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THEATER FEATURE Here come the sugarplum shows!Here come the sugarplum shows!
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
2019-11-26

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It's the sugarplums and treacle season when theaters large and small, city and 'burbs, non-profit and commercial grow jolly, holly, happy, sappy, snowy, glowy and Doc with holiday shows, this year more than ever before, with at least 40.

Many are repeat annual events, among them The Other Cinderella ( updated version ) at Black Ensemble Theater, The Nutcracker by Joffrey Ballet, The Nutcracker by Salt Creek Ballet, the ballet-free Nutcracker at the House Theatre, A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre, A Christmas Carol at Drury Lane Oakbrook, It's A Wonderful Life as a radio play at American Blues Theater, Midsommer Flight's Twelfth Night at the Lincoln Park Conservatory and The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party at Chicago Children's Theatre ( and suitable for very young ones ).

But this year there also are many new holiday offerings—silly to spiritual and straight to gay—and these are our focus. Here are a dozen listed by dates of performance, with some already up and running. FYI: this is not a comprehensive list so check around.

—A Very Bloody Christmas Carol, A Musical, Greenhouse Theater Center, through Dec. 18: Scrooge is a new, reformed man but the London banking system isn't. Scrooge crashes the market, London burns and Tiny Tim is kidnapped. This new 60 minute show has book and lyrics by Aaron Wegner and music by Chris Gierymski. Details: GreenhouseTheater.org

—The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley, Northlight Theatre ( Skokie ), through Dec. 22: Award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon imagine the lush world of Jane Austen's Regency England as the Darcys and Bennets—post Pride and Prejudice—celebrate Christmas upstairs while the servants downstairs hold scandal at bay; a world premiere. Details: Northlight.org

—Eleanor's Very Merry Christmas Wish, Greenhouse Theater Center, through Dec. 29: DMT Productions and the Greenhouse offer this family-friendly ( kids 3+ ), 65 minute holiday musical about Eleanor, a ragdoll resident of Santa's place at the North Pole; written by Denise McGowan Tracy and Kathleen Gibson. Details: greenhousetheater.org

—The Land of Forgotten Toys, CPA Theatricals @ The Greenhouse, through Dec. 29: Described as a show for teens and tweens, this new musical by Dylan Marcaurele ( music ) and Jaclyn & Jennifer Enchin ( book, lyrics ), based on Larry Little's story concerns a young woman in a dead end toy store job in Sheboygan. Will she ever escape? Details: GreenhouseTheater.org

NOTE: The Greenhouse also has a third new holiday musical.

—Deck the Hallmark, The Second City, through Dec. 31: A new Xmas offering ( one of several ) from The Second City, this one presented at the Up Comedy Club. It's a parody of a 1960s type made-for-TV holiday movie, presented by the famous greeting card company. Details: SecondCity.com

—Twas the Night Before. .. Cirque du Soleil, Chicago Theatre, Nov. 29-Dec. 8: The first ever Christmas show from Cirque du Soleil is here for 17 world premiere performances at the ornate Chicago Theatre. What happens before Santa and his eight reindeer pay a visit? Details: CirqueDuSoleil.com ( and most ticket brokers ). NOTE: Cirque tickets are not cheap.

—A Xmas Cuento Remix, 16th Street Theater ( Berwyn ), Nov. 29-Dec. 29: Maya Malan-Gonzalez offers a modern, Latinx take on A Christmas Carol. No Scrooge and Tiny Tim, but hard-ass Dolores, who runs a bar, and her evicted niece. With music by Emiliano Valdez and Daniel Valdez, this world premiere is "para toda la familia." Details: 16thStreetTheater.org

—America's Best Outcast Toy, Pride Films and Plays, Nov. 29-Jan. 12, 2020: This world premiere musical by Cindy O'Connor and Larry Todd Cousineau picks up the tale of the redeemed Outcast Toys, returning to their island to compete in reality challenges requiring singing, dancing, modeling, fashion design and a bake off! Details: PrideFilmsAndPlays.com

—Cold Town/Hotline, Raven Theatre, Nov. 30-Dec. 22: Eli Newell's 80 minute world premiere comedy is set over a freezing holiday weekend in 1983, when volunteers at a holiday hotline ( to fight holiday blues ) deal with an unexpected visitor and transform their humble hotline into a home for the holidays. Details: RavenTheatre.com

—Grace and the Hanukkah Miracle, Chicago Immersive Theater at Grace Lutheran Church ( Evanston ), Dec. 1-Jan. 5: This kid friendly, one hour Hannukah musical is an interfaith look at family traditions, with puzzles to solve! Details: ChicagoImmersive.com . It's by the creators of Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, which repeats at Strawdog Theatre, Dec. 8-28 ).

—Christmas Time at Lost Pines and This Is Not a Christmas Cabaret, Curious Theatre Branch @ Prop Thtr, Dec. 6-14: Chicago's institutional experimental theater troupe announced a holiday repertory of two new shows, but when we checked the Curious Theatre Branch and Prop Thtr websites, we found no info or confirmation and neither troupe had a working phone.

—The Christmas Foundling, Pride Films and Plays, Dec. 7-Jan. 5, 2020: Norman Allen's play with music is set in California's rugged Sierra Mountains in 1859, where two miners living as a couple take in and raise an orphan boy. Traditional and original music ( by Michael McBride ) is sung a capella by the cast. Details: pridefilmsandplays.com

Several of our major musical theaters also are offering familiar, kid friendly shows as holiday treats. Among these are Annie ( Citadel Theatre, Lake Forest, through Dec. 22 ), Mary Poppins ( Drury Lane Oakbrook through Jan. 19 ), Beauty and the Beast ( Paramount Theatre, Aurora, through Jan. 19 ) and White Christmas ( from the movie, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Dec. 10-15 ).


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