Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL At Goodman Theatre, Chicago

Production runs through December 31.

By: Nov. 29, 2022
Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL At Goodman Theatre, Chicago
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The spirit of the Season

For the 45th year, Goodman Theatre is presenting Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol which was adapted by Tom Creamer. For 15 out of 45 years Scrooge is being portrayed by Larry Yando (I saw him last in his brilliant portrayal of Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express). He brings one of Dickens' most famous characters to life - from being a mean miser to an overjoyed celebrant of the Season and what it means.

Under Jessica Thebus' direction, this production is told well. It is filled with sadness, terror, laughter and above all love. The set design by Todd Rosenthal immediately took me back to London. They are storybook and beautiful. Heidi Sue McMath's costumes are stunningly time period. The lighting design and sound design (Keith Parham and Richard Woodbury) are so interwoven into the storyline and work seamlessly together. There are gasps from the audience several times. When Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Jacob Marley (menacing and creepily portrayed by Kareem Bandealy), it will make you jump. There is a flying scene with the Ghost of Christmas Past (delightfully portrayed by Lucky Stiff) before taking us back to a young Ebenezer and then seeing how the miserly and unhappy Ebenezer began. The transformation is painful and sad. Scrooge does not want to relive this again. The Ghost of Christmas Present is boundless and full of joy (Bethany Thomas wrapping us in the story). Scrooge actually laughing as he watches the Christmas festivities at the Bob Cratchit (Thomas J. Cox) house until he realizes Tiny Tim (Vikram Konkimalla will warm your heart) may not be there for Christmas the following year. This is the beginning of Scrooge becoming human. He feels a tear on his cheek and wonders what it is. Then there is the unknown and/or possible events shown to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Future (the commanding presence of Daniel Jose Molina). The future begins with townspeople rejoicing over the passing of someone. Scrooge does not understand this so he asks to see people truly mourning the passing of someone they loved. It is the Cratchit family grieving over Tim. Scrooge then wonders who had died that people were rejoicing. The Ghost then stretches out his arm and points his finger directly at Scrooge. This shakes Scrooge to his core. Upon waking from his nightmare, Scrooge has completely changed. Larry Yando's transformation and what follows is a joy to watch. There is laughter, dancing and happiness. The story is one of redemption, second chances and love. Christmas is the season of love. As pointed out to us at the end of the story, we must all keep the spirit of Christmas within us every day.

At the beginning of the story, we hear a song being sung. Here is what the director wants everyone to know: "This year, we have included a Ukrainian holiday carol-'Siva Zozulenka'-in our production. Sung at the top of the show by Rika Nishikawa, the lyrics describe a bird flying through the night sky, offering blessings and peace to all. It's a beautiful song, and encourages us to remember those living in places of conflict this winter, and to work for peace and justice on earth." Throughout the production there is a musical quartet and the music adds so much to the production. Justin Amolsch on French Horn; Delin Ruhl on Flute; Malcolm Ruhl on Concertina/Accordion and Guitar; Wai Yim on Violin (filled in for Gregory Hirte).

The Goodman has again given tradition to theatergoers. The new artistic director of the Goodman, Susan V. Booth, returns to Chicago. She will continue the tradition of the best regional theater art. Live theater is thriving again. I have been honored to share the stories of the artists involved in telling the stories. The 2022-2023 season is coming to a close. There are at least 2 more shows with openings in December. A Christmas Carol gave me renewed hope. Sometimes the renewal is needed. I wonder what Dickens would think of his story being presented year after year. For 45 years Chicagoans have loved Goodman's offering. It is a gift from the Goodman to us. It is special. Experience it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.