Arts & Entertainment

The work behind A Christmas Carol

Photos courtesy of Goodman Theatre

We know the story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been bringing us various “bah humbugs” for more than 150 years. The story has also been recurring at Goodman Theatre (170 N. Dearborn St.) for the last 35 years. The theater’s current production of A Christmas Carol is now playing on the Albert Stage until Dec. 28.

The Phoenix spoke with Goodman’s casting director, Adam Belcuore, over the phone about the casting process for A Christmas Carol and what audiences can expect this year.

“Some of [the actors] roll over into the next year and sometimes we will replace people,” said Belcuore. “If they’re unavailable, then they get replaced or if we want to make an artistic change they get replaced.”

For the production, each actor plays multiple parts, such as Joe Foust who plays the ghost of Jacob Marley as well as Old Joe. Because of this, Belcuore said that he needs to look for actors who have “a certain malleability to their work.” On top of having a wide range of talents, Belcuore also looks for a diverse set of actors.

“We like to represent our community at large and all of its many facets, so we look for diversity in terms of casting — in both gender and ethnicity,” he said.

For this year, Belcuore explained that about half of the cast is new, including the characters of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future (Patrick Andrews, Lisa Gaye Dixon and J. Salome Martinez). However, actor Larry Yando, who plays the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge, will be performing the role for his eighth year in a row.

 

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Along with Scrooge and the ghosts, A Christmas Carol wouldn’t be complete without a cast of children who bring the holiday spirit alive.

“The process for casting children is a little bit more extensive,” Belcuore said. “We always do an open call every year to allow kids from across the community to come down and audition for the play.”

Yet casting children requires a different approach. Belcuore said the challenge with children is that since they’re so young, it’s difficult to evaluate them. Belcuore instead has to look for natural performing abilities from the young actors.

“You can’t really apply the same set of criteria as an adult has,” he said. “You kind of have to look for an innate talent or an instinct for performing that you can spot and then trust that you can direct them and mold them into the role you need.”

On top of the challenge of casting children, Belcuore also had to determine his cast based off of vocal talent. This performance isn’t a full musical, but it does have music in it, which requires some singing and dancing abilities from the actors.

“Basically, when [actors] come in to audition we ask them to sing at the first call,” he said. “We don’t need every actor to be an amazing singer, but we do at least need a few voices here and there that we can showcase or that can support the group as a whole. Although we may not need glorious voices, we do need them to keep pitch.”

Belcuore has been working for Goodman for more than 11 years, as either the casting or artistic director for many of Goodman’s productions. His years working in theater have helped him form a lengthy process for spotting the talent he needs.

A lot of the process comes from remaining in contact with the director of each production and coming up with what they want each character to be like.

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“I don’t cast the play in terms of my own desires. I cast it in terms of the director’s desires,” Belcuore said. “I basically prod and poke at the director’s imagination … then I take good notes and assimilate that to my knowledge in the acting community.”

Whether it’s finding the perfect Scrooge or the best cast of children, Belcuore has a big task with casting for most of Goodman’s productions. A Christmas Carol, however, gives him the opportunity to experiment with his cast of characters as well as how to portray Dickens’ classic Christmas novel.

“What I think is essential in terms of telling the story well [are] the qualities [and] energies … that you sort of feel instinctually or [that are] necessary to tell the story well,” he said.

A Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 28 at Goodman Theatre (170 N. Dearborn St.). Tickets cost $31-101 and are available for purchase at goodmantheatre.org.

 

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