A Christmas Carol has delighted audiences and become one of Chicago’s most beloved holiday traditions since it was first performed in 1978 at the Goodman’s original location at the Art Institute of Chicago. The holiday show has been seen by nearly 1.5 million people and hosted 10 directors, 33 Tiny Tims and eight Ebenezer Scrooges who collectively have uttered nearly 23,000 “Bah, humbugs!”
To attract audiences during the traditionally slow holiday season, Goodman Theatre General Manager (now Executive Director) Roche Schulfer and then-Artistic Director Gregory Mosher mount a stage version of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Using an adaptation by Guthrie Theater Dramaturg Barbara Field and directed by Tony Mockus, the production is the Goodman’s most ambitious project to date and features noted Chicago actor William J. Norris as Scrooge. The production is a critical and audience triumph and is brought back in 1979 for the first of its now-annual revivals. Norris would play Scrooge for 11 seasons, more than any other actor in the show’s 39-year run.
For the first (and only) time in its history, the Goodman production moves to the Auditorium Theatre, featuring a new Scrooge (Frank Galati), a new script (by Larry Sloan) and a new production under the direction of Gregory Mosher. In addition, this iteration inaugurates color-blind and inclusive casting, which continues today.
The production returns to the Goodman stage with Sandra Grand directing and Norris once again playing Scrooge. The production also returns with the original scenic design by Joseph Nieminski and lighting design by Robert Christen, who would design lighting for every production of A Christmas Carol until his untimely death in 2014.
Now under the direction of Associate Artistic Director Michael Maggio, the production celebrates its 10th anniversary. For the first time A Christmas Carol helps to raise funds for Season of Concern, the theater industry charity that provides assistance for theater artists dealing with catastrophic illness and other medical emergencies; this fundraising effort becomes an annual tradition for the show.
Norris deeds his whiskers to a new Scrooge, Tom Mula, who will stay with the production for six seasons. Norris remains with the production for a number of seasons, eventually playing Jacob Marley, Mr. Ortle and the joyful Mr. Fezziwig.
Scott passes the directing torch to Resident Director Chuck Smith, who helms the production for three years.
Resident Artistic Associate Henry Godinez begins a six-year tenure as director of the production, helping the show make its transition from the old Goodman Theatre to its new and current home on Dearborn Street. Godinez is not new to the show, however; as an actor he appeared as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, in 1987. Other seasons’ casts have also included Godinez’s wife, actress Nancy Voigts, and their daughter Lucy.
Mula steps down as Scrooge to perform his one-man version of the story, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, in the Goodman Studio for two seasons. He is replaced by veteran actor Rick Snyder, who previously appeared as Bob Cratchit in 1992.
Godinez helms a glittering new production in the Goodman’s new Albert Theatre, featuring a massive set by Tony Award-winning designer Todd Rosenthal; this set is still used today with continuous technological upgrades and adjustments.
Kate Buckley becomes the new director of the production, bringing with her a new Scrooge, William Brown.
Chicago actor Larry Yando takes over the iconic role of Scrooge alongside Ron E. Rains as Bob Cratchit; aside from a hiatus in 2010, Yando has appeared in the role ever since.
Scott returns to the production as director for two seasons, with Yando once again playing Scrooge.
The Goodman’s newest Artistic Associate, Henry Wishcamper, becomes director of the production and institutes a new era for A Christmas Carol. Wishcamper’s production features a redesigned Scrooge bedroom unit, as well as more chilling ghost effects.
Goodman Theatre celebrates its 90th Anniversary Season and its 37th production of A Christmas Carol.