We just never learn. Or, at least, we learn and twelve months later, we need to learn all over again. From one year’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL to the next, most of us lapse into Scrooge mode more often than we should. We pass the Salvation Army bucket without dropping a dollar into the slot. We hurry past fragile seniors without holding a door open for them. We buy a treat for ourselves instead of a can of soup for the holiday food drive. Whether short on time or money or patience, we’re all guilty of cutting some generosity corners.
With its annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Goodman Theatre gives us a reminder to do better. Director Henry Wishcamper’ s production stays contemporary without breaking from Charles Dickens’ 19th century milieu. Similarly, Tom Creamer’s script adaptation, laced with humor, keeps the dialogue accessible with period-appropriate language. Visually and verbally, this show sits comfortably in its era as it speaks to ours.
Goodman Theatre production balances Scrooge and Cratchit
Actor Larry Yando has spent a dozen years uttering “Bah, humbug” on the Goodman stage. But he plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge as if thoroughly surprised by everything he encounters. Meanwhile, Thomas J. Cox as his clerk Bob Cratchit is a worthy foil. Nursing his freezing fingers, Bob sneaks soundlessly across the office to add more coal to the stove. Of course, Scrooge catches him. The over-the-top exchange that follows between the stingy boss and exploited worker is hilarious. But when Bob gently interacts with his crippled son Tiny Tim (Paris Strickland) at home, his essential humanity makes his employer’s lack of it seem anything but funny.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL goes to the stars
The entire production is a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, in this reviewer’s opinion. Heidi Sue McMath’s costumes lift A CHRISTMAS CAROL right off its storybook pages. However, McMath plays with anachronism a bit, putting the Ghost of Christmas Past (Molly Brennan) in punky pink hair, tutu and stockings; and sheathing the Ghost of Christmas Present (Jasmine Bracey) in a slinky gold evening gown.
Todd Rosenthal’s set faithfully evokes Dickens’ England in which industrialization made a few people rich and a lot of people poor. But there’s magic to be found amid earthly realities. The Cratchits’ shabby little house gives way to the breath-taking grandeur of a jet black sky filled with diamond white stars.
When the stars come out, the ambiguities of life vanish. Bad people reform their ways, good people embrace them and everyone sings carols together. In an audience of many different traditions, few could resist joining the cast in We Wish You A Merry Christmas at the curtain call. Indeed, A CHRISTMAS CAROL brings good tidings to us and our kin. For this viewer, that’s a reminder to drop a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket, hold a door open for a senior citizen and buy an extra can of soup for the holiday food drive. Another year, another lesson – and maybe this time, we’ll remember it.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves
Asher Alcantara, Justin Amolsch, Breon Arzell, Kareem Bandealy, Jasmine Bracey, Molly Brennan, Ali Burch, Thomas J. Cox, Jillian-Giselle, Alison Tatum, Allen Gilmore, Susaan Jamshidi, Philip Earl Johnson, Vikram Konkimalla, Isabel Kaegi, Kristen Magee, Maddi Ruhl, Malcolm Ruhl, Christopher Sheard, Nelson Simmons, Hannah Starr, Paris Strickland, Penelope Walker, Jonah D. Winston, Larry Yando
Henry Wishcamper (Director), Todd Rosenthal (Set Designer), Heidi Sue McMath (Costume Designer), Andrew Hansen (Composer), Richard Woodbury (Sound Designer), Macolm Ruhl (Music Director), Keith Parham (Lighting Designer), Tommy Rapley (Choreographer), Kate DeVore (Dialect Coach), Alden Vasquez (Production Stage Manager), Kimberly McCann (Stage Manager)
Through December 29, 2019
About the Author
Susan Lieberman is a Jeff-winning playwright, journalist, teacher and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre. Her radio drama In the Shadows aired on BBC Radio 4 last season.