Around Town: Three shows to consider seeing now

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Not a Christmas show

“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.

For Chicago Theater and Arts’ review see A broader Christmas Carol message.   For tickets and more information visit Marquee.tv/videos

 

An annual Chicago live Christmas radio show

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.

Jodie Jacobs

 

A broader Christmas Carol message

Manual Cinema A Christmas Carole (Photo courtesy of Manual Cinema)
Manual Cinema A Christmas Carole (Photo courtesy of Manual Cinema)

3 stars

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.

The show is 60 minutes followed by chat time with performers. For tickets and more information visit Manual Cinema/Christmas Carol.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

Three reconfigured holiday shows

 

The Joffrey Ballet in The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
The Joffrey Ballet in The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Chicago’s theater community has come up with some interesting ways to present their shows for this COVID-directed 2020 holiday season.

 

“The Nutcracker”

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.

For more information visit Goodman Theatre.

 

“Christmas Carol”

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).

Manual Cinema anniversary worth watching

 

Cast and production crew of Manual Cinema’s Frankenstine at Court Theatre (Michael Brosilow photos)
Cast and production crew of Manual Cinema’s Frankenstine at Court Theatre (Michael Brosilow photos)

 

To celebrate its 10th anniversary Manual Cinema, a multi-award winning studio that creates unusual stage and video shows with puppets, actors and vintage projectors, has been rebroadcasting some of its hits during July and August but will also conclude with a spectacular show.

You can still catch “No Blue Memories: the Life of Gwendolyn Brooks Aug. 10-17 that will include talk back with creators, cast and crew on Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. and “Frankenstein Aug. 17-23 with talk back Aug. 21 at 8 p.m.( CT)

To see them go to Manual Cinema/Watch. They are free and No RSVP needed.

Then save Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. for the company’s live, retro variety show. It’s a  “Tele-Fun-Draiser, Covid-Relief benefit. It will end with a new work that has shadow puppetry, cinematic aspects,, toy theater and creative sound. It can also be viewed by going back to Manual Cinema Watch or Manual Cinema.

Founded by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter, Manual Cinema is unlike anything you may have seen in the theaters.

For a glimpse of its Chicago shows visit our reviews of “The End of TV” and “Frankenstein.”