Ryan Cowhey and Larry Yando
in A Christmas Carol
(© Michael Brosilow)
Ryan Cowhey and Larry Yando
in A Christmas Carol
(© Michael Brosilow)
December definitely is sugar plums-and-treacle time in Chicago, headed by the Goodman Theatre's lavish version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (through December 29). Among the many theatrical variations of this classic tale available for viewing are Ebenezer (Oak Park Village Players, December 9-23), Scrooge! The Musical (Theatre at the Center, through December 23), and the beat/jive-talk The Hipmas Carol (The Apollo Theater, through December 30).

Meanwhile, a handful of theaters are daring to present non-holiday shows this month. Foremost among them is Steppenwolf Theatre Company's world premiere of Good Boys and True (December 12-February 16), by celebrated playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, which explores what happens to a prep school star and his family when the boy is implicated in a sex scandal. Redmoon Theatre revives their 2000 hit Hunchback (December 4-January 20), an astonishing version of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame that uses various puppetry techniques, masks, music, pop-up scenery, and clever miniatures to highlight the emotional peaks of the long and complex novel. Also on tap this month are Jon Robin Baitz's two-character drama Three Hotels at Actors Workshop Theatre (December 14-January 12), and author Greg Opelka's new comedy Marrying Terry, produced by the Nightingale Group at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (December 19-January 26).

On the musical front, Northlight Theatre serves up Ella (December 5-January 6), with local diva E. Faye Butler starring in playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's musical tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire rolls out the regional premiere of Little Women (December 12-February 3), the Broadway musical based on Louisa May Alcott's ever-popular girls' book. The Mistress Cycle (Apple Tree Theatre, December 15-January 5) is a tribute to several historic women who achieved power through their relationships with great men to whom they were not wed! Bailiwick Repertory serves up the cult hit Bare (December 17-January 27), a dramatic musical set in a Catholic boarding school that explores the impact of family and church on American youth. The month's final musical is Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic Oklahoma! at Light Opera Works (December 22-31).

Here are a few of the more interesting new holiday shows: The Quiltmaker's Gift is a sweet hour-long production based on the popular fairy tales by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail De Marcken (The Athenaeum, December 16); Silent Theatre Company's A Charlie Chaplin Christmas is a nearly-wordless show inspired by the late, great film star (The Chicago Cultural Center Studio, December 7-January 6); and in the Western suburbs, New World Repertory in Downers Grove offers Princess Donkey-Head, A Christmas Tale, a new play by M. E. H. Lewis based on the Scots folktale Kate Krackernuts (through December 22).

If you seek adult holiday fare, you might check out The 12 Steps of Christmas (Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre's Lobby Bar, through December 21), which literally ladles out X-mas cheer through holiday stories by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, and Bukowski that explore the connection between drinking and creativity. Also new this year is Noble Fools Theatricals' Every Christmas Story Ever Told! (Pheasant Run Resort, through December 29), which combines and confuses everything from The Grinch and Marley to George Bailey to Gustav the Green-nosed Reingoat.