Welcome to A Christmas Carol.
When we first produced Charles Dickens’ classic in 1978, we never dreamed that, nearly four decades later, the show would become one of Chicago’s iconic holiday treasures, as essential a part of Christmastime to many families as the lights on Michigan Avenue or a trip to visit Santa Claus. Nearly 1.5 million audience members have been entertained by the show since that first production, many of them children for whom A Christmas Carol was their first theater experience. The young audiences who were thrilled by the production in its first years now even bring their own children and grandchildren. And although the Goodman’s Carol has remained faithful to Dickens’ story, a number of storytelling elements have evolved in the ensuing years: the ghosts have become scarier and more vivid, the onstage evocations of mid-19th century London grander and more glorious, the scenes of holiday celebration and good cheer more infectiously raucous and colorful.
Eight Scrooges have uttered the famous phrase “Bah, humbug,” beginning with the inimitable William J. Norris, and more than 30 Tiny Tims have shouted “God bless us, every one!” Since the early 1980s, Carol casts have included actors of a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, making the show reflective of the diversity of its audiences. Alternate genders have been explored, too, for a variety of characters; the Ghosts of Christmases Past and Present have been played by both men and women, and this year’s production features the transformation of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, into his niece, Frida. Such changes only enhance the durability and universality of Dickens’ tale, expanding its Victorian roots while embracing the experiences of its 21st century audiences.
In the end, though, it is Dickens’ story that is the primary key to A Christmas Carol’s astonishing longevity. In an era in which technology isolates us and politics thrives on divisiveness, it is more necessary than ever to explore the ties that bind us to each other, the many experiences and emotions which we have in common. And at a time of year when commercialism and the pressures of the season may turn us all into Scrooges, it’s essential to realize that, like Scrooge, we are all capable of redemption—that underneath, we all have the capacity for kindness, generosity and love.
At this time of year, we at Goodman Theatre delight revisiting with you this most joyous of holiday traditions, and most essential of holiday stories. Thank you for being with us tonight—and, in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one.”