If real-life holiday drama has you down — or you simply want to take a break from the fun-but-hectic festivities and relax — we’ve got a list that you can check twice, filled with shows both naughty and nice. Traditional to irreverent, classical to pop, here are a few ways to recharge that Yule log of good cheer.
“A Christmas Carol”: Many try, but none succeed quite as well at warming the cockles of even the most curmudgeonly of hearts as Charles Dickens’ redemptive tale of a miser who learns the true meaning of Christmas — and life. Larry Yando returns as Scrooge for the Goodman’s production, and several other versions are on tap.
Goodman Theatre, through Dec. 31; Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Arlington Heights, Nov. 25-Dec. 24; Citadel Theatre, Lake Forest, Nov. 25-Dec. 30; Drury Lane Oakbrook, Nov. 25-Dec. 20
“Scrooge the Musical”: Leslie Bricusse’s tuneful take on the tale, adapted from the 1970 film. Steel Beam Theatre, St. Charles; through Dec. 23
“Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol”: Organic Theatre presents this popular re-telling by Tom Mula (a longtime Scrooge at the Goodman), as seen through the eyes of Ebenezer’s onetime partner in parsimony. Meiley-Swallow Hall at North Central College, Naperville; Dec. 8-11
“A Klingon Christmas Carol”: It’s traditional in some galaxies. Commedia Beauregard’s version – the world’s first all-Klingon play – returns for a second year. Greenhouse Theater Center; Nov. 25-Dec. 31
“Christmas Carol: The Silent Bah-Humbug”: Silent Theatre Company offers their unique silent-film approach to Scrooge’s transformation. Near Northwest Arts Council, St. Paul’s Church; Nov. 25-Dec. 30
“Charles Dickens Begrudgingly Performs ‘A Christmas Carol’ Again”: Blake Montgomery’s version follows a dispirited Dickens as he prepares to do the umpteenth reading of his greatest hit — and faces his 200th birthday. The Building Stage; Dec. 2-24
“The Nutcracker”: E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story of Clara and her otherworldly adventures with the magical toy of the title gets several presentations, both theatrical and ballet. Here are just a few.
House Theatre of Chicago, Chopin Theatre; through Dec. 30. Joffrey Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre; Dec. 9-27. Civic Ballet of Chicago at Ruth Page Theater, Dec. 3-4; Blizzard Theater, Elgin Community College, Elgin, Dec. 10-11; James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts, College of Lake County, Grayslake, Dec. 17-18
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”: The Bing Crosby screen classic gets a theatrical makeover. Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire; through Jan. 1
“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”: Frank Capra’s beloved film, which he co-wrote with Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, takes the form of a 1940s radio broadcast, complete with holiday songs, commercial jingles, and live foley effects.
American Blues Theater at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, through Dec. 31; American Theater Company, Nov. 25-Dec. 24; Fox Valley Repertory at Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles; Nov. 25-Dec. 23; Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet; Dec. 16 only
“The Christmas Schooner”: Based on the true story of the Rouse Simmons, a ship that carried Christmas trees from Michigan to Chicago’s German immigrants, John Reeger and Julie Shannon’s musical was a long-running seasonal hit at Bailiwick Repertory. It gets two local productions, including one at the under-new-management Mercury Theater on Southport.
Mercury Theater, through Dec. 31; St. Andrew’s Players, St. Andrew United Methodist Church, Homewood; Dec. 1-5
“A Christmas Story, the Musical!”: It’s safe to say that the tale of Ralphie and his beloved Red Ryder BB gun (based on Jean Shepherd’s childhood memoirs) has become its own classic. This touring musical, created by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Joseph Robinette, with cabaret legend Karen Mason as strict schoolteacher Miss Shields, gets a short run in town. Chicago Theatre; Dec. 14-30
“The Nativity”: Congo Square Theatre Company reprises its annual African-themed version of the Nativity story, inspired by Langston Hughes “Black Nativity,” directed by Ilesa Duncan and featuring choreography by Kevin Iega Jeff of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. Goodman Theatre; Dec. 2-31
“The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey”: Provision Theater artistic director Timothy Gregory and composer Michael Mahler created this world-premiere musical, based on Susan Wojciechowski’s children’s book (also turned into a 2007 film), about a boy who loses the Nativity set left him by his dead father and the grouchy woodcarver with whom he forms an unlikely friendship. Provision Theater; through Dec. 23
“Another Night Before Christmas”: Hollis Resnik stars as Karol, a world-weary social worker who receives a mysterious visit from a homeless man on Christmas Eve, in the local premiere of Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto’s musical. Theatre at the Center, Munster, Ind.; through Dec. 18
“Babes in Toyland”: Victor Herbert’s operetta gets two child-friendly productions. Theatre at the Center, Munster, Ind.; through Dec. 12; Chicago Folks Operetta, Nineteenth Century Club, Oak Park; Dec. 2-4
“Season’s Greetings”: Alan Ayckbourn’s British comedy proves that family dysfunction at the holidays isn’t just an American tradition. Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie; through Dec. 18
“The Santaland Diaries”: Crumpet is in the house! David Sedaris’ comic monologue about his stint as a Macy’s elf, adapted by Joe Mantello, returns to Theater Wit. Theater Wit, Nov. 25-Dec. 31
“The Second City’s Holidays in the Heights”: A Second City touring company settles down for the season in Arlington Heights with a sampler platter of holiday-themed (and decidedly adult) sketches. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Arlington Heights; Nov. 25-Dec. 31
“Our Holiday Stories”: Tales of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Ramadan with a cross-cultural perspective. 16th Street Theater, Berwyn; through Dec. 4
“Striking 12”: Bohemian Theatre Ensemble stages Rachel Sheinkin, Brendan Milburn, and Valerie Vigoda’s rock musical about a holiday hater on New Year’s Eve who reconnects with his better self when he meets the modern-day equivalent of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl. Heartland Studio Theatre; Dec. 1-Jan. 1
“Redmoon Winter Pageant”: Redmoon goes with an intimate “teeny lounge” especially for kids as “ageless crooner” Ricky entertains in this annual nondenominational celebration of the solstice. Redmoon Central; Nov. 26-Jan. 8
“The Eight: Reindeer Monologues”: Stage Left presents Jeff Goode’s comedy, first produced in Chicago in 1994, about workplace disgruntlement at the North Pole. (Let’s just say the Jolly Red Elf is getting a little TOO jolly.) Theater Wit; Dec. 9-31
“Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer”: More North Pole reindeer-related crises erupt in David Cerda’s comedy about a cross-dressing Rudolph for Hell in a Handbag Productions. Mary’s Attic; Dec. 1-30
“El Stories: Holiday Train”: The Waltzing Mechanics, who have presented true-life commuter tales from the Red Line and Brown Line, take on transit adventures during the holiday season. Greenhouse Theater Center; Dec. 2-Jan. 14
“Drinking & Writing: A BEER Carol”: Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda’s franchise takes a dip in the Dickens end of the barrel with this live radio play about Bud Miller, an evil brewmeister who confronts his past, present, and future. Haymarket Pub and Brewery; through Dec. 17
“Happy Holly-Daze – A Drinking Game Performance”: And the high, um, spirits of the season continue with this Corn Productions cocktail of sketch comedy and classic drinking games. (BYOB, FYI.) Cornservatory; Dec. 8-30
“Oops! I Christmassed Again: A Britney Spears Christmas Carol”: Brit gets some tough love from other pop legends (Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and of course Madonna – hey, it’s a Christmas show, after all) in this late-night offering. ComedySportz; through Dec. 30
“Silent Night of the Living Dead”: Ghosts, zombies, what’s the difference? New Millennium Theatre Company presents Sean Harklerode and Chad Wise’s comedy about the Coopers, who are determined to have a perfect holiday despite the brain-eating monsters pounding at the door. Theater Wit; Dec. 2-30
“A Very Sci-Fi Christmas”: Geek out with Chemically Imbalanced Comedy’s intergalactic take on the season. Chemically Imbalanced Theater; Dec. 2-Jan. 13
“Hannukatz the Musical”: Terry Abrahamson’s world-premiere musical follows the adventures of a hepcat (no, really – a cat) who helps the Moskowitz kids learn to love their own Jewish traditions amid all the holly and tinsel. National Pastime Theater; Dec. 2-31
“Vienna Boys Choir”: The angelic voices of Vienna make their annual Chicago visit. Symphony Center, Nov. 26
“Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with Rockapella”: Now in their 25th year, the a cappella powerhouses in Rockapella join with the world-famous Boston Pops in an evening of carols and originals. Auditorium Theatre, Nov. 30
“Holiday: A Chanticleer Christmas”: An “orchestra of voices” fills Symphony Center as one of the most famous male a cappella companies in the world takes the stage. Symphony Center, Dec. 6-7
“Welcome Yule”: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus present a program of carols and other traditional favorites, including some sing-along numbers. Symphony Center; Dec. 16-23
“Handel’s Messiah”: Several companies present the Baroque composer’s best-known oratorio, including the popular “Do-It-Yourself Messiah,” presented by the International Music Foundation.
“Do-It-Yourself Messiah” at Harris Theatre for Music and Dance, Dec. 19-20; Baroque Band at Chicago Cultural Center, Dec. 1; North Shore Chamber Arts Ensemble, North Shore United Methodist Church, Glencoe, Dec. 4
“Amahl and the Night Visitors”: Gian Carlo Menotti’s one-act opera about a poor crippled boy who meets three mysterious travelers from the East receives two productions.
Chamber Opera Chicago, Harold Washington Library Center, Dec. 3-4; Petite Opera Productions, Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, Park Ridge, Dec. 2-11
“Holiday Brass and Choral Concerts”: Music of the Baroque’s annual celebration of songs of the season, joyful and solemn.
Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, Dec. 15; St. Michael’s Church, Dec. 16; Divine Word Chapel, Northbrook, Dec. 17-18
“Lakeside Singers: I Heard the Bells”: The local choristers present a series of holiday-themed concerts with songs in classical, pop, and rock modes.
Nicholas Hall, Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston, Dec. 2; Raue Center, Crystal Lake, Dec. 4; Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Arlington Heights, Dec. 5; Fourth Presbyterian Church, Dec. 16; Wentz Hall, North Central College, Naperville, Dec. 17
“Donny and Marie: Christmas in Chicago”: The Osmonds beat “The Book of Mormon” to town by a few days as one of the most popular (and definitely most wholesome) brother/sister acts in showbiz history puts on the holiday razzmatazz. Oriental Theatre; Dec. 6-24
“A Carpenters Christmas Special”: A tribute to another famous brother/sister pop duo, courtesy of Lisa Rock and her band. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Arlington Heights; Dec. 14 and 18
“Caroling at Cloud Gate”: A variety of local choral groups, including the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and the Wicker Park Choral Singers, join the public in Millennium Park each Friday at 6 PM for a free communal celebration of the season. Millennium Park; Nov. 25-Dec. 16
“Holly Follies”: The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus presents its annual blend of “unplugged” holiday songs at several locations.
Athenaeum Theatre, Dec. 2-3; Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook, Dec. 4; Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, Dec. 10; First Congregational Church of Evanston, Dec. 11
“Manhattan Transfer”: It’s a “cool Yule” with the jazzy swinging sounds of this beloved co-ed quartet. Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, Naperville; Dec. 4
“Cherish the Ladies: A Celtic Christmas”: The all-woman Celtic quintet (and a few step dancers) give an Irish spin on the holiday. James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts, College of Lake County, Grayslake; Dec. 8
“Celtic Woman”: The Lasses are more – the four women in this vocal quartet join with the DuPage Symphony Orchestra. Pfeiffer Hall, North Central College, Naperville; Dec. 17
“The Oak Ridge Boys”: It’s a country Christmas in Northwest Indiana with one of the best-selling groups in Nashville history. Star Plaza Theatre, Merrillville, Ind.; Dec. 11
“Kenny Rogers Christmas and Hits Tour”: Or if you’re a country/pop fan, you could head due north to hear Rogers unwrap a few of his favorite musical things. Genesee Theatre, Waukegan; Dec. 13
“Paul Revere and the Raiders Rockin’ Christmas”: Because nothing says “the spirit of Christmas” like several generations of families rocking out to “Louie Louie.” Gary Puckett and the Union Gap join Paul and the boys. Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont; Dec. 17
“ChrismaHannukah! Or Hannukristmas”: The Crooked Mouth String Band (featuring Beau O’Reilly, Curious Theatre Branch founder and former cane-twirling front man for 1990s cabaret rockers Maestro Subgum and the Whole) welcomes local father/daughter folkies Andrew and Casey Calhoun, along with poet Sheila Donohue. Center Portion; Dec. 17
“21st Annual Winter Solstice Percussion Concerts”: Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang celebrate the solstice with a variety of instruments from North Africa, the Middle East, and Western traditions.
Link’s Hall; Dec. 21-23Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times