“A Christmas Carol” — ★ ★ ★ ★
Goodman Theatre advertises this year’s production of “A Christmas Carol” as 45 years of holiday magic.
No disagreement there. There is magic in the conjurings of Goodman’s creative team. Todd Rosenthal’s splendid sets are both familiar and fanciful (the depiction of isolated folks celebrating Christmas is lovely). Heidi Sue McMath’s verisimilar Victorian costumes and the spine-tingling sound and lighting design by Richard Woodbury and Keith Parham are equally spellbinding.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Larry Yando), standing, watches his younger self (Daniel José Molina) woo his beloved Belle (Amira Danan) in Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Jessica Thebus. – Courtesy of Liz Lauren
There is also magic in the telling of Charles Dickens’ redemption tale, faithfully adapted by Tom Creamer and narrated by the genial Andrew White.
ndrew Hansen’s original compositions perfectly complement the action. Jessica Thebus’ staging balances the quotidian and the mystical while also referencing current affairs. Case in point: Young Rika Nishikawa, wearing blue and yellow flowers, sings a Ukrainian carol to open the show — a reminder that around the globe, goodwill is in desperately short supply.
by signing up you agree to our terms of service Courtesy of Liz LaurenGood-hearted Bob Cratchit (Thomas J. Cox), left, toasts his miserly employer, Ebenezer Scrooge, to the chagrin of his wife (Susaan Jamshidi), far right in Goodman Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” –
And there is magic in Dickens’ characters thanks to Thebus’ exceptional ensemble. Kareem Bandealy, an actor of great intensity, plays Jacob Marley’s long-suffering ghost, who clambers from the chillingly depicted hell mouth to save his friend. Cindy Gold embodies generosity as Maud Fezziwig, a woman happy to share her bounty. Thomas J. Cox is all sincerity as the abidingly decent Bob Cratchit, whose wealth is his family’s love. Bethany Thomas’ Ghost of Christmas Present is both bounteous (she arrives in a foliage gown to Scrooge’s bedchamber transformed into a garden) and grim (she departs warning about the spread of ignorance and want).
What is most enchanting about Goodman’s production is Larry Yando’s Ebenezer Scrooge. Humane, carefully considered and truthfully expressed, it is a performance (his 15th as Scrooge) of enormous depth. There are no false notes, but there are innumerable grace notes: the various ways he intones Cratchit’s name; the expert timing that elicits laughter amid a terrifying scene. There’s the furrowed brow watching his younger self (Daniel Jose Molina) let the beloved Belle (Amira Danan) slip away; the bowed head and hunched shoulders with which he greets his family to beg forgiveness on Christmas Day; the devilish expression (a hint of residual miserliness?) as he haggles over a Christmas turkey. Masterly, multifaceted and memorable, Yando’s is a performance with which Goodman’s future Scrooges will have to contend. Hopefully not anytime soon.
Friends make merry on Christmas Eve courtesy of Mrs. Maud Fezziwig (Cindy Gold), far right, in “A Christmas Carol,” running through Dec. 31 at Goodman Theatre. – Courtesy of Liz Lauren
One thing more. I last saw Goodman’s “Carol” 19 years ago. William Brown played Scrooge. The late William Norris (Goodman’s original Scrooge to whom the production is dedicated) played Marley’s Ghost. It was magical then. It’s magical now. I imagine it will be 19 years hence, but I don’t intend to wait that long to once again fall under its spell.