Monday, November 25, 2013

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

The temperature finally dropped to that biting cold that confirms winter has arrived. Twinkling lights hang from every tree branch downtown. Stores elaborately decorate windows with holiday themes. And last night, I went to see A Christmas Carol. (Oh, and it just started snowing!) The holidays have officially arrived.

This is one of my favorite times of year. The festive decorations, lights and music make the cold weather bareable, and everyone seems to be happy, giving and grateful. But the brevity of the season definitely makes it even more special. And even though stores start stocking Christmas materials on their shelves right after labor day, it still takes me a while to really feel like the holidays are here. Well, this weekend changed it for me. And the play certainly helped.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival took place on Saturday. The one year I went, it was bitter cold and super crowded, I couldn't even see the floats in the parade or notice if the lights along the street were turning on. So, as a result, I haven't attended the last couple years. And this year was no different. But, yesterday, when my boyfriend and I headed downtown for the play, I got to see the Loop completely decked out in its holiday glory. That immediately put a smile on my face.

When we got to Goodman Theatre, I went to the press stand to get the tickets and they handed me some complimentary hershey's holiday kisses. How thoughtful! And festive. In the lobby, there was a group of professional carolers in amazing outfits singing holiday songs.

Before the show started, I got a cup of hot chocolate (one of my favorite seasonal drinks) to help warm up. When we entered the auditorium, we were welcomed by a cozy set of old, snow-covered English homes. The whole place felt warm and inviting.

The play was absolutely amazing. Now, I know the story of A Christmas Carol pretty well. I've never read the book (Charles Dickens is tough to get through), but I have seen movie versions (personally love the Muppets interpretation best). The Goodman has been offering this annual play for 36 years, and it is now an established holiday tradition in Chicago. This production was probably one of the best renditions of the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation from cold-hearted, bitter and unsympathetic to a happy, caring and thoughtful man.

The actors delivered a meaningful, poignant performance with just the right amount of humor and mystery, and their own little twists on the tale. Larry Yando, returning for his sixth turn as Scrooge, was  impeccable in his mood, expressions, movements and overall delivery. I can see why people love him so much in this role. The rest of the cast was brilliant, too, and I appreciated how this small ensemble of 27 people worked so well together, seamlessly transitioning from one scene to the next without missing a beat.

By the end of the play, I could not stop smiling. It certainly accomplished its goal of bringing holiday cheer.

And now the holiday spirit will follow me as I head home for Thanksgiving, and will most likely stay with me throughout December, as I decorate my apartment, shop for gifts and listen to holiday music. Yes, it is that time of year and I will keep it in the best way I can.

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