Review: A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre, 2015)

| November 26, 2015

Travis Knight and Larry Yando star in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)         
      
A Christmas Carol 

Adapted by Tom Creamer
From novel by Charles Dickens
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn  (map)
thru Dec 27  |  tix: $25-$102  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    


    
  

Family-friendly holiday classic

  

Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)

    
Goodman Theatre presents
    
A Christmas Carol

Review by Lauren Whalen 

Charles DickensA Christmas Carol became a classic for a reason: it’s got a loving message and a thorough character change wrapped up in a deliciously spooky passage. The novel’s been adapted by everyone from VH1 to the Muppets, and stage versions are as plentiful as chestnuts roasting over an open fire at this time of year. Goodman Theatre’s 2015 production of A Christmas Carol is its 38th, and the show’s gone through various incantations (not to mention Scrooges) since its premiere decades ago. This year, it’s a gothic and glittering holiday treat: Henry Wishcamper’s direction doesn’t skimp on the scary or the silly, and veteran Larry Yando delivers a Scrooge that’s multifaceted: funny, curmudgeonly and genuinely complex.

Joe Foust and Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)Ebenezer Scrooge (Yando) sits in his London office the day before Christmas shivering, scowling and forever pinching pennies. He resists the Christmas cheer of his estranged nephew Fred (Anish Jethmalani) and makes employee Bob Cratchit (Ron E. Rains) beg for the holiday off to spend with his family. But at the stroke of midnight, the ghost of Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley (Joe Foust) visits with a prophecy: one by one, the ghosts of Christmas Past (Travis A. Knight), Present (Lisa Gaye Dixon) and Future (J. Salome Martinez) will take Scrooge on a journey that illustrates the error of his selfish, miserly ways. Will Scrooge learn his lesson and the true meaning of Christmas? Or will he live and die alone? The choice is his…

We all know the answer to the above questions, but that doesn’t make this Christmas Carol any less beguiling. In his third year of directing the production, Wishcamper has hit the sweet spot of dark but not too scary, sweet but not saccharine, and funny but respectful to Dickens’ text. Wishcamper never loses sight of the fact thateven with the holiday trimmings – A Christmas Carol is a ghost story. Scrooge’s past mistakes and potential fate grow sadder and more horrific as Act Two progresses, making his transformation all the more rich and rewarding. In addition to inserting brilliant bits of physical comedy and audience asides, Wishcamper also emphasizes the play’s more poignant moments. Bob Cratchit’s love for his family is palpable in his bright smile when he comes through the door of their overcrowded, shabby house. And during nephew Fred’s Christmas party, both Scrooge and Fred take a moment to look at the portrait over the mantel: Fan (the always-lovely Paige Collins), Scrooge’s beloved sister and Fred’s mother, who died in childbirth. It’s these tiny details that elevate Goodman’s A Christmas Carol from cookie-cutter interpretation to something deeper and more heartwrenching, the way Dickens would have liked.

Joe Foust and Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Kristina Valada-Viars, Larry Yando and Kareem Bandealy in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)Larry Neumann Jr., Phillip Cusic, Skye Sparks, Nathaniel Buescher, Amaris Sanchez and Aaron Lamm in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)Larry Yando, Aaron Lamm, Paige Collins and Travis Knight in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Kareem Bandealy as The Narrator in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)Kareem Bandealy, Amaris Sanchez, Phillip Cusic, J. Salome Martinez, Nathaniel Buescher, Aaron Lamm and Skye Sparks star in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)

Yando is in a class of his own, in his eighth year as the iconic Ebenezer Scrooge. Whether he’s growling over paperwork or joyfully accepting a small bag of chestnuts, the veteran actor and theater professor doesn’t miss a beat and never squanders an opportunity. Yando is equal parts broad and subtle, physical and emotional. As a performer and a critic, I’ve seen many iterations of Scrooge, but after twice seeing Yando play the role, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else.

Those who fear the past are doomed to repeat it. In today’s near-dystopian political climate, this is an especially important lesson to remember, and no story illustrates the point better than A Christmas Carol. One man is forced to confront the demons of his past and the consequences of his actions, and realizes he has a choice: he can keep on hurting others and isolating himself, or he can give of his own resources (physical and emotional) and become not only truly wealthy, but free. It’s my hope that the message of Goodman’s beautiful production, and the story itself, will reach as many minds and hearts as possible this holiday season. Hopefully, those the world over, no matter what race, color or belief system, can take Dickens’ words to heart and quote Tiny Tim: “God bless us, every one.”

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

A Christmas Carol continues through December 27th at Goodman’s Albert Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map). Tickets are $25-$102, and are available by phone (312-443-3800) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at GoodmanTheatre.org(Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes an intermission)

Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)

Photos by Liz Lauren


  

artists

cast

Theo Allyn (Miss Ortle, Mrs. Creakle), Justin Amolsch (Musician-French Horn), Kareem Bandealy (Narrator, Young Scrooge), Nathaniel Buescher (Tiny Tim), Andrew Coil (Musician-Violin), Paige Collins (Martha Cratchit, Fan, Young Woman), Phillip Cusic (Peter Cratchit), Lisa Gaye Dixon (Ghost of Christmas Present), Joe Foust (Jacob Marley, Old Joe), Allen Gilmore (Alternate Scrooge), Anish Jethmalani (Fred), Travis A. Knight (Ghost of Christmas Past), Aaron Lamm (Boy Scrooge), J. Salome Martinez (Dick Wilkins, Pie Seller, Future), Larry Neumann Jr. (Schoolmaster, Percy, Undertaker), Ron E. Rains (Bob Cratchit), Malcolm Ruhl (Musician-Accordion), Madeline Ruhl (Musician-Flute), Amaris Sanchez (Emily Cratchit), Kim Schultz (Mrs. Fezziwig, Charwoman), Skye Sparks (Belinda Cratchit), Bret Tuomi (Mr. Fezziwig), Kristina Valada-Viars (Abby, Belle), Penelope Walker (Mrs. Cratchit), Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge)

behind the scenes

Henry Wishcamper (director), Alden Vasquez (production stage manager), ZFX Inc. (flying effects), Todd Rosenthal (set design), Heidi Sue McMath (costume design), Andrew Hansen (composer), Richard Woodbury (sound design), Keith Parham (lighting design), Malcolm Ruhl (music director), Tommy Rapley (choreographer), Adam Belcuore, Erica Sartini Combs (casting), Liz Lauren (photos)

Bret Tuomi, Theo Allyn and Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)Travis Knight and Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Lisa Gaye Dixon as Ghost of Christmas Present in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)tKareem Bandealy, Kim Schultz, Kristina Valada-Viars, Anish Jethmalani, Andrew Coil, Madeline Ruhl, Theo Allyn, Bret Tuomi  and Larry Neumann Jr. in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)Kim Schultz and Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Lisa Gaye Dixon and Larry Yando in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)Penelope Walker, Ron Rains, Nathaniel Buescher, Amaris Sanchez, Philip Cusic and Skye Sparks in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, directed by Henry Wishcamper. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)

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Category: 2015 Reviews, Albert Theatre, Extensions-Remounts, Goodman Theatre, Holiday Show, Lauren Whalen, Video, YouTube

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