Chicago’s iconic Goodman Theatre is celebrating 40 years of its beloved holiday classic, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and, for many Chicagoans, it just wouldn’t be the Christmas season without it. Sure, many things have changed in the show since the Carter administration (directors, staging, gender swaps) and many terrific actors have tread the boards of Victorian London (even NBA superstar Scottie Pippin graced the stage for a walk-on!). Here are eight reasons why locals and visitors alike should keep Director Henry Wishcamper’s take on the heartwarming tale in their must-do plans (and maybe even pencil it in for next season, too).
Tiny Tim is played by a girl this year — and marvelously, at that. Paris Strickland’s embodiment of the smallest Cratchit is earnest and, frankly, just plain cool.
You think you know the three spirits? You don’t know the three spirits. Because every year the Goodman manages to change up a character choice or style or sense of humor. This year’s Ghost of Christmas Past (played with no little amount of fun by Molly Brennan) is a little bit Harley Quinn, a lot of “take no prisoners,” and a gigantic amount of energy.
That said, the Ghost of Christmas Present, (Lisa Gaye Dixon, returning to the role), found a way to take a familiar character and imbue her dialogue with quite a few feelings on the current political and religious state of 2017 America. To applause, at that!
Moments like the first meeting between Ebenezer as a young man (Kareem Bandealy) and Belle (Sadieh Rifai) at Fezziwig’s holiday shindig are so full of the joy and promise of young love that they’re a vitamin to the soul, season after season after season.
This particular production has never failed to make me jump out of my seat at least once a performance. Looking at you, Jacob Marley. (Played, eerily as always, by Joe Faust, with a good deal of help from lighting designer Keith Parham’s spooky flashes.)
Set Designer Todd Rosenthal’s scenic choices are akin to opening a beloved advent calendar door and becoming amazed anew at something designed to make your heart soar.
Larry Yando’s Scrooge is sheer perfection. You feel his wrath. You believe his redemption. And you feel every bit as invested in the final moments of the show as Scrooge himself. (Surprise that Cratchit! Hug that niece! Hoist that small child!)
With the Goodman’s investment in keeping Charles Dickens’ gorgeous classic as a tradition year after year, they’re reminding us that at the heart of this production are things which will never change; family traditions are worth the maintenance, there just seems to be a little extra love to spare around the holidays, and that hope is an infinite — and always replenishing — resource.
If you go
Runs through Dec. 31, 2017
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago