame, symbolizing Scrooge’s blazing past, the light of which he constantly blocks out. This characterization would be difficult to portray on stage, but Scott’s choices were, for the most part, satisfactory. The pixie-like woman  playing the spirit flits around like Peter Pan and glows with a silvery light. The only thing detracting from the representation of the spirit were the strobe lights, a new feature in the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol that shone in the eyes of audience members. There is a reason that strobe lights come with a warning.

What makes this play so special is that it reminds us all of who we are and who we might be. Every day we are offered opportunities to do good, and often we ignore them. We see that Scrooge is a caricature of our own natures. Through Scrooge’s own redemption, we experience a catharsis that reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. As Fred says, Christmastime is “the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” The Goodman’s A Christmas Carol invokes just such thoughts.

A Christmas Carol, at the Goodman Theater Continues to bring magic – By Tereza Driehaus

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

The timeless tale of A Christmas Carol revolves around an irritable and elderly man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who comes to regret the decisions he has made in life. In the beginning of the production, we see a character whose only goals in life are to work and make money, and he expects others to abide by these goals.  By the end of the play the audience has seen Ebenezer Scrooge go through many stages to become a more holistic character, generous and loving.  The Goodman Theater’s production of the Charles Dickens’s play, adapted by Tom Creamer and directed by Steve Scott, keeps the audience emotionally involved through both intensity and humor.

This production included an outstanding cast of actors and actresses. As the story goes Ebenezer Scrooge is presented throughout the beginning of the play as a feared and troubled man.  Larry Yando plays the part well, causing the audience to dislike his greedy and miserable ways. Another disliked character Jacob Marley, played by Chestnut Seller, causes the audience to quiver when he tells Ebenezer that the life that Ebenezer thinks is so wonderful is actually unfulfilling and immoral.  The three ghosts do a commendable job of helping Ebenezer to understand why he became the man he did and lead him to recognize his affect on people and how this will determine his fate. Nora Fiffer, as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, created a character  that accurately portrayed eternal doom. The actors and actresses moved easily from scene to scene, flowing together to bring a timeless play to life.

The technical elements of this play create a whimsical or magical feeling.  Scenes during the play that are serious or depressing are reflected through the simplistic props. Yet more noticeably in the festive scenes, the bright and colorful costumes indicated the joy. The well-balanced lighting brings attention to the characters without distracting the audience from the action. It also had a powerful affect when used to create a feeling of happiness or doom.  From lighting the first ghost to decreasing the light for the third ghost the audience always felt a feeling of magic and awe. Overall the use of lights and props added to the story without taking away attention from the action.

One critique I would make regarding this play is that the stage is set up in a way that audience members who were sitting in the balcony had to stand up to see portions of the play. This was distracting for the other audience members.

A Christmas Carol is a timeless story that the Goodman Theater produced in a way that applies to today’s world.  If Charles Dickens were to see this adaptation, he would be pleased that the message has stayed the same. Goodman Theatre is known for their technology work but this production created magic and wonder. I highly recommend this production A Christmas Carol!

A Scrootagious Christmas Tradition Returns to Chicago for the Holidays – By Crystiona Maiden

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

Looking for a play the whole family will enjoy? A Christmas Carol has a great deal of diversity. I love to see different ethnicities come together on stage. As a 16 year old African American young lady, I very rarely see things like this. Usually, you see a cast of all one race. It is quite exciting to see how blacks and whites can work so well together in a play that was really designed for only one race. This play is based on an 1843 book by Charles Dickens later adapted by Tom Creamer. During this time Blacks were the last thing on peoples mind.

The play is all about deliverance. All about how Scrooge was a bitter man, with no heart for Christmas. Until one day he finally came to the old man senses of his, and realized Christmas can actually be a great holiday.

Overall, the atmosphere in the theater was just fantastic. Everyone in the theatre was on the edge of their seats waiting to see what would happen next. The scene on stage almost made me feel as if I was a person from that time period. It was so appealing. Scrooge’s work place was cold and monotonous; I started to cringe as if I was there. Also, at Scrooge’s nephew’s party, I felt like I was at the party enjoying Christmas with the characters. It makes me excited for the Christmas holiday.

In particular, the lighting was excellent. At one point, they flash the lights so bright that if you were falling asleep, you won’t be sleep anymore! It keeps you engaged in what is going on, on stage. You could see everything great, I did not have a problem at all with lighting from my seat. The costumes were good for the period that was set forth. The atmosphere and the costumes both worked hand in hand. The music that was in the play was splendid; it reminds you of sitting around caroling with family and friends.

Larry Yando played as Scrooge plays his part so well. I must admit, there was a time where Scrooge screamed and I screamed with him. Everyone around looked at me sideways. When you think about all the time and dedication Larry Yando put forth into playing his part, it all makes sense. All of the characters work together to make everything perfect. I loved seeing all of the characters work together during the Christmas party at Scrooge’s work place. More characters that I liked were the Ghost of Christmas Present (Penelope Walker) and the Ghost of Christmas Past (Elizabeth Ledo). They were both so jumpy and full of joy. I loved every bit of it.

At one point, I thought that there were too many people on stage. It got really confusing to pick whom to focus on. Overall, I really liked this play, and would encourage anybody looking for a traditional play to go see the play A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre.