There are certain Chicago holiday experiences you don’t mess with; drinking mulled wine out of boot mugs at the Christkindlmarket, freaking out over the CTA Holiday Train (regardless of age) and seeing “A Christmas Carol.” And, unlike the random decision to swap out a boot mug for a regular one, the Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” never disappoints.
If you go
Runs through Dec. 31, 2016
Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Credit: Liz Lauren
Now in its 39th year, this beautiful show (directed for the fourth year by Henry Wishcamper) is sheer Christmas joy for the soul. Charles Dickens’ classic, as adapted by Tom Creamer, is surprisingly fresh–and more than a little relevant–each time it’s experienced. While I could list about a hundred reasons this company’s version should be tops on your holiday list, here are seven:
1. Wonderful things happen any time traditional gender casting is disregarded, but in this particular production they bordered on the sublime. Not only were women suddenly present where (for years!) they hadn’t been, but in the case of casting the terrific Kristina Valada-Viars as “Niece Frida,” layers and dimensions were added to a relationship you thought you already knew.
2. If the past handful of productions have been any indication, this show will continue to make me jump, gasp and alarm the humbug out of myself with those crazy spirits and the myriad of ways they appear. (Keith Parham’s lights, while always fantastic, introduce Jacob Marley this year with an adrenaline shot to the heart.)
3. On that same note, you’d think a story with which I’m quite familiar would cease to make me tear up and choke down a lump in my throat, right? No. Not only did I cry on more than one occasion, but those moments were even different than last year’s.
4. Nathaniel Buescher returns as Tiny Tim for his third year playing the tyke; that effervescent kid with his onstage charm is Dickensian gold.
5. Ebenezer asks of the Ghost of Christmas Present, “Are spirits lives so short,” and Kim Schultz’s astute Ghost of Christmas Present answers “Whose is not?” Yet again, a story from Victorian England (and an adaptation from 1989) still knows how to deliver a timely zinger for 2016’s America. (If this staging doesn’t inspire you to go out and serve the community, you should probably come back and see it one more time.)
6. The haunting yet whimsical set pieces are jaw-droppingly great, since Set Designer Todd Rosenthal and crew seem to defy physics. (I wouldn’t want to live in Scrooge’s house, but I’ll cheerfully watch him maneuver around it from here on out.)
7. Larry Yando, donning the curmudgeon’s top hat for the ninth time, is worth the price of admission alone. The fact that he shares the stage with some of the brightest lights in the Chicago theater scene is just one of those lovely holiday perks.
But just like roasted chestnuts, boot mugs and spirits’ lives, time is short to enjoy this seasonal experience. Bring the whole family, but definitely warn them that Mama will probably cry audibly more than once.
(‘Tis the season.)