If guests are in town for the holidays or enjoying Chicago’s festive downtown before the season ends is on the do list, think skating near skyscrapers, colorful lights, holiday trees. Think Downtown Chicago. Two ice rinks are in or next to Millennium Park and one is a short distance away at Navy Pier. Bring skates or rent them.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Operated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and special Events, the Millennium Park Foundation and presented by Hilton, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink has free admission. However, skaters need to reserve a time. Very few time slots may be available at the last minute. Sessions are 90 minutes.
The rink has been up since mid-November and continues through March 5, 2023, weather permitting. It’s at 11 N. Michigan Ave. between Randolph and Monroe Streets.
Skaters are requested to arrive 45 minutes before their reserved admission time. Snacks and hot drinks are available in Momentum Coffee and Millennium Hall. For Thursday through Sunday and holiday sessions at 5 p.m. and later, entrance is at a Security Checkpoint. For weather closure updates check Millennium Park’s facebook and twitter pages.
The Pier’s ice rink is part of “Light Up the Lake” festival on now through Jan. 7, 2023.. Bring skates or rent them, There’s no charge beyond the festival admission of $15 for adults and children. Lockers are also available. Area is not for photo and flashing light sensitive visitors. Online tickets needed.
The almost post-pandemic year of 2022 saw life return to Chicago’s stages. Here are a couple of our critic’s thoughts on some really well-done shows seen in 2022..
My favorite was the Goodman Theatre’s production of “Goodnight, Oscar” starring Sean Hayes. The play was funny, poignant and dealt with the issues of mental health, something even more relevant today than when the play took place in 1958. I knew when I reviewed it, that I had seen something quite extraordinary on stage. The ending was a triumph. The play is now headed to Broadway. Bravo! – Mira Temkin
Wow! “How (do) you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” It’s what I felt I learned walking out of Marriott Theatre Linconshire’s “The Sound of Music.” Yes, the musical has been done countless times, but it’s been a while since I have left a show thinking it was perfect. With so many factors to consider from vocals, acting and dance to script and music, some elements tend to outshine or are weaker than others in various productions. But upon leaving opening night of Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire’s “The Sound of Music,” April 20, 2022, the word that came to mind was “perfect.” – Jodie Jacobs
One of the best shows I was lucky enough to see in 2022 is still appearing through Dec. 24. It is “Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, IL. An award-winning film/video and live performance and design company, Manual Cinema brings extra layers of meaning to stories we think we know. That was definitely true to Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” reworked to apply to current situations and characters. If you go, be prepared for an unusual theatrical experience that includes ghosts, shadow puppets, an old film screen using an old projector (they call it “vintage,” and outstanding acting by LaKecia Harris as the main character, Aunt Trudy. – Jodie Jacobs
Hold onto the change-of-life theme of Charles Dickens’ famed holiday story. But toss aside your idea of puppets and a puppet theater before walking into “Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, IL.
Manual Cinema is an award-winning film/video and live performance and design company, so be prepared for an unusual theatrical experience.
What to expect: Ghosts, hand-designed shadow puppets and their scenic backgrounds, a puppet theater, zoom on a computer and on an old film screen using an old projector (they call it “vintage),” a complicated sound system and outstanding acting by LaKecia Harris as Aunt Trudy.
Aunt Trudy has been asked by her late husband Joe’s relatives to do the Christmas Carol puppet show that he did annually. She says she’s not really an aunt to the relatives watching on zoom since she never married “husband” Joe.
Her unhappiness loudly comes across at the start of the show. An approaching storm arrives, the power goes out, ghostly “puppets” intervene as Trudy realizes she must continue the Christmas Carol story with the shadow puppets, theater and ghosts. She, as was scrooge, is a different person by the end of the play.
The cast is as much behind the scenes as identifiable on stage so shout outs go to puppeteers Lizi Breit, Julia Miller and Jeffrey Paschal and also to Ben Kauffman who does lead vocals, piano, keys, and voice overs, plus Emily Meyer for violin and vocals and Kyle Vegter for cello, keys, bass and voice overs. In addition, Sarah furnace is a puppeteer understudy.
This is a must-see production because Manual Cinema brings extra layers of meaning to stories we think we know.
With so many fun, tasty and sparkling events now happening post COVID shutdowns it’s easy to miss a couple that should be on the calendar, this year.
One of a Kind
It’s an art show, a gourmet gift show and a stuffing-stocker show.
Wear comfortable walking shoes here because One of a Kind’s holiday show takes up an entire floor of The Mart. It’s that gigantic building on Wacker Drive and the Chicago River (222 Merchandise Mart Plaza).
Held Dec. 1-4, there are more than 500 booths to peruse ranging from photography, glass, wearable art jewelry, paintings and woodwork to tasty spices, chocolates, candies and sauces.
Home to the Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood is holds a Julmarknad holiday market, a St. Lucia Festival of Lights and a Julmiddag, the traditional Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord.
The Julmarknad , a holiday bazaar of Scandinavian and other crafts plus Santa and entertainment is Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m..
The St. Lucia Festival of Lights is Dec. 13 with its crowning down in the Nordic House at the Wrigley Building (400 N. Michigan Ave.) at noon and the candle-lit procession in Andersonville on Clark Street beginning at 4:45 p.m. VisitSt. Lucia Festival of Lights.
Then the Julmiddag smörgåsbord is at the Museum Dec. 18, 2022 at 5 p.m. It includes a St. Lucia procession, a visit from Tomten (Santa) and dancing around the Christmas tree. Make reservations at julmiddag. by Dec. 13.
Two shows, Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” and Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” top many holiday lists. Whether they are a family tradition or now on the calendar’s bucket list to do this year, they are such good productions that they deserve the annual visit.
“A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens’ ghostly tale of the redemption of a miser named Scrooge, is at the Goodman Theatre Nov. 19-Dec. 31. Famed Chicago actor Larry Yando is back for his 15th year in the starring role. For tickets and more information visit Goodman Theatre. Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago.
“The Nutcracker,” The Joffrey Ballet’s wonderous story of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince’s adventures choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music. Formerly at the Auditorium Theatre, it is on stage at the Civic Opera House, Dec. 3-27, 2022. The Civic Opera House, home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Joffrey Ballet The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker | Joffrey Ballet.
Two unusual shows to see this season are the “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago and Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre, Glencoe.
Both productions use puppetry, are artistic and creative. Only Manual Cinema’s contains a parental advisory but it could apply to both shows. MC’s advisory reads “brief moments of profanity and themes of grief and losing a loved one. Children under six are not permitted.
“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is a Hans Christian Andersen tale told with the flare of ensemble member/director Mary Zimmerman. Adults would appreciate her creativity and the high quality of the production. However, the story and ending could be frightening to a young child as the Tin Soldier perseveres through a myriad of trials that ends with him and his ballerina love getting incinerated together. “The Steadfast Tin soldier” is at Lookingglass theatre now through Jan. 8, 2023. Lookingglass Theatre Company
Lookingglass Theatre is at the historic Waterworks at 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Lookingglass.
Manual Cinema takes a different path to the telling of Dickens ghost story in “Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre. Using puppets, cinematography, modern themes and music, the story starts when Aunt Trudy is asked to put her diseased husband’s Christmas cheer on a family Zoom call. The action changes as the puppets move into Ebeneezer and Dickens storytelling. Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 2022.
Writers Theatre is at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. For tickets and more information visit Writers Theatre.
Mark the calendar or add to the mobile phone places to go the day after Thanksgiving. One event is only Friday. The others start that day but go for a few weeks to just over a month.
Wreathing of the Lions
Be at the Art Institute of Chicago at 9 a.m. Nov. 25, 2022 to celebrate when the museum’s two famed lions are adorned with their holiday wreaths. The event is at the 111 S. Michigan Ave. entrance
Millennium Park Sing Along
Join groups and visitors at Cloud Gate (The Bean) on Fridays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 16, 2022 to celebrate holiday and other songs from 6 to 7 p.m. supported by the Millennium Park and Pritzker Foundations.
An indoor lights festival that includes a winter wonderland forest, Santa, animated lights display and skating rink, Light Up the Lake runs Nov. 25, 2022 through Jan. 7, 2023. Tickets are $15. For tickets and more information visit Light up the Lake. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave.
Instead of going the Dickens or Christmas Story route, Citadel Theatre is doing “It Runs in the Family,” a classic British farce by comedic playwright Ray Cooney of “Run For Your Wife” and “Funny Money” fame.
Its setting is a London hospital right before Christmas where presents for children are hidden like a body beneath a covered gurney and references to a Christmas Panto (a nutty pantomime) give it the requisite holiday note.
But anyone familiar with farces know that what really is important is a fast-paced rhythm of entrances and exits, revelations, mistaken (or not) identities and flow of ribald, fat fanny and rear-end gags.
The Citadel cast is excellent but on the Sunday I went, the first half of the first act felt slow and the audience didn’t pick up the gags until later.
Timing and pace is everything in a farce. It finally picked up speed and the characters threw their lines out with gusto during the second half of the first act which the audience appreciated with loud snickers, guffaws and applause.
All the action takes place in the doctors’ common room where Dr. David Mortimore is trying to prepare for his important, possibly career-making, speech to a conference of neurologists- when.
The not-so-morally-good doctor, played by Tim Walsh, had lots of reasons to be overly anxious. Walsh is believable as Mortimore if this were a regular play and not a farce. It’s actually OK to overplay anxiety.
Former nurse Jane Tate (Aimee Kleiman who also played her role as if it were a regular play) confronts Dr. Mortimore with the reason she had to quit 18 years and 9 months ago. Their illegitimate son, Leslie, is downstairs with a policeman because he drove drunk but wants to meet his father.
Mortimore’s wife, Rosemary Mortimore, portrayed by the consummate actress Ellen Phelps, shows up, is not supposed to know about the nurse or Leslie but sympathizes with all the tall tales her husband tells to cover up everything that is going on.
Matron, a terrific foil for all the goings on is perfectly played by Debra Rodkin as she is in and out with the gurney, holds a needle to subdue Leslie who has made his way upstairs to the doctors’ room, and she is yelling outside the window that she can’t hold on any longer while stopping Leslie from falling, entering or leaving.
Dr. Hubert Bonney, a good friend of Dr. Mortimore, well-portrayed by David Whitlock is also an excellent foil for the shenanigans and agrees to temporarily pretend he is Leslie’s father.
Leslie, the misbegotten reason for the action, is done by Declan Poll as a punk-rocker-style teenager who elicits sympathy because he just wants to meet his Dad.
Pompous Sir Willoughby Drake who wants to go over Dr. Mortimore’s speech, is well-handled by Ed Kufferft and elicits a fine chuckle when he sees Leslie bending in front of Mortimore.
Dr. Mike Connolly whom we meet early on when he tries on a tutu and other costume items for the Panto is delightfully portrayed by Philip J. Macaluso.
Police Sergeant. Don’t most farces need a policeman? Chris Bruzzini takes on that role but he could be played as more befuddled or with more personality than shown.
Scenic designer Eric Luchen makes full use of the small Citadel stage with two hospital-like doors, two regular doors and a window that is just right for some hilarious scenes.
Costume designer Elizabeth Monti had us believing we were in a hospital and Leslie was a nutty punk rocker.
Directed by Pat Murphy, the show is a nice change from the tear inducing Christmas dramas trying to make a statement this time of year.
DETAILS: “It Runs in the Family” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 South Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest, IL., through Dec. 18, 2022. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre. Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554.
Visitors to The Art Center of Highland Park are treated to three different aspects of three-dimensional art in “Objects Oriented,” TAC’s latest exhibition.
Opened Nov. 18 and up through Dec. 30, 2022, the show features the designs and furniture of Norman Teague, the collages, designer kites, metal and ceramic sculptures of Michael Thompson and the unusual vessels of Zachary Weber.
TAC’s exhibition is a chance to see the works of the three artists at the same time. They’re all graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago and have reviews and gallery shows.
Teague is also an educator and an enabler of emerging artists. He was the lead craftsman and co-founder of the Design Apprenticeship Program at the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator and is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois Chicago’s School of Industrial Design.
Walk into the Center Gallery to view Teague’s “Objects for Change” exhibit.
Thompson likes to see the possibilities in objects other folk may discard or use differently. He cobbles them together as ceramics and interwoven designs.
Take a left turn into the Cindi Elkins Gallery to see his “Re-Oriented” exhibit.
Zachary Weber is facinated by vessels and how they may be used. He says you may call them pottery). See his works “UnContained” in the Meryl Levenstein Gallery.
The Art Center of Highland Park is at 1957 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, IL
Plan now because it seems everything from tree lightings and light festivals are starting early this year.
Remember when we used to think the holiday season began with Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade early on “Turkey Day?” Then the Mag Mile pre-empted that with Mickey and Minnie Mouse turning on Michigan Avenue’s lights north of the Chicago River, accompanied by Santa. Meanwhile, Macy’s was following Marshal Field’s tradition of a Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful holiday windows.
Chicago area’s two big zoos soon added to the holiday places-to-visit calendar with lights and animation. More recently gardens and nature walks such as the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Garden, got into the holiday spirit with color, lights and movement. Germany said, why not, so entered Chicago’s holiday season with the Christkindle Market.
Macy’s liked Marshal Field’s tradition so continue the Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful, story-telling holiday windows.
Keeping track of what is around, when and where in the Chicago area can be challenging even when suburban and neighborhood residents mark their calendars with local tree lightings and events. So here is a short guide to the main holiday happenings.
Already started early November
Macy’s came out with their Great Tree Lighting, Santa visits, Walnut Room availability and windows theme the first week of November.
What to know: The Great Tree is 45 feet tall and is decorated on a toy-shop theme and is up through Jan. 8 2023. Santa Claus photo ops and wish whispers have to be reserved in advance. Santa is in his toy workshop on the Fifth Floor and reservations to visit him go through Dec. 24, 2022. The windows are already decorated and good for photos through Jan. 1, 2022. For reservations and more information visit Macy’s Holiday Celebrations: Visit Santa & More – 2022 (macys.com)
Macy’s is at 111 N State St., Chicago.
Second week in November
The switch went on and the last installation was done when Lightscape opened to Friends and Family at the Chicago Botanic Garden Nov. 9. Opened to the public (advance tickets needed) Nov. 11, Lightscape casts a fantasy vision over paths, trees, ponds and plantings with lights and music. It continues through Jan. 8, 2023. For tickets and more information visit Chicago Botanic/Lightscape.
Third week and weekend in November
This is a very busy time for holiday events ranging from the city’s tree lighting and a European holiday market to zoo lights and lit paths at an arboretum.
Go downtown for Chicago’s tree lighting Nov. 18 in Millenium Park. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. with a pre-program at 5 p.m. The action is near Cloud Gate on the Grainger Stage. Visitors should enter at the South Promenade on Monroe Street east of Michigan Avenue. Don’t expect the lighting to happen until 6:30 but stay because fireworks follow the ceremony. For more information visit City of Chicago :: City of Chicago Christmas Tree
The German village-style Christkindl Market opens Nov. 18 a few blocks west of Millennium Park on Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. A fun place to find gifts or take a yummy break from work or shopping, the Market is up through Dec. 24. For Chicago information visit Christkindlmarket | Holiday Market 2022 | Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo spreads out just west of Lake Michigan between downtown Chicago and Wrigleyville so visitors sometimes try to couple its Zoolights with another holiday goodie. Presented by Com Ed with Invesco QQQ,, Zoolights is an impressive display at the city’s free zoo and costs only $5 a ticket for this holiday event. Zoo lights is Nov. 19, 2022 through Jan. 1, 2023. For hours, dates and more information visit ZooLights.
Also opening Jan 19 is the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. Running through Jan. y7, 2023, Illumination transforms a mile long path among trees, meadow and gardens into a fairytale land of light, sound and color. The event combines old favorites such as the Enchanted Forest and Treeimagination, with new installations such as Late Nite Electric Illumination, tall, mirrored towers and a finale in the new Grand Garden. For more information visit Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum | The Morton Arboretum
Wait, as the commercials say: There’s more.
Last but not at all least this week is the Magnificent (Mag) Mile Lights Festival’s parade and day of activities starting at 11 a.m. at 401 N. Michigan Ave. Sponsored by Wintrust, the parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Mickey and Minnie Mouse (from the Walt Disney World Resort) lead the parade as they magically turn on one million lights along North Michigan Avenue.
What to expect: floats, helium balloons, marching bands, musical performances, Santa Claus ending with fireworks at the Chicago River. The event will also stream on Nov. 20 on ABC. For more information visit MagMileLights.
A giant helium balloon floats over State Street during a Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. (J Jacobs photo)
Fourth week and weekend in November
Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade brings the sounds of cymbals, blares of trumpets and the sight of giant helium balloons and beautiful floats to State Street, that main street, Nov. 24.
The parade goes from Ida B Wells Drive at the south end to Randolph on the north. Figure that bands and entertainment from some of Chicago’s theaters could start as early as 8 a.m. and go to 11 a.m. For more information visit Chicago Thanksgiving Parade.
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo starts Nov. 25 and continues on specific dates through Dec. 31 from 3 to 9 p.m. Presented by ComEd and Meijer, the zoo is a blaze with two miles of lights and colors moving to synchronized music.A new feature is a 600-foot “Tunnel of Lights” by Xfinity.
You don’t have to be a professional in the theater industry to feel like one.
Goodman theatre is holding its 18th annual New Stages Festival showcasing new works Dec. 1-18, 2022. The Festival is free and audience input is welcome because the works, ranging from full productions to readings, are in different readiness stages so have yet to be premiered.
“There are two ways of presenting them,” said New Works Director Jonathan L. Green who curated the 2022 selection.
“Some have gone through developmental work and others are readings,” Green said during a recent phone interview.
“Readings are in their early development where you listen to the dialogue and storytelling. Developmental works are plays that are further along and need to be on their feet,“ he said and explained. “Sometimes it’s a matter of sequences of scenes and transitions. It’s a chance to see it in 3D.”
“It’s easy to imagine how exciting it is to see how it works in front of a Goodman audience,” said Green. “It’s a nice feeling to see your work in front of a packed house”
His criteria when choosing works for the Festival are “a good balance,” that means “a great mix of stories, topics and structure” and also a mix of “emerging and longtime” writers.
He finds them in a variety of ways. “We look for a balance works by those who are local, out of town and nationally known. Some plays and playwrights have been drawn to our attention.”
About a third of the works from past festivals have made it on to the Goodman’s season schedules.
“We’ve had people who say they have seen the play at a Festival and now, two years later, see it as part of the Goodman season and see how it has changed.”
His assessment of this year’s Festival? “I think this year’s batch is well-balanced and there is a wonderful array of stories.”
What can Festival goers expect? The Developmental plays run 90 minutes to two hours. Readings range from 75 minutes to three hours. Audiences are generally made up of subscribers and others who have heard of the Festival with the third week primarily consisting of theater industry professionals.
Two staged developmental productions: “This Happened Once at the Romance Depot off the I-87 in Westchester”by Gina Femia, directed by Kimberly Senior and “Rust” by Nancy García Loza, directed by Laura Alcalá Baker.
Four script-in-hand staged readings: “White Monkey” by Charlie Oh, directed by Eric Ting, “Fever Dreams” (of Animals on the Verge of Extinction) by Jeffrey Lieber directed by Susan V. Booth (Goodman Theatre Artistic Director), “Modern Women” by Omer Abbas Salem, directed by Lavina Jadhwani, and “What Will Happen to All That Beauty?” by Donja R. Love, directed by Malika Oyetimein.