By: Tom Creamer
At: The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Tickets: GoodmanTheatre.org; $25-$119. Runs through: Dec. 30
Charles Dickens' manner of telling the simple man's story lives on in the Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol, a Chicago tradition 1978. This most recent production ( adapted by Tom Creamer and directed by Henry Wishcamper ) is a treasure to see, with sentiments to carry all year long and not just during the giving season. Larry Yando plays Scroogethe miser turned benevolent spenderfor the 11th season.
Together with his younger double, ( Asher Alcantara as the Boy Scrooge, Christopher Shepard as Scrooge as a young man ) Yando's older-adult version of Ebenezer gives audiences reason to pity and concurrently root for the old lad as he comes to his senses. Ghostly apparitions scare the hell out of Scrooge's unsuspecting soul and show little mercy on Ebenezer as he falls into bed on Christmas Eve. It may as well have been All Hallow's Eve: Some of Scrooge's isitors were grim in both appearance and demeanor ( especially Breon Arzell as the Ghost of Christmas Future ). Through it all, Yando delivers a delicious performance imbued with hilarious antics and physical comedy.
Comedy aside, Ebenezer comes through as the hopeless, tired and stingy old man that he is. Good thing the Ghost of Christmas Past ( Molly Brennan ) gives this production the pizazz it sometimes lacks: The action moves at a slower pace than the Metra at times, but that is to be expected in a story deeply steeped in tradition and values. The plot takes time to unfurl into the fully blossomed lesson intertwined within it. With her quick wit, vibrant costuming, sassy buzz-cut and Cirque de Soleil-worthy moves ( Tommy Rapley, choreographer ), a ghoul never looked so chic as Brennan.
Equally stunning is Jasmine Bracey's Ghost of Christmas Present. Bracey delivers the goods Scrooge so desperately needs to seethe gloomy day-to-day challenges of the Cratchit family, a large group living on a lean budget. The poor but unreasonably cheery Bob Cratchit ( Thomas J. Cox ) makes all those uninspired folkswho dread trudging back to work after a holiday seem shallow and superficial. After all, the Cratchits are seen giving up creature comforts like heat and silver candelabrums in exchange for a humble Christmas feast.
If by this point, audience members had managed to keep a dry eye, they soon gave up that hope with the arrival of Tiny Tim ( Paris Strickland, back for the second consecutive year ). Aside from being the first female to play Tiny Tim at Goodman, Stickland is also a cancer survivor. This, mixed with the high emotions the Cratchits embody, gives the production huge heart.
The design elements sprinkled throughout ( including Keith Parham's lighting, Heidi Sue McMath's costumes, Andrew Hansen's original music and the live quartet of Malcolm Ruhl, Maddi Ruhl, Andrew Coil and Justin Amolsch ) add to the splendor and the production's overall grandeur.
There is no time like the present to do the right thing, and Ebenezer realizes this at the nick ( no pun intended ) of time. A Christmas Carol has the magic of Christmas and the inspiration of a New Years' resolution, all wrapped up in one.