Goodman Theatre’s ‘Christmas Carol’ remains a holiday classic
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticemail@example.com November 28, 2012 10:44AM
Scrooge (Larry Yando) has a harsh word or two for Bob Cratchit (Ron Rains) in Goodman Theatre’s 35th annual production of “A Christmas Carol.”
‘A Christmas Carol’
When: Through Dec. 29
Where: Goodman Theatre,
170 N. Dearborn
Info: (312) 443-3800; www.GoodmanTheatre.com
Updated: November 28, 2012 11:54PM
Yes, taken directly from the mouth of the reconstructed Ebenezer Scrooge himself, the word might just be the ideal adjective to describe the Goodman Theatre’s 35th anniversary production of “A Christmas Carol.” The current edition, with fleet direction by Steve Scott, who has assembled a luminous cast, offers proof that this evergreen tradition has somehow managed to grow brighter and more affecting with every season.
That Charles Dickens (ideally served by Tom Creamer’s longstanding stage adaptation), was a master storyteller, and a genius of character creation, is a fact that hardly needs reiterating. That Scrooge was among his grandest creations — and that, with five years in the role, actor Larry Yando has put his indelible, altogether irresistible, yet ever-fresh stamp on the man — also is beyond question. In fact, there is not a fearsome rebuke, a glimmering smile in midflight, or an open-mouthed sense of astonishment that is ever quite the same in Yando’s portrayal, but invariably they all combine to create incomparable magic.
Of course it also is close to undeniable that Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley (zesty work by Joe Foust), has been dead as a doornail for seven years by the time Dickens’ story gets underway. Yet be assured he will, on this particular Christmas eve, rattle his hellish chains as he warns Scrooge of the eternal damnation facing him should he fail to realize that it is the care of humanity, rather than the pursuit of wealth, that should be his primary business on Earth.
Although many actors return to the Goodman’s holiday production year after year, plenty of new faces appear alongside them, and this year’s mix is particularly fortuitous.
As the Ghost of Christmas Past, Elizabeth Ledo is as radiant and enchanting as she is high-flying, bringing both a lovely winsomeness and gravity to the role. And Penelope Walker’s empress-like Ghost of Christmas Present remains sharply commanding and willful. Ron Rains, in his sixth year as Bob Cratchit — Scrooge’s oppressed clerk — continues to add countless details to his performance. Tania Richard is his warmhearted but wisely judgmental wife.
Demetrios Troy is a standout as Fred, Scrooge’s congenial and determined nephew. And there is lovely work from Dana Cruz as Fred’s wife, and the other guests attending their holiday party. As Belle, the schoolteacher Scrooge once loved but lost, Nora Fiffer, brings a strong, independent-minded quality (as well as a Scottish accent).
Michael Aaron Lindner and Ora Jones are real and winning as the exuberant, joie de vivre-filled Fezziwigs, with Jones leaving a memorable imprint on every line she speaks in multiple roles. The complicated dance performed by three children at the Fezziwigs’ party — led by the confident Oscar Vasquez, with Francesca Mereu and the adorably impish Matthew Abraham (who also plays Tiny Tim) — earns a deservedly big round of applause. So do the superb musicians, including Malcolm Ruhl, Justin Amolsch, Greg Hirte and Claire Wellin.
Though long a “family tradition,” and peppered with beguiling child actors, the chief lure of the Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol” is its very adult mix of greed, anger, regret, repentance and edgy whimsy. There is just no humbug about it.