Christoph Eschenbach, conductor (Bruckner).
LivingSocial hosts this craft brew celebration. Participating brewers include Evil Twin Brewing, Emmett's Brewing Company, and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. $39-$59
To all you hard-core fans who took second mortgages and third jobs so you could afford to attend performance after performance of Wicked when it played Chicago from 2005 to 2009: the answer is yes, you'll be pleased with this touring production. To all you snoots who've disdained every opportunity to see the blockbuster musical since its Broadway premiere ten years ago: Give up. Now. Surrender, Dorothy, it's time. Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's stage prequel to the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz finds sophisticated themes in the tale of how Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, earned her defining adjective. Certainly, the show looks at the psychic effects and political uses of intolerance as it follows Elphaba's Bernardine Dohrn-esque evolution from honors student to outlaw. But viewing it this time around, I was especially affected by the way Schwartz and Holzman deal with experience—with the simple, difficult fact that what we do determines who we become, marking us permanently in ways we can't imagine even as the process is taking place. The witty book and songs are sharply realized here by a cast starring Alison Luff as Elphaba and charming Jenn Gambatese as the putatively "good" witch, Glinda. [Note that Gina Beck replaces Gambetese as of December 16 --TA.] (Singer/game show host John Davidson sneaks in there, too, as the Wizard.) And the visual effects are every bit as stunning as they should be—especially during the moment of Elphaba's transfiguration into, well, what experience makes of her. —Tony Adler $37-$107
Korean artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho imagine a techno-dystopic future in this spooky multidimensional installation. One of our visual arts recommendations for fall.
Paintings by Gabriel Mejia. Reception Sat 11/16, 5-8 PM.
It's now Day 22 of the Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas-movie siege. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, which former Reader critic Dave Kehr described as "Preston Sturges's affably blasphemous version of the Nativity," is the antidote to all those sugarplums and saccharine. "Caustic and chaotic in the arch Sturges manner," Kehr wrote, "it's probably his funniest and most smilingly malicious film." $11
I've been looking over the list of plays presented by Goodman Theatre's New Stages initiative since its inception ten years ago. Pretty impressive. The roughly annual festival offers staged readings and—since 2011—workshop productions of new work by interesting playwrights, and some of the free performances have that retrospective shoulda-been-there mystique theatergoers both love and dread. Just for example: the 2005 New Stages featured an early look at Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated first third of a trilogy by Quiara Alegría Hudes (who went on to win a Pulitzer for the next third, Water by the Spoonful); 2006 saw The Brothers Size from Tarell Alvin McCraney's great "The Brother/Sister Plays"; and the 2007 edition gave us Lynn Nottage's devastating (and, yes, Pulitzer-winning) Ruined. This time around New Stages is concentrating entirely on Latino playwrights, which seems to have changed the dynamic somewhat. One play is returning for a workshop production after having already received a staged reading in 2012; two of the participating playwrights are a lot better established than has been the norm. There's a smaller pool, in short, with fewer wild cards. Continue reading >>
Thumb through the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, and one of the first things you'll notice is how unsuitable many of them are for bedtime reading. Perrault lets the wolf gobble up Little Red Riding Hood—and granny too. Andersen's Little Mermaid fails to win the affections of the prince and throws herself back into the sea. As for the Grimms, their stories are an almost unrelenting parade of deadpan horrors—one child gets her hands chopped off, another is buried alive, and still another winds up in a stew that's greedily lapped up by his own unwitting father. Sweet dreams, kids! Even when the plots aren't appalling, there's a fundamentally unsettling aspect to the best fairy tales. Like bad dreams, they tap into our anxieties about the unmanageable and possibly malevolent forces threatening our safe little worlds. Just as you feared, the stories say, there are witches and wolves in the woods surrounding the castle or the cottage. The main characters may get to live happily ever after, but first they'll have to overcome some things that aren't very nice. Continue reading >> $15http://strangetree.org
Lead by creative director and conductor Duain Wolfe, this holiday special is a family-friendly event that includes classic carols and some new musical surprises.
The annual market offers a variety of German-made holiday goods from nesting dolls to cuckoo clocks. And then there's the food: schnitzel, potato pancakes, sausages, currywurst, and more. Plus: plenty of German beer, of course.
As holiday tradition goes, seeing The Nutcracker is up there with tree trimming, eggnog sipping, and passive-aggressive dinner conversation with your hyperultraconservative uncle. The Robert Joffrey-choreographed version—which relocates the action to 19th-century America—is being performed for the 26th year and features more than 100 dancers from the area dancing alongside Joffrey Ballet company. $31-$132
In Charles Dickens's classic tale, Ebenezer Scrooge has spent so many years hardening his heart against any stirring of human sympathy that he's no longer a candidate for mere redemption—his very soul needs to be reclaimed, according to the Ghost of Christmas Past. Yet in director Henry Wishcamper's production, this famous misanthrope is a mincing cream puff. In his first appearance, Larry Yando's brittle, fussy, emotionally wounded Scrooge chokes back tears as he begs his gregarious nephew to leave him to his miserable isolation. A good cry and a hot bath are all he needs—not a triple dose of supernatural intervention. This Scrooge starts five minutes from the finish line, making most of the ensuing two hours feel as dutiful and unsatisfying as a visit to a department-store Santa. —Justin Hayford $25-$83
A retrospective of work by the Chicago photographer.