A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Goodman Theatre: Classy Holiday Magic, Courtesy of Three Stars
The many children in this production acquit themselves very well, indeed, as do the onstage musicians, enhancing the action at the Fezziwig's party and at other key moments of both action and narration (there are a handful of traditional carols, and the original music was composed by Andrew Hanson). As the littlest Cratchit, Matthew Abraham hits his big line out of the ballpark both times, and looks as beatific as one could hope. He also perfectly performs one of the other throat-catching moments in the show, when Scrooge, and the audience, first realize the impact of a crutch and a leg brace on this young boy's daily existence. Abraham slowly crosses the stage to sit in a chair, and all conversation stops, all eyes watch, and not a word needs to be said. It's the kind of moment that only live theater can provide.
Is this a great production? Well, the atmospheric and serviceable set pieces by Todd Rosenthal do seem to take a while to lumber on and off stage, and I could have used an additional backdrop or two. Robert Christen's lights are pretty wonderful, but the build-up to Marley's appearance took too long for my taste. And Heidi Sue McMath's costumes do a lot to bring us into the world of early Victorian London, work which dialect coach Christine Adair's work doesn't quite do with all the actors (there are 27 of them, playing multiple roles, singing and dancing, and bringing a multi-cultural ethos to a very Anglo-Saxon story).
And yet, director Steve Scott, choreographer Susan Hart and music director Malcolm Ruhl have once again done what they have been entrusted to do--bring to vivid theatrical life a story which, if done with integrity and imagination, never fails to engage and audience and teach them a few things, all the while reminding the collective consciousness of why this story is so pervasive in our culture. (Remember the ukulele player named Tiny Tim? Every called a penny-pincher a Scrooge? Ever worn a top hat to a Christmas party? Ever said "Bah, humbug!" to somebody who annoyed you?)
This production is stylish without being splashy, meaningful without being overbearing, and spectacular without being gaudy. It's heartwarming without being manipulative. Nobody pumps cimmamon or pine scents through the air ducts, but you kind of wish they did. Yando, Walker and Dickens triumph, unmistakeably. It's "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman. Only a Scrooge could resist it.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs now through December 29, 2012 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn Street in Chicago's downtown theater district. Tickets ($25-$82) are available online at http://www.goodmantheatre.org/season/A-Christmas-Carol/, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office.
Photos courtesy of the Goodman Theatre
Photos (from top): Larry Yando and Ron Rains; Matthew Abraham and Larry Yando; Penelope Walker; Ora Jones, Michael Aaron Lindner and company; Nora Fiffer, Jordan Young and Larry Yando.
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Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as a performer, teacher and writer is centered at Paul W. Thompson Music, located in Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building, where he teaches the great songs of Broadway to the next generation of musical theater performers. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Paul was raised in a family of professional musicians and teachers, steeped in classical, gospel, country, pop, sacred and show music. Dubbed a “thin, winsome lad” at the age of 13 by a critic for the Nashville Banner, he earned two degrees in musical theater (a B.F.A. with Honors from Baylor University and an M.M. from the University of Miami, Florida), plus an M.B.A. with Distinction from DePaul University. Paul’s memberships include Actors’ Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (proud voter for the Grammy Awards!), the National Association of Teachers of Singing and New York’s Drama League.|
Moving easily between the worlds of classical music, religious music, classic pop and musical theater, Paul has appeared onstage or in the orchestra pit in concerts, musicals, operettas and operas in 30 states and in Europe, in a career spanning more than 35 years. His Chicagoland stage credits include “Forever Plaid” at the Royal George Theater and twenty mainstage productions at Light Opera Works. Paul joined the Chicago Symphony Chorus in 1995 (he was Tenor I Section Leader for four years and sings on two Grammy-winning recordings), and is one of Chicago’s foremost liturgical singers, marking 20 years as a member of the choir at St. James Cathedral (Episcopal) in 2011.He has composed and arranged a number of anthems, hymns and songs for worship and concert use, and collaborates on the creation of new works of musical theater. Paul can be found on Monday nights watching showtune videos at the world-famous Sidetrack nightclub, the inspiration for his weekly column, “The Showtune Mosh Pit.” His proudest achievement is that he has seen the original Broadway production of every Tony Award-winning Best Musical since “Cats.” No, really. Since “Cats!”
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