Wed 26 Nov, 2014
Tags: 4 STARS, A Christmas Carol, Goodman Theatre
By J. Scott Hill
Few works of fiction have ever been as dear to so many for so long as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The book was an instant classic, and almost immediately adapted for the stage by Dickens himself. The Goodman Theatre has spent thirty-seven holiday seasons telling and re-telling the greatest ghost story ever told — the past seven with Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Yando is among Chicago’s finest and busiest actors. Over the last few years, he has wowed audiences and critics in a constant variety of roles at theatres all over Chicagoland, including his work at Theatre at the Center as Andrew in Sleuth, at Court Theatre as Roy Cohn is Angels in America, and at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre as Casca in Julius Caesar and (most recently) as the eponymous King Lear.
After absolutely killing it night after night in role after role, it might be reasonable for Larry Yando to treat his standing gig in A Christmas Carol as a soft place for him to land for the holidays, but Yando keeps his Scrooge hard and sharp and thorny. Yando’s Scrooge does not fly off into a prolonged mad panic at the appearance of a few spirits, and quickly resigns himself to the inevitability of being dragged through time and space by his preternatural guides. He is as tough a master as any a Scrooge, but he is a man who can and does learn from his past, his present, and his probable future. So many Scrooges are broken by their glimpses into their own cruelty and greed and their fear of repeating Marley’s fate, but Yando’s Scrooge comes across as a man who has been thoroughly convinced by what he sees into following the road less traveled. In short, Larry Yando’s portrayal of Scrooge is broad and subtle, hateful and endearing, conniving and convivial — and brilliant.
Of course, the Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol is not a one-person show. Ron E. Rains gives poor, longsuffering Bob Cratchit an inescapable warmth; Rains excels when doing a bit of stage business in the background, bringing it to the foreground to take a devilishly comic turn, and then receding once again into the background like an obedient clark. The always-engaging Joe Foust plays Marley’s Ghost as both haunting and haunted. Larry Neumann, Jr. plays four different parts and disappears into each character so completely that I had to check the Playbill more than once to be absolutely certain whom I was watching. Neumann, Foust, and Yando are three masters of their art; knowing any one of them is appearing in a show is enough reason to buy a ticket.
But wait, there’s more.
Kim Schultz steals wonderful moments while playing several different characters. Kareem Bandealy cunningly bends the fourth wall without completely destroying it as the Narrator, and shines portraying Scrooge as a Young Man’s ruinous obliviousness to his decent into avarice. Young Ava Morse has a singing voice so pitch-perfect and so sweet that it fills the stage with joy.
The Goodman Theatre’s thirty-seventh annual production of A Christmas Carol is pure joy. Whether the Goodman’s Christmas Carol is already one of your holiday traditions, or whether you hardly ever go to see live theatre, give yourself a gift: go see this production.
(“A Christmas Carol” runs through December 28 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago. 312-443-3800)
A Christmas Carol production photos by Liz Lauren.