A Christmas Carol Returns
At the Goodman Theatre, Ron Rains' portrayal of the beloved Bob Cratchit is a delightful holiday treat
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AT one point in Ron Rains’ life, the Christmas season didn’t appeal to him––at all––primarily because commercialism, he says, was evident in practically every aspect of what many observers consider to be the most wonderful time of the year.
Those views, though, changed dramatically in 2007 when Rains was cast in the role of Bob Cratchit in the Goodman Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol. “I saw the effect that the Charles Dickens story has on people, actually amazed at how it touches people after they see it,” says Rains, now in the eighth consecutive year in the role that changed his life. “Observing people after they have seen the show made me realize how much Dickens’ influence is needed in our society, how much of a lesson he can teach us with this story. Now I look forward to Christmas each year because when I get that Dickens script in my hand and rehearsals begin, something comes over me and changes me during the season.”
For 37 years, the Goodman’s presentation of the timeless classic––this year, running through December 28––has been a major part of the holiday season for thousands of Chicago families. Directed by Henry Wishcamper and starring Larry Yando in his seventh portrayal of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, the tale of hope and redemption highlights the transformation of a mean and surly tightwad to a man who suddenly develops sympathy for the poor.
Before the transformation, though, Rains’ character––Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid accounting clerk––has to endure his uncharitable and gruff boss’ multitude of demands that prevent him from spending much quality time with his family, a large and close-knit group that includes his son Tiny Tim, an adorable but delicate and unhealthy little boy.
"Observing people after they have seen [A Christmas Carol] made me realize how much Dickens' influence is needed in our society, how much of a lesson he can teach us with this story."
–– Ron Rains
Cratchit is a good, responsible, respectable and God-fearing man who loves his family and struggles mightily to provide for them. When Bill Brown, who directed the 2007 production of the play, was looking for someone with those qualities, he chose Rains, an actor he had worked with months earlier at Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, a nationally recognized outreach program of the College of Arts and Architecture at Montana State University. “I think Bill Brown hired me because he knew me as a father and saw how I interacted with my son, Max, who was 5 at the time,” Rains says. “He saw some of Bob Cratchit in me.”
The self-described “quirky individual who loves children and animals” was born in Greenville, S.C., and moved to Sacramento, Calif., where he grew up and later joined the Air Force immediately after graduating from high school. When he returned to civilian life, Rains worked as a computer programmer before studying acting and voice at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Since he arrived in Chicago 15 years ago, he has, in addition to appearances at the Goodman, been featured in productions at numerous other area theaters, including Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight and Royal George Theatre. He will appear in the Drury Lane Theatre’s production of Billy Elliott in the spring. Aside from his work on stage, he uses the pseudonym Peter K. Rosenthal while working as the head film critic for The Onion’s Film Standard.
Rains (without makeup and costume) may be recognized as Peter K. Rosenthal, chief film critic for The Onion's Film Standard. At right, during a rehearsal, Yando (left) discusses his role with director Henry Wishcamper.
Photography by Liz Lauren
Tickets to A Christmas Carol ($25-$93; subject to change) are currently on sale at GoodmanTheatre.org/Joy. Tickets and subscriptions, including the Goodman WILD CARD, can also be purchased at the box office (170 North Dearborn), by phone at 312.443.3800 or at GoodmanTheatre.org/Subscribe. Mezztix are half-price mezzanine tickets available at 12 noon at the box office, and at 10 a.m. online (promo code MEZZTIX) day of performance; Mezztix are not available by telephone. 10Tix are $10 rear mezzanine tickets for students available at 12 noon at the box office, and at 10 a.m. online on the day of performance for Albert Theatre productions and in advance for all Owen Theatre productions; 10Tix are not available by telephone; a valid student I.D. must be presented when picking up the tickets; limit four per student with I.D. All tickets are subject to availability and handling fees apply. Discounted Group Tickets for 15 persons or more are available at 312.443.3820.
In A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre, Ron Rains returns for the eighth consecutive year in his role as dedicated family man Bob Cratchit.
Although overworked and underpaid, Cratchit manages to keep life in proper perspective.
In A Christmas Carol, there are several magical moments between Rains and Larry Yando, the award-winning actor who portrays the irascible Scrooge.
Even with his sights set on other projects, Rains’ primary focus is on A Christmas Carol, where he has mastered the role of Bob Cratchit by infusing parts of his own personality into the beloved character. For seven of the eight years he has been in the role, he has worked opposite the award-winning Yando, who is a fan-favorite as the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge. “It’s a master class watching Larry Yando work. He’s very specific in everything that he does; everything is well thought out,” says Rains, who is scheduled to sing the national anthem at the Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions game at Soldier Field on December 21. “He’s emotionally grounded for every choice he makes. He’s deeply rooted. If I stand off in the wings as he’s making his revelations at the end of the play, he can bring me to tears––even in rehearsals a couple of days ago he brought me to tears.”
As it has been in years past, tears are not uncommon during the celebration of this beloved holiday tradition, one that again is shaped by Tom Creamer’s adaptation. There are the spectacular arrivals of the ghosts, infectious musical numbers, the “Bah Humbugs" and the delivery of a life-changing message that Rains hopes affects theatergoers the way it affected him. “People need to realize that we need to take care of each other,” Rains says. “Hopefully, after seeing A Christmas Carol, people can embrace that holiday spirit and be reminded when they see someone who needs help. If I can change someone’s mind for the better, then I’m happy with that.”