Goodman’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a magical, heartwarming joy

John Judd is Ebenezer Scrooge in Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol.”

Something magical is happening at the Goodman. Families are gathering in the lobby, snapping photos of each other in front of the various Christmas trees arranged around the space. They’re happy and hopeful, and eagerly take their seats in Goodman’s Albert Theatre. They chuckle and shake heads at Mr. Scrooge’s cantankerous mood and applaud at his remarkable and inevitable transformation. Everyone leaves the theatre happy and satisfied, holding hands and closer in the holiday spirit. This is what the holidays are all about.

This was my first time seeing this perennial holiday classic at the Goodman, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Goodman offers a plush production, complete with full-scale houses that roll on and off the stage, sumptuous costumes, flying ghosts and a 10 foot-tall harbinger of doom — enough to scare any old meanie straight!

John Judd has donned Scrooge’s scowl for the first time this year, and I thought he did a grand job. Sure, he wasn’t the most vile of creatures at the top of the show, which makes it less fun to see his transformation, I’d assume. However, he was relatable. This isn’t a comic book Scrooge, but a real person. And based on the flashback scenes, thanks to the Ghost of Christmas Past (a Peter Pan-like Susan Shunk), this guy has had the cards stacked against him. There’s a warm soul in there, but it’s been buried under years of pain and coping mechanisms.

In fact, I’ve been feeling a little Scrooge-like lately, so I empathize with what the old guy’s going through. And I was also transformed a bit by the end.

If you haven’t attended Goodman’s A Christmas Carol, by all means do your family a favor and go. Make it a tradition. If you already attend each year, I’m sure you know what you’re in for, and can be rest-assured that this story is in capable hands with this cast. And Cameron Joseph Conforti is an absolutely adorable Tiny Tim.

And tonight, it’s A Klingon Christmas Carol. Stay tuned …

“A Christmas Carol” plays through Dec. 31 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. More info here >

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