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A Christmas Carol Review - Timeless Holiday Magic

By Jessie Bond

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The cast of A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre


For the 38th year, Goodman Theatre presents A Christmas Carol, an annual production that has become a cornerstone of the holiday season in Chicago. Adapted from Charles Dickens' classic story about ghosts, greed, and the true meaning of Christmas, A Christmas Carol astonishes me every year with its ability to instill the Christmas spirit, an idea so overused as to have become trite, in a genuine and heartfelt way, free of even a hint of corniness or cliché. Once again, powerhouse acting, magnificent special effects, and brilliant direction by Henry Wishcamper infuse Chicago with a sense of joy, delight, and generosity.


Kim Schultz (Ghost of Christmas Present), Ron E. Rains (Bob Cratchit), Nathaniel Buescher (Tiny Tim), Aaron Stone (Peter Cratchit), Amaris Sanchez (Emily Cratchit), Aaron Lamm (Aaron Cratchit), Mariah Gordon (Belinda Cratchit), Emma Ladji (Martha Cratchit) and Sadieh Rafai (Mrs. Cratchit) in A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre


Larry Yando once again leads the cast in the role of Scrooge. A lesser actor's performance might grow stale in its ninth iteration, but Yando miraculously manages to bring such vigor and spirit to his Scrooge that the role feels as fresh as if he were stepping into it for the first time. Scrooge at the top of the show is the most unsympathetic character imaginable, openly advocating for the death of those too poor to afford basic needs so as to decrease the "surplus population," and Yando does not soften the harshness of this attitude.


Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge) in A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre


Yet even in these opening scenes, Yando brings humor and humanity to the man whose name is synonymous with avarice and the antithesis of the Christmas spirit, such that it becomes possible to root for his success at changing his ways and saving his immortal soul. Embodying virtually the entire spectrum of human emotion throughout the course of the marathon performance, Yando is truly the heart and soul of the production.


Mariah Gordon (Belinda Cratchit), Aaron Stone (Peter Cratchit), Nathaniel Buescher (Tiny Tim), Larry Yando and Aaron Lamm (Aaron Cratchit) in A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre


The entire cast is phenomenal. Travis A. Knight reprises his role as the Ghost of Christmas Past, embodying the first spirit's otherworldly presence, as well as his dramatic flair. Kim Schultz takes over as the Ghost of Christmas Present, embracing both the joviality and quiet rage of the character in equal turn. Christmas Carol alum Ron E. Rains is utterly charming as Scrooge's foil, the poor in money but rich in love Bob Cratchit. Kareem Bandealy, who serves as the Scrooge alternate, is also delightful as both the theatrical Narrator and the awkward Scrooge as a Young Man. Indeed, in a story with a wealth of characters, most of the actors perform multiple roles, all with great success.


J. Salome Martinez (Abe/Abraham), Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Kristina Valada-Viars (Frida) in A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre


The production values of the show are, of course, incredible. The special effects alone are breathtaking, with multidirectional flying, dazzling magic effects, and the terrifying presence of tormented spirit Jacob Marley (which prompted horror-movie style screams from several in the audience at the performance I attended), truly bringing the magic of the story to vivid life. Larger-than-life sets by Todd Rosenthal establish the scale of this epic tale. Wonderfully harmonized Christmas carols, live musicians, and original music by Andrew Hansen also contribute greatly to the emotional resonance of the show. A violin solo by Andrew Coil is a special favorite moment of mine.


Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge), Aaron Lamm (Boy Scrooge), Emma Ladji (Martha Cratchit) and Travis A. Knight (Ghost of Christmas Past) in A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre


At the end of a year that has seemed at times to be nothing more than a never-ending string of increasingly tragic and horrifying events, Goodman's familiar and comforting production of A Christmas Carol not only provides the emotional balm that a good work of fiction can grant, but it also delivers Dickens' timeless advice about the meaning of the Christmas spirit and the worldview we ought to embrace. Each of us has only a short time on this Earth, and the only befitting response to this truth is to offer generosity and kindness to our "fellow passengers to the grave" and revel in what celebrations we can before our time is up. A Christmas Carol reminds us of this again and again, and it is a message, and a production, that never grows old.


John Lister (Mr. Fezziwig), Penelope Walker (Mrs. Fezziwig), J. Salome Martinez (Dick Wilkins), Kristina Valada-Viars (Belle) and cast members Emma Ladji, Mariah Gordon, Nathaniel Buescher, Aaron Lamm, Aaron Stone and Amaris Sanchez in A Christmas Carol, directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre. All photos by Liz Lauren


Ticket Information

Dates: November 19 – December 31, 2016

Location: 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago IL

Tickets: $25 - $102. Available at the Goodman Theatre website, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 N. Dearborn). Discounted Group Tickets for 15+ are available at 312.443.3820

MezzTix – Half-price day-of-performance mezzanine tickets available at 10am online (promo code MEZZTIX)

$10Tix – Student $10 day-of-performance tickets; limit four, with valid student ID (promo code 10TIX)

Box Office Hours –12noon - 5pm; on performance days, the office remains open until 30 minutes past curtain.


November 28, Touch Tour Presentation – 12:30pm; a presentation detailing the set, costume and character elements; Audio Described Performance – 2pm; the action/text is audibly enhanced for patrons via headset.

November 29, Sign Interpreted Performance – 7:30pm; professional ASL interpreter signs the action/text as played.

December 5, Open Captioned Performance – 2pm; an LED sign presents dialogue in sync with the performance.

Visit the Goodman website's accessibility page for more information about Goodman Theatre’s accessibility efforts.

Published on Dec 01, 2016

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