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December's Chicago Theater Hot Picks

Written by  Krista Krauss
 
A Christmas Carol at the Goodman A Christmas Carol at the Goodman

Dashing through the (lack of) snow
In a Yellow Taxi cab
O’er the streets we go
I think the driver’s mad.

Bells from Holy Name ring
Making spirits bright

What fun it is to ride our way
To the Chicago Theatre tonight!

Oh, jingle bells! Blommer smells!
There’s Macy’s annual sale!

Oh what fun it is to ride
To see a Chicago Theatre Holiday Tale!

I simply couldn’t resist. Well now that I got that out of my system, read on to find the best Chicago Theatre holiday offerings to brighten your spirit. And remember, theatre tickets are a great gift to share. Happy Holidays everyone!

“The Gifts of the Magi” at Stage 773 presented by Porchlight Music Theatre

Two of O. Henry’s classic tales meet in Porchlight Music Theatre’s Chicago premier of The Gifts of the Magi (book by Mark St. Germain, music by Randy Courts) directed by Mark Lococo. We are transported to Christmas in New York, 1905. The story focuses on the young, poor, but powerfully in love couple: Della and Jim. While the out of work Jim desperately seeks employment, Della tries to make their small New York apartment a home. But at least they have a home; the cheerful and comical neighborhood bum Soapy Smith is so desperate for a warm place to stay, he intentionally tries to get himself arrested so he can get into jail and have a roof over his head. While Soapy runs amuck with his clown-like antics, Jim and Ella hit rock bottom as they realize they won’t be able to afford a Christmas tree or presents. Saddened and disheartened by their situation, both of them sell their most prized possessions in order to afford the perfect Christmas gift. This heartwarming tale of the foolish yet wise lovers warms the heart, and teaches us of the true meaning of Christmas.

The Details:

  • Runs through December 23rd.  Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • For tickets visit: http://www.stage773.com/ or call 773-327-5252
  • Tickets cost $39
  • Recommended for ages 8 and up
  • Address: 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

“It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!” at The Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre presented by American Blues Theatre

Frank Capra’s infamous film, It’s A Wonderful Life is a magical tradition that many of us revisit every holiday season. Director Marty Higginbotham’s version has been donning the stage at the Biograph for over a decade, and should be added to your holiday traditions. But American Blues Theatre’s production has a twist: instead of a fully staged adaption, it is performed as a radio play- complete with a live Foley artist. The theatre audience is transformed into the studio audience of a live radio taping of It’s A Wonderful Life in 1944. The show is magical holiday treat appropriate for any family. Seeing It’s A Wonderful Life brought to the stage as a radio performance is fantastic because it allows us to use our imagination and create our own version of the classic piece, just as our parents and grandparents did during the golden age of radio. Plus, ABT’s production brings extra holiday cheer with added audience participation: Christmas carol sing alongs, meet and greet with the cast, and even milk and cookies. The production is full of spirit, and its guaranteed to get any Scrooge into the holiday spirit.

The Details:

  • Runs through December 30th.  Fridays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 5 p.m. & 8 p.m. Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • For tickets visit: http://www.americanbluestheater.com/ or call 773-871-3000
  • Tickets cost $19-$39
  • Recommended for ages 8 and up
  • Address: 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

“Best Musical! Holiday Edition” at Stage 773 presented by Porchlight Music Theatre

If you have never seen an improvised musical (or even if you have) you have to check out Best Musical! A Completely Improvised Musical Comedy. This past Spring, Porchlight teamed up with some of Chicago’s best improv stars to create Best Musical, and this holiday season it returns to you- revamped, reindeer antlered, and ready to meet you under the mistletoe. Upon entrance to the theatre, the audience members are asked to write the name of a song that has never existed on a piece of paper that gets tossed into a hat. Because this is the Holiday edition, the song should have some sort of holiday theme. The show begins and we are greeted by the host of the “Bestie Awards”. One by one, the ensemble members get up and pull a title out of the hat and completely improvise a song. At the end of the first act, the audience is asked to vote on their favorite song. This song then wins the “Bestie Award” for Best Musical, and will then be turned into a fully improvised musical during the second act. During intermission the audience gets to refuel at the Stage 773 bar while the ensemble dons costumes and prepares to present the chosen musical. What proceeds is high comedy- maybe not the Moliere or Shakespeare kind- but it’s hysterical none the less. As with a lot of improv, the language and content tends to be of the adult nature, so this is a holiday treat to be enjoyed by adults only. Santa hats off to Matthew Loren Cohen who is not only the brains behind the operation, but also the fingers tickling the ivories. And of course the ensemble of actors gets a huge kudos as well for their quick wits, lovely melodies, and the ability to rhyme almost anything. Best Musical! Holiday Edition! may be on Santa’s “naughty list”, but it’s also on your “must see” list!

The Details:

  • Runs through December 19th.  Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
  • For tickets visit: http://www.stage773.com/ or call 773-327-5252
  • Tickets cost $15
  • Recommended for ages 16 and up
  • Address: 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Bonus!

Here are a few favorites from past Holiday Seasons that are guaranteed to please the family every year:

“The Christmas Schooner” at The Mercury Theatre

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! …but perhaps Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum is more appropriate in this instance. Have you ever wondered why at Christmas time we deck our halls with trees adorned with ornaments and twinkly lights? The Christmas Schooner at The Mercury Theatre will give you the answer, and much more. The Christmas Schooner is a musical based off the turn of the century Chicago story about ‘The Christmas Tree Ship’. When a German-American family living in the Upper Peninsula hears that the working class German immigrants in Chicago have no Christmas Trees, the family patriarch Peter is inspired to sail his ship across the stormy winter waters to reinstate their tradition. Full of heart, love, and loss, The Christmas Schooner has become a time honored holiday tradition in Chicago that any family will enjoy.

The Details:

  • Runs through December 30th. Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 1 p.m.
  • Recommended for ages 8 and up
  • For tickets visit: http://www.mercurytheaterchicago.com or call 773-325-1700
  • Tickets cost $29-$59
  • Address: 3745 N. Southport Ave.

“A Christmas Carol” at The Goodman Theatre

We all have our favorite Christmas stories. For many of us, A Christmas Carol tops the list. Every year since I was a child my family would come downtown one special weekend in December. The weekend was devoted to holiday cheer: holiday shopping, holiday eating, a visit to the Christkindlmarket, and a holiday show. I have seen many renditions of A Christmas Carol and The Goodman’s production is hands down my favorite. The enormous sets, the splendid costumes, the flying spirits; they envelop you like a warm blanket and bring cheer to your holiday soul. This season marks their 35th year performing this classic holiday hit. Chicago legend Steve Scott directs this momentous production, and Larry Yando takes his fifth walk in Scrooge’s shoes. The Goodman’s A Christmas Carol is the sure cure for the holiday humbugs.

The Details:

  • Runs through December 29th.  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • For tickets visit: www.goodmantheatre.org or call 312-443-3800
  • Tickets cost $25-$82
  • Recommended for ages 8 and up
  • Address: 170 N. Dearborn St.

About the Author: Krista Krauss is a Concierge at the James Hotel, a member of The Chicago Hotel Concierge Association, a native Chicagoan, and a local theater artist. She received dual degrees in Communication and Theater from Loyola University Chicago. Her mission is to create and support awareness of Chicago’s unique local theaters. E-mail her at KKrauss@jameshotels.com.

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