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37 total results

A Q Brothers' Christmas Carol

Through 12/31: Tue-Fri 7:30 PM (except Thu 12/25), Sat 6 and 8:30 PM, Sun 3 and 6 PM (except Sun 12/7, 4 and 7 PM); also Wed 12/31, 10 PM

In this contemporary urban retelling of Dickens's 1843 novella, the impoverished Cratchits are such ignorant ghetto stereotypes they put their kid's finger in a socket when they need an extension cord. Their domestic scenes are appallingly offensive and, like most everything else in this unrelenting, audacious, strategically self-deprecating piece, more in keeping with Dickens's grotesque original than any "traditional" adaptation I've ever seen. Local theatrical hip-hop darlings GQ and JQ pack this 80-minute show—performed entirely in rhyming couplets—with sly music history (the Ghost of Christmas Past is a Sugar Hill Gang/Run DMC reject) and even slier social commentary (the Ghost of Christmas Future, embodying pure terror, is a ringer for Trayvon Martin). Except for the stylistically impenetrable opening, the show is bracingly insightful. —Justin Hayford $30-$48

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (map)
800 E. Grand Ave.
Other Central
phone 312-595-5600

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New Year's Eve Hullabaloo

Wed 12/31, 9 PM-2 AM
,

The venue's grand opening includes a cocktail hour, a performance by Kiss Kiss Cabaret, a dance party, and a champagne toast at midnight. $100

Uptown Underground (map)
4707 N. Broadway
Uptown

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NYE Revolution

Wed 12/31, 9 PM
,

The spectacle specialists host a carnival-inspired celebration with performances and installations relating to earth, air, water, and fire plus wine bikes delivering drinks, a pastry carousel handing out desserts, and fountains spouting cocktails. $100

Redmoon Theater (map)
2120 S. Jefferson
Pilsen/Little Village
phone 312-850-8440

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New Year's Eve Under the Gun

Wed 12/31, 8 PM-2 AM
,

A buffet and cocktail hour followed by performances of #trending and Comedy Against Humanity plus a dance party and midnight toast. $50

Under the Gun Theater (map)
956 W. Newport
Lakeview
phone 773-270-3440

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Yippee Ki-Yay, Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Christmas Musical

12/6-1/3: Sat 7:30 PM

Remember the original Die Hard? The one where Bruce Willis plays a cop caught up in a hostage situation with a very British, suit-obsessed Alan Rickman? Even if your brain's blocked that particular part of the 80s, odds are you'll still get a kick out of MCL's musical tribute to the erstwhile blockbuster. The camp dial here is firmly ratcheted up to stun, especially in a metasong where Willis croons out an omnibus of Rickman's future movie roles. Speaking of whom, if Rickman happened to wander into the show, there's a real chance he'd be upstaged by Mark Rudy's portrayal of him as super-slow-talking fashion diva Hans. And MCL (which stands for Music, Comedy, Live) is BYO, allowing you to imbibe cheap brews while watching Willis slay bad guys and rip men's fashion. Yippee ki-yay indeed. —Chloe Riley $15

MCL Chicago (map)
3110 N. Sheffield
Lakeview Yippee Ki-Yay, Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Christmas Musical

Hansel & Gretel

Through 1/4: Fri-Mon 10 AM, Tue 10 AM and 1 PM; also Wed 12/31, 10 AM

This world premiere bills itself as a "wickedly delicious musical treat," and indeed the tone, Euro-hip with some goth bravado mixed in, is a welcome return to the dark fairy tale co-opted by a saccharine Disney sensibility. With the brothers Grimm (Jay Mast and Jeff Kurysz) as narrators, we follow a version of the story where Angelika, the children’s mother (Jennifer T. Grubb), has disappeared into the Black Forest; her kids' wanderlust stems simply from their deep desire to see her again. We journey too, realizing that, like Hansel (Jack Ball), we all want to believe in some kind of magic. Some of the songs in Justin Roberts's original score are merely serviceable, but others will have you singing along with the wickedly talented musician-actors: the rousing "This Place," "Crumb by Crumb," and Lotte the Witch's bawdy solo "You've Gotta Do It Alone." —Suzanne Scanlon $38.50

Buy from Ticketmaster
Broadway Playhouse (map)
175 E. Chestnut St.
Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Streeterville
phone 800-775-2000
Hansel & Gretel

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The King and I

Through 1/4: Wed 1 and 8 PM, Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 4:30 and 8 PM, Sun 1 and 5 PM

It is a puzzlement, if you get to thinking about it. Although set at the royal court of Siam, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's The King and I was notably light on actors with Asian roots when it premiered on Broadway in 1951. The role of lovesick Burmese concubine Tuptim, for instance, was played by an Italian-American Brooklynite (and cousin of Vic Damone) named Doretta Morrow. And the Siamese king himself? Famously portrayed by Yul Brynner, who was born at the far-eastern end of the Soviet Union but came from European stock. Yet the based-on-fact musical about Anna Leonowens—a Victorian Englishwoman hired to educate the king's many wives and children in Western ways—is nothing if not a hymn to tolerance. Like South Pacific before it, The King and I posits forbidden love and cultural clashes as a way to put over the classic liberal notion that we're all the same under the skin. This, after all, is the show that gave us "Getting to Know You." So it's interesting to see it now, in a new Marriott Theatre revival whose commitment to diversity is such that not just Asian- but African-American cast members appear as part of the king's retinue. Under Nick Bowling's direction, the show is simultaneously a repudiation and a vindication of Rodgers and Hammerstein's vision: it draws our attention to the limitations of their Eisenhower-era politics (which come close, at times, to evoking the White Man's Burden) while demonstrating that the American theater has in certain ways absorbed their generous premise and taken it a few steps further. Of course, that's only if you get to thinking about it. With Heidi Kettenring's Anna and some bravura moments onstage, there's no reason you can't ignore the meta-implications and have what R & H tried so hard to give us: an edifying good time. The second-act "Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet"—a Siamese version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, devised by rebellious Tuptim and performed by the king's household—is handled here with enormous wit and grace. —Tony Adler

$40-$48

Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (map)
10 Marriott Dr.
Suburbs Northwest
phone 847-634-0200
The King and I

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The BFG

Through 1/4: times vary, see website

Roald Dahl's subversive, cheerfully misanthropic worldview survives the translation from page to stage in this funny and inventive take on the author's 1982 kids’ novel. Resisting the urge to sweeten what's sour, adapter David Wood shows us innocent orphans getting eaten by ravenous giants, just as Dahl set it down. The big friendly giant referenced in the title is a strict vegetarian; his job, however, involves filling sleeping heads with sweet dreams of resisting authority. (He also farts in the presence of the Queen of England.) Director Morgan Ashley Madison tells the story with energy and confidence in her staging for Emerald City Theatre, using brisk pacing, cheeky performances, and, best of all, lifelike puppets (designed by Rough House Theatre) in a variety of sizes. —Zac Thompson $10-$20

http://emeraldcitytheatre.com
Apollo Theater (map)
2540 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Park
phone 773-935-6100

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Burning Bluebeard

Through 1/4: times vary, see website

The clowning artistry is disturbingly effective in the Ruffians’ 100-minute romp through the history of Chicago’s Iroquois Theatre fire, which killed more than 600 people during a 1903 performance of a musical called Mr. Bluebeard. Six impish, gracefully bumbling figures prance through an irony-soaked metatheatrical routine that gives voice to a handful of fire survivors while investigating the myriad failures that caused such carnage. It's creepy and charming, if occasionally precious, overrelying on steampunk faux naivete and Danny Elfmanesque music to do the emotional heavy lifting. While playwright Jay Torrence concocts a lot of significant-looking gestures that ultimately signify little (actors earnestly hand audience members mason jars full of white lights, then eventually take them back), the final, meticulous recounting of the Iroquois’s last moments is horrifyingly gorgeous. —Justin Hayford $36-$45

Theater Wit (map)
1229 W. Belmont
Lakeview
phone 773-975-8150
Burning Bluebeard

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The Wizard of Oz

11/7-1/4: Tue-Sun, 10 AM and 12:30 PM

Musical based on the classic 1939 film. $15

Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (map)
10 Marriott Dr.
Suburbs Northwest
phone 847-634-0200

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Shining City

Through 1/4: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM

Chicago's slow-mo, spontaneous Conor McPherson play festival continues with this Irish Theatre of Chicago (formerly Seanachaí) staging of his 2004 script, about a troubled therapist and his perhaps literally haunted patient. One benefit of the McPherson phenomenon is that it helps you get to know the Dublin-based playwright's tics, tales, and preoccupations. Shining City, for instance, offers interesting echoes of Port Authority (2001) and foretastes of The Night Alive (2013). But as directed here by Jeff Christian, it can't offer much else. Used as transition music, Christian's own neofolk compositions (cowritten with Matt Kahler) stamp out every hint of momentum. His handling of a crucial surprise is oafish. And worse, he wastes the talents of Brad Armacost (the patient) and Coburn Goss (the therapist) on poorly shaped scenes. The only survivors are the two cast members who, appearing in a scene apiece, aren't hobbled by Christian's start/stop approach: Carolyn Kruse, playing the therapist's doormat girlfriend, and Shane Kenyon, gruffly sensational as a man very, very far down on his luck. —Tony Adler $26

http://irishtheatreofchicago.org
Den Theatre (map)
1329-1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Wicker Park/Bucktown
phone 773-609-2336
Shining City

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Holiday Party

Through 1/9: Fri 9:30 PM

Watching Jamie Jirak's new comedy, we learn what a big party pining away for love actually is. Her story of four inappropriate workplace romances exploits a formula of wanton flirtation perpetrated by off-kilter operators who wield nasty pickup lines and cracked dialogue. It adds up to a distinctly toxic and fun form of romantic comedy where the meet cute is a meet gross—we're conned into rooting for an imbecile with the emotional intelligence of a fart. All the same, the show jingles into our hearts with smart takes on classic tropes (the douche-bag pervert is a heart surgeon, the coldhearted woman an erotic novelist), and if good cringe exists, Jirak has the market cornered. There's apparently no apter metaphor for the human condition than the downward spiral of an office party. —Jena Cutie $15

pH Comedy Theater (map)
1515 W. Berwyn Ave.
Andersonville Holiday Party

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Hellcab

Through 1/11: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM

Richard Cotovsky is already part of the Hellcab legend. As his program bio notes, he played the lead role—i.e., driver of the infernal taxi—more than 200 times in the original Famous Door Theatre production, which opened in 1992 and ran for nearly a decade. Now Profiles Theatre has taken over the franchise, presenting Hellcab as an annual holiday show, and Cotovsky's back for the 2014 edition. Of course, he's older now—a grizzled 60. Age adds a layer of pathos to the performance as Cotovsky's cabbie tools around Chicago on a frigid Christmas Eve, picking up Christians, tourists, more than one lawyer, the scum of the earth and their victims, as well as an angel or two. Cotovsky was trying too hard on opening night: he could've got twice the mileage out of half the grimaces. There's something sobering, though, in his character's flawed maturity—now bemused, now frail, never quite wise, yet distinctly alive when he goes all air-guitar to "Whole Lotta Love." —Tony Adler $35

Profiles Theatre, Main Stage (map)
4139 N. Broadway
Uptown
phone 773-549-1815
Hellcab

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Married

Through 1/29: Thu 8 PM

Quiet naturalism is extremely rare in improv, where pauses tend to generate panic and zany oddballs are a dime a dozen. That's what makes this two-person show performed by Lindsey Smith and Farrell Walsh feel so refreshing. On the night I attended, an audience suggestion of "flight" prompted a sweet, subtle, and surprisingly poignant tale about a pair of newlyweds spending the holidays with the wife's alcoholic mother. The characterizations were credible, the performances understated yet assured, and the back-and-forth was blessedly free of sweat and strain. I only regretted the 45-minute running time—I could've stayed with these two a lot longer. The evening begins with a more conventional improv set from Chemically Imbalanced Comedy’s house team, Clockwise. —Zac Thompson $5

CIC Theater (map)
1422 W. Irving Park Rd.
Wrigleyville
phone 773-865-7731

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Lookingglass Alice

Through 2/15: times vary, see website

David Catlin first adapted and directed Lookingglass Alice in 2005, and it remains a consistently thrilling take on Lewis Carroll's work. Madness is literalized onstage as scenes from the Mad Hatter's tea party to the game of flamingo croquet are brought to life by the enormously talented cast of five, who double as aerialists and acrobats. Beneath the spectacle, we're reminded that life is about change and inevitable loss (only the White Queen can live backwards, after all). And though "grown-ups are never off balance," the Cheshire Cat tells Alice, the production endeavors to place us exactly there; it is, after all, where much wisdom resides. —Suzanne Scanlon $45-$85

Lookingglass Theatre Company (map)
Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave.
Gold Coast/Mag Mile/Streeterville
phone 312-337-0665

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