Why the Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol?
The first aspect of the question is easy. Simply put, the Goodman does the best Christmas Carol around. It helps, of course, to have an enormous budget on your side: the Goodman can, and does, hire the very best, from actors to designers to directors to stagehands. Not to mention their special effects are next level, from the terrifying entrance of Jacob Marley’s ghost to the elaborate flying of Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past to the eerie, stilt-walking figure of the Ghost of Christmas Future. In terms of pure magic, this production will take your breath away with every special effect, every inspired acting choice, every charming performance by the onstage musicians.
But what of the second aspect of the question? Why A Christmas Carol at all? After all, the story is 176 years old, and the world has plenty of Christmas stories (Linda Holmes from NPR recently rounded up more than sixty holiday movies being released this year). What draws us back to this old and somewhat creepy story again and again? Is it the comfort of familiar stories, as I proposed in my 2017 review of the production? Is it the ubiquity of the tale, popping up all over the place as it does at this time of year? Is it the prestige of Charles Dickens’ reputation and the work’s subsequent status as a “classic”?
In some ways, I think, it’s got nothing to do with stage magic, or gorgeous sets and costumes, or spectacular performances from Chicago’s finest actors. It has to do with the beating, bloody heart of the story, and how all of us find ourselves in its center.
Yes, I think we’re all Scrooge. Not the robustly optimistic Bob Cratchit or the saintly Frida, or even the sickly Tiny Tim. Sure, we might not make horrible proclamations about how the poor deserve to die or make our money exploiting those who’ve fallen on hard times, but nonetheless, I think all of us can see something of ourselves in the story’s protagonist. Each of us holds in our hearts some measure of selfishness, of bitterness, of hatred, of greed. Each of us has chosen not to do good when the opportunity was presented to us. Each of us has, at one time or other, seen our needs as more important than those of others, has failed to remember that we are all just fellow passengers to the grave.
Scrooge’s story, then, is one of hope. Embodied beautifully by the inimitable Larry Yando, Scrooge shows us how even the most selfish and uncompassionate of us can learn kindness and generosity, and it is that transformation that brings us back again and again, hoping the Christmas spirit infused in every moment of this production can inspire us to be better. To paraphrase Scrooge, the time before us is our own. Let us make the best of it.
Location: The Albert Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, 170 N Dearborn Street
Dates: November 16 – December 29, 2019
Tickets: $25 – $89. Available at the Goodman Theatre website, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 N. Dearborn). Spanish-translation and sensory performances will also be presented.
All photos by Liz Lauren.