The world premiere of Michael Hollinger’s play, “Mr. Dickens’ Hat,” is set in 1865 Victorian England and tells the story of a pair of bumbling thieves who attempt to steal a hat said to have been worn by the famous author and the young girl out to foil their plan and free her father from debtor’s prison. Lookingglass Theatre ensemble member David Catlin, who has experience with Victorian times via the company’s staging of the Dicken’s “Hard Times,” directs. From Nov. 26-Jan. 2 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. Tickets: $30-$89. Visit northlight.org.
- “’Twas the Night Before…” is Cirque du Soleil’s spin on the classic Christmas tale about the wonders of sharing and friendship. It’s filled with Cirque’s high-flying acrobats, eye-popping visuals and plenty of awe and wonder for the holidays. From Nov. 26-Dec. 5 at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets: $30+. Visit chicagotheatre.com/cirque
- Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol” is the performance collective’s imaginative adaptation of Charles Dicken’s classic. It updates the holiday tale as Aunt Trudy, an avowed holiday skeptic, is recruited to channel her late husband’s famous Christmas cheer. Manual Cinema’s signature paper puppets, miniatures and silhouettes are combined with video animation and an original score to tell this contemporary tale. Streams Nov. 26-Jan. 3, the filmed performance can be purchased at any time and watched within 48 hours. Tickets: $15. Visit manualcinema.com.
- Hell in a Handbag Productions presents the return of “Christmas Dearest,” one of its most popular holiday musicals. David Cerda stars as actress Joan Crawford who has lost sight of what the holidays really mean until she’s visited by three ghosts who set her straight. Derek Van Barham directs. From Nov. 27-Dec. 31 at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster. Tickets: $32. Visit handbagproductions.org.
- The Goodman Theatre presents the New Stages Festival featuring new works: “Fires, Ohio” by Beth Hyland, “Watching the Watcher” by Dael Orlandersmith, “Your Name Means Dream” by Jose Rivera, “Nightwatch” by Max Yu and “Layalina” by Martin Yousif Zebar, plus the new virtual reality experience “Hummingbird” by Jo Cattell. From Dec. 1-19 at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. (“Hummingbird” takes place at Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago.) Admission is free. Visit goodmantheatre.org.
- For the past 20 years one of the delightful staples of the holiday season has been American Blues Theater’s radio-play staging of “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” Directed by Gwendolyn Whiteside, the adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic film is retold in a 1940s radio broadcast and is filled with original music and classic carols. Brandon Dalquist is George Bailey with John Mohrlein as both Clarence and Mr. Potter. From Nov. 26-Dec. 31 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln. Tickets: $25-$65. Visit americanbluestheater.com.
- “Who’s Holiday!”: An adult’s only comedy stars Veronica Garza as a booze-guzzling, cigarette-smoking, grown-up Cindy Lou Who as she recalls the fateful night she met The Grinch and the turn her life took after that meeting. The New York Times calls the show “brassy, very funny…a raunchy riff on Dr. Seuss’ yuletide tale.” To Dec. 26. Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, $20-$35; theaterwit.org.
- Buffalo Theatre opens its season with “Stove Toucher,” written and performed by ensemble member Kurt Naebig. The autobiographical coming-of-age story, set in Cicero during the 1970s, is about a shy kid who falls in love with skateboarding, opens a successful skateboard shop and becomes a national news story, all before the age of 13. From Nov. 26-Dec. 19 at McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn. Tickets: $42. Visit atthemac.org.
More on stage...
- The Second City’s “Best of the Holidays” features the company’s greatest holiday hits. To Jan. 1 at Up Comedy Club, 230 W. North, $39-$70; secondcity.com … Vicki Quade’s holiday show, “Christmas Bingo — It’s a Ho-Ho-Holy Night”: brings together two of the best things about being Catholic — Christmas and bingo. To Jan. 2. Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. Tickets: $35. Visit greenhousetheater.org … “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is Joe Landry’s adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic film. To Dec. 30. Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Rd, Glenview. Tickets: $45. Visit oillamptheater.org … “The Second City Holiday Revue” features seasonal fun with the comedy troupe. To Dec. 23. Copley Theatre, North Island Center, 8 E. Galena. Tickets: $37. Visit paramountaurora.com … “The Christmas Schooner” is the heart-warming story of the first Christmas tree ship and the family who risked their lives to fill Chicago with Christmas spirit. To Dec. 18. Overshadowed Theatrical Productions, 900 Foster, Medinah. Tickets: $16-$22. Visit overshadowed.org.
- Reginald “Reggio the Hoofer” McLaughlin and friends return with their annual performance of “The Nut Tapper,” a percussive take on the classic ballet featuring both students and professional dancers. The reimagined classic is performed with swinging tap, Spanish gypsy flamenco and Mexican zapateado. At 4 p.m. Nov. 28 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln. Tickets: $20. Visit oldtownschool.org.
- Music of the Baroque presents two performances of “Thanksgiving Messiah” conducted by Nicholas Kraemer and featuring Sherezade Panthaki (soprano), Allyson McHardy (mezzo-soprano), Richard Croft (tenor) and Matthew Brook (bass-baritone). The performance marks the ensemble’s first performance of the work in more than a decade. At 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, ($48-$95); and at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29 Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph ($25-$95). Visit baroque.org.
- Montana-based singer-songwriter Riddy Arman tours behind her self-titled debut album. Arman grew up in rural Ohio but has traveled the country working as a ranch hand while also working on her songwriting. Her songs are rooted in the poetic imagery of country life, from its beauty to its isolation and loneliness. Rolling Stone Country says her music “evokes the late, great Glen Campbell.” David Quinn opens the show at 8 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Golden Dagger (formerly the Tonic Room), 2447 N. Halsted. Tickets: $12, $15. Visit goldendagger.com.
- Majid Jordan (Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman) tour behind their new album, “Wildest Dream,” which features collaborations with Drake, Diddy and Swae Lee. The Toronto duo’s first new work in nearly four years, it continues their devotion to R&B, pop and dance while also exploring dazzling new sounds. At 9 p.m. Nov. 27 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Tickets: $30, $35. Visit metrochicago.com.
- Ray Johnson (1927-1995) has been referred to as “New York’s most famous unknown artist.” A new exhibit at the Art Institute, “Ray Johnson c/o,” wants to change that by bringing together more than 200 works from across the artist’s multidisciplinary practice. He is known for his meticulous collages, his foundational role in the development of mail art (sending small artworks on postcards through the mail) and his contributions to Pop, Fluxus and Conceptual Art. From Nov. 26-March 21 at Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan. Admission: $14-$25. Visit artic.edu.
- A Thanksgiving tradition returns to the Music Box Theatre with “The Sound of Music Sing-a-Long.” The fun filled event includes a screening of the classic Julie Andrews musical in full-screen Technicolor with subtitles so the audience can sing along with the iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. Plus, before the film there’s a vocal warm-up led by house organist Dennis Scott and a costume contest. From Nov. 26-28 at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport. Tickets: $10-$14. Visit musicboxtheatre.com.
- The 5th annual South Side Film Festival presents screenings of two world premieres: Ben Creech’s documentary “Cicero/Mt Greenwood (1966/2016)” compares and contrasts two protest marches through the South Side neighborhood and Zanah Thirus’s documentary “Daughter of Eve” analyzes misogyny and gender hierarchy within the Christian faith. There’s also a screening of Luchina Fisher’s “Mama Gloria,” which documents the life story of Chicago black transgender icon Gloria Allen. The festival’s final film is a 30th anniversary screening of John Singleton’s 1991 drama “Boyz in the Hood.” There also is an acting masterclass and a post-production workshop. From Nov. 27-Dec. 5 at various times and locations. For more information, visit southsidefilmfest.org.
Holiday family fun
- Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade returns this year with a long list of performers and floats. The 87th edition of the popular parade includes mascot Teddy Turkey and Santa Claus plus marching bands, acrobatic teams, choirs, theatrical performances, equestrian groups and more. Kicks off at 8 a.m. at State and Ida B. Wells Dr. and travels north on State to Randolph. Visit chicagothanksgivingparade.com.
- The Museum of Science and Industry celebrates the holidays with “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” which highlight the rich customs of more than 50 countries and cultures. There are also photos with Santa ($40) or in front of the 45-foot Grand Tree ($30). To Jan. 3 at MSI, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr. Admission: $12.95, $21.95. Visit msichicago.org.
- The Chicago Symphony Orchestra kicks off the holiday season with its annual screening of “Home Alone,” featuring the orchestra performing the Academy Award-nominated film’s score. Two of the film’s actors — Chicagoans Ann Whitney and Tracy J. Connor — will be on hand for preconcert talks at each of the performances. At 7:30 p.m. Nov. 26-27 and 3 p.m. Nov. 28 with preconcert talk at 6:15 p.m. Nov. 26-27 and 1:45 p.m. Nov. 28. At Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan. Tickets: $50+. Visit cso.org.
- Navy Pier brightens the winter season with “Light Up the Lake,” an indoor experience in the grand Festival Hall featuring light-sculpture displays (including a giant teddy bear, a 25-foot-tall deer and a light tunnel), an ice rink, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village, a gift market, holiday-themed food and more. To Jan. 2 at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand. Tickets: $15-$19, includes a ride on the Centennial Wheel. Visit navypier.org.
- The Chicago Latino Theater alliance adds Latino flair to holiday entertainment with “Destinos al Aire, A Holiday Extravaganza!,” beginning at 6 p.m. Nov. 26 (Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan) with a performance of Mexican Christmas posada classics and the Frankie Diaz Trio with Puerto Rican parranda and trulla music. From 4-7 p.m. Dec. 3 (Humboldt Park, 1301 N. Humboldt) there are performances by comedian Gwen La Roka, Venezuelan Cepillao Band, the Puerto Rican ensemble Las BomPleneras and physical theater with La Vuelta. And from 4-7 p.m. Dec. 10 (Harrison Park, 1824 S. Wood) performers include comedian Gwen La Roka, Mariachi Sirenas, Teatro Tariakuri with a Pastorela Navideña and a performance by Teatro Vista. All events are free. Visit clata.org.
NOTE: For COVID safety protocols, visit venues’ websites.