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Chicago Spotlight: December 2006

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Andrew Keltz, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, and Mattie Hawkinson
in The Snow Queen
(© Liz Lauren)
December is sugarplums and treacle time, as many theaters go all red-and-green-and-twinkly with a holiday-themed show. By rough count, there are at least 40 such offerings in Chicago this season, including the annual visit of the Rockettes in the touring production of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and Porchlight Music Theatre's production of the musical A Wonderful Life, based on the famed Frank Capra film.

However, there is one new holiday show that may be destined for bigger things: The Snow Queen at Victory Gardens at the Biograph (December 1-January 7). Adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of lost children, witches and the icy Kiss of Death, the show features the talents of Tony Award-winning writer/director Frank Galati, folkloric composer Michael Smith, designer/puppeteer Blair Thomas, and star Cheryl Lynn Bruce.

For something naughty (but, presumably, nice) one need only turn to Bailiwick Repertory's Barenaked Lads Save Christmas (through January 7), a gay-themed original musical revue featuring singers in their birthday suits. On the other hand, family audiences might be better off at Frosty's Shake-N-Dogs (through December 31), a world premiere musical with a kiddie-rock score about how Jack Frost concocts a plan to steal the holiday spirit presented by L'il Buds Theatre Company at Theatre Building Chicago. Also, Piccolo Theatre has created an old-fashioned variety show for kids and their keepers, Mr. Punch's Holiday Show (through December 24), offering song and dance, comedy, puppets, mask play and more, at the Evanston Arts Depot.

To be sure, there are a few theater troupes mixing it up this month. Over at the Goodman Theatre -- where their 29th annual production of A Christmas Carol is selling out -- artistic director Robert Falls is also staging the world premiere of Frank's Home (through December 23), Richard Nelson's study of Frank Lloyd Wright at a life-turning point in 1923, starring Peter Weller, Harris Yulin, Mary Beth Fisher, and Maggie Siff. (The show moves to New York's Playwrights Horizons next month.)

Elsewhere, Brown Couch Theatre offers the Brecht-Weill musical Happy End at Raven Theatre (through December 30); Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents the regional premiere of Melinda Lopez's Sonia Flew (December 9-February 4), which tells of a mixed Cuban-Jewish couple with kids preparing for Xmas and Hanukah; and The Hypocrites, an innovative ensemble troupe, present Tennessee Williams' classic drama, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at The Building Stage (December 17-February 4).

Other offerings of note include a new version of the supercharged musical revue All Night Strut, directed by Marc Robin, at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (December 6-February 11); a return visit by the smash Broadway musical Mamma Mia! at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (December 12-31); and a year-end staging of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado at Light Opera Works (December 26-31).

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