by Amanda Landwehr / Arts & Culture Editor
As a nostalgia-ridden admirer of “A Christmas Carol” since childhood, I found myself highly anticipating this familiar holiday tale when I sat down at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre to see their take on the iconic Christmas classic.
Directed by Harry Wishcamper, the charming, emotionally-packed story was essentially the same. But whether viewers find themselves relating more so to Ebenezer Scrooge than Bob Cratchit, Goodman Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” is still bound to delight audiences.
Charles Dickens began writing “A Christmas Carol” in 1843, and the eerie holiday tale was brought to the stage within months of its publication. Throughout the story’s nearly 200-year-long history, “A Christmas Carol” has been adapted into multiple films, T.V. shows and stage productions worldwide.
Regardless of its age, this beloved Christmas tale has made its mark on audiences of all ages with its compelling message of forgiveness, redemption and the importance of family.
Goodman Theatre’s seasonal run of “A Christmas Carol” has brought this Christmas tale to Chicago for over four decades. With an impressive set design of a Victorian-era London, talented cast and plethora of special-effects, it comes as no surprise that the show has been met with years of praise.
I found Larry Yando to be a natural Scrooge — which is to be expected after returning to the same character for over 12 years. Scrooge’s sinister cackle, twisted grimace and “Bah Humbugs!” are wholeheartedly exemplified through Yando’s performance. Portraying such an unlikeable, senile character while also making Scrooge’s character sympathetic to audiences is no easy feat, and Yando handles this duality with grace. His intense scowl, witty one-liners and sad desperation to be loved truly highlight the complexity of Scrooge’s character, and Yando triumphs in humanizing such a withdrawn and bitter man.
Although my eyes were drawn to Yando throughout the performance, the accompanying cast is nothing less than delightful. Bob Cratchit (Thomas J. Cox) and his family are burdened by financial difficulty and the diminishing health of their son, Tiny Tim, (Vikram Konkimalla) but still manage to cherish the holiday season. The Crachit family serves as a raw example of classism: a poor, yet hopeful family who choose to remain happy throughout the Christmas season without luxuries of gifts or a Christmas feast.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future teach invaluable lessons to both Scrooge and viewers alike. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Molly Brennan), dressed as a sort of punk-rock fairy, brings Scrooge back in time to some of his most memorable Christmases. Although I found this costume choice to be a bit off-putting, these scenes were especially heart-wrenching, as audiences get a glimpse into a younger and more vulnerable Scrooge as he refaces the traumas of his past.
The Ghost of Christmas Present (Jasmine Bracey) carries a royal confidence when guiding Scrooge through the lives of others. Bracey brings a unique duality to this character, as the ghost appears lighthearted and even funny at the beginning of her interaction with Scrooge. However, the ghost’s lesson turns dark and unforgiving as she advises Scrooge to stop acting with want and ignorance.
A shadowy grim reaper haunts the stage as the Ghost of Christmas Future, (Breon Arzell) warning Scrooge of the harrowing future that awaits him if he fails to change his ways. The Ghost of Christmas Future, dressed in a dark cloak and carrying a scythe, was unarguably the most frightening element of the play. His entrance onto the stage, accompanying a sudden bolt of lightning, was enough to make the audience (especially me) jump in its seats. Although this ghost is completely silent, his lesson was the loudest: to practice humility and charity towards others. If Scrooge failed to change his ways, his money, business and life will have meant nothing.
Ultimately, Scrooge’s redemption arc is fulfilled, and I could feel the sheer relief as Scrooge leaps out of bed on Christmas morning, reborn with a newly-found appreciation for helping others. The theatre was laughing as Scrooge skipped around the stage, frightening other characters with his suddenly chipper nature.
“A Christmas Carol” has remained relevant for nearly two centuries, and audiences continue to attend each year as a part of their holiday traditions. Dickens’ message of redemption, humility and friendship continues to help define the spirit of the Christmas season for audiences worldwide. Through Yando’s brilliant performance of Ebenezer Scrooge, this play continues to be rich with warmth and just as emotionally satisfying as I had remembered.
“A Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 29. Roosevelt students can take advantage of $10 dollar day-of tickets at the Goodman Theatre with a valid student ID using promo code 10TIX.