Ten years have passed since The House Theatre of Chicago first presented their original, contemporary version of E. T. A. Hoffman’s classic story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”
Whenever theatergoers hear that iconic title, forever associated with Christmas, they envision fairies and a toy that comes to life to bravely battle a Mouse King to rescue a little girl named Clara.
They imagine a dazzling spectacle, a lavishly-produced ballet, featuring dozens of lithe, magnificently skilled dancers. They picture lush, imaginative costumes and a story set in a magical land of snowflakes and flowers.
But with neither a tutu nor a toe shoe in sight, the House Theatre once again revives its popular production of their modern, family-friendly adaptation, loosely based upon the original tale.
Imagine what if. What if Marie Stahlbaum’s nutcracker Christmas gift and her dream, a tale by E.T. A. Hoffmann, and adapted by Alexandre Dumas that was first presented with Tchaikovsky’s music in 1892, changed location and style.
What if it moved from a wealthy, European estate to Chicago where dreams were possible for a young girl who lived in a shack. And, what if the story kept the late 19th century date.
What was going on in Chicago that year was preparation for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition also called the Chicago World’s Fair. It celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’1492 landing in the “new world.” Indeed, the Chicago World’s Fair dedication was in 1892 but the fair didn’t open until 1893.
Imagine all the possibilities the fair with its multi-cultural pavilions and its noted (first) Ferris Wheel as a background might hold for a ballet.
Once the food and fuss of Thanksgiving has been set aside in the fridge and dishwasher there should be more to holiday fun than trying brave the crowds in stores on Friday and shop on line on Monday. There is a wonderful ballet and opera that opens, an art show full of gift ideas and a zoo that becomes magical on the weekends.
One of a Kind Show
Find gifts at the One of a Kind Show at the Mart. Artists bring their sculptures, paintings, jewelry, ceramics, furniture and fashions. And vendors bring gourmet foods. The show is fun and it’s hard to leave without finding something for others or oneself.
The show runs Dec.6 through 9 at Merchandise Mart, on the north side of the Chicago River bordered by Kinzie, Wells and Orleans Streets. For tickets, hours and other information visit One of a Kind Show.
Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic
Visit Brookfield Zoo when more than a million colorful lights edgbe buildings, form larger-than-life animal shapes and line the paths – thanks to Comed and Meijer. Holiday Magic is on Saturdays and Sundays of December weekends and also Wednesday through Monday of Dec. 26-31.
Tip: look for the Talking Tree and the special entertainment scheduled each weekend. Park and enter at the North Gate, 8400 31st St. (1st Avenue at 31st Street), Brookfield. For admission, hours and a complete schedule of Holiday Magic activities and entertainment call (708) 688-8000 and visit CZS Holiday Magic.
Two December First show openings
Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” and the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Cinderella” open Dec. 1, 2018. “The Nutcracker” runs through Dec. 30,2018 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on Congress Blvd. at Michigan Avenue. This is the re-imagined staging by choreographer/director Christopher Wheeldon that takes place at the 1893 World’s Fair. The music is Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famed ballet. For tickets and more information visit Joffrey Nutcracker.
“Cinderella,” Jules Massenet” magical “Cendrillon” comes to life with funny, wicked, charming characters and delightful arias at the Lyric Opera House at six performances from Dec. 1, 2018 to Jan. 20, 2019. For tickets and information visit Lyric Opera Cendrillon.
If you don’t want to be saying “Oops” this holiday season then 1. Don’t wait to get tickets to the shows you or your family want to see and 2. Do put those holiday events you want to go to on the calendar.
The good news is that there are numerous great holiday shows and happenings in the Chicago area. The problem news is that the many places to go, things to do and see make it hard to narrow down the choices to what is doable.
Tip: Be realistic when weighing what is manageable with kids, tired feet and meal breaks.
The following suggestions offer three Chicago area choices in each category – shows, shopping and spectacular lights and sights:
Where: In Goodman Theatre’s Albert Theatre at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago
Why: Goodman’s production of Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol” is a Chicago tradition that never gets old with new staging often added. But the show is also a talking point for families on what is important.
Where: Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr. (50 E. Congress Pkwy) at Michigan Ave.
Why: Going to the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” is also a Chicago holiday tradition. It was beautifully re-imagined last year by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon as a visit by Marie and her mother to the 1893 World’s Fair. The mysterious Great Impresario turns the visit into an adventure. And it is all set to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music.
Where: Lookingglass theatre is in the Chicago Water Works at 821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago.
Why: Lookingglass productions are highly innovative, well acted and engrossing. This tale based on a Hans Christian Andersen story is being staged as an exciting spectable by ttalented, creative Mary Zimmerman.
Where: On line and at the museum, front entrance at 111 S. Michigan Ave. and the Modern Wing entrance at 159 E. Monroe St.
Why: Gift shop entrances do not need admission fees or tickets. The shops carry one-of-a kind gifts that won’t bust the budget. The Modern Wing has good glass items and the main gift shop has excellent jewelry and ties. Both shops have Frank Lloyd Wright items and gifts inspired by other artists. Also visitors like to take holiday photos with the wreathed lions in front.
Where: In Lincoln Park at 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago
Why: See the animals while strolling among 2,5 million lights thanks to Com Ed and Invesco. Also visit Santa, watch ice carving, sip warm spiced wine, snack on holiday treats and watch a 3D light show.
Why: the Garden’s event is called Wonderland Express but before going into the building that has trains zipping through Chicago landmarks, see trees and walkways lit by thouands of lights and visit the greenhouses’ topiaries and poinsettias. Then don’t worry about the “snow” falling on shoulders inside the exhibit building. It’s all about fun and winter wonders.
If you’ve lived in the Chicago area more than a year or have visited it during the holidays in past years, some shows and events spring quickly to mind when talking about traditional doings. Others are less likely to make it to the calendar simply because they’re not necessarily headliners in a city rich in good theater, music, dance and art.
A charming and fun adaptation of The Nutcracker’ is at Marriott Theatre now through Dec. 20, 2016. As part of Marriott’s Theatre for Young Audiences series, the Mouse King is comic rather than scary but with deft direction and choreography by Matt Raftery, the show will delight all ages.
The signs of the season are there. Macy’s windows have come alive with moving characters, holiday market tents are going up in Daley Plaza, a giant evergreen is hoisted in Millennium Park and people are wondering if we should pray for cold to have good ice in the park or warm weather for good shopping.
No matter what the weather holds, here are a few of the jolly, holly ways to celebrate the season in the Chicago area.