The Goodman Theatre Does It Again: a Carol for the Ages – By Marisa Cullnan

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

The Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” is a play I have seen at least five times over the years (all at the Goodman). Tom Creamer’s adaptation of the play hasn’t changed from what I remember. The set is the same, although this year the ease and fluidity of switching sets was particularly impressive. The central message is, of course, the same, as it wouldn’t be “A Christmas Carol” without Ebenezer Scrooge being haunted by three ghosts trying to persuade him to change his cheap, heartless ways (the ghost of Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Future scared me, so they’re pretty frightening for children).

The only striking difference between every year’s productions is how the actors portray Ebenezer Scrooge, the play’s unsympathetic lead. This year’s Scrooge, played by Larry Yando, is my favorite. Yando has played Scrooge in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011. As always, he delivered the “Bah Humbug”s with true pessimism and hatred. In the first act, I found Scrooge to be strangely lightheartedly funny, as he is meant to be pessimistically funny to fit his attitude towards the Christmas holiday and life itself. His sense of humor fit better in the second act as he started to make his transformation from cold, uncaring man to one of warmth and generosity. The actors were wonderful; they really captured the essence of “A Christmas Carol” and their relationships to one another were believable and cohesive. Ron Rains did a magnificent job in showing Bob Cratchit’s unfaltering hope and optimism even through being berated by Scrooge for wishing him a merry Christmas.

“A Christmas Carol” is set in 19th century England and Alice Maguire’s ingenious props really bring the audience to the 1800s. The costumes are, as always, very fitting as they accurately reflect social status and serve the story. The only costume I didn’t like was that of the Ghost of Christmas Past (I thought it really distracted from what was going on, but at the same time, added to the feeling of disorientation Scrooge must have felt. It was just overkill.). In fact, I didn’t like her at all. When she came on the stage, strobe lights shined very brightly in the audience’s eyes, which was quite bewildering, and her (literally) stunning costume consisted of LED-lights lighting up a headband, bracelets and shoes. It all seemed too modern for a play set in the 1800s and especially for a ghost of the past. That said, the lighting for every other scene was fitting and added to the mood of what was going on. Throughout the play, however, fog was used. Sometimes there was so much fog and it was so opaque that I wondered if the people in the first row could even see who was sitting next to them as it billowed off the stage.

Although most things were very similar, the atmosphere felt different. Maybe it was because I had seen the play with my friends rather than family or because it was pretty far from Christmastime, but I wasn’t feeling the Christmas spirit. The actors portrayed the emotions of their characters perfectly and the music went with the mood of the scene, but the flashy, modern lights and thick fog took away from the heartwarming feeling that makes one want to tell their family how much they love them after Tiny Tim’s famous line. I actually felt bad that I didn’t want to hug my sister close and tell my parents that I appreciate all that they does for me. While Bob Cratchit and Scrooge’s performances were spot-on, the supporting actors didn’t put in the same amount of passion and took away from the overall feeling of the play.

Creamer’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” didn’t stray far from the novel by Charles Dickens (or from the Goodman’s previous shows). Director Steve Scott just added a street scene to the beginning of the play to introduce the audience to the world of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol” sends the same heartwarming message every year: Be charitable to everyone, even the uncharitable.