I’ve never been a big proponent of the classics. As a children’s librarian, rarely do I find myself recommending hundred-plus-year-old titles when so many new and exciting books have been published in the last decade. The same generally applies to my taste in theatre; unless you’re putting a truly unique spin on it, I don’t want to go see a play that’s been produced a thousand times before. But I’ve been reviewing the Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol since 2015, and I have yet to grow tired of this magnificent, magical production.
The story is familiar enough. Stingy and selfish Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by three ghosts (four, really, if you count Jacob Marley) who show him the error of his ways. Now in his fifteenth year in the role, Larry Yando shines as Scrooge, packing an astonishing amount of nuance and transformation into the character’s iconic journey. The production is a veritable wealth of fantastic acting. Every member of the ensemble is well-suited to their parts, and even those characters who appear for just a short time have distinctive personalities.
Ariana Burks is utterly charming as Scrooge’s sister Fan, and Amira Danan brings a stark authenticity to former fiancé Belle. Susaan Jamshidi has a warmth as Mrs. Cratchit that lights up the stage, and all the child actors are remarkably skilled. Thomas J. Cox is incredibly compelling as Bob Cratchitt, bringing the character’s bright spirit to gorgeous life. The four ghosts, Marley included, are each a treat in their own way as well, both from an acting and a design perspective.
The technical aspects of the production are what make it impossible not to describe this show as magical. Whether it’s flying ghosts or stunning sets, this show is a visual and auditory feast every step of the way. Onstage musicians, as well as members of the cast, provide musical moments that range from fun to heartfelt. Something that particularly stood out to me this year is the use of carols in different languages; in a divided world, incorporating other culture’s words into this beloved show adds an element of unity that is very much aligned with the themes of the story.
This year’s production is very similar to last year’s, but in a way that is comforting rather than repetitive. I maintain that Jessica Thebus is a perfect choice to direct this show, as all the changes and additions she made last year only strengthened what was already a strong production. It’s no wonder so many, including me, have embraced A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre as an essential holiday tradition.
Dates: November 19 – December 31
Location: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn Street
Tickets: $25 – $144. Available at GoodmanTheatre.org/Carol or by phone at 312.443.3800.