Now entering its 36th year, The Goodman Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” is a family tradition for many in the Chicago area. The story is Dickens at his best and one of the most beloved stories of the holiday season. My own interest in theatre blossomed when my family would make an annual trek to The Avenue Theatre in Lincoln Square in the early ’90s for the various renditions of the production that took place there. Shockingly, I think it’s been 20 years since I saw a performance and the Goodman’s rendition was certainly a reminder of why this story is still so celebrated even 170 years after it was written.
For the Goodman, Henery Wishcamper directs for the first time and clearly let ambition guide the production, with a set that was as remarkable as it was realistic. It takes little imagination from the audience to imagine the counting house in London in the 1800s, or the cold draft that surrounds Bob Cratchit (Ron Rains) as he warms his hands on his candle.
While the workhouses and debtors’ prisons have closed, greed is as alive as ever. But present as it may be, Scrooge will always remind us, even 170 years from now, that people can change and hearts can warm. I think the best element of Scrooge’s transformation is that it is not borne out of the fear which the third ghost has the power to instill, but the guilt that builds in him as he is forced to relive the moments in his life when he has chosen profits over people.
An honest-to-the-book rendition of the story, the production is brought to life with outstanding set elements and special effects. A.C. Smith also proves a welcome addition to the production as the Ghost of Christmas Present, as was the the live music during Fezziwig’s Christmas party. The Goodman’s performance will delight fans of the story and instill the Christmas spirit into any who see it, no matter how much of Scrooge they may be.
“A Christmas Carol” runs through December 28 in the Goodman’s Albert Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. Tickets are $25 – $83 and are available online at GoodmanTheatre.org, by phone at (312) 443-3800 or at the box office. For show times and dates, visit the Goodman Theatre website.