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Area theaters brighten the holidays Area theaters brighten the holidays
By Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff

"500 Clown Christmas"

 

"The Second City's Exceedingly Dysfunctional Holiday Revue"

 

Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol"

 

"It's a Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre"

 

"Miracle on 34th Street"

 

"The Snow Queen"

 

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Published: 11/27/2009 12:01 AM

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For the 12 days of Christmas, the theater community gave to me - a multitude of holiday treats.

The season may be woefully short of partridges in pear trees, but city and suburban stages over the next few weeks will be staging more "Christmas Carols" than you can count, several seasonal sendups and a selection of "Nutcrackers" aiming to please everyone from purists to fans of rock 'n' roll.

In fact, it would take far more than 12 days to hit them all because theatergoers have so many shows to pick from in the weeks ahead.

Here's a seasonal sampling:

Traditional 'Carol'

At 32 years and counting, Goodman Theatre's annual production of "A Christmas Carol" is the granddaddy of them all. Larry Yando returns as Scrooge under the direction of William Brown, who marks his 17th year with the production - the last four as director. The show runs through Dec. 31 at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org.

Arlington Heights' Metropolis Performing Arts Centre livens up its annual production of "A Christmas Carol" with new musical dance numbers, costumes and redesigned special effects. Brad Dunn directs the show starring Buffalo Grove's Steve Lehtman as Scrooge. The show begins previews Friday, Nov. 27, and opens Sunday, Nov. 28, at 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com.

A classic re-imagined

Actor/writer Tom Mula published "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol," an account of Charles Dickens' classic through the eyes of Scrooge's longtime partner. Mula and the Organic Theatre Company bring the stage version of the novel to the Meiley-Swallow Hall at North Central College, 31 S. Ellsworth St., Naperville, from Dec. 10 to 12. (630) 637-7469 or northcentralcollege.edu/show.

Singing Scrooges

Gene Weygandt stars as Scrooge in Marriott Theatre for Young Audience's production of the Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens musical "A Christmas Carol." The all-star cast also includes Bernie Yvon, Susan Moniz, Hollis Resnik and Summer Smart. The show runs through Jan. 2 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire.

Steel Beam Theatre's production of the Menken-Ahrens musical runs through Dec. 20, at 111 W. Main St., St. Charles. Steel Beam also hosts a sing along with Santa at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays, through Dec. 20. (630) 587-8521 or steelbeamtheatre.com.

Drury Lane Oak Brook Theatre invites families to a breakfast or dinner buffet with Santa preceding performances of its musical production of "A Christmas Carol," running through Dec. 21 at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. (630) 530-0111 or drurylaneoakbrook.com.

Seasonal satires

L. Ron Hubbard and Tom Cruise are among the devotees skewered in "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant." Evanston's Next Theatre presents a revised version of the musical, an Obie Award-winning Scientology sendup set against a nativity play. The show begins previews Saturday, Dec. 5. It opens Dec. 7 and runs through Jan. 3 at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., Evanston. (847) 475-1875, ext. 2 or nexttheatre.org.

A Red Orchid Theatre reprises last year's hit production of the "Scientology Pageant" musical at 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago. The show runs through Jan. 3. (312) 943-8722 or aredorchidtheatre.org.

Mitchell Fain dons the striped tights and pointy hat once again to headline Theatre Wit's annual production of "The Santaland Diaries," the stage adaptation of David Sedaris' recollection of his stint working as a Macy's elf. The show opens Friday, Nov. 27, and runs through Jan. 2, at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. (773) 327-5252 or theaterwit.org.

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre pairs the sublime with the irreverent when it hosts the "Exceedingly Dysfunctional Holiday Revue," Second City's annual holiday incursion into the Northwest suburbs, beginning Friday, Nov. 27, at 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com.

Puppets and pageantry

Redmoon Theatre's annual Winter Pageant combines the company's trademark penchant for spectacle with its trademark humanity. The show runs through Dec. 27 at Redmoon Central, 1563 W. Hubbard St., Chicago. (312) 850-8440, ext. 111 or redmoon.org.

A winter tale

After serving as choreographer for two previous productions, Drury Lane Theatre Oak Brook's Jim Corti takes over the directing duties for Victory Gardens Theater's "The Snow Queen," inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. A beguiling, highly visual piece of theater about the power of friendship and faith, the show features a score by folk musician Michael Smith and provocative puppets by Blair Thomas. Previews begin Friday, Nov. 27, at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The family-friendly show opens Monday, Nov. 30, and runs through Dec. 27. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org.

Family friendly

O. Henry's tale of love and sacrifice, "The Gift of the Magi," is re-imaged by EverGreen Theatre Ensemble's Daniel A. Scurek as a time-shifting tale in which a sympathetic reindeer and a mischievous elf conspire to give a poor couple a happy Christmas. The show opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs through Dec. 19 at the Naperville Women's Club, 14 S. Washington St., Naperville. (630) 544-9504 or evergreentheatreensemble.org.

The Annoyance Theatre, a company best known for its adult fare, turns the tables to deliver a kid-friendly production of "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer," opening Friday, Nov. 27, at 4830 N. Broadway, Chicago. (773) 561-4665 or theannoyance.com.

Santa's better half takes center stage in "Mrs. Claus! A Holiday Musical," a Chicago Kids Company production running Dec. 1 to 23 at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, and Dec. 16 to 18 at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago. (773) 205-9600 or chicagokidscompany.com.

Munster's Theatre at the Center rings in the holidays with a revival of "The Christmas Schooner." Set in the wake of the Chicago Fire of 1871, the musical by actor/writer John Reeger and lyricist Julie Shannon centers on German immigrants who introduce Christmas trees to Chicago residents still traumatized by the tragedy. The show runs through Dec. 20 at 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind. (219) 836-3255 or theatreatthecenter.com.

For grown-ups only

For a delightfully subversive, anti-Rockwellian interpretation of Dickens' beloved "Carol" check out "500 Clown Christmas," showcasing the talent of clowns Molly Brennan, Adrian Danzig and Paul Kalina, whose search for the meaning of Christmas is accompanied by composer John Fournier's original tunes. The show runs Dec. 18 to 23 at the Madden Theater at North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. (630) 637-7469 or boxoffice@noctrl.edu.

Everyone's favorite transvestite reindeer returns in Hell in a Handbag's 12th production of "Rudolph, The Red-Hosed Reindeer." David Cerda's parody of the beloved TV special centers on the attempts of Rudolph and his misfit friends to find happiness in the chilly confines of the North Pole. The show begins previews Thursday, Dec. 3, at Mary's Attic, 5400 W. Clark St., Chicago. It runs through Jan. 2. (800) 838-3006 orhandbagproductions.com.

Anarchist elves, disgruntled employees and one escaped convict populate "Silent Nightmare - A Christmas Dirge," a darkly comic Christmas show running through Dec. 26 at the Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway, Chicago. (773) 561-4665 or theannoyance.com.

Radio-style retro

The Hemmens Cultural Center goes retro to re-imagine Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre" as a 1946 radio drama complete with live sound effects. The production by NC Stage Company and the Immediate Theatre Project runs at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at 45 Symphony Way, Elgin. (847) 931-5900 or hemmens.org.

The Improv Playhouse Radio Theater takes its production of "It's a Wonderful Life" on the road. The company performs the show Dec. 11 to 13 at the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center at 2007 Civic Center Way and Dec. 17 to 21 at the company's home at 735 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville. (847) 968-4529 or improvplayhouse.com.

The recently revived American Blues Theater celebrates its 24th season with its retooled version of Capra's classic. "It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph" runs Friday, Nov. 27, to Dec. 27 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 871-3000 or americanbluestheater.com.

American Theater Company's "It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play" runs Monday, Nov. 30, to Dec. 27 at 1909 W. Byron St., Chicago. (773) 409-4125 or atcweb.org.

'Miracle' on stage

Porchlight Music Theatre premieres its new show, "Miracle on 34th Street," adapted from the 1947 film, about a kindly gentleman who calls himself Kris Kringle and tries to convince a cynical single mother and her daughter that he's the real Santa Claus. The production runs through Jan. 3 at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. (773) 327-5252 or porchlighttheatre.com.

TV memories

Village Players Theater debuts it original show, "Chad Morton's TV Christmas Miracle," a sendup of 1960s holiday specials in which an aging Hollywood star tries to boost the plummeting ratings of his annual Christmas extravaganza by featuring pop stars and go-go dancers. Doug Long directs the production, which features music by Keith Harrison. Previews begin Thursday, Dec. 3. The show opens Saturday, Dec. 5, and runs through Dec. 20 at 1010 Madison St., Oak Park. (866) 764-1010 or village-players.org.

Cracking the 'Nutcracker'

The Civic Ballet of Chicago recreates Ruth Page's staging of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" - an Arie Crown Theatre mainstay for 32 years - at Centre East. Performances are Saturday, Dec. 12, and Sunday, Dec. 13, at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. (847) 673-6300 or northshorecenter.org.

The Salt Creek Ballet performs "The Nutcracker" at 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Paramount Theatre, E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com. Meanwhile, Ballet Chicago brings its version of the classic tale about the girl who dreams of a dashing Nutcracker Prince to the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, from Dec. 18 to 20. (800) 982-2787 or balletchicago.org.

Emerald City Theatre offers a rock 'n' roll take on the story in "A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas," in which a boy named Fritz finds himself drawn into a video game where he helps the Nutcracker battle the Mouse King. Performances run through Jan. 2 at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 935-6100 or emeraldcitytheatre.com.

Jedlicka Performing Arts Center puts a new spin on the ballet with its world premiere production "The Nutcracker Sings!" in which Clara and the Prince battle the evil Rat Queen. The show opens Friday, Nov. 27, and runs through Dec. 12 at 3801 S. Central Ave., Cicero. (708) 656-1800 or jpactheatre.com.