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.
Marie and her Nutcraker Prince journey through Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair in Christoper Wheeldon’s reimagined classic. The show runs Dec. 4 through Dec. 26, 2021. For tickets and more information visit Performances | Joffrey Ballet. The Lyric Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago.
Larry Yando once again takes audiences on Ebenezer Scrooge’s path from the character who defined the meaning of scrooge to his change into a generous and kind person.
Last year, the 2020 show experience was audio. This year, the production will be back at Goodman Theatre Nov. 20 through Dec. 31, 2021. Adopted by Tom Creamer, and directed by Jessica Thebus, the show marks its 44th production.
A new path, new installations but also some old favorites including Cathedral and Singing Trees will be at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s 2021 edition of Lightscape. , a popular holiday event that sold out last year.
A popular holiday event that sold out last year, Lightscape runs Nov. 12, 2021 through Jan 2, 2022. For tickets and more information visit Lightscape.(Nonmembers also need parking.) Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe.
The Morton Arboretum turns the light, color, actions on its trees at Illumination, Nov. 20, 2021 through Jan 2, 2022. New will be a Human Nature display and colorful lanterns. The mile-long path features a roast marshmallow stop for s’mores.
For tickets and more information visit Morton Arboretum. Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Rt. 53, Lisle.
ED Note: When getting tickets note that proof of full vax needed for 12 and older and recent negative test under 12 for indoor shows: Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. Also check requirements for outdoor shows: Lightscape and Illumination when buying tickets.
“Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure” taped live at Chicago Shakespeare Theater two years ago, is now streaming live free of charge (donations appreciated) through Jan. 1, 2021. It is a newly re-mastered recording of the company’s 2018 production.
Directed and choreographed by Amber Mak, it delightfully proves that not everything watched this time of year has to have a Christmas or Hanukkah theme. Really good for youngsters ages 8-10, its music, story, aerial choreography and 80-minute run-time, makes it entertaining for all ages. For more information visit Chicago Shakespeare Theater
An extended Christmas show
“Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol,” Dicken’s moralistic holiday story but with an updated twist, has been extended through Dec. 31, 2020. Originally seen live at specific ticketed times through Dec. 20, the production is now streaming 24/7 through Marquee TV. Tickets are $15.
American Blues Theater has been doing a live retelling of “It’s a wonderful Live: Live from Chicago,” for more than 19 years. Patterned after the Frank Capra classic as a 1940s radio broadcast with terrific sound effects, the show is continuing through Jan. 2, 2021. For more information visit AmericanBluesTheater/Wonderful Life.
Theatre in the Dark celebrates the end of 2020 with their spin on Charles Dickens’ beloved classic tale of self-reflection and repentance.
My first impulse is to suggest that this year more than others in recent memory is a perfect time to reflect on the disparities between the haves and the have-nots. But I realize that human suffering and greed are continually with us to a greater or lesser degree and that the Christmas spirit as defined by Dickens is our meager attempt once a year to rise above petty self-interests and consider the greater good. “God bless us, every one.”
“A Christmas Carol” is a fictional expose on the Victorian life and times of Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, a character whose very name has become synonymous with miserliness, as in “That guy is a real Scrooge.”
In the story, this tightwad scrimps on coal in the winter months, begrudges his only clerk a day off to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the family and, in response to a solicitation of aid to the poor asks, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”
When pointed out that many would rather die than go there, Scrooge suggests that “If they would rather die, they’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
His comment exemplifies a degree of callousness and disregard for the welfare of others for no reason other than to hoard his wealth which we learn brings him no personal pleasure.
As the story begins, Scrooge is visited by the specter of Jacob Marley, his deceased business partner. Marley warns of the torments he has endured in the afterlife as a result of his own greed and indifference. He suggests Scrooge may escape the same fate if he undergoes visitations with three additional apparitions – the ghosts of Christmas present, past and future.
Through a nightmarish one-night odyssey, Scrooge sees his negative effect on others, his disregard of positive role models and a lonely end and lamentable legacy if he does not change.
Dickens’ story continues to work as a modern day parable, revealing the darker nature that lurks within us all.
Scrooge’s journey of self-discovery demonstrates that we can each contribute by paying a little more attention to our place within our community and our part in society.
Observing the loving interactions of the Cratchit family and the kind words of nephew Fred, we realize that it is not just about money. We can be greedy with our emotions and personal interactions as well.
Dickens and the cast of Theater in the Dark also pull at our heart strings through the now iconic character of Tiny Tim who, in contrast to Scrooge, has come to exemplify innocent good cheer in the face of adversity and demonstrates that love does not require monetary wealth but can be given freely in abundance.
This iteration of “A Christmas Carol” is offered as an Internet version of a radio drama designed to be enjoyed in a now, largely bygone, aural tradition. Delivered via zoom it requires only a good set of speakers or a headset. The experience is very much like sitting around your living room reading aloud with friends.
There were no real standout performances though Corey Bradberry as Scrooge did a credible job weaving a thread of continuity throughout the production. The rest of the cast was more than adequate but really broke no new ground nor did they really rise to the level of any of the well-known movie versions or other well regarded stage adaptations.
Still, I do not fault Theatre in the Dark for taking a stab at this. After all, live theater is about having your crack at stepping into the skin of various characters and seeing what it’s like to be them.
This is an ensemble production with each of the actors Sarah Althen, Kathleen Puls, Mack Gordon, and Corey Bradberry playing several roles. The story was adapted and directed by Mack Gordon, featuring original music by Jake Sorgen with sound design by Gordon.
The danger of doing a classic is akin to being a cover band. If you do not play exactly like the original you will be criticized for not being an exact replica. The other option is to be completely original so it is clear you are doing something fresh.
In this case, think Bill Murray’s version or the Mr. Magoo cartoon version, that has become a classic in its own right.
Unfortunately this company really did neither so the question becomes why choose this version over a number of other options? The main reason is the audio aspect.
If you or your kids have not experienced a radio drama you might find this a refreshing option. If the listener has no previous experience with the play they will be relieved of the burden of comparison.
Finally, Theater in the Dark offers a pay as you please option so it’s a great way to try something new while supporting smaller theater companies during the stay-at-home-period.
To be clear I did not dislike this performance but would put it into the realm of a very good reading as opposed to a thoughtfully well-crafted production. If you’re home with the kids, consider this as a way to develop listening skills sitting in the dark and enjoy some peaceful quiet time together.
Interestingly, the cast is simultaneously in Chicago, Philadelphia and Vancouver which expands the notion of live theater. The Internet performance is delivered via Zoom with the help of stage manager/sound engineer Cory Bradberry.
I listened via an iPad with amplified computer speakers connected via an analog cable which allowed me to easily adjust the volume in the room. There is no picture to be concerned with so screen sharing is basically a useless option. Also be forewarned that screen sharing via Zoom in most cases will not broadcast the audio so keep it as simple as possible by using a tablet or computer.
Theatre in the Dark is offering Live online performances of “A Christmas Carol” through December 24, 2020. Running time is about 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are available at www.theatreinthedark.com. For info only (no ticketing), call (312) 285-0314.
Manual Cinema, an innovative company that blends story-telling, puppetry, actors, music and sound to tell a story, mixes Charles Dickens’ moralistic holiday tale with current phrases and crises in its premiere of “Manual Cinema A Christmas Carol.”
Given the current pandemic challenges, instead of presenting the show at Court Theatre where the company did “Frankenstein” or Chopin Theatre for “End of TV, its take on the Dickens’ story streams live to audiences per performance from Manual Cinema’s Chicago studio.
An early clue that audiences will be experiencing more than the basic story of Scrooge’s enlightenment, are the cards on a mantel behind actor/puppeteer N. LaOuis Harkins who introduces the story as Aunt Trudy and is the voice behind each character. The cards range from holiday wishes to get well and condolences.
“Trudy,” married to Joe whom she said died of COVID in August, is going through her late husband’s story-telling box of puppets. Her seemingly drawn-out reluctance to use them and present the tale for family members on zoom, makes sense at the end.
But the story needs to unfold so no ALERT here. Just appreciate the tale’s broader message. Oh, and have Kleenex handy for the graveyard scene.
So many Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to see On Demand, stream live or hear, such as Goodman Theatre’s audio drama. And so little time. Wait! With the pandemic still going on there is plenty of time to catch a couple more interpretations.
Among them is Writers Theatre’s “One-Man A Christmas Carol” acted, narrated and adopted by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam, reviewed here. Another one that will be reviewed tomorrow is Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol.”
Because each production is different and brings the strengths of a professional team, all three shows merit time and ticket. Given Dickens’ adroit telling of his moralistic, ghostly novella, “A Christmas Carol” is a story worth repeating.
Viewers of the Writers Theatre’s show, produced in collaboration with HMS Media and directed by Stanton Long, are sure to get caught up in Halberstam’s portrayal of Scrooge, the ghosts, the Cratchit family and assorted other characters.
Background projections occasionally add interest to the telling although it would work as well as a radio show. What does work for me is that, though annotated, Halberstam does use Dickens’ original words and phrases.
What I didn’t expect, considering how often I’ve seen different productions of “A Christmas Carol,” is to tear up during the ghost of what’s to come’s visit to the Cratchit household.
That poignant scene really showcased Halberstam’s fine acting.
For ticket and other information visit Writers Theatre or call (847) 242-6000.
Goodman Theatre’s long-running holiday favorite opened Dec. 1, not as a play on Goodman’s Albert Theatre’s stage or a show filmed live to be seen on certain dates or a zoomed show to watch now and later.
Running through Dec. 31 at carol.goodmantheatre.org, Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol” in 2020 is a fresh, 80-minute production performed as an audio play.
Starring Larry Yando who after years of portraying Dicken’s transformation of mean miser into giddy, generous gent, can most assuredly do Scrooge’s bah humbug in his sleep. Directed by Jessica Thebus, he and the rest of the cast bring the tale to life even without visuals.
However, it does matter how you listen. When first tried on my computer, I had trouble hearing all the words distinctly pronounced. But when tried later on facebook on my iPhone, it sounded much better. So, tip 1: If happy with the sound don’t worry but if not, try other devices. I didn’t catch all the narration when originally listening. But since the show does not have visuals so you know what is happening, the narration is very important. Chicago actor, writer, director Andrew White does an excellent job guiding listeners through the actions as the show’s narrator.
Secondly, although I do listen to music and news on the radio I felt I needed more to get into the personality of the recording and the actors doing the show. So, tip 2: Before clicking on the show go to carol/goodman, click on The Play at the top and scroll down to the Behind-the-Scene trailer.
One last thought. The sound effects are excellent as is the music but I needed some magic. So, tip 3: Visit A Christmas Carol/35th Anniversary/ you Tube to learn about the show’s beginning, a director’s and Yando’s thoughts on the story and see a couple of short clips.
It’s OK not to reveal your age but does anyone remember sitting by the radio to hear the weekly broadcast of a favorite program? The “spirits” of good old family entertainment are back thanks to Goodman Theatre.
With renown Chicago actor Larry Yando once again portraying Scrooge, Goodman will put on its annual holiday treat, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens as a free, audio broadcast beginning 7 p.m. Dec. 1. The story line is adapted byTom Creamer and directed by Jessica Thebus. It is adapted for audio by Neena Arndt, Jessica Thebus and Richard Woodbury.
Visit Carol/goodmantheatre for more information. You can also tune in to WBEZ 91.5 FM and Vocalo 91.1 F.M. Dec. 24 at 3 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 11 a.m. The program will also be available through On Demand.
A Joffrey “Nutcracker’ dance class
Remember when short, Nutcracker dance classes were available for youngsters at the Chicago Cultural Center? The Joffrey Academy of Dance is offering “Virtual enchanted Evening: The Nutcracker” in two sessions: ages 4-6, Dec. 4 and ages 7-9 Dec. 11. Hours are 6:30-7”30 p.m. CT. The fee is $15. To find out what is needed and for more information or to register visit Virtual enchantged evening/Evenbrite.
Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure
It’s time after months of the pandemic for some faith and maybe, a little pixie dust. You can visit Neverland via Chicago Shakespeare Theater, free, from noon Dec. 19, 2020 to 11:59 Jan. 1, 2021.
The production is a newly re-mastered, 80-minute feature film that was shot live of the 2018 production. Music is by the award-winning duo of Broadway’s “Mary Poppins” with a score by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewer.
Adapted from the play by J.M. Barrie with permission from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children the production is presented by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals.
Chicago’s theater community has come up with some interesting ways to present their shows for this COVID-directed 2020 holiday season.
The Joffrey Ballet is holding a one-time virtual look “behind the curtain” on the creation of the company’s famed “The Nutcracker” ballet. The event, held 3 p.m. Nov. 3, includes performance clips and interviews. Tickets are $25. for tickets and more information visit Joffrey/event.
“A Christmas Carol”
The perennial Goodman Theatre favorite will be an audio play streaming free, Dec. 1-31, 2020.
Directed by Jessica Thebus, the classic Charles Dickens holiday tale about compassion and redemption features Larry Yando in his 13th year as Ebenezer Scrooge.
“The notion of a holiday season without our production of “A Christmas Carol”—a favorite annual Chicago tradition for more than four decades—did not seem like an option in spite of the many challenges we face in producing live theater at this moment,” said Goodman Executive Director Roche Schulfer who initiated the production at the Goodman in 1978.
“At a time when this story is needed perhaps more than ever, we are pleased to offer this audio production free of charge as a gift to our city,” Schulfer said.
Manual Cinema’s holiday show created for 2020 features live shows performed in the Chicago studio on specific dates that viewers will see via a streaming digital format on Marquee TV, Dec. 2-20, 2020.
This version follows Aunt Trudy, a holiday skeptic who is supposed to channel her late husband Joe’s Christmas cheer from the isolation of her studio apartment. She reconstructs Joe’s annual “Christmas Carol” puppet show over Zoom while the family celebrates Christmas Eve under lockdown.
As Trudy becomes more absorbed in her own version of the story, the puppets take on a life of their own. The show turns into a cinematic retelling of the classic tale. For information and tickets (15) visit manualcineman. The event hosting and ticketing platform is mixily.com).
Goodman Theatre’s annual “A Christmas Carol,” now in its 42 appearance, continues to draw thousands of families downtown Chicago for Charles Dickens’ 19th century story about redemption.
Originally called A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas when published in 1843, the tale does feature four ghosts. At Goodman, the production also features Larry Yando making his 12th appearance as Ebenezer Scrooge, the Charles Dickens character whose name is synonymous with miser.