The Steadfast Tin Soldier 

In an age of high-tech, high-priced Disney extravaganzas, this intimate, inexpensive, inventive little show is a treat. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a one-legged toy soldier who falls in love with a ballerina doll, this hour-long production by Germany's Meininger Puppet Theatre features a single storyteller (played here by American actor Jeffrey Burell) who draws the audience into a dream world--a dome he creates from a parachute. Surrounded by this makeshift tent, viewers watch as the story is told through shadow puppets and film projections. The effect is playful, magical, and haunting--entertaining for children and grown-ups alike and sensitive to the blend of mirth and melancholy that characterizes Andersen's classic writings. This appearance is Meininger's Chicago debut. Most shows are free, but reservations are required and in short supply; a performance benefiting the Chicago Cultural Center Foundation has been added to meet the heavy demand. Chicago Cultural Center, G.A.R. Hall, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630 or TTY 312-744-2947. Opens Thursday, September 25, 7 PM. Through September 28: Friday, 7 and 9 PM; Saturday, 4 and 7 PM; Sunday, noon and 3 PM. Free, but reservations required; $15 for Friday's 9 PM benefit performance.

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