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Chicago-area theaters offer eclectic mix of shows for the holiday season

Offerings include annual favorites and world premieres, comedy and opera and everything in between.

Caroline Bowman stars as Elsa in the stage musical adaptation of “Frozen,” now playing at the  Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Caroline Bowman stars as Elsa in the stage musical adaptation of “Frozen,” now playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Deenvan Meer

Holiday cheer has returned in full force on Chicago’s stages. Offerings include annual favorites (from Charles Dickens, Irving Berlin and Frank Capra), a new spoof of a romantic holiday film and a visit with a grown-up friend of the Grinch, an operatic Santa, an immersive family-friendly experience and a “Frozen” treat from Broadway.

In short, there’s something for theater fans of all ages to enjoy in the weeks ahead.

Here are some highlights of productions playing throughout Chicago’s holiday season.

Enjoy!

“Becoming Santa Claus”: Chicago Opera Theater presents Mark Adamo’s family-friendly holiday opera in which a naughty elf learns the meaning of family, love and the true spirit of gift giving. Dec. 11, 17, 19. Studebaker Theater. 410 S. Michigan, $45+; chicagooperatheater.org

“Best of the Holidays”: The Second City celebrates over 60 years of sketches and songs as the next generation of comedy superstars performs the company’s greatest holiday hits. To Jan. 1 at Up Comedy Club, 230 W. North, $39-$70; secondcity.com

“A Christmas Carol”: Krista Scott’s adaptation of Charles Dickens holiday classic. Dec. 2-24. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell, Arlington Heights, $30; metropolisarts.com

“A Christmas Carol”: Larry Yando returns as Ebenezer Scrooge in the annual staging of Charles Dickens classic holiday story; directed by Jessica Thebus. To Dec. 31. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, $25+; goodmantheatre.org

“Christmas Dearest”: Hell in a Handbag Productions presents David Cerda’s return 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. To Dec. 31. Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster, $32; handbagproductions.org

“Christmas Karol: A Holiday Intervention Cabaret”: Jay Espano and Christa Retka’s ’s devised play about a jaded cafe owner who decides to cancel her famous holiday party, but friends and family help save the tradition. Dec. 9-19. The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, $30; pridearts.org

“The Christmas Schooner”: 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, $16-$22; overshadowed.org

“Deck the Hallmark: A Greeting Card Channel Original”: The Second City sendup of the Hallmark Channel’s saccharine holiday films that “wear out cliches and keep former child actors employed.” To Jan. 2. The Up Comedy Club, 230 W. North, $49+; secondcity.com

“Eb & Belle”: Theatre Above the Law presents the world premiere of Ryan Stevens’ unique spin on “A Christmas Carol,” telling the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his first love, Belle, before he became the curmudgeon we know today. Directed by Tony Lawry. To Dec. 19. Jarvis Square Theater, 1439 W. Jarvis, $23; theatreatl.com

“Frozen”: The musical adaptation of the Disney film about two sisters, one who has magical powers to freeze objects and people, a skill she doesn’t know how to control. To Jan. 22. Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, $33; broadwayinchicago.com

Charlie Baker (from left), Andrew Clancey, Morgan Lavenstein, LaKecia Harris, Rebecca Marowitz and Christopher Thomas Pow in Strawdog Theatre Company’s production of “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.”
Charlie Baker (from left), Andrew Clancey, Morgan Lavenstein, LaKecia Harris, Rebecca Marowitz and Christopher Thomas Pow in Strawdog Theatre Company’s production of “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.”
Jenn Udoni –Franco

“Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins”: A stage adaptation of Eric Kimmel’s classic children’s book about a traveling troupe of actors who put on a show to save the holiday. To Dec. 12. Strawdog Theatre at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge, free; strawdog.com

“Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn”: The musical based on the classic film features a hit parade of Berlin’s songs including “White Christmas.” To Jan. 9. Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, $54-$74; drurylanetheatre.com

“The Nutcracker”: The Joffrey Ballet presents Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagining of the classic now set on Christmas Eve, 1892, months before the opening of the 1893 World’s Fair. Dec. 4-26. Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, $35+; joffrey.org

“Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody”: Bob and Tobly McSmith’s parody of the iconic romantic comedy follows nine quirky couples looking for love; directed by Tim Drucker. To Jan. 2. Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln, $29-$69; ticketmaster.com

Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol: The performance collective’s imaginative adaptation updates the holiday tale as Aunt Trudy, an avowed holiday skeptic, is recruited to channel her late husband’s famous Christmas cheer. Streaming to Jan. 3, the filmed performance can be purchased at any time and watched within 48 hours, $15; manualcinema.com

“Mr. Dickens’ Hat”: The world premiere of Michael Hollinger’s play with music about 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; directed by David Catlin. To Jan. 2. Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, $30-$89; northlight.org

Acrobats perform in Cirque du Soleil’s “ ‘Twas the Night Before ...”
Kyle Flubacker

“ ’Twas the Night Before …”: Cirque du Soleil’s spin on the classic Christmas tale is filled with acrobats and spectacle. To Dec. 5. Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, $30+; chicagotheatre.com/cirque

“Who’s Holiday!”: An adults-only comedy stars a booze-guzzling, cigarette-smoking, grown-up Cindy Lou Who as she remembers the fateful night she met The Grinch and the turn her life took after that meeting. To Dec. 26. Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, $20-$35; theaterwit.org

“It’s a Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Life”: The Second City roasts the season with a mix of sketch comedy and improv. Dec. 18-30. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell, Arlington Heights, $30-$60; metropolisarts.com

“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!”: American Blues Theater presents its 20th annual radio-play adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic film. Directed by Gwendolyn Whiteside. To Dec. 31. Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, $25-$65; americanbluestheater.com

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”: Joe Landry’s adaptation of Frank Capra’s classic film. To Dec. 30. Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Rd, Glenview, $45; oillamptheater.org

“The Second City Holiday Revue”: Seasonal holiday fun with the comedy troupe. To Dec. 23. Copley Theatre, North Island Center, 8 E. Galena, $37; paramountaurora.com

“Christmas Bingo — It’s a Ho-Ho-Holy Night”: Vicki Quade’s holiday show brings together two of the best things about being Catholic — Christmas and bingo. To Jan. 2. Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln, $35; greenhousetheater.org

“Paradise Square”: The pre-Broadway run of a new musical set in 1863 in the Five Points area of Lower Manhattan, where Irish immigrants settle alongside free-born Black Americans; directed by Moises Kaufman with choreography by Bill T. Jones. To Dec. 5. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph; $39+; broadwayinchicago.com

The Ghost of Christmas Present (JQ, front) is  surrounded by his crew (Pos and Jax) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Q Brothers Christmas Carol,” presented in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
The Ghost of Christmas Present (JQ, front) is surrounded by his crew (Pos and Jax) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Q Brothers Christmas Carol,” presented in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Liz Lauren

“Q Brothers Christmas Carol”: A hip-hop reinterpretation of the holiday classic; directed by GQ and JQ and developed with Rick Boynton. Dec. 8-23. The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, $38-$56; chicagoshakes.com

“Winter in the Wildwood”: Otherworld Theatre presents an immersive family-friendly holiday experience where a magical Faun goes on a quest to uncover the truth behind the fading Wildwood lights. Dec. 9-Jan. 9. Otherworld Theatre, 3914 N. Clark, $20, $40; otherworldtheatre.org

“Miracle on 34th Street”: BrightSide Theater presents Lance Arthur Smith’s musical adaptation of the classic holiday film. Dec. 10-19. Meiley-Swallow Hall, North Central College, 31 S. Ellsworth, Naperville, $33; brightsidetheater.com

“The Play That Goes Wrong”: A classic murder mystery set during the opening night of a play where everything that can go wrong does. Dec. 14-Jan. 30. Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower, 175 E. Chestnut, $30+; broadwayinchicago.com

“Pretty Woman — The Musical”: The musical based on the popular movie features a score by Grammy winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and a book by the movie’s director, Garry Marshall, and screenwriter J.F. Lawton. Dec. 14-19. CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, $33+; broadwayinchicago.com

Vero Maynez (left) plays Chione and Jackie Seijo plays Quin in The House Theatre of Chicago’s The Snow Queen. Credit: Michael Brosilow.
Vero Maynez (left) plays Chione and Jackie Seijo plays Quin in The House Theatre of Chicago’s world premiere production of “The Snow Queen.”
Michael Brosilow

“The Snow Queen”: A new holiday tradition begins with the world premiere of Lanise Antoine Shelley’s adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fable; directed by Amber D. Montgomery. To Jan. 2. House Theatre of Chicago at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, $20-$50; thehousetheatre.com

“That’s Weird Grandma: Comes Home for the Holidays”: PlayMakers Laboratory presents a line-up of holiday-themed sketches and songs written by Chicago elementary school children. Dec. 10-19. Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland, $12.50-$25; playmakerslab.org