Goodman Theatre's annual production of A Christmas Carol returns for its 41st year. I attended last year, calling the show "pure holiday magic,” and, while this remains true, some of the sparkle is lost in the production's lack of risks in direction and design.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that few things have changed in this season's production, emanating the philosophy of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it." It’s marvelously intricate and will surely warm many hearts, but more could be done to give each year's version an individual life of its own.
Much of the cast returns to reprise their roles with rigid adherence to past performances. Returning director Henry Wishcamper repeats the blocking and acting choices of the previous year, removing some charm from delightful moments that now bring to mind the canned cranberry sauce that is still delicious, but less refined than something entirely homemade. Even if the Goodman uses the same costumes, set pieces and ensemble yearly, surely a new director or approach could make the production feel a bit more timely; finding the perfect balance between keeping the familiar and comfortable while reinvigorating the show for returning audiences.
Larry Yando’s Scrooge again gives a great transformation from miserly to merry, and Molly Brennan is a delightfully spry and amusing Ghost of Christmas Past. Todd Rosenthal's set is a technical triumph, and the costume design by Heidi Sue McMath stuns. Goodman Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol remains a perfect family outing for the season - but overall, there is more magic that could be made by such a tremendous company.
Review by Emily Schmidt
A Christmas Carol continues at Goodman Theatre through Dec. 30. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.