By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
For more than four decades, 1.5 million people have delighted in the spectacular storytelling, glorious music and Scrooge’s unforgettable discovery of kindness, generosity and love. Ten directors, eight Ebenezer Scrooges and 29 Tiny Tims later, Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” celebrates a resounding 40 years, running through December 31.
Larry Yando marks his 10th year as Scrooge, and for the fifth year, Artistic Associate Henry Wishcamper directs Charles Dickens’ universal tale of hope and redemption with a cast of 25, featuring Paris Strickland in her Goodman debut as the theater’s first female Tiny Tim. It is to be noted that Paris is a 10-year-old Black youngster from the Chicago suburbs. I have read news reports and saw her interview on network television that revealed that she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at just nine days old. As a result of many surgeries and chemotherapy, she is left not only with a limp, but a personality as big as the planet. Early reviews of this Goodman production are overwhelmingly in her favor, as she has both stage presence and theatrical chops to pull off the sweet portrayal of Tiny Tim. Considering she has triumphed through her own illnesses, and Tiny Tim is challenged in some ways, she is a natural in her first major production.
I have seen this play a few times, and I am always amazed at the work that is put into this huge production and the diverse cast who are featured. While it’s the same story, each year brings a different look at how the “ghosts of Christmas past” are going to tackle the difficult job of getting Scrooge to realize his blessings and use those blessings to help others. Also, while “A Christmas Carol” sometimes takes on dark themes, with the ghosts appearing and the dreariness of it all, it’s a delightful play and one worth seeing this holiday season.
Other returning cast members include: Kareem Bandealy as Narrator/Scrooge Alternate; Ariana D. Burks as Martha Cratchit; Lisa Gaye Dixon as Ghost of Christmas Present; Joe Foust as Jacob Marley; J. Salomé Martinez as Abe; Ron E. Rains as Bob Cratchit; Sadieh Rifai as Mrs. Cratchit; Penelope Walker as Mrs. Fezziwig; Jonah D. Winston as Mr. Fezziwig; and musicians Justin Amolsch, Andrew Coil, Greg Hirte and Malcolm Ruhl. The newcomers include Breon Arzell as Dick Wilkins; Molly Brennan as Ghost of Christmas Past; Ali Burch as Frida; Meighan Gerachis as Schoolmaster; and Michele Vazquez as Mrs. Cratchit. The young performers in A Christmas Carol, cast from hundreds of Chicagoland children who auditioned, also include Margaret Chong, 10 (Chicago), as Emily Cratchit; Andrea Crisp, 10 (Darien), as Belinda Cratchit; Cameron Goode, 15 (Chicago), as Boy Scrooge; Kei, 9 (Chicago), as Turkey Boy; and Aaron Stone, 14 (Round Lake Beach), returning as Peter Crat- chit.
The Goodman Theatre is located at 170 N. Dearborn St., and for more information about performances and tickets, visit www.goodmantheatre.org.