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C-Chat: The Goodman Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’

The holiday favorite opens for another season at the Goodman. What we liked, what we didn’t—and what the kids thought, too.

A scene from ‘A Christmas Carol’

What would Christmas in Chicago be without the Goodman Theatre’s annual take on the Dickens classic? Executive editor Jennifer Tanaka and senior editor Emmet Sullivan attended the premiere of A Christmas Carol over Thanksgiving weekend and came away feeling a bit merrier.

Emmet: So the holiday season is here. . . again. And we’ve already mentioned the shows to see in the city, but I wanted to talk about A Christmas Carol, since we were both at the premiere on Sunday. What did you all think?

Jennifer: I had never seen it at the Goodman, believe it or not. I really enjoyed the production, and my daughter, who is 10, just loved it. She thought the stagecraft was really good and found the story moving and well told, although she did frequently compare the show to the animated Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. What was your reaction?

Emmet: I enjoyed it, although there were moments when the campiness was a bit too much for me. The light show and Peter Pan act of the first spirit seemed like a hit with the kids, less so with the grownups of the crowd.

Jennifer: I couldn’t get a read on what parts the adults liked versus the kids. The child in the seat in front of us seemed to be going nuts with boredom. I thought Larry Yando was excellent as Scrooge but perhaps a bit too likable right off the top. I wanted him to be meaner and tougher farther into the play. The actor who played Bob Cratchit, Ron Rains, made me laugh a lot.

Emmet: I liked Larry Yando, although after his stellar turn in Hamlet a few months ago, I knew going in he was going to be great. Cratchit surprised me, especially at the end, when you could sense a true friendship between Yando’s Scrooge and Rains’s Cratchit. I do agree, though, that Scrooge seemed more crabby than evil in the beginning.

Jennifer: I did not love Elizabeth Ledo as the Ghost of Christmas Past, having to do with her strange costume and sort of lame flying more than her performance per se. Although I could see why they cast her—she was amazing as Puck earlier this year in Chicago Shakespeare’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Emmet: Agreed. Outside of performances, though, those sets! They really took full advantage of the space in the Goodman.

Jennifer: I know! The sets were great. But were you slightly disappointed in the way the time travel—or, rather, spirit travel—was handled?

Emmet: Those were the parts where I thought they were most going for childhood fascination: the flying with the first spirit, the glitter with the second. I had several kids sitting around me gasping through all of it, but I thought it was just trying too hard.

Jennifer: Agreed—it worked for the kids. My son, who is 7, literally grabbed his face in fear during the whole big black spirit part. The spooky, intense sound design helped.

Emmet: Yes. But even if they made the story very kid-accessible, I still got into the “holiday spirit” or whatever. Not gonna lie, I wanted to stop by Christkindlmarket after.

Jennifer: Ditto. We walked by a man asking for money on the sidewalk outside the Goodman. My daughter totally busted us for not giving him even a dollar after seeing that show! I felt bad. And still feel bad now.

Emmet: What a Scrooge.

Jennifer: Yeah. Apparently, the wrong part of the show rubbed off on me.

 

Photograph: Liz Lauren

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