***** Highly Recommended ****** The Goodman Theatre’s annual intro to the holiday season, A Christmas Carol, which remains essentially the same from year to year, is a holiday tradition for many families, spanning generations. I’m a newcomer to the tradition, since I saw A Christmas Carol for the first time in 2012. It’s worth the trip! The Goodman lobby is festive with decorations and a sparkling holiday shopping area. Now in its 44th year, A Christmas Carol will put you in the holiday spirit with a fabulous cast, lavish sets and colorful period costumes. 4 Holiday Spotlights.
The curtain goes up on a man sitting by a fire. One by one others walk up to warm their hands by the fire, then they’re joined by even more people. Several Justin bring out musical instruments and play a tune. In his soliloquy, the Narrator, Andrew White, is absolutely positive that Marley is dead, dead as a doornail. After he spends some time wondering aloud why a doornail would be the death standard for nails, because surely coffin nails would be a better choice, he admits that that’s how it is written. Marley is still dead.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Larry Yando) hates Christmas. Happy people everywhere are getting on his last nerve. His clerk, Bob Cratchit (Thomas J. Cox), tries to put extra coal on the fire. The nerve of people who interrupt his workday to ask for donations for the poor! Insult to injury, his niece Frida (Dee Dee Batteast), delivers a Christmas wreath, a gift and an invitation to Christmas dinner. She really aggravates him by putting extra coal on the fire before laughing, shouting Merry Christmas, and whipping out the door. The last straw, Cratchit asking for a holiday with pay on Christmas day!
At home, Scrooge thinks he’s seeing things when his door knocker turns from a lion into a scary face with glowing eyes. In his bedroom, he thinks he hears a noise, but shrugs it off and goes to bed. Suddenly, there’s a very loud and annoying blast of sound accompanied by flashing lights as his former partner, Jacob Marley (Kareen Bandealy), who’s been dead for seven years, appears to tell Scrooge to expect three ghostly visits.
Scrooge shrugs off Marley’s warning and goes back to bed. He’s just settled down when he’s rudely awakened by an annoyingly loud boom, and the exuberant Ghost of Christmas Past (Lucky Stiff) – who looks a lot like a hyper-active version of Pink with a crescent moon on her head – flies into Scrooge’s bedroom. She takes him back to the Christmas Eve when young Ebenezer (Nelson H. Simmons}, resigned to staying at school over the holidays, is surprised by sister Fan (Ariana Burks) arriving to take him home – for good.
Ebenezer (Christopher Sheard), apprenticed to Mrs. Maud Fezziwig (Cindy Gold) (note, Mr. F. became Mrs. F), is so serious about his work he refused to be distracted, even by the Fezziwig Christmas celebration. Ebenezer doesn’t stop working on his ledgers until Dick Wilkins (Gregory HIrte) confiscates them.
As Mrs. F calls for dancing, she even vowed to celebrate Hanukkah (with a few bars of the appropriate music). Her partner, Alice Fezziwig (Penelope Walker) makes him dance, but he refused to enjoy the evening until he met Belle (Amira Danan). They fall in love, but ultimately, Scrooge was more interested in making money with Marley than he was in her love.
Scrooge has just settled down, when he’s awakened again. His bed – in fact, his entire bedroom, is covered in greenery. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Bethany Thomas), also covered in vines, drags a reluctant Scrooge off to see how other people celebrate.
At the Cratchit home – but of course Scrooge doesn’t know it’s the Cratchits – Mrs. C. (Susaan Jamshidi) is bustling around prepare for her family’s feast with the help of her children, Peter (Nelson H. Simmons), Belinda (Rka Nishikawai), Emily (Paris Strickland) and another Cratchit child (Grier Burks). Oldest Cratchit daughter Martha (Ariana Burks), apprenticed to a milliner, arrives home to join the fun. When Bob and youngest child Tiny Tim (Gayatri Gadhvi), get home, they all sit down to enjoy a very scrawny bird for dinner. When Bob toasts Mr. Scrooge, Mrs. Cratchit has a hissy fit.
At niece Frida’s home, a game of charades keeps the guests occupied. When her husband Abe (Andy Nagraj) and the other party make fun of her uncle, she defends him.
As time runs out, the Ghost of Christmas present is fading. With a final warning to Scrooge, she lifts her cloak and reveals two small, starving children, Want (Grier Burks) and Ignorance (Rka Nishikawai). The very creepy, extremely tall Ghost of Christmas Future (Christopher Sheard), who never says a word but gets his message across very clearly, directs Scrooge to a death watch and a couple of funerals.
Kudos to the musicians: Justin Amolsch, French Horn; Maddi Ruhl, Flute/Piccolo/Whistle; Malcolm Ruhl, Concertina/Accordion/Guitar; Gregory Hirte, Fiddle; and the Ensemble: Terry Bell and molly Hernández.
Note: Guests must show proof of vaccination before entering the theater. Guests are required to wear masks while inside the building.
A Christmas Carol runs through December 31st in the Albert Theatre, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Most reasonable parking option for the Goodman is the Government Center garage (entrance on Lake Street between LaSalle and Dearborn), online advance payment at www.interparkonline.com/goodmantheatre, $16. Running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with an intermission.
Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:00 pm; Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 2:00 and 7:30 pm; Sundays, 2:00 and 6:30 pm.
Additional performances: Wednesday, December 11th at 12:00 pm; Thursday, December 12th at 12:00 pm; Tuesday, December 17th at 7:00 pm; Monday, December 23rd at 2:00 pm, Tuesday, December 24th at 2:00 pm; Thursday, December 26th at 2:00 pm; and Friday, December 27th at 2:00 pm.
Accessible & Special Performances: Touch Tour & Audio Described Performance, Saturday, December 7th at 12:30 pm; ASL Interpreted Performance, Saturday, December 14th at 2:00 pm; Open Captioned Performance, Sunday, December 8th at 2:00 pm; Spanish Captioned Performance, Thursday, December 26th at 7:00 pm.
Tickets range from $25-$141. FYI (312) 443-3800 or www.goodmantheatre.org.