Saturday June 24th 2017

“A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman

Highly Recommended***** Holidays are filled with traditions and one of Chicago’s finest is the annual  production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol at The Goodman Theatre. Over the years, I have witnessed the various productions on their stage and as the years go by, small changes in cast members and emotion have been important to the overall production, no matter how slight they are. In this wonderful adaptation by Tom Creamer, once again, skillfully directed by Steve Scott, the Goodman is transformed into a magical place for audience members to see a classic. This year, we have the return of Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge, and what a return he makes. Yando, probably one of our finest actors is a technician when it comes to taking on a role. He makes it his own and each little gesture and movement on his part makes his character very special and for any would-be actors, watching him work in this role is an educational experience as well as a theatrical one.

For those who do not know the story, it is the tale of a man ( Scrooge) who has no feeling and in particular has no Christmas spirit. He cares only about amassing his fortune and making profits from those less fortunate. His only family is a Nephew, Fred ( played this year by  Joe Minoso) and his one employee, Bob Cratchit ( again played by the remarkable Ron Rains) is mistreated and underpaid, yet does as he is told in order to retain his position, or as Scrooge refers to it, “his situation”.  There are many who would leave this “situation” for something better, but there may not be something better and Cratchit has a large family with one crippled child , Tiny Tim( the adorable Roni Akurati).  On this particular Christmas Eve, Scrooge returns home to find the ghost of his departed business partner, Jacob Marley ( Nathan Hosner), who tells him that he will be visited by three spirits, the past, the present and the future, so that he can learn from them how to mend his ways.

They arrive, starting with the past, played by a pert and elfish Elizabeth Ledo, who takes flight with Scrooge to show him some of his past and how a few errors in judgement during his youth caused him to become the miserly, money grubber that he is. His second visitor is the spirit of the Present, played with great zest and some humor by Penelope Walker ( sort of reminds us of Glinda from the “Wizard of Oz”), who allows Scrooge to see the reality of the pain and suffering of those who are a small part of his life and the last spirit is handled by the voice of Jarrod Zimmerman( who also plays Scrooge as a young man during the turning point in his life) to an incredible piece of puppetry, where Scrooge gets to see what the future holds for Tiny Tim and himself , thus causing him to see that he must make changes in his life, which he does. This is where Yando truly shines. His transformation is childlike and his actions and reactions, magical as we witness a total change in his personality. He is the very best!

This production, one that should be getting “tired” is far from that. In fact, the use of many cultures and gender bending in lead roles added a new spice to the story. It is not often that you see a classical play such as this with Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans in the cast. Hats off to Scott for making this happen. The set by Todd Rosenthal is once again perfect, Robert Christen’s lighting and Richard Woodbury’s sound made every word audible throughout the theater and the costumes by Heidi Sue McMath superb. The original music by Andrew Hansen adds a great touch to the production and one of our finest fiddlers,Greg Hirte and the other stage musicians are a delight.

What makes a production shine and glow in the memory of those who see it is the cast of players who take on many roles and Scott gets to work with a great many of Chicago’s finest; Sandra Delgado,Nora Fiffer,Emjoy Gavino, Tim Gittings, Emma Gordon, Ted Hoerl, Ora Jones, Ross Lehman,Michael Perez, Jon Hudson Odom,Lisa Tejero, the adoable Oscar Vasquez,and the return of Karen Janes Woditsch as Mrs. Cratchit- what a wonderful ensemble of players!This fabulous production will continue at The Goodman Theatre located at 170 N. Dearborn Street through December 31st. To order tickets( which start at $25 and there are no bad seats in this theater) call the box office at 312-443-3800  or visit www.goodmantheatre.org where you can see the complete schedule of performances. If you have never been witness to the Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol” make this a gift for your family. The memories will last a lifetime!

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