When a show like “A Christmas Carol” is performed year after year, it becomes easy to allow audiences to take in the classic words simply as they were written. The Goodman’s production would never let that happen. Directed by Henry Wishcamper, the classic Christmas play reaches it’s 38th season at the Goodman Theatre this holiday season. Through amazing technical innovations, “A Christmas Carol” reimagines Charles Dicken’s 19th century play and sheds new light on the Christmas spirit.
Most people walked into the Goodman Theatre not at all in the Christmas mood, considering its mid-November. Soon enough the atmosphere created around them by the lobby Christmas gift shop, carols playing over the speakers, and ultimately the actual production, has people feeling the spirit. On the stage, sets are dark and crooked and create a fantastical, fairytale feeling that stays throughout the production. The most impressive technical element is the brilliant yet terrifying special effects. Warm 19th century candlelight and simple ragged clothing play a role in creating the atmosphere of Dickens’ time period but they are interrupted by intense technical surprises that amazes audiences. A surprise animated door and flash of Jacob Marley’s face in the mirror are just the beginning of this show’s innovations. Special effects define this production and the creative liberties taken add a big element to the story, along with an entertaining leading man.
Larry Yando plays Ebenezer Scrooge for his 8th season at the Goodman—and for good reason. Yando brilliantly takes advantage of the empty space given to him and fills it with moments of humor, which lightens the mood of some scary moments. Those moments occur when spirits from Scrooge’s past, present, and future come to haunt/ teach him about his “Bah Humbug” ways. These spirits entrance’s into Scrooge’s bedroom cause audience members to jump out of their seats. Each spirit has a different technical feat as they enter: some flying, some popping out of the wall and some appearing out of thin air. The direction regarding the spirits is meant to scare audience members, and the production succeeds at that. Little humor is brought by spirits, when there is room for a lot. Instead humor comes from Scrooge, Mr. Fezziwig, (Bret Tuomi) and Bob Cratchit (Ron E. Rains). Scenes like Fezziwig’s party full of dancing children and Bob Cratchit’s slapstick comedy around Scrooge brighten up the play joyfully.
The large contrast between the simple joys of Fezziwig-like scenes and complex scares off the spirits shouldn’t blend together, but for some reason, they work together brilliantly. By the end of the show, audience members will have been terrified, amused and ultimately moved. “A Christmas Carol” has been around so long for a reason. It never fails at amazing audiences, especially at the Goodman.