Review “A Christmas Carol”

RECOMMENDED

Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearnborn St.
When: through Dec. 29
Tickets: $25-$82
Phone: 312-443-3800

By ANNE SPISELMAN
Theater Critic

In honor of the 35th anniversary of Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” I looked up my Hyde Park Herald review of the first production in 1978.

Boy, was I a grinch (or is that grouch?)! Though I admired the elaborate turntable staging (at the old Goodman space), I found William J. Norris’ Scrooge mostly “monotone” and didn’t think much of the rest of the acting, except for Del Close’s Ghost of Christmas Past and a couple members of the Cratchit family. The adaptation being used at the time came in for the harshest comments, especially the device of having Charles Dickens narrate story to a group of children and comment on the moral points along the way.

Well, “A Christmas Carol” has changed a lot for the better in the years since then (though I haven’t seen every outing), and I’ve probably mellowed some. But one thing I said then still is true: This is one of those shows that’s beyond criticism.
So, go with the whole family; enjoy Tom Creamer’s adaptation, which hits the high points without belaboring too many, and appreciate the emphasis Director Steve Scott places on clear enunciation and English accents. There’s no question that five-time-winner Larry Yando is an exceptionally emotive Scrooge, even if he tends to ham up everything from the curmudgeonly irritation at the outset to the not-so-sudden conversion. The post-Christmas scene back at the office with Bob Cratchit (Ron Rains) is milked for all its worth.

The entire ensemble is very solid, and Elizabeth Ledo’s return as the sparkly Ghost of Christmas Past is particularly welcome, while Jordan Brown imbues the Young Scrooge in Fezziwig’s employ with a whole range of emotions, even though he has few words. In his debut as Tiny Tim, Matthew Abraham — who’s in the TV Huggies ad — is predictably winsome.

As usual, Todd Rosenthal’s scenic design and the many special effects are bound to elicit “oohs” and “aahs.” Kudos also go to the way the traditional and original music and the musicians are integrated into the action.

By the time “A Chrismas Carol” concluded on opening night, the audience was singing along and rose to its feet for a standing ovation. I didn’t go that far, but I certainly wasn’t mumbling “Bah! Humbug!” under my breath.