- Writers Theatre opens its season with comedian Alaudin Ullah’s “Dishwasher Dreams.” In the one-man show, directed by Chay Yew, Ullah confronts his family history while taking a journey from colonial India in the 1930s to Spanish Harlem in the 1970s to present-day Hollywood in a complex story about searching for the American Dream. From Dec. 9-Jan. 16 at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor, Glencoe. Tickets: $35-$90. Visit writerstheatre.org.
- The Broadway comedy “The Play That Goes Wrong” comes to town for a seven-week run. Meet the Cornley University Drama Society, which is attempting to stage a classic murder mystery but on opening night everything that can go wrong does. Written by members of the British ensemble Mischief Theatre Ltd. and directed by Matt DiCarlo. From Dec. 14-Jan. 30 at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut. Tickets: $30+. Visit broadwayinchicago.com.
- Chicago Opera Theater, a company that stages contemporary and re-imagined operas, presents Mark Adamo’s “Becoming Santa Claus.” In the family-friendly holiday opera, a naughty elf learns the meaning of family, love and the true spirit of gift giving. Conducted by COT music director Lidiya Yankovskaya and directed/choreographed by Kyle Lang. At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 17 and 3 p.m. Dec. 19 at Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan. Tickets: $45+. Visit chicagooperatheater.org.
- “Pretty Woman — The Musical” is based on the popular movie and features a score by Grammy winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance with a book by the movie’s director, Garry Marshall, and screenwriter, J.F. Lawton. Broadway veteran Adam Pascal stars as businessman Edward Lewis and rising star Olivia Valli is the charming Vivian Ward. From Dec. 14-19 at CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. Tickets: $33+. Visit broadwayinchicago.com.
- Otherworld Theatre presents “Winter in the Wildwood,” an immersive holiday experience where a magical Faun goes on a quest to uncover the truth behind the fading Wildwood lights. The family-friendly walking show takes place in all the nooks and crannies of Otherworld’s unique space and features fairytale stories, magicians and puppetry. From Dec. 9-Jan. 9 at Otherworld Theatre, 3914 N. Clark. Tickets: $40, $20 for children. Visit otherworldtheatre.org.
- “Christmas Karol: An Uptown Holiday Celebration of Diversity” is Jay Espano and Christa Retka’s devised play about a jaded cafe owner and former social worker who faces the night she dreads the most: the annual Christmas carol concert at her cafe. Her friends and family change her mind with a few holiday tunes. Features two different casts of musical theater performers each weekend. From Dec. 9-12 and Dec. 16-19 at The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets: $30. Visit pridearts.org.
- Playmakers Laboratory’s “That’s Weird Grandma: Comes Home for the Holidays” features a lineup of holiday-themed sketches and songs written by Chicago schoolchildren. From Dec. 10-19 at Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland. Tickets: $12.50-$25. Visit playmakerslab.org … “Miracle on 34th Street” is Lance Arthur Smith’s musical adaptation of the classic holiday film. From Dec. 10-19 at BrightSide Theater at Meiley-Swallow Hall, North Central College, 31 S. Ellsworth, Naperville. Tickets: $33. Visit brightsidetheater.com … “A Black Ensemble Holiday Spectacular” features holiday tunes by company performers. From Dec. 11-12, 18-19 at Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark. Tickets: $45, streaming option also available. Visit blackensembletheater.org … The Second City skewers the holidays with “It’s a Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Life.” At 4 p.m. Dec. 12 at McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn. Tickets: $30-$38. Visit atthemac.org … “Merry Christmas, Darling” features musical theater star Heide Kettenring and plenty of holiday tunes. At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 and 1 p.m. Dec. 14 at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire. Tickets: $55. Visit artistsloungelive.com … Young People’s Theater presents the children’s play “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical.” To Dec. 19 at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. Tickets: $19, $25. Visit greenhousetheater.org.
- Hyde Park School of Dance presents its annual production of “The Nutcracker” performed by students and members of the school’s pre-professional Studio Company. The 75-minute narrated production includes a breakdance battle between the mice and soldiers. From Dec. 10-12 at Mandell Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th. Tickets: $10-$30, children under 5 free. Visit hydeparkdance.org/tickets.
- The Music Institute of Chicago’s 60-minute “Duke It Out Nutcracker” features the classical (Tchaikovsky) and jazz (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn) versions of the holiday classic. Musicians from Axiom Brass and Quintet Attacca back a troupe of dancers from area ensembles curated by Dance Chicago. At 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago, Evanston. Tickets: $10. Visit musicinst.org/nch.
- Salt Creek Ballet’s full-scale production of “The Nutcracker” includes the New Philharmonic performing Tchaikovsky’s score. Dec. 11-12 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd.; Dec. 18-19 at McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn (streaming option available for McAninch). Visit saltcreekballet.org.
- Ballet Chicago’s staging of “The Nutcracker,” a colorful celebration of the holiday season, features George Balanchine’s Sugar Plum Fairy Pas De Deux. From Dec. 10-19 at Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. Tickets: $18-$53. Visit athenaeumtheatre.org
- Grammy-winning violinist Hilary Hahn, the inaugural Chicago Symphony Orchestra artist-in-residence, performs Dvorak’s Violin Concerto, a work which received its U.S. premiere by the orchestra in 1891. Also on the program: conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada leads the CSO in a world premiere of “Hailli-Serenata” by Gabriela Lena Frank, named by the Washington Post as one of the 35 most significant female composers in history, and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 and 8 p.m. Dec. 10-11 at Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan. Tickets: $41+. Visit cso.org.
- Nefesh Mountain: The Hannukah Holiday Concert features the boundary-pushing bluegrass/Americana band performing original songs by the band’s founders (husband and wife Eric Lindberg and Doni Zasloff), classics written by James Taylor and Bob Dylan and lesser-known Hanukkah songs written by Woody Guthrie. “For us, Hanukkah is about the miracles in our lives that surround us every day,” shared Lindberg and Zasloff. “These songs remind us of that magic and the joy that we feel during the holidays — dancing, singing, eating and being close to our friends and loved ones.” At 8 p.m. Dec. 9 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4545 N. Lincoln. Tickets: $25. Visit oldtownschool.org.
- A great holiday tradition returns as Handel’s thrilling “Messiah” is performed by the Apollo Chorus, now celebrating its 150th season. Featured singers include soprano Nicole Cabell, mezzo-soprano Julie Miller, tenor Steven Soph and bass-baritone David Govertsen. At 7 p.m. Dec. 11 and 2 p.m. Dec. 12 at Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. Tickets: $24-$70. Visit harristheaterchicago.org.
- “Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony” features the best-selling soprano performing renditions of holiday classics along with personal holiday favorites and songs from her personal songbook. She accompanied by an orchestra and choir. At 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr. Tickets: $55+. Visit auditoriumtheatre.org.
- The ninth annual celebration of Jim Henson’s 1977 TV special “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas,” based on the beloved children’s book by Lillian and Russell Hoban, returns for live performances. Led by Eiren Caffall and Lawrence Peters, an ensemble of local talent will perform Paul Williams’ timeless songs with narration of the story in which a struggling mother and her devoted son unwittingly find themselves in the classic scenario described in O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.” The Emmet Otter band includes Charlie Malave, Matt Gandurski, Kip and Seth Vanek. Narrators include author Mairead Case, Diana Slickman and Amanda Zwald. Starting off the matinee shows will be the duo of Lily Emerson and Charles Malave, known for their popular web series for kids, “Adventure Sandwich”; late shows will be treated to their improvised variety show “Mr. and Mrs. Wednesday Night.” At 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 11-12 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. Tickets: $20, children 14 and under $10. Visit hideoutchicago.com.
- A cappella icons Pentatonix have released their sixth holiday themed album, “Evergreen.” The Grammy-winning quintet performs holiday tunes and songs at a concert that’s a partnership with Toy for Tots, a chance for fans to donate new, unwrapped gifts the night of the performance. At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont. Tickets: $40+. Visit ticketmaster.com.
- The Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra presents “Back Together for the Holidays” featuring Howard Blake’s “The Snowman,” about a boy who goes on an adventure with a magical snowman. Grammy-winning baritone Bill McMurray narrates. The family-friendly concert also features classic holiday songs. Stilian Kirov conducts. At 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at Ozinga Chapel, Trinity Christian College, 6601 W. College, Palos Heights. Tickets: $37+. Visit ipomusic.org.
- Sing along with Bing Crosby or commiserate with Jimmy Stewart when the holiday films “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” return to the Music Box Theatre for their 38th annual holiday screenings. Santa welcomes audiences and house organist Dennis Scott leads a festive sing-along of classic carols with lyrics projected on the screen. From Dec. 10-23 at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport. Tickets: $14, $21 (double feature); $10, $15 for children under 13. Visit musicboxtheatre.com.
- The Gene Siskel Film Center presents “Let it Snow,” a series of 10 films, many in 35mm prints, that explore how inclement weather can set a mood. Included are Sergio Corbucci’s “The Great Silence,” Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush,” Frantisek Vlacil’s “Marketa Lazarova,” Luchino Visconti’s “White Nights,” Sidney Lumet’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago,” Douglas Sirk’s “All That Heaven Allows,” Blige Ceyhan’s “Winter Sleep,” Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” and Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (Donna Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, will be present for the screening on Dec. 19.) From Dec. 10-30 at Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. Tickets: $12. Visit siskelfilmcenter.org.
- Facets screens Joe Swanberg’s “Happy Christmas” (3 p.m. Dec. 11, $7) with the director on hand for a post-screening Q&A. There’s also a Pop-Up Market (10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 11) offering DVD and VHS titles from Facets’ warehouse plus gift ideas from local artists and zinemakers. Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton. Visit facets.org.
Museums and galleries
- “The Life and Death of Charles Williams,” the first major solo exhibition dedicated to the late artist, features a range of work from sculptures to comics. Williams was born in Kentucky, lived most of his childhood in Chicago and returned to Kentucky where in a Jobs Corp program he honed his writing skills, made photographs and created comics. Working as a janitor, he further developed his artistic practice, including a comic about aliens visiting Earth titled “Cosmic Giggles.” He also built sculptures and pencil holders from materials he found discarded at his job. He continued to make assemblages, drawings and furniture until his untimely death in 1998. From Dec. 10-April 24 at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, 756 N. Milwaukee. Admission is $5, free for 18 and under. Visit art.org.
- Royal Photographers Anwar Hussein and his sons Zak and Samir share their images and the stories behind them in “Princess Diana Exhibition: Accredited Access.” The Husseins spent four decades working side-by-side with the princess and her family. The exhibit features eight different themed sections filled with photography, art, artifacts and the Husseins’ recollections that celebrate Diana in a personal way. To Dec. 2 at Oakbrook Center, 2000 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook. Tickets: $25+. Visit feverup.com/m/104604.
Family holiday fun
- After last year’s drive-through event, the Morton Arboretum’s holiday light show, “Illumination: Tree Lights,” returns for in-person viewing. New features include a light display integrated into “Hallow,” a piece by artist Daniel Popper in the “Human+Nature” exhibit; a walk festooned with 150 colorful lanterns; a blanket of white lights across a hilltop meadow and a trail lined with colored light reeds. Returning favorites include Symphony Woods, Enchanted Hill, Ornament Hill, Woodland Wonder and more. To Jan. 2 at Morton Arboretum, 4100 Ill. Rt. 53, Lisle. Timed entry tickets: $8-$24, children under 2 free. Visit mortonarb.org.
- Three downtown Milwaukee parks — Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park and Zeidler Union Square — have been transformed into winter wonderland scenes for the annual Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival. A variety of events are scheduled through Jan. 1 including food tours, photo ops, a tree lot, self-guided audio tours, Santa’s Mailbox and more. For details on all the events, visit milwaukeeholidaylights.com.
The 42-year-old Venezuelan conductor will be ending a heralded tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic that began in 2009.
Monday’s magnitude 7.8 quake and a cascade of strong aftershocks cut a swath of destruction that stretched hundreds of miles across southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria, toppling thousands of buildings.