Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WIN 4 Passes ($88 value) to Illumination at Morton Arboretum Through January 1, 2018

- Named a “can’t-miss” attraction, Illumination is a one-of-a-kind Chicago-area wintertime destination -

Celebrating its fifth year, the one-of-a-kind winter lights experience Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns November 17 to The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. 

Photos courtesy of Morton Arboretum

ChiIL Mama will be out to review and shoot our own photo feature. In the meantime, it's our great pleasure to partner up with Morton Arboretum once again, to offer a sweet giveaway for our readers. 

Enter to win 4 tickets ($88 value) to Illumination at Morton Arboretum good for any date/time through January 1, 2018 and make some family memories. Our giveaway is open through midnight 12/1/17. 

From November 17, 2017 through January 1, 2018, 50 acres of the Arboretum’s majestic trees will glow in mesmerizing hues of blue, green, purple, and magenta. Along the wooded one-mile path, visitors will discover a series of experiences that encourage them to see trees in a different light. Visitors can see a grove of hemlock trees’ color transform from green to technicolor hues, and catch a glimpse of trees that appear to be gently breathing.  Additionally, visitors can hug a tree and watch it respond or enjoy a dazzling show of lights that appear to dance in the trees in time to music.  

New for 2017
This year’s event includes new features to wow event-goers, including a new way to experience Illumination! Become part of the Illumination experience by wearing programmed interactive pendants that light up in sync with the event. Also new this year will be timed admission tickets, allowing visitors to enter every half hour throughout the event. 

Many returning fan favorites are back for the upcoming season, including:

Treemagination – Guests will marvel at projections on the trees that make it seem as though the trees are "breathing" one moment, drenched with saturated and surreal fields of color the next, only to be transformed again with amazing geometric patterns. 

Fantasy Forest – Redesigned for 2017, this experience showcases grouped white columns rising up between manicured hedges. Representing groves of trees, these structures provide the setting for sweeping beams of light that extend across the landscape and skyward in time with spirited music.  

Ornament Hill – Visitors will encounter a breathtaking and glittering vista of hundreds of giant glowing orbs nestled in the landscape and surrounded by thousands of points of LED light.

Symphony Woods – Updated for 2017, lights dance in the trees to classical music during this popular experience. 

Crystal Promenade – 24 ethereal chandeliers adorn a forest of Douglas fir and spruce trees in this fairy tale-like spot.  

Three concession tents scattered throughout the trail will feature snacks and hot beverages, including gourmet hot chocolate and visitors can stop in The Morton Arboretum’s Ginkgo Restaurant, offering a full dinner menu every night of Illumination.  Additionally, visitors can enjoy a cozy fire and a break at one of the warming areas along the Illumination path. 

“We are looking forward to our fifth season of encouraging our visitors to see trees in a different light, with visitors’ favorites, new features and ticket options to enhance the Illumination experience for our guests,” said Sue Wagner, vice president of education and information at The Morton Arboretum. “Illumination will again surprise and delight visitors with luminous color, light, and sound that will transform 50 acres of trees into something truly magical.”  

Illumination tickets range from $18 to $22 for adults and $12 to $14 for children and go on sale October 2, 2017. Members of The Morton Arboretum receive discounted ticket prices to Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum. Learn more about savings on Illumination tickets and the many other benefits of membership at For more information and to purchase tickets for Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum, visit

The Morton Arboretum thanks PowerShares QQQ  by Invesco and ComEd for their support of 2017 Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum.  

About Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum brings light and nature together for a wintertime walk in the woods like no other. Illumination invites visitors to see trees in a different light on a one-mile walk surrounded by 50 acres of the Arboretum’s trees, brought to life with LED lights, interactive elements and sound. Live entertainment and warming stations add to the wintertime experience. With accolades from local and national media including Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today, Illumination has quickly become a winter tradition, welcoming more than a half-million visitors from throughout the United States as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany since its 2013 debut season. The event is built in partnership with noted experiential lighting designers Lightswitch and production company Intelligent Lighting Creations (ILC), and features energy-efficient, eco-friendly LED lighting. 

About The Morton Arboretum
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized outdoor tree museum and tree research center located in Lisle, Illinois. As the champion of trees, the Arboretum is committed to scientifically-informed action, both locally and globally, and encouraging the planting and conservation of trees for a greener, healthier, more beautiful world.  On 1,700 acres are 222,000 plant specimens representing 4,650 different kinds of plants, along with specialty gardens, educational exhibits, the award-winning Children’s Garden, 16 miles of hiking trails and the Visitor Center, featuring The Arboretum Store and the Ginkgo Restaurant and Café. The Morton Arboretum is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization, welcoming more than 1 million visitors and serving 44,900 member households in 2016. Learn more at  

Disclosure: It's our great pleasure to partner up with Morton Arboretum once again, to offer a sweet giveaway for our readers. They have provided us with complimentary tickets for our giveaway and for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

ChiIL Mama's Holidaze 12 Days of Giveaways Gift Guide is LIVE

Holiday Gift Guide, Giveaways, Discount Codes, Product Reviews and More!

We're back with our annual round up of all things gifty. Check back like we vote in Chi, IL... early and often, from November 22nd through the first week of December. We'll be taking Thanksgiving day off, then adding lots of new gift ideas for all ages, nationwide giveaways, and lots of love for Chicago local places too. 

We'll be running full features on our favorites, then adding to a running round up right here. Click links to enter giveaways. Enjoy! 

1. WIN 4 Tickets (Up to $340 value!) to The Ruth Page Civic Ballet Nutcracker AND "Tea With Clara" Cast Meet and Greet 12/3/17 (Chicago Area) Enter through 11/27/17

3. WIN 4 Passes ($88 value) to Illumination at Morton Arboretum Good for any date/time Through January 1, 2018. Enter through midnight 12/1/17 



ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:
FREE Fam Friendly Fun

Bring the kids to meet Buddy the Elf at free events at three public libraries in Aurora and Oswego on Saturday, December 2.

Direct from Paramount Theatre’s holiday production, Elf The Musical, everybody’s favorite oversized elf will meet his fans, make holiday mischief and spread Christmas cheer at:

We'll be ChiILin' just south of Chi, IL in Aurora, with Buddy the Elf, when ChiIL Mama comes out to review Elf The Musical at the press preview on Sunday November 26th. You can meet the elf himself too, in Aurora and Oswego on Saturday December 2nd. Why settle for elf on the shelf when you can meet an oversized elf in a whole library! Check it out then get your tickets for the whole family, for what's sure to be a holiday hit, Paramount Theatre’s holiday production, Elf The Musical!  Check back soon for our full review.

10 a.m.
Aurora Public Library, Eola Road Branch
555 S. Eola Rd., Aurora
(630) 264-3400
Meet Buddy and make an elf craft! Enter a raffle for a basket including an Elf book and other goodies.

11:30 a.m.
Oswego Public Library
32 Jefferson Street, Oswego
(630) 978-1272
Crafts for kids and teens. Kids can write and mail a letter to Santa. Drawings for prizes for all ages include a $100 gift card to Paramount Theatre.

1 p.m.
Aurora Public Library, Santori Branch
101 S. River St., Aurora
(630) 264-4100
Come early for a sing-a-long beginning at 12:15 p.m. Buddy the Elf arrives at 1 p.m. Enter a raffle for a basket including an Elf book. Free refreshments.

Paramount Theatre’s Elf The Musical is the perfect feel-good show for the whole family, guaranteed to turn even the grumpiest of grinches into a happy-go-lucky bearer of Christmas cheer. Based on the hilarious 2003 Will Ferrell movie, Elf is one of those rare holiday shows that will have both kids and adults laughing, humming tunes like “A Christmas Song” and “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” for days and rediscovering what it means to be a family.

Don’t miss Paramount’s big, brassy, Broadway-style staging of this hilarious fish-out-of-water holiday comedy. And with a two-story Christmas tree in the center of Paramount’s lobby, thousands of sparkling lights adorning the banisters and carolers filling the air with song, Paramount is the place where families head for unforgettable holiday experiences.

Performances continue through January 7: Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Exceptions: There are four added performances during the run: Thursday, November 30 at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 12 at 7 p.m., Friday, December 22 at 1:30 p.m., and Thursday, January 4 at noon. Show time for the evening performance on January 4 is 5 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. No show Thursday, November 23 (Thanksgiving). No 5:30 p.m. show Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve).

Elf The Musical is rated G. Single tickets are $38 to $74. The Paramount Theatre is surrounded by affordable parking and a variety of restaurants for pre- or post-show dining. For subscriptions and single tickets, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two hours prior to evening performances.

Based on the cherished 2003 New Line Cinema hit written by David Berenbaum, Elf The Musical features songs by Tony Award nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, The Wedding Singer), with a book by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). Elf The Musical was originally produced by Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures in association with Unique Features. 

About the Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in the heart of downtown Aurora, is the center for performing arts, entertainment and arts education in the second largest city in Illinois. The 1,888-seat Paramount Theatre is nationally renowned for the quality and caliber of its presentations, historic beauty and superb acoustics.

Since launching its Broadway series in 2011, Paramount has leaped to the top of Chicago’s musical theater scene, winning unanimous audience and critical acclaim, and an unprecedented number of Joseph Jefferson nominations and awards, including Best Musical-Large for the past three consecutive seasons.

Today, more than 34,000 subscribers from throughout the city and suburbs enjoy Paramount’s Broadway-quality productions at highly affordable prices, making the Paramount the third largest subscription house in the nation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NEW RELEASES: Leap! Today, Despicable Me 3 Tomorrow

Family Friendly Releases On Our Radar:

This holiday season, celebrate the arrival of two of this year's best animated features when Despicable Me 3 and Leap! arrive on Blu-ray and DVD. 

The Special Edition release of Despicable Me 3 comes with an all-new mini movie and over an hour of bonus content including a never-before-released deleted scene, and so much more! It arrives on Digital and Digital 3D on November 21, 2017 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand on December 5, 2017 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. 

With an all-new original song by Carly Rae Jepsen, Leap! tells the heartwarming tale of one girl's dream to become a dancer in Paris. It arrives on Digital HD on November 7 and on Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand on November 21 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. 

Despicable Me 3 arrives on Digital and Digital 3D on November 21, 2017 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand on December 5, 2017 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.





Illumination and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment present Despicable Me 3 on Digital and Digital 3D November 21, 2017 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand December 5, 2017. The characters beloved by everyone – Gru, his wife Lucy, their three adorable daughters—Margo, Edith and Agnes—and the Minions provide hours of family fun in this heartwarmingly subversive comedy from Academy Award®-nominated producer Chris Meledandri (Despicable Me Franchise) and directors Pierre Coffin (Despicable Me Franchise) and Kyle Balda (Minions 1 & 2, The Lorax). Hailed as “the best Despicable Me movie yet,” by Ali Plumb of BBC Radio 1, with over $949 million in global ticket sales, Despicable Me 3 is the ultimate holiday gift, with almost an entire hour of exclusive bonus features including an all-new mini-movie, a never-before-released deleted scene, and much more!

Illumination, the studio that brought you Sing, The Secret Life of Pets and the Despicable Me franchise, continues the adventures of Gru and his family in Despicable Me 3. After he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker, “South Park,” Team America: World Police), the latest evil mastermind to threaten humanity, Gru finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis. But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother — a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin’s despicable footsteps — the former super-villain rediscovers just how good it feels to be bad.

Academy Award® nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) reprises his hilarious role as reformed criminal mastermind Gru, as well as his newly discovered twin, Dru. The all-star voice cast also features Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, Despicable Me 2), Miranda Cosgrove (Despicable Me 1 & 2, School of Rock), Steve Coogan (The Secret Life of Pets, Philomena), Jenny Slate (Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets), Dana Gaier (Despicable Me 1 & 2) and legendary singer and actress Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins).

Despicable Me 3 will be available on 4K Ultra HD in a combo pack which includes 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray™, Blu-ray™ and Digital. The 4K Ultra HD will include all bonus features on the Blu-ray™ disc.

4K Ultra HD is the ultimate movie watching experience. 4K Ultra HD features the combination of 4K resolution for four times sharper picture than HD, the color brilliance of High Dynamic Range (HDR) with immersive audio delivering a multidimensional sound experience.

Blu-ray™ unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.

DIGITAL lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.


All-New Mini Movie — The Secret Life of Kyle
Minion Moments — Watch the Minions cause more hilarious mayhem with Gru
Deleted Scene — With intro by Dana Gaier, the voice of Edith
Character Profiles — The inside scoop on the most popular characters, from the actors who play them

The Making of Despicable Me 3 — A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie
Developing Dru — Behind the scenes character development of Dru
The AVL Files — Through the lens of the Anti-Villain League’s hi-tech database, this ultra secret, interactive surveillance briefing showcases all of the agency’s amazing creations and top agents
Freedonia Visitors Guide — Welcome to Freedonia! See all that the town has to offer with this interactive map. From its world class cheese, to its beautiful coastline, Freedonia has it all!
Despicable Me TV — Tune in for some fabulous fun with these Despicable Me 3 infomercials. Includes “Balthazar Bratt Action Figure,” “Bad Boy Bod by Balthazar Bratt” and “Agnes’ Super Cute, Incredibly Amazing Toy Sale.”
“Doowit” Sing-Along — Sing along with Pharrell Williams as the Minions plot their escape from prison
“Yellow Light” Music Video — Official music video by Pharrell Williams
Minion Mugshots — The Minions add to the long list of celebrity mugshots in their very own “rogues gallery.”
Wanted Posters — Have you seen these Minions wanted for various crimes?

Hashtag: #DespicableMe3

Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate, Dana Gaier, Julie Andrews
Directed By: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda
Produced By: Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy
Executive Produced By: Chris Renaud
Written By: Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
Co-directed By: Eric Guillon
Score By: Heitor Pereira
Original Songs and Themes By: Pharrell Williams
Edited By: Clare Dodgson

Street Date: December 5, 2017
Copyright: 2017 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
Selection Number: 6118066 (US)/ 6118068 (CDN)
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Layers: BD-50
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2.40:1
Rating: PG for action and rude humor
Video: 1080p High-Definition
Sound: English DTS:X, Dolby Digital 2.0 and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio 7.1, French DTS Digital
Surround 5.1, Spanish DTS-HD High Resolution Audio 7.1
Language/Subtitles English SDH, French and Spanish

Street Date: December 5, 2017
Copyright: 2017 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
Selection Number: 61180665 (US)/ 61180676 (CDN)
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Layers: DVD-9
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Rating: PG for action and rude humor
Sound: English, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Language/Subtitles English SDH, French and Spanish

About Illumination 
Illumination, founded by Academy Award® nominee Chris Meledandri in 2007, is one of the entertainment industry’s leading producers of event-animated films.  The company’s franchises include two of the top-six animated films of all time, and its iconic, beloved brands—infused with memorable and distinct characters, global appeal and cultural relevance—have grossed more than $5.7 billion worldwide. 

Illumination was recently honored by Fast Company as one of the world’s most innovative companies. 

Illumination, which has an exclusive financing and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures, has garnered an extraordinary number of franchise successes for a studio only a decade old.  As the creator of the hugely successful world of Despicable Me, which was recently crowned the top-grossing box-office animated franchise globally, Illumination has evolved the Despicable Me series to include Minions, the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time and the most profitable film in Universal’s history, as well as the Academy Award®-nominated Despicable Me 2 and summer 2017’s Despicable Me 3, which has already made more than $950 million at the global box office.

In 2016 alone, Illumination launched two original properties that captivated audiences worldwide.  Last summer, The Secret Life of Pets achieved the best opening for an original movie, animated or otherwise, in U.S. history.  Likewise, the critically lauded holiday favorite Sing premiered to a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival before becoming a global smash.

Founded 10 years ago with the mission of putting a smile on the face of every member of the audience, no matter their age, Illumination continues to imagine both original stories, as well as unexpected adaptations of beloved pre-existing works.  By infusing joy and discovery into every property, the studio allows audiences to connect their experiences with each property to the Illumination brand itself.

With successful mobile games, consumer products and social/digital media, Illumination’s franchises—populated with characters that are as comedic as they are heartfelt and authentic—translate far beyond the theater.  “Despicable Me: Minion Rush” has now become the fifth-most popular game ever, while Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, has been joined by the wildly popular Minion Park at Universal Studios Japan…where the Minions are the No. 1 licensed characters.

Illumination’s upcoming films—featuring creative contributors from an unparalleled collection of writers, artists, voice talent and musicians—include Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch in November 2018, The Secret Life of Pets 2 in June 2019, Minions 2 in July 2020, and Sing 2 in December 2020.

About Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios ( Universal Studios is a part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

“A Lovely and Refreshingly Breezy Adventure with an Infectious Soundtrack.”
— Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times 


Heartwarming Animated Family Adventure Featuring All-Star Voice Talent and Original Song by Carly Rae Jepsen Arrives on Digital HD November 7 and Blu-ray™, DVD, and On Demand November 21 from Lionsgate

 Celebrate the holiday season with the inspirational and uplifting family film Leap!, arriving on Digital HD November 7 and Blu-ray™ (plus DVD and Digital HD), DVD, and On Demand November 21 from Lionsgate. Featuring all-star voice talent led by Elle Fanning (Maleficent), alongside Nat Wolff (The Fault in Our Stars) and Maddie Ziegler (The Book of Henry), with Mel Brooks (Spaceballs), featuring Carly Rae Jepsen (singer-songwriter of the hit song “Call Me Maybe”) and Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”), Leap! is a colorful and imaginative story about an orphan girl who is determined to follow her dream of becoming a ballerina. Filled with irresistible original music, Leap! features the hit track “Cut to the Feeling.”

Eleven-year-old orphan Félicie (Fanning) has one dream — to go to Paris and become a dancer. Her best friend, Victor (Wolff), an imaginative, exuberant boy with a passion for creating, has a dream of his own — to become a famous inventor. In a leap of faith, Victor and Félicie leave their orphanage in pursuit of their passions. But there’s a catch: Félicie must pretend to be the child of a wealthy family in order to gain admittance to the prestigious and competitive Opera Ballet School in Paris. And with no professional dance training, she quickly learns that talent alone is not enough to overcome the ruthless, conniving attitudes of her fellow classmates, led by the devious Camille Le Haut (Ziegler). Determined to succeed, Félicie finds her mentor in the tough and mysterious school custodian, Odette (Jepsen), who, along with Victor’s encouraging friendship, help her reach for the stars.

An animated adventure the whole family will enjoy, the Leap! home entertainment release includes a behind-the-scenes video gallery and a look at stars Kate McKinnon, Nat Wolff, and Maddie Ziegler in the recording booth. Leap! will be available on Blu-ray (plus DVD and Digital HD) and DVD for the suggested retail price of $39.99 and $29.95, respectively.

“In the Recording Booth with Kate McKinnon, Nat Wolff, and Maddie Ziegler” Featurette
Behind-the-Scenes Video Gallery:
The Birth of a Dream
Animating the Dance
Reconstructing 19th Century Paris 


Year of Production:  2016
Title Copyright: Leap! © 2016 Mitico - Gaumont - M6 Films - PCF Ballerina Le Film Inc. All Rights
Reserved. Package Design © 2017 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: PG for some impolite humor and action
Genre: Family/Kids, Animation, Adventure
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 89 Minutes
Blu-ray™ Format: 1080p High Definition, 16x9 Widescreen 2.35:1 Presentation
DVD Format: 16x9 Widescreen 2.35:1 Presentation
Blu-ray™ Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio

The first major new studio in decades, Lionsgate is a global content platform whose films, television series, digital products and linear and over-the-top platforms reach next generation audiences around the world.  In addition to its filmed entertainment leadership, Lionsgate content drives a growing presence in interactive and location-based entertainment, gaming, virtual reality and other new entertainment technologies.  Lionsgate’s content initiatives are backed by a 16,000-title film and television library and delivered through a global licensing infrastructure.  The Lionsgate brand is synonymous with original, daring and ground-breaking content created with special emphasis on the evolving patterns and diverse composition of the Company’s worldwide consumer base. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

REVIEW: Cirque du Soleil's Multifaceted Crystal Shines

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Cirque du Soleil Fuses Excitement, Breathtaking Artistry and
Unique Creativity with Ice in
A Breakthrough Ice Experience
To be presented at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates,
in six performances only, November 16-19, 2017

This past Friday, my whole family headed out to Chicago's suburbs for Cirque du Soleil's Crystal. If you're going, do leave extra time. Sears Centre is serious about safety and searches every bag, and sends every ticket holder through a metal detector. Once we passed a near TSA level security gauntlet, I was elated to find a kiosk to the right with Starbucks coffee. My husband headed for the beer sales and the teens were happy with giant pretzels. With snack and drinks in hand, we were ready for a circus arts spectacle.

Crystal delivered on stellar talent, stunning projected graphics, an a cool ice castle set complete with ramps for skate tricks. Though my 14 year old daughter thought the skating to aerial arts ratio was too high for her taste, the skating was fast and phenomenal. She says Crystal needs more silks. 

Favorites of ours were the bounce juggling act, the giant pinball machine/hockey number, the Chinese Pole stunts, and the impressive straps act. 

In general, we prefer Cirque du Soleil's intimate tent shows over the arena shows, since they have a cozier vibe and stick around in each city for so much longer. Yet Crystal has the big acts and visuals to play to a giant arena audience and keep everyone's interest. I can honestly say I've never seen someone rock a trapeze act with such style while wearing ice skates, nonetheless! 

We also enjoyed the girl power plot, and the idea of the many facets of self. Young girls today need more large scale productions with protagonists they can identify with, and it was a joy to follow Crystal on her coming of age adventure.  

Crystal is more contemporary and pop influenced in choreography and music than many of Cirque du Soleil's earlier offerings that come across as more classical. We thought the dance moves and circus choreography worked well. 
If there's a weak link it's the music. Even my teens who listen to current pop weren't fans of the show using hits like Chandelier by Sia and Beyonce's Halo among others. Cirque du Soleil is famous for live orchestras on stage playing original scores, and the lyrics laden known hits were distracting. There were a few parts for one live musician at a time, accompanying the recorded tunes but it was underwhelming. 

Despite a few drawbacks, we definitely recommend seeing Crystal. This ice show/circus show hybrid is unique and the caliber of the acts and technical effects far surpass that of other contemporary ice shows on tour. Catch them while you can!

Cirque du Soleil is thrilled to venture into uncharted territory with its brand new creation, Cirque du Soleil Crystal, exploring the artistic attributes of ice for the very first time. Specifically created for arenas, the state-of-the-art production will create a fresh innovative experience, pushing the boundaries once again by combining outstanding skating and sliding, remarkable aesthetics and acrobatic feats that defy the imagination.

“We are excited to create a unique entertainment experience on ice for all spectators to enjoy. It's a wonderful opportunity for Cirque du Soleil as ice provides us with an entirely new field of play which also comes with a set of creative challenges. Our goal is to continuously surprise audiences by showcasing all the incredible possibilities on ice,” explained Yasmine Khalil, Executive Producer of Crystal.

Crystal will follow a young woman who shatters through reality to reach a surreal world filled with possibility. Beneath the surface, she pursues the life that has been glistening within. Sometimes, we must first leave solid ground to find our true footing.

Cirque du Soleil invites the audience to discover Crystal – A Breakthrough Ice Experience – and find out what it means to skate on the edge of reality.

Performance Schedule & Ticket Information
Cirque du Soleil Crystal will be presented at the Sears Centre Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates, IL in six performances only, November 16-19, 2017. Performances take place Thursday - Friday, November 16-17, at 7:30pm; Saturday, November 18, at 3:30 & 7:30pm; and Sunday, November 19, at 1 & 5pm.

Tickets for Cirque du Soleil Crystal start at $30.00 and go on sale Wednesday, June 21, at 10am by phone at 888-SEARSTIX (732-7784) or online by visiting

Forsythe Technology is the Official Sponsor of Crystal in the United States

Cirque du Soleil
Crystal is Cirque du Soleil’s 42nd original production since 1984. The company has brought wonder and delight to more than 180 million spectators in more than 450 cities on six continents. Cirque du Soleil has over 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from 50 different countries.
For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit
More information about Crystal by Cirque du Soleil can be found, and on  Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Disclosure: ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows have been partnering up with Cirque du Soleil for years, on Chicago area promotions, giveaways and reviews. Once again, we have been given complimentary tickets for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Friday, November 17, 2017

WIN 4 Tickets (Up to $340 value!) to The Ruth Page Civic Ballet Nutcracker AND "Tea With Clara" Cast Meet and Greet 12/3/17

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:


DECEMBER 2nd AND 3rd Only 

Featuring Guest Artists from Cuba’s National School of Ballet

The holidays are here and it's time to make some family memories! We're elated to partner up with The Ruth Page Civic Ballet's classic nutcracker to offer an exciting 4 Pack of Tickets/ “Tea with Clara” opportunity for one of our lucky readers. 

ENTER HERE for your chance to WIN!

Enter early and often through midnight on Monday November 27th. Winner will be e-mailed as well as posted here and on our social media. Ruth Page's classic version of The Nutcracker plays on December 2nd and 3rd only. ChiIL Mama is  offering 4 tickets for adults or children (Up to $340 value!) to not only one of the two shows on Sunday, but also admission to the special “Tea With Clara” event. The special event allows children and adults to meet and greet with the cast while also enjoying hot beverages and snacks after the 1 p.m. performance of The Nutcracker or before the 5 p.m. performance! 

The Ruth Page Civic Ballet is proud to present its annual production of The Nutcracker, with original choreography by Ruth Page, and co-directed by Victor Alexander and Dolores Lipinski Long. This production is performed at Northeastern Illinois University, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago, Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1 and 5 p.m. Tickets for the performance are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and children under the age of 12 years and $10 for NEIU students, faculty and staff, one ticket per I.D. card. 

Also available is “Tea with Clara,” a delightful tea party which patrons can enjoy with their favorite The Nutcracker characters from 3:15 – 4:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3. Tickets for “Tea with Clara” include admission to the tea party and either the 1 or 5 p.m. performance, and are $85 for adults and $50 for children under the age of 12 years. 

Performance tickets and “Tea with Clara” tickets are now on sale and may be purchased at

Central to the Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s performance schedule is its annual presentation of The Nutcracker, the popular recreation of the beloved holiday classic. Originally presented in the Arie Crown Theater from 1965 to 1997, the Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s performance recreates Ruth Page’s original full-length staging. Exquisite dancing, stunning costumes and magical settings in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of the Sweets, these performances promise world-class entertainment and holiday joy for children of all ages. 

About Victor Alexander

Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and trained at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA) in Havana. Alexander has had an extensive performing and choreographic career in the United States.  He is the director of the Ruth Page School of Dance and was also included in Dance Magazine’s prestigious “25 to Watch in 2013” list. Alexander is known for his riveting stage presence as he mixes formidable technique he gained in the rigorous training ground of Cuban dance schools with facility at theatrical interpretation. 

About Dolores Lipinski Long

Because of her lifetime connection to Ruth Page, Dolores Lipinski Long has been associated with the world's greatest dancers, choreographers, producers and designers. In addition to her role with the Ruth Page School of Dance as its associate director, she is also the co-director of the Ruth Page Civic Ballet. With her celebrated husband of 47 years, Larry Long, (1936-2009), Long co-founded the Ruth Page School of Dance.

About the Ruth Page Civic Ballet

An important component of the Ruth Page School of Dance is the Ruth Page Civic Ballet, its official training company for dancers 18-22 years of age and one of the Center's Artists In-Residence. Dancers are invited to take part in the Civic by it’s artistic director, Victor Alexander, who will guide and mentor each aspiring young artist during the one to two year program. The mission of the Ruth Page Civic Ballet is to identify, nurture and mentor emerging dance artists from around the world through enhanced performance opportunities within an elite training company.  Serving as a bridge between training and professional performance, company members will refine their ballet and contemporary techniques in an international environment of performers and educators before moving on to professional careers in dance. The Civic's dancers are joined in performances by notable guest artists and choreographers, expanding their sphere of professional work.

About the Ruth Page School of Dance

Offering the highest level of training to young dancers, professionals, and those who study dance for personal enrichment, the Ruth Page School of Dance was founded in 1971 by Ruth Page and Larry Long. Mr. Long, who went on to become the School’s much loved Director until his death in 2009, along with his wife and Co-Director, Dolores Lipinski, helped set the standard of excellence in dance training that continues to this day. Mikhail Baryshnikov in an interview during his dancing career, noted that Mr. Long was one of the ten best ballet teachers in the nation. Through his legacy, hundreds and hundreds of young dancers have gone on to professional careers throughout the world in the field they love. 

Led by Director Victor Alexander since 2013, and through an experienced and dedicated faculty of dance professionals and international partners, the Ruth Page School of Dance develops well-rounded dance artists through high-quality training.  The School also embraces diverse cultures as a source of inspiration for creativity and human self-expression in dance, creating lifelong ambassadors for the art of dance. By providing the highest level of training and personal development to each student, the School’s philosophy is all students will benefit from the discipline, creative thinking and emotional expressiveness that dance provides. With a strong commitment to international partners and collaborations, the Ruth Page School of Dance has developed a network of exceptional programs and exchanges with esteemed dance training centers in Spain, Italy and Cuba, among others. Significant among these is the relationship with Cuba’s National School of Ballet (Escuela Nacional de Cuba – ENB), which was a pioneering program and cultural exchange in 2015 between the two schools.

About the Ruth Page Center for the Arts

An incubator of artistic energy and excellence and the center of Chicago's dance history, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts carries forward the vision of international dance icon Ruth Page to make dance accessible to everyone, ensuring that children and dance artists have a place to study, work and perform at the highest level of excellence. Located at 1016 N. Dearborn Street, the Center serves the Chicago dance community by being an incubator, providing a home, office space, rehearsal space, performance opportunities, professional dance training and marketing support for the up-and-coming companies and artists of Chicago's vibrant dance scene. Founded by Chicago icon and internationally-renown performer and choreographer, Ruth Page, the Center reflects her vision of supporting dance excellence in Chicago. Emanating from the Illinois heartland, the visionary work of Ruth Page influenced the growth of theater design, opera-ballet and dance. She achieved worldwide recognition as a true pioneer of dance in America by creating at the forefront of social, political and artistic issues. As a prominent force in the Chicago arts community, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts continues that legacy through its initiatives and programs that nurture the art form of dance, and by being an arts incubator for emerging and established artists and organizations.

The Ruth Page Civic Ballet Season sponsors include David and Lynn Kravis Family Foundation, Northeastern Illinois University, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Copa Airlines, NIB Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

For more information about The Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts and its programs visit

Disclosure: Once again, ChiIL Mama is elated to partner up with The Ruth Page Civic Ballet's classic nutcracker to offer an exciting 4 Pack of Tickets/ “Tea with Clara” opportunity for one of our lucky readers. Thanks to The Ruth Page Civic Ballet for providing complimentary tickets for our giveaway. As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, November 13, 2017

REVIEW: “Magic is Real” at The House Nutcracker!

Review by Catherine Hellmann, guest contributor 

The House Theatre of Chicago indeed produces magic. It is tough to be a Scrooge, even this early in the season on the night of our first snowfall, and resist the Christmas spirit with this delightful production of The Nutcracker. Everything feels merry and bright in the theater, from the lovely set with its numerous tall, elegant doors, the decorated Christmas tree, to the cast mingling with the crowd before the performance. There is such a big party atmosphere that gets everyone in the audience involved in the energy and enthusiasm. 

It’s hard to believe that this is the same space where I saw United Flight 232 just two months ago with its tunnel leading to the interior of the airplane. Or flying monkeys in Oz last March. Now the Chopin Theater is transformed with holiday cheer. The creativity and surprises that persist at House Theatre always amaze me. Little touches abound, like when each actor making an entrance from outside tosses a handful of fake snow into the air upon entrance, as if just stepping in from the cold. 

The show begins with a Christmas gathering of family; spirits are high as beloved son Fritz, a soldier, is due home for the holidays. The transition from gaiety to tragedy (spoiler alert!) is shocking as a somber figure appears suddenly at the door, dashing the party, a dreadful, military-folded funeral flag in hand. The Christmas tree is carried out like a coffin with pall bearers. The contrast is astounding. As my new BFF Kait Mikitin, the Audience Services Manager, told me,” Some audience members weep at that part or even walk out.” But that would be a shame to miss Clara’s grand adventure with her animated friends. 

Just as in the familiar version of The Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer is an intense, curious figure, both loving and slightly sinister. Torrey Hanson does not disappoint as the uncle everyone wants to have around for his company and awesome presents. (Everyone should have an Uncle Drosselmeyer who adores them and spoils them.) His gift is an odd one this time, a nutcracker version of her revered brother, Fritz. 

Haley Seda as Clara poignantly sings to her toys, and uses different funny voices to have them “respond” to her.  These toys later come to life and have the voices she portrayed earlier. 

The three toys are all so enchanting and wonderful, it is hard to pick a favorite. Rachel Shapiro as Phoebe the Doll has a good voice she uses to great effect in their songs. (I loved her yarn hair!) Ian Maryfield as the French sock monkey has a hilarious French accent and a couple of the best lines in the show. He was very playful and would startle and interact with audience members which was a hoot. Ben Hartel as Hugo, with his light-up hat, is the...uh...strange clown-like creature, was adorable and had great physical presence. All of them were dancing with children in the audience at intermission which was just charming.

Which brings up another point: this is a family-friendly show that kids can attend, although little ones might get a bit freaked out by the rats appearing in Act II. They are a bit creepy…   During one scene, an actor asked a question in the dialogue, and a small voice in the crowd answered. It was sweet and speaks to how this show is magical in its power to draw us in. 

My teen daughter thought “the walls opening up was cool.” Again, this is a trademark of House Theatre and how clever their theatrics are. When I asked my girl what she thought of the show, she answered: “The rats wanted Clara to stay in darkness with her brother, but she chose to enter the light where he was dead. It was like a closure thing.” Sounds like someone is paying attention in English class! 

Be sure to make a point of seeing House Theatre’s The Nutcracker this holiday season.  So much is going on in this show that you can see it repeatedly to catch the magic you missed the first time around. If you have family or out-of-town guests visiting over the holidays, this would be an unusual, hip holiday show for you to share with them that isn’t the typical fare. Be sure to buy a “Magic is Real” or “Time to Make Cookies” button at the Swag counter while you are there. 

For ticket links and further show info click HERE:

The House Theatre of Chicago once again brings holiday cheer for the whole family with its eighth annual engagement of the all-original, ballet-free The Nutcracker playing at The Chopin Theatre upstairs theatre, 1543 W. Division, November 3 – December 30. Company Members Jake Minton, Phillip Klapperich, Kevin O’Donnell and Tommy Rapley created the adaptation. New to the 2017 holiday production, based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story, is director and Company Member Chris Mathews with original direction and choreography by Tommy Rapley. 

Performances are Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Additional Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. begin regularly on Saturday, Nov. 25 and additional regular Sunday evening 7 p.m. performances begin on Sunday, Dec. 10. 

Preview tickets are $15 with regular run tickets $25 – $50. Student and industry same-day discounted tickets are available for $15 for all dates, based on availability. Tickets may be purchased by calling 773.769.3832 or by visiting

The Nutcracker is adapted from “The Nutcracker and the Mouse,” a story by E.T.A.
Hoffmann by Jake Minton, Phillip Klapperich, Kevin O’Donnell, and Tommy Rapley. 

Note: There are no performances on Christmas Eve, Sunday, Dec. 24th. 

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