3 ½ stars
Goodman Theatre’s annual “A Christmas Carol,” now in its 42 appearance, continues to draw thousands of families downtown Chicago for Charles Dickens’ 19th century story about redemption.
Originally called A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas when published in 1843, the tale does feature four ghosts. At Goodman, the production also features Larry Yando making his 12th appearance as Ebenezer Scrooge, the Charles Dickens character whose name is synonymous with miser.
Yando is as cantankerous as ever in the opening scene. So, it’s hard to believe that this character who seemingly detests Christmas and is responsible for inserting “Bah Humbug” into the vernacular, can change.
But Yando subtly and slowly injects Scrooge with sadness and regret for the missteps he took. He sees them while traveling back in time with the Ghost of Christmas Past.
When he accompanies the Ghost of Christmas Present, played by film,/TV/regional actress Jasmine Bracey, Scrooge then begins to feel remorse as he witnesses how his actions impact his family and employee.
For the Goodman production, Yando, a master actor in demand from Chicago Shakespeare Theater to Court Theatre, does more than portray a person in the throes of a difficult metamorphosis.
Yando partners his transformation’s phases with the type of humor youngsters can appreciate such as flapping his arms with glee when flying with the Ghost of Christmas Past, played with imp-like joy and agility by Molly Brennan, another Chicago theater veteran, .
Sobering thoughts are injected by actor/director/choreographer Breon Arzel’s Ghost of Christmas Future. In contrast, Arzel also plays the cheerful Dick Wilkins, a fellow employee in Mr. Fezziwig’s counting house that Scrooge later took over.
Directed by Henry Wishcamper, the production’s laugh points are likely a surprise to adults familiar with the Dickens tale of redemption.
That is, until near the end when the humorous bits culminate in Scrooge’s over-the-top giddiness as he realizes he has not missed Christmas Day. The former “Bah Humbug” miser is ready to start doing some good in the world and part with his money.
A note about the first ghost who visits Scrooge. His partner, Jacob Marley, portrayed with terrifying anguish by veteran Chicago actor Kareem Bandealy, enters with an explosive bang and boom backed by a shocking, white, glare.
It’s good theater but it elicited screams from young children the night I was there. Even though Marley’s appearance is tempered by some funny lines from Scrooge, families might want to warn tots of the scary entrance ahead of time.
The entire cast is excellent and has impressive credits. However, special recognition should also go to the show’s costumed, onstage musicians. Live music is provided by Justin Amolsch on horn, Maddi Ruhl on flute, piccolo and Pennywhistle and Alison Tatum on violin.
The tale, adapted for Goodman by Tom Creamer, is worth seeing partly because of fine casting, but also because of Todd Rosenthal’s excellent set design, Heidi McMath’s costumes, Keith Parham’s lighting and Richard Woodbury’s sound design.
A good tale deserves to be retold and become a holiday tradition. I’m looking forward to next year’s production.
“A Christmas Carol” is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago through Dec,. 29, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes. For tickets and other information call (312) 443, 3800 or visit Goodman Theatre.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago