*** Recommended *** After a couple of weeks off for the holidays, I look forward to the Young Playwrights Festival which is almost always the first theatrical opening of the year. This is the 33rd year of the annual event sponsored by Pegasus Theatre Chicago. This is a chance to see the future of Chicago theater – maybe the future of American theater. If you go, you’ll see three very different plays written by two outstanding high school students, and a third who graduated and started college in the meantime. I always gain valuable insight about the things on kids’ minds today. 3 Spotlights.
**** Recommended **** Champions of Magic is an amazing show! Several of the award-winning stars have appeared on the CW’s “Penn and Teller: Fool Us. The five are: illusionists, Young and Strange; mind reader, Alex McAleer; escape artist, Fernando Velasquez; and close-up magician extraordinaire, Kayla Drescher. I was in awe watching them perform. The show includes plenty of audience participation, too. Hurry and get your tickets for this family friendly spectacle. 4 Holiday Spotlights
**** Recommended **** Goodman Theatre’s production of “The Santaland Diaries”, written by David Sedaris and adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello. In his early days as a struggling writer in New York, Sedaris took a job as an elf at Macy’s Department Store. Steven Strafford stars in the one-man show directed by Steve Scott. “The Santaland Diaries” is irreverent, mischievous, snarky, and really, really funny. 4 Holiday Spotlights
**** Recommended **** Although it’s not exactly holiday fare, “The Tall Boy” really is a good play and well worth seeing on its own merits. It’s also a rare opportunity to see New York actress (and daughter of Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn) Tandy Cronyn in a one-woman show. It’s a poignant story about three boys, Army mascots, who desperately wanted to get to America. 3 ½ Spotlights
***** Highly Recommended ***** The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is rocking with the return of” “Q Brothers Christmas Carol”. IMPORTANT NOTE: this is not “A Christmas Carol” as Dickens wrote it. The Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax and Pos) have yanked Ebenezer Scrooge and the gang into the 21st century! I’ve seen this cheeky, snarky, funny and very, very original musical every year (and twice last year – but that’s another story) since it premiered in 2013 as a developmental work-in-progress (that’s 6 years!), and it still makes me laugh! It’s become my very own holiday tradition! 4 BIG Holiday Spotlights
***** Highly Recommended ***** The Joffrey Ballet’s “Chicago-centric” version of “The Nutcracker”, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, is quite simply magnificent. By setting “The Nutcracker” against Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Wheeldon gave the city a unique gift. I am in awe! Every movement was graceful, precise and exquisitely performed. This will be the fourth time I’ve seen/reviewed “The Nutcracker” and I love everything about it, including the glorious music played by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. By the way, this is the final appearance of “The Nutcracker” at the Auditorium Theatre. 4 BIG Holiday Spotlights!
***** Highly Recommended ****** The Goodman Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol”, which remains essentially the same from year to year, is a holiday tradition for many families, spanning generations. The Goodman lobby is festive with decorations and a sparkling holiday shopping area. Now in its 42nd year, “A Christmas Carol” will put you in the holiday spirit with a fabulous cast, lavish sets and colorful period costumes. 4 Holiday Spotlights.
**** Highly Recommended **** Take your family on a nostalgic trip into the past with American Blues Theater’s 18th annual production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!”. You ‘ll have a rare opportunity to join a ‘live radio’ audience and watch a talented cast bring the voices of all the characters you love to life. Since this is ‘live’, the actors do the commercials too. It is so much fun to listen to the beloved story unfold. “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago” always gets me in a holiday mood! 4 Holiday Spotlights!
**** Recommended **** Drury Lane Theatre’s production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins” is even more “practically perfect”. Sure, “Mary Poppins” is still dispensing “A Spoon Full of Sugar”, but there are also new songs and scenes and even technical derring-do. This is a Broadway quality musical; and yes, Mary Poppins does fly! This is a perfect show to introduce your children and/or grandchildren to live theater. Don’t miss “Mary Poppins”, it’s one of my top ten musicals of the year. 4 BIG Spotlights