Posted by: Brigid McKeon at 11/24/2013 04:00 PM

Even if you have seen the Goodman Theater’s A Christmas Carol before, the 36th rendition is well worth a return visit. The classic Charles Dickens tale is enhanced by updated sets and sparkling performances.

Larry Yando balances upbeat comedy moments with the darker themes of the play such as greed and guilt well into his sixth Scrooge appearance.  Another outstanding performance was by Elizabeth Ledo, playing the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Although it is unusual for the ghost to be played by a woman, Ledo pulls it off with impressive ambience.

Top hats, high socks, old-fashioned jackets, and shoes complete with shiny silver buckles add to the fairy-tale feeling, while still addressing the extreme issue of income inequality of the time.  Designed by the talented Heidi Sue McMath, who has been designing the Christmas Carol since 2001 and been working on costume design at the Goodman since 1990; the costumes from Tiny Tim’s simple jacket to Mrs. Fezziwig's elaborate hoop skirt enhance the authentic atmosphere of the play. 

People who have made A Christmas Carol a tradition love to see the iconic green school gate, the baroque counting house, and the simple yet stunning giant windows of the nephew’s home. But each year, the set designers change or add an element to the stage. This season, it’s an entire redesign of Scrooge’s house.  Consisting of a church-like body, out-dated wallpaper, and a daunting full-length portrait of the infamous Marley outlined by a crooked frame use frame, the detailed new set only added to the ominous feeling of those scenes. The new set also provides numerous opportunities for Marley’s famous surprise entrance, (no spoilers!).

The sets’ intricate arrivals aren’t the only thing moving. Watch for flying actors and props, too.  The exaggerated special effects push  this play over the edge, such as flashing green lights during Marley’s haunting, menacing fog during the graveyard scene, or the simple element of falling snow during his nephew’s holiday party.

When I saw it, the audience interacted frequently.  They were laughing at Scrooge’s signature “Bah Humbug,” screaming when Marley makes his dramatic entrance, and sitting in dead silence during Scrooge's remorse over Tiny Tim. Particularly a good first-play experience for young children, the performance manages to incorporate both humor and suspense to keep both the younger, and the older, audience rapt. 

This is the fourth year I’ve attended the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol, but each year I am just as enchanted with the production.  It doesn’t matter if this is your first play or your hundredth, the quality of the play is a perfect holiday tale, and makes it a must see for all types of theater lovers.

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