The Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol better than ever

So you’ve seen “A Christmas Carol,” have you? How about The Goodman’s famed version? Now in its 14th year (and second under the direction of Henry Wishcamper), their sparkly production puts the hum in humbug.

If you go

A Christmas Carol

The Goodman Theatre

170 N Dearborn Street, Chicago

Through Dec. 28

www.goodmantheatre.org

(312) 443-3800

But wait – even if your answer was “Yes, I have seen this show at The Goodman,” you’re still in luck. Because this year’s “A Christmas Carol” is different than last year’s “A Christmas Carol,” which was still different than the year before that. Nuances, back stories and tweaked narration make each version more fun than the last, while still remaining true to the heart and soul of this timeless tale.

Everyone knows the crux of the story: Ebenezer Scrooge (played to the hilt by the fantastic Larry Yando in his seventh season donning the dressing gown), is a cold-hearted miser, spreading that lack of Christmas cheer to all those unfortunate enough to cross his path; his long-suffering clerk Bob Cratchit (the hilarious and utterly root-able Ron E. Rains) and his cheerfully defiant nephew Fred (Anish Jethmalani) bear the brunt of it. But that all changes once he’s visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley (Joe Foust) and three rather effective Christmas spirits.

New in this year’s production: While the ghosts are always superb, this year’s casting and character choices were absolutely stunning. Without giving anything away, you’ve never seen the Ghost of Christmas Past nor the Ghost of Christmas Present quite like this. Kareem Bandealy – as both the Narrator and Young Scrooge – punches the humor subtly infused throughout the script, and all of those Cratchit kids were simply spot on. As for that Tiny Tim (the charming Nathaniel Buescher)? Positively edible, especially when his character misunderstands the play’s most famous line.

In Foust’s third year as Marley, he brought hauntingly effective moments to the initial meeting with Scrooge. (I had prepared myself to hold my five-year-old daughter’s hand during what I knew to be the obviously “scary” scenes, but she actually shook my arm and reminded me that it was just a story, and maybe I shouldn’t be gasping so loudly.)

So who is the target audience of “A Christmas Carol?” Everyone. Or, to be more specific, people who love beautiful theatre, family-friendly classics and holiday traditions more wonderful than cocoa and sleigh rides.

That said, a few moments in the show might be a little intense for small children. Scrooge’s asymmetrical home (set design was by Todd Rosenthal) and the lighting heralding the spirits’ entrances and exits (as designed by Keith Parham) more than brought the creepiness, and even if you brace yourself for the appearance of the final ghost, you will jump out of your skin. My daughter, however, thoroughly enjoyed her second year seeing this terrific show – even if she did fall asleep on me mere moments before the curtain call (marking the first time I’d ever carried a sleeping date back to my car). The run time can be a tad long for some kiddos; it clocked in at 2 hours and 15 minutes (with one 15 minute intermission) and had us leaving the theater a little before 10 p.m. (FYI, weekend matinees have a much earlier start time.) But some holiday traditions are worth pushing back a bedtime for.

This is definitely one.

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