Foxy and Fun and filled with music

Cast of Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins presented by Strawdog Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Strawdog)

4 stars

Adapted from Eric Kimmel’s beloved holiday picture book which earned the 1990 Caldecott Honor Award, this 60-minute holiday presentation of “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins”is back for another Hanukkah season at Strawdog Theatre. The production is done almost totally in-the-round and without an intermission.

Written by ensemble member Michael Daily, this is a family entertainment piece that features spirited ethnic music and lyrics by Jacob Combs . A six-member troupe portray an array of characters who play a variety of musical instruments, pack up their belongings and take their act on the road.

Resembling a holiday variety show aimed at younger audiences, this lively, laugh-provoking entertainment is actually a play-within-a-play. Through music, folk dance, puppetry and the audience’s own imagination, the play tells the story of a Jewish folk hero named Hershel of Ostropol.

A clever trickster, kind of like a European version of Anansi the Spider or a witty Hebrew cousin of the American Br’er Rabbit, Hershel is portrayed this year with glee by ensemble member Jack Morsovillo.

He’s supported by a company of multi-talented actors and musicians who include Sarah Bacinich, Brianna Joy Ford, Cohen Kraus, Josh Pennington and Leo Zhu.

After traveling a long way, the troupe stops at a village where they ask the local innkeeper for food and a place to sleep. Penniless, the troupe leader offers to entertain the man and his guests (the audience) in exchange for his generosity. Finally, given the opportunity, the company of players perform the tale of Hershel of Ostropol.

Goblins in “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” at Strawdog Theatre.

In the play, Hershel has discovered a sad little town where Hanukkah is no longer celebrated. The reason for this, the townsfolk lament, is that their temple has been overtaken by goblins who forbid the townspeople to light the Menorah candles.

Hershel accepts the town’s challenge to spend the next eight nights in their temple, whereupon he’ll try to trick the goblins, including the fearsome Goblin King, into lighting the Menorah themselves, and thus bring brightness and holiday joy back to the village.

The production is guided with spirit and sparkle by Lauren Katz. She artfully draws out the skills and strengths from each of her ensemble members and keeps her production in constant motion. Yair Farkas musically directs this talented cast, all  suitably attired in clownish costumes courtesy of Elle Erickson.

Prior to each performance, there are arts and crafts activities in the lobby. Strawdog Theatre’s second helping of the family holiday entertainment is foxy, fun and filled with music. It radiates with  warmth, wonder and humor.

Youngsters already familiar with Eric Kimmel’s delightful picture book will enjoy seeing the story come to life. Learning how Hershel gets the best of a band of bogeymen in order to restore Hanukkah to a town plunged into darkness, is great fun for audiences of all ages.

DETAILS: “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” is at Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice, Chicago, Saturdays and Sundays, Dec.7-29, 2019. Running time: one hour. For tickets and other information visit Strawdog.


Colin Douglas

Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting TheatreInChicago.


Sneak Peek at next season in Mid-North neighborhoods


Lobby of the Athenaeum Theatre on Southport Ave., Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the Athenaeum Theatre )
Lobby of the Athenaeum Theatre on Southport Ave., Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the Athenaeum Theatre )

Chicago Theater and Arts “Sneak Peek” series looks at what will be on stage at a venue you like and also lets you know about some shows you might want to put on the calendar that you didn’t know were coming to Chicagoland.. Part Four searches the area from Athenaeum to Wit.

Part One was Looking ahead to the next theater season starting with Broadway in Chicago. Part Two was Theaters Downtown and on the Mag Mile.) Part three  was what will be on stage in the Lincoln Park and Near North areas. When this series is over, the next will break shows down by category as Halloween, Christmas, world premier, classic.

Enjoy the new season

For more details, tickets and subscriptions click on each theater’s link. Theater is not a typo. Some production companies use theatre others theater.


Athenaeum Theatre

A multi venue operation, the building is at 2936 N. Southport Ave. This summer, Eclipse Theatre Company is doing “Beyond Therapy” through Aug. 18, 2019 on Stage Three.

This fall The Right Brain Project presents “(Non) Fiction” Aug. 22-Sept 15, in Studio One. This winter Eclipse Theatre Company  will do “Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them as the last part of the 2019 Christopher Durang series.

For tickets and other information call (773) 935-6875 and visit Athenaeum Theatre.


Mercury Theater

The building is at 3745 N. Southport Ave.  Monty Python’s “Spamalot” is there Aug. 30 to Nov. 3, 2019. For tickets and future shows call (773) 325-1700 and visit Mercury Theater.


Stage 773

A multi-theater venue, Stage 773 is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

American Blues Theater is currently doing a revival of “Spitfire Grill – The Musical” through  Aug. 17 in the Pro Theater, Black Button Eyes has “Ghost Quartet” through Aug. 17 in the Box Theater and Fearless Fiction Productions is doing “Murdering Macbeth,” Aug. 29 to Sept. 8 in the Thrust Theater.

In addition, David Gosz & Leo Fotos are presenting their musical about living with mental health, “Tru,”   Nov. 1 to Nov. 24 on the Thrust Stage. Her Story Theater is doing “Invisible” Oct. 3  to Nov. 3 in the Box Theater and American Blues Theater is doing a revival of “Five Presidents’ Sept. 6 to Oct. 19 in the Pro Theater, followed by its annual holiday show, “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago”  Nov. 14, 2019 to Jan 4, 2020, also in the Pro theater.

Stage 773 also hosts cabarets and one-night shows. To see those listings visit Stage 773/All Shows.  For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252 and visit Stage 773.


Strawdog Theatre Company

The theatre is at 1802 W. Berenice. Strawdog is doing “The Effect” Oct. 13 to Nov. 23 and “ Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” Saturdays and Sundays in December, 2019. TBA is the winter of 2020 show. “Welcome to Keene, New Hampshire” is April 16 to May 30, 2020. For tickets and other information call (773) 528-9696 and visit Strawdog.


Theater Wit

A shared venue, Theatre Wit is at 1229 W Belmont Ave.

Currently on stage is Kokandy Productions’ “Head Over Heels – The Musical” through Aug. 25, 2019.  Remy Bumppo Theatre, a resident Theater Wit company, presents “Howard’s End” Aug. 29 to Oct. 5, then “Top Girls” comes Jan 16 to Feb. 22, 2020 followed by “The Agitators” April 30 to June 6. In addition,  The Gift Theatre is doing “Kentucky” Oct 17-Nov. 16.

To see Theater Wit’s 2019 Summer Opera productions visit Theater Wit/Box Office. For tickets and other information call (773) 975-8150 and visit Theater Wit.


TimeLine Theatre Company

TimeLine, located at  615 W. Wellington Ave. chose shows for 2019-20 on the theme of Exploring today’s issues through the lens of the past” starting with “Oslo,” Sept. 18  to Oct. 20 followed by “Rutherford and Son,” Nov. 14 2019 to Jan. 12, 2020. Then, “Kill Move Paradise” is Feb. 20 to April 5 and “Relentless” is May 14 to June 27, 2020. For tickets and other information call  (773) 281-8463 and visit TimeLine.


Windy City Playhouse

The main location is 3014 W. Irving Park Rd. A second site in in the South Loop’s Motor Row.  Currently on stage is “Southern Gothic” through Sept. 1 and “The Recommendation”  through Sept. 22, 2019. Check location when ordering tickets.

Next, “Every Brilliant Thing” opens Sept. 18, 2019. “The Boys in the Band” begins Jan. 29, 2020. For tickets and other information call  (773) 891-8985 and visit Windy City Playhouse.

Jodie Jacobs

Theater Sneak Peak: Part Three Belmont/Lakeview/Wrigleyville


Sometimes it’s nice to know what a theater company you like is doing for its next season and the dates to put on your calendar. The “Sneak Peak” series does just that, listing the companies by area .

Descriptions of shows will follow in the next series which will be by category such as world premier, classic, Halloween and holiday.

Meanwhile click on the venues in “Sneak Peak” for the theaters’ own details. BTW, some companies use theater and others use theatre, thus the differences written here are deliberate and not typos.


Anthenaeum Theatre

The venue is at 2936 N. Southport Ave. Black Button Eye Productions is doing “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier” here, Aug. 17 – Sep 15 in Studio Two. and Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop is doing “Alice and Wonderland Jr. Aug. 17- 18 on the Main Stage.

Studio One has “Bliss (Or Emily Post is Dead)” through Aug 25 and Studio Three has “Bus Stop” through Aug. 19, 2018.

“The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” is in Studio Three Nov. 22-Dec. 16 and  “The Elder Son” is in Studio Two, Nov. 15-Dec. 22.

For tickets and other information call (773) 935-6875 and visit Athenaeum Theatre.

The Proscenium (Pro) at Stage 773. (A Stage 773 photo)
The Proscenium (Pro) at Stage 773. (A Stage 773 photo)


Mercury Theater

The theater is at 3745 N. Southport Ave. Currently, “Avenue Q” has been extended through Nov. 4, then “Pippin” is in the  Venus Cabaret Theater, opening TBA followed by its annual “The Christmas Schooner, date also TBA.

For tickets and other information call (773) 325-1700and visit Mercury Theater.


Stage 773

A multi-theater venue, Stage 773 is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

American Blues Theater is doing  “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” through Sept. 15, then “Flyin’ West” Oct. 5-Nov. 3 and its annual holiday show, “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago”  Nov. 15, 2018-Jan 5, 2019.

Hell in a Handbag has “The Artificial Jungle” Sept. 23-Oct. 28. and “The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes” Oct. 13-Nov. 3.

The Degenerates are doing “Potty Talk”  Sept. 3- Oct. 29.

For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252 and visit Stage 773, American Blues Theater, Hell in a Handbag Productions and The Degenerates Theatre

Continue reading “Theater Sneak Peak: Part Three Belmont/Lakeview/Wrigleyville”