2016 Guide to Holiday Theater in Chicago from traditional to irreverent

2016 Guide to Holiday Theater in Chicago from traditional to irreverent
Larry Yando (Ebenezer Scrooge) in A Christmas Carol, 2016 production

It’s the most wonderful time of the year when Chicago rolls out their holiday theater offerings.

Chicago theater-goers are fortunate to have a huge roster of shows from which to choose with more than 250 theaters throughout the Chicagoland area–offering a rich and varied theater community ranging from storefront, non-union theaters to the most renowned resident theaters in the country.

Audiences can see everything from traditional holiday fare to the classics and the irreverent.

Wide-eyed children can get their first taste of theater at Emerald City Theatre’s A Charlie Brown Christmas at Broadway Playhouse.

Traditionalists will want to check out favorites such as Goodman’s A Christmas Carol and Joffrey’s The Nutcracker.

Then there are shows for those who just want to have some laughs or be a bit irreverent such as The Eight: Reindeer Monologues where Santa’s reindeer reveal what Santa is up to the other 364 days of the year–and it’s definitely not nice. This one is NOT for children.

As you can see holiday theater is a broad category that doesn’t have to be just about Sugar Plum Fairies, Scrooge and Santa Claus–it can also be any show that makes for an enjoyable theater experience such as the Lyric Opera’s wonderful Don Quichotte. With this in mind, here are some shows on our radar for the 2016 holiday season.

Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of hope and redemption A CHRISTMAS CAROL, returns to the Goodman Theatre for its 39th year. Runs Now – December 31, 2016. 

For a 15th year, Capra’s holiday staple takes audiences back to the 1940’s radio days with IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Live in Chicago! presented by American Blues Theater at the Greenhouse Theater Center  Now– December 31, 2016.

The House Theatre presents a ballet-free, fast paced and family friendly version of THE NUTCRACKER at the Chopin Theatre. The show fuses dance, text, and songs to tell a story of magic and mystery. Now – December 30, 2016.

The Joffrey Ballet’s Chicago always popular NUTCRACKER has been reimagined for 2016 with the highly anticipated World Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s THE NUTCRACKER at the Auditorium Theatre from December 10 – 30, 2016.

The classic Chicago musical THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER returns for 2016. The show sets sail at The Mercury Theater with its  powerful, moving story featuring original music and traditional holiday favorites, along with a company of 25 actors and musicians. Runs November 30 – December 31, 2016.

Ralphie Parker’s quest for an Official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle is set to music in Citadel Theatre’s A CHRISTMAS STORY: THE MUSICAL. Runs Now – December 18, 2016.

Then there’s Williams Street Rep’s A CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL GUIDE at The Raue Center, an intimate musical revue that plays out the hilarious account of the stresses of the holiday season. Runs Now – December 4, 2016.

The Santaland Diaries. Photo: Johnny Knight

The Santaland Diaries. Photo: Johnny Knight

Boozy Christmas carols, celebrity holiday gossip and the private lives of elves are all up for grabs in Theatre Wit’s THIS WAY OUTTA SANTALAND (and other Xmas miracles). The new meta-holiday piece, written and performed by Mitchell Fain, centers on Fain’s eight-year run in Theater Wit’s perennial production of The Santaland Diaries. In the new show Fain plays himself revealing his hilarious life stories. Cabaret performer Meghan Murphy provides an assist, with musical direction by Julie B. Nichols. Now through December 23, 2016 at Theatre Wit.

The Second City presents a holiday tradition that doesn’t include setting up a 6-ft fire hazard in the living room, or placing your kids on the lap of an elderly alcoholic at the local mall, HOLIDAZED AND CONFUSED. Performances are at UP Comedy Club from Now – December 31, 2016. 

The Annoyance Productions’ AUNTIE CHAN’S HOLIDAY OFFICE PARTY takes office parties to a new level with an office variety show that’s sure to put you in a holiday mood. Runs now – December 18, 2016 at The Annoyance Theatre and Bar.

Although not exactly a holiday show the Lyric Opera’s DON QUICHOTTE will steal your heart and remind you of what’s good about the world. The show, not for opera fans only, inspired by the wonderful story of Don Quixote is filled with energy, spirit, beauty, and hope. Legendary bass Ferruccio Furlanetto is outstanding in his role as the eccentric idealist and self-proclaimed knight errant who fights for the honor of his lady Dulcinée. Now through December 7, 2016. Here’s a preview of what you’ll see:

For its third year, the Second City brings TWIST YOUR DICKENS to the Goodman Theatre. Their twisted take on Scrooge, Tiny Tim and The Christmas Carol serves up fun for all. Runs December 2 – 30, 2016.

Musical theatre meets sketch comedy in UP Comedy Club’s NICK AND GABE: SNOWFLAKE BALL. The mashup is sure to crack you up and get you in a holiday mood. Runs December 1 – December 15, 2016.

In a throwback to 1982 pop culture, RIP NELSON HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR follows Rip Nelson as he tries to salvage his television career with a holiday TV special. Produced by Hell in a Handbag Productions at Mary’s Attic. Runs Now – December 30, 2016.

Emerald City Theatre Company’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS offers fun for kids and grown-ups alike and a look at the true meaning of Christmas.  Runs now – January 8, 2017 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

20% Theatre Company Chicago’s BETHLEHEM (PA) explores community, heartbreak and hope as the largest live nativity scene in the greater Mid-Atlantic has finds a home outside of Bethlehem. Performances are at Berry United Methodist Church from December 7 – 10, 2016.

From California to Chicago to the Philippines to a Catholic-Jewish household Chicago favorite Christine Bunuan leads the way in this new holiday musical revue, CHRISTMAS AT CHRISTINE’S from Silk Road Rising at Pierce Hall at the Historic Chicago Temple Building from December 1 – 23, 2016.

MISS BENNET: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY, a charmingly imagined sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is Northlight Theatre’s world premiere about independence, love and family. Runs Now – December 18, 2016.

Shy Gerda must find the hero within as she quests across a wintry wonderland to save her best friend in Piccolo Theatre’s THE SNOW QUEEN,  Runs Now – December 18, 2016.

THAT’S WEIRD GRANDMA: THE HOLIDAY SPECIAL RETURNS is a kid-friendly favorite from Barrel of Monkeys that features a line-up of of old and new holiday-themed tales. December 4 through December 26.

Scandal at the North Pole–only Santa’s reindeer know for sure and they tell all in THE EIGHT REINDEER MONOLOGUES in this dark comedy by Jeff Goode. Foundlings Theatre Company, 1106 W Thorndale Ave.  November 30 through December 23, 2016.

One night only, the Rosemont Theatre presents THE HIP HOP NUTCRACKER. If Hamilton can do it, why not a less traditional Nutcracker where Tchaikovsky’s score gets remixed with live hip hop interludes by DJ Boo and legendary rapper Kurtis Blow. The action takes place in a nightclub in 1980s Brooklyn in this innovative new Yuletide classic at Rosemont Theatre on December 9, 2016.

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