OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Goodman's 'Christmas Carol' at its ghostly best

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-11-28T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Goodman's 'Christmas Carol' at its ghostly bestPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

I don't think there's any actor who fits the nightcap of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge any better than actor Larry Yando.

This season's annual run at Chicago's Goodman Theatre is Yando's fifth production of the play with him as the man behind "Bah! Humbug!"

And 2012 also marks the 35th anniversary of Goodman Theatre's stage tradition telling of "the true meaning of Christmas" seen by more than 1 million Chicago audience members.

Associate Producer Steve Scott directs the anniversary production and it only runs through Dec. 29 in the Goodman's Albert Theatre.

During the decades, Goodman's "A Christmas Carol" has featured nine directors over the years, eight Scrooges and 31 Tiny Tims.

But Yando, with his talent for delivering lines with a snarled lip one minute and a clipped comedic line and double-take, just a moment later, delivers a performance worth more than all of money in Scrooge's vault.

And by the end of the two-and-a half hour story, Yando's character is truly a believable man who has been transformed.

The young performers in "A Christmas Carol," this year, cast from hundreds of Chicagoland children who auditioned, include Matthew Abraham, 7, as Tiny Tim Cratchit, Ariana D. Burks, 13, as Belinda Cratchit; Francesca Mereu, 7, as Emily Cratchit, Michael Saguto, 14, as Peter Cratchit and Oscar Vasquez, 10 returning as the pauper tagged "Turkey Boy."

Newcomers to the Goodman’s production include Melanie Brezill of Hazel Crest as Martha Cratchit, Jordan Brown as Young Scrooge, Dana Cruz as Abby and robust Joe Foust perfect as the bellowing Ghost of Jacob Marley, with Rashaad Hall as Dick Wilkins and Anish Jethmalani as Mr. Ortle, Patricia Lavery as Miss Crumb, Michael Lindner as Mr. Fezziwig, Tania Richard as Mrs. Cratchit, Scott Stangland as the Schoolmaster and Demetrios Troy as nephew Fred.

Always at their best and back for another year are cast members Nora Fiffer as a delicate Belle, Ted Hoerl as the Undertaker; effervescent Ora Jones as Mrs. Fezziwig, floating Elizabeth Ledo as Ghost of Christmas Past and Ron Rains as Bob Cratchit and bubbling Penelope Walker as Ghost of Christmas Present. 

Strolling musicians include Justin Amolsch, Greg Hirte, Malcolm Ruhl and Claire Wellin.

Heidi Sue McMath's costumes amaze and Todd Rosenthal's set transports the audience to Christmas of yesteryear.

One scene that has had less impact for me in recent years is the portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Present's introduction of child forms of "ignorance" and "want." A few years ago, this production included a more stark portrayal of the two grasping for Scrooge's robe accompanied by the sound of buzzing flies and pestilence.

In conjunction with the 35th anniversary of the production, the Goodman has launched the A Christmas Carol Endowment to ensure the legacy of "A Christmas Carol" for generations to come. Donations of all sizes (starting at $35) provide permanent resources to allow others to enjoy the magic of "A Christmas Carol" year after year. Donors get special opportunities connected with "A Christmas Carol," from sneak peeks at rehearsals to an exclusive tea party with the cast. More than $100,000 has already been raised for the Endowment since its kick-off in late July, and the campaign will continue throughout the run of the production.

For more information or tickets to "A Christmas Carol," which are $25–$82, visit  GoodmanTheatre.org or call (312) 443-3800.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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