Chicago Spotlight: December 2010
Surprisingly, Steppenwolf isn't alone: there actually are a half-dozen Chicago theaters attempting to fight the annual holiday onslaught of elves, Christmas ghosts, reindeer and assorted Grinches. Redtwist Theatre is offering Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero (through January 2), while eta/Creative Arts Foundation continues its season with Daniel Beaty's Tearing Down the Walls (December 9-February 13) about a 30 year-old virgin who takes a chance on life.
There's also the stage adaptation of Graham Greene's Travels with My Aunt at Writers' Theatre (through March 27). And the Side Project is presenting James McManus' Cherry Smoke (through December 19), an anything-but-cheery remembrance of the grinding decline of an American steel town.
There are several non-holiday musicals as well, although a big, brassy tuner always is a festive occasion no matter the season. Wicked has returned to the Cadillac Palace Theatre (through January 23), presented by Broadway In Chicago. The Hypocrites -- always an iconoclastic troupe -- tackles Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance at the Chopin Theatre (December 9-January 30) with new arrangements by the very clever (and musically knowledgeable) Kevin O'Donnell. Finally, Light Opera Works closes the year with Hello, Dolly! at Cahn Auditorium (December 26-January 2), featuring Mary Robin Roth in the title role.
As for the rest, well, there are far too many holiday shows -- at least 40 -- for a comprehensive list. Traditional fare is represented by the Goodman Theatre's lavish A Christmas Carol (through December 31) with tall and edgy John Judd as the new Scrooge, and the new tour of Irving Berlin's White Christmas (Bank of America Theatre, December 15-January 2), starring John Scherer and featuring choreography by three-time Tony Award nominee Randy Skinner.
Anti-holiday holiday shows -- which seem to increase in number every year -- include Annoyance Productions' Fa-La-La-La . . . F**k It (through December 18); Pat Quigley's Black Peter, a musical about the elf who brings lumps of coal to bad kids, presented by Venture Theatre at Gorilla Tango (through December 18); Let It Ho!, an all-female burlesque parody sketch comedy show, presented by Off-Off-Broadzway at The Spot (December 2-23); and perhaps even Mother Superior's Ho-Ho-Holy Night from Vicki Quade (co-creator of Late Nite Catechism) at the Royal George (through December 24). Of course, there's always The David Bowie Hepzikat Funky Velvet Flarney Solstice Spectacular, Live... From Space! (David Bowie's Christmas Special 1977 Network Edit), presented by the New Millennium Theatre Company late nights at Theater Wit (through December 18).
Finally, Chicago's holiday theater season wouldn't be complete without the annual pantomime from Piccolo Theatre, this year Robin Hood (through December 18). For those not familiar with English "panto," it's neither silent nor populated by people in white make-up. Instead, it's a colorful, lavishly-costumed family show of songs, corny jokes and audience participation that's particularly good for younger kids.