Friday, December 14, 2018


ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List




Guest Review 
by Kimberly Robb Baker

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Chicago Theatre was a truly enjoyable spectacle. I had the pleasure of seeing it with my 10- and 4-year-old boys, Adam and Ali. 
This show is for you if you enjoy exquisite showmanship, good music, and incredible costumes. The brainchild of Cirque Dreams founder Neil Goldberg, it features talented cirque artists, singers and dancers from all over the world.

Adam and I were totally wowed by the opening diablo act, as well as what seemed to be a father/son gingerbread man acrobatics routine—both of which appeared to defy the laws of physics.

I really loved the first male/female acrobat duo. Their routine was sensual and surprising and showed off the man's talent as well as the woman's, a rare dynamic in an art where the larger person tends to act as a support while the smaller one gets to do all the jaw-dropping stuff.

Adam, my tween, really liked the fast-moving bouncy-ball juggling act routine and the death- defying penguin balancing routine.

Both boys adored the man who wielded what looked like a 10-foot-circum ference hula hoop. Who am I kidding? I loved it too. I mean, it's a freaking 10-foot hula hoop, people! Just imagine getting it going and the footwork needed to keep his hips ahead of the game while it loomed out over the orchestra pit!

Ali, the youngest the youngest member of our party was particularly enchanted by the huge snow-people. They were not a main act, but one of the many charming-to-eerie background acts that had us often making tough decisions about where to focus our attention.

Yes, I said eerie up there. This show balances festive, humorous, poignant, and what I'll call a Something Wicked This Way Comes feel. In this vein, the scene with the acrobatic dancing couple echoed by a dancing ghost couple behind them was achingly beautiful.

The show is set up as an opportunity to see the secret lives of Christmas ornaments, but there was no discernible storyline running through the vignettes. The only drawback of that is that there was so very much to see that it was hard to process. A more powerful through-line of story would have helped there.

I should point out that there was juggling, aerial arts (including a brilliant two-man hoop routine), a high wire act, and other components one would expect to see. They were all so fabulous. I wish there was space and time to describe them and especially to give credit to each of the artists. 

If you have very young children, here are a couple of points to consider:
This is a great way to test their readiness for a a big theatre. It's a really loud show, so their inevitable chatter is okay. Cirque Dreams Holidaze is very stimulating. My four-year-old loved it but was truly done by intermission. Be prepared to leave early. I promise that even half the show is worth the cost of admission. All told, I'm excited to recommend this show as a it was truly unique holiday outing for families.   

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE brings its popular and electrifying stage spectacular to The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Street, with eight unforgettable performances presented by Jam Theatricals. This critically-acclaimed extravaganza is a combination of a Broadway musical and a Cirque adventure wrapped into a spectacular holiday gift for the entire family. Tickets are on sale now. 

Cirque Dreams Holidaze has been hailed by the New York Daily News as “a delicious confection of charm, sparkle and talent by the sleigh load.” It’s “The perfect holiday gift and show everyone will enjoy,” raved BroadwayWorld of the sold-out performances that “dazzled…at The Kennedy Center,” (Washington Post.) The Tennessean proclaimed it a “distinctly different and decidedly entertaining experience” at the Grand Ole Opry House. Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune reviewed the productions 2014 Chicago engagement, calling it a “cheerfully excessive and very enjoyable family entertainment, populated by a global cast of some 30 circus performers from Russia, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Mongolia, Italy and other such exotic spots.”

Broadway Director and Cirque Dreams Founder Neil Goldberg has searched the world to assemble the most unique cast of incomparable cirque artists, singers, dancers and theatrical talent to wow audiences nationwide in 2018.

Set in a multi-million-dollar wonderland of season’s dreams and holiday pageantry, audiences around the country will celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with eye-popping performances, more than 300 spectacular costumes, 20 of the world’s jaw dropping acts, the talented singers, original music and seasonal favorites. Audiences will experience elaborate costumed characters, including snowmen, penguins, candles, reindeer, toy soldiers, gingerbread men, Santa and ornament as they fly, balance and stretch imaginations in this festive holiday celebration.  Exciting theatrical production numbers, illusions and gravity-defying feats will leave viewers on the edge of their seats. It’s “Las Vegas…meets family entertainment…meets musical theatre” raves the Boston Globe.    

Cirque Dreams Holidaze is priced from $25 to $125 and will feature eight performances at the Chicago Theatre, 175 North State Street, from December 12 through December 16. The performance schedule is December 12, 13, 14 at 7:30 p.m.; December 15 at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and December 16 at 1 and 5 p.m. Tickets are available at The Chicago Theatre box office, all Ticketmaster locations, or via phone at 1-800-745-3000. Group discounts for 10 or more are available by calling Grouptix at 773-327-3778.

For more information, visit:

About Cirque Dreams & Neil Goldberg
The Cirque Dreams franchise is a globally recognized entertainment brand that has produced shows for Broadway, theatre tours, casinos, theme parks, resorts, governments, cruise lines and venues worldwide. Since 1993, more than 50 million people have experienced a Cirque Dreams show. Productions have garnered critical acclaim from USA Today, Associated Press and the New York Times to CNN, Today Show and Fox & Friends.  Neil Goldberg has been declared "one of today’s leading theatrical impresarios" by the LA Times and “uniquely ingenious” by the New York Daily News. Other brand titles include the Broadway Hit Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, Cirque Dreams Rocks and Cirque Dreams Revealed. Cirque Dreams Holidaze continues touring the Unites States with multiple productions. Cirque Dreams Unwrapped performs annually at Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando. Three distinctive Cirque Dreams shows perform year-round onboard Norwegian Epic, Breakaway and Getaway. Neil Goldberg works with major celebrities, artists, holds various industry, leadership and Board of Director positions and is founding philanthropist of the Neil Goldberg Dream Foundation established to enrich the arts. For more information, visit Cirque Dreams Holdings LLC is a division of the VStar Entertainment Group of quality family shows and experiences worldwide.

EXTENDED: Still Time For Tea! The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party at Chicago Children's Theatre Now Playing Through December 30th

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List

Due to popular demand,
Chicago Children's Theatre 
has extended
The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party
an additional week, adding four new winter break performances 
on Saturday and Sunday, December 29 and 30.


An impertinent red squirrel named Nutkin narrowly escapes an owl called Old Brown in one of three classic tales performed in The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party.
Photo credit for all: Charles Osgood

At Chicago Children’s Theatre’s annual holiday event, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party, inviting children and parents on set after the performance to meet the actors and play with the puppets and props is all part of the experience. Here, actor Kay Kron shows an audience member a water bucket prop.

The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party concludes with a
tea and hot cocoa party in the theater’s lobby.

(from left) Lara Carling, Ray Rehberg and Kay Kron perform The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, about a tidy little mouse, a messy toad and a number of creepy crawlies that show up at her house.

Kay Kron (foreground), flanked by Ray Rehberg and Lara Carling, in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, one of three classic tales that make up The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party.

"Let your kiddos ask questions as they learn how the puppets are raised and lowered through cranks, how the wooden knobs make arms turn and eyebrows lower, and the magic of the wooden suitcase boxes."

-Chicago Parent Magazine

"...after the children rushed the stage to touch and feel the things they had just seen, we were ushered back into the theater’s lobby for hot cocoa and cookies. And, I’ve gotta admit, we enjoyed those Sunday morning treats, the both of us, with smiles on our faces at the wondrous tales we’d just been told."

"The show was very interactive, and included singing and dancing, along with the manipulation of the wooden puppets to hold everyone's attention...If you are bringing your child to the theater for the first time, this would be a wonderful introduction."

Chicago Children's Theatre will present two special Christmas Eve performances of The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party
on Monday, December 24 at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party came into its own last holiday season, attracting more than a thousand toddlers, parents and grandparents, many dressed up in their holiday finest, to sold out performances during the show’s inaugural run in CCT’s new West Loop home, The Station.

This holiday season, children of all ages are getting dressed up and enjoying a charming, ingeniously designed puppet show plus a spot of hot cocoa with CCT’s favorite friends from the English Lake District now that The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party has returned to Chicago Children’s Theatre.

But The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party is more than a show. It’s a special occasion for families to celebrate the holidays together. In addition to enjoying a highly interactive puppet show starring Peter Rabbit and his quirky animal friends, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s bright, wide open lobby is a festive setting for a post-show tea party complete with hot cocoa, scrumptious cookies, beautiful holiday décor and the chance to meet and pose for photos with members of the cast.

Originally slated to close December 24, Chicago Children's Theatre has extended The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party through December 30.

Show times are Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, 100 S. Racine Ave. in Chicago’s West Loop.

FAMILY FUN ALERT FOR CHRISTMAS EVE: Chicago Children's Theatre will present two special Christmas Eve performances of The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday, December 24.

Single tickets are $39 including fees. For subscriptions, single tickets and group rates, visit or call Chicago Children’s Theatre Guest Services,
(312) 374-8835. This production is ideal for families with children ages 2 to 6.

Even better, it’s not too late to save money by including The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party in a 2018-19 Chicago Children’s Theatre subscription. Multi-show subscription benefits include discounted tickets, flexible ticketing exchanges and discounts on CCT classes and camps. To subscribe, visit or call
(312) 374-8835. 

Chicago Children’s Theatre is centrally located in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, minutes from I-90 and I-290, as well as downtown and Ashland Avenue. Chicago Children’s Theatre offers free onsite parking at The Station on the south side of the building, entering from Racine Ave. Nearby street parking is available, or look for the Impark parking lot at 1301 W. Madison St. 

More about The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party

This year, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party returns with a trio of enchanting tales – the Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse, about a tidy little mouse, a messy toad and a number of creepy crawlies that show up at her house uninvited; the Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, about a mischievous squirrel who taunts an old owl with musical riddles; and an updated version of Peter Rabbit, featuring new puppets and a brand new musical number.

Each story is told by three nimble actor/storyteller/musicians who simultaneously operate ingenious mechanical “suitcase sculptures” custom-built for this production. After story time, children and parents are invited on the set to explore, play, pull levers and turn cranks on the puppet-filled trunks to reveal magical 3-D images that surprise and delight.

Now entering its fourth season, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Beatrix Potter series is devised by Will Bishop, Lara Carling, Kay Kron, Grace Needlman and Ray Rehberg. Director is Will Bishop. Designer is Grace Needlman. Music is written and performed by Ray Rehberg. Performers are Lara Carling and Kay Kron. Lighting designer is Becca Jeffords. Sound designer is David K. Samba. Jay Epps is stage manager.

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was a British writer, illustrator and conservationist best remembered for her best-selling children’s books that combined her love for animals and the English countryside. During her childhood in England’s Lake District, she looked after many animals including rabbits, frogs and even bats. She drew these animals throughout her youth, gradually improving the standard of her drawings. In her 20s she sought to try and get her children’s book and drawings published. Her initial attempts proved unsuccessful, but she persevered and eventually her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published in 1902, when she was 36. Today, Peter Rabbit is one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. In sum, Potter wrote 24 books. Some of her best know titles include The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan and The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. For more information, visit the Beatrix Potter Society,

Access Weekend for The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party
is December 22 and 23

CCT continues to grow its commitment to all Chicago children at The Station by expanding services for patrons with disabilities. Access Weekend is December 22 and 23. Services include:

ASL interpretation will be available Saturday, December 22 at the 11:30 a.m. performance.

Open Captioning will be provided at the 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. performances on Saturday, December 22.

Both shows on Sunday, December 23, 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., are sensory friendly performances. A quiet room and family restroom will be available.

For more information about access and inclusion at Chicago Children’s Theatre, visit or email

What’s Next at Chicago Children’s Theatre

After the New Year comes X-Marks The Spot, a new inclusive sensory work conceived by CCT Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell to highlight the experience of blind and low vision audiences. This production will excite your senses with sounds, voices, and touchable, scented props. A low-light setting and a gentle invitation to use blindfolds encourages audience members not to rely on their sense of sight, but instead to tune in to their other four senses to experience EST, or “Extra Sensory Theatre.” Performances are January 22-March 3, 2019. Ideal for ages 8 and up.

Next, CCT hosts New York’s Spellbound Theatre’s The World Inside Me, a new form of educational arts experience designed specifically for pre-K youth. This world premiere production is part art and part science, showcasing the creative abilities of our youngest children while celebrating the human body, following human development from pre-natal through age five. Performances are February 9-March 10.

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 13th season finale is the world premiere of The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963, based on the groundbreaking, timeless young adult novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, adapted by Cheryl L. West, directed by Wardell Julius Clark. Performances are March 26-April 28. For ages 9 and up.

For tickets, subscriptions and group rates, visit or call (312) 374-8835. 

About Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station

Chicago Children’s Theatre has transformed the former 12th District Police Station, located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood at 100 S. Racine Avenue, into its first permanent home. The new Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, celebrated its grand opening in January 2017, and now serves as a beautiful, mixed-use , centrally located performing arts, education and community engagement facility that welcomes all Chicago families.

Since its launch in 2005, CCT has cemented its reputation as the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. The company evolved out of Chicago’s need for high-quality, professional children’s programming to match the quality and significance of powerhouses such as Steppenwolf, Goodman and Lookingglass. In 2017, Chicago Children’s Theatre became the first theater for young audiences in the nation to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.

Chicago Children’s Theatre has built its national reputation due to its focus on new work, producing 17 world premieres in the last 12 years including The Selfish Giant, The Hundred Dresses, Jackie and Me, Dot and Ziggy, The Houdini Box, The Elephant and The Whale (in association with Redmoon), Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, Leo Lionni’s Frederick, Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, Moonshot: A Race to Space, The Year I Didn’t Go To School: A Homemade Circus, My Wonderful Birthday Suit!, An Epic Tale of Scale and Last Stop on Market Street. These enjoyed successful inaugural runs in Chicago, many followed by productions at theaters across the U.S.

CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are, showcasing high profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain. CCT also honors a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the company offers free tickets to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season.

In addition to presenting live shows in The Station’s intimate 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre continues to grow its education and community programs, which are unique in Chicago for emphasizing student authorship, youth empowerment and community leadership. CCT now offers year-round education programming at The Station for ages 0 to 13, including the city’s most diverse roster of classes, specialized workshops, winter and spring break camps, and a full slate of summer camp experiences. Visit, email, or call CCT’s Guest Services,
(312) 374-8835, to register your child for one class or many.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, with Board President Eric Neveux. The company is supported by a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. Chicago Children's Theatre’s season is sponsored in part by Goldman Sachs Gives and ComEd.

For more, visit

How Illinois Starved Its Public Universities And Colleges For 16 Years And Caused A Mass Exodus


As an Illinois parent of a high school senior and sophomore, state budgeting for higher education, or lack thereof, is a huge area of concern for me. Still, a healthy, well funded higher education system is a boon for everyone in the state. I'm cautiously optimistic our state is finally moving in the right direction, by approving a 16.6 percent budget increase for 2020. Yet, funding levels are still lower than they were in 2002! With more states moving toward free public universities for those who qualify financially, maintain a good GPA, and agree to stay in state a few years after graduation, Illinois will have to step up in a big way to compete in any meaningful way. Right now Illinois is hemorrhaging high school graduates to universities and colleges in other states.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has approved a fiscal year 2020 budget that would include $314 million new dollars, or a 16.6 percent increase in funding, for higher education operations in Illinois. “This next fiscal year is beyond critical for the future of higher education in our state,” said Tom Cross, chairman, IBHE. “The board believes that a $2.208 billion budget request will mean reinvestment in higher education, and a commitment to ending the pattern of outmigration of Illinois students.” The board action was taken Tues, Dec. 4.

Illinois Higher Education Appropriations Operation History Adjusted for Mandates and Inflation

“For the public universities, we feel that a ten percent increase, or $110 million in additional revenue, is reasonable and will allow those institutions to start to heal after 16 years of budgets below the benchmark of fiscal year 2002,” explained Cross. “Universities still haven’t come close to recovering from the worst blow, which was the stopgap budget of fiscal 2016.” The chart above shows the appropriations for higher education as adjusted for unfunded mandates and inflation.

In the budget request, IBHE is asking for additional money for grant programs. IBHE Executive Director Dr. Al Bowman said, “If Illinois wants more of its high school graduates to attend Illinois colleges and universities, an important incentive is the availability of grants. This budget request will go a long way toward keeping more students here.” 

The new or increased grant lines include:

• Monetary Award Program (MAP)                    $100 million
• AIM HIGH                                                        $20 million
• Veterans and National Guard                          $26 million
• Assistance for Nonpublic Institutions               $25 million

“It’s important to note that even with a 16.6 percent increase, next year’s budget would still be lower than the $2.417 billion amount approved by lawmakers for fiscal year 2002,” said Cross. 

Bowman told the board that there is a clear connection between tuition increases and the woefully inadequate budgets for higher education. “Revenues for public universities used to come primarily from the state budget, at 72 percent of the total in fiscal 2002. That meant that only 28 percent came from tuition and fees. That ratio has flipped, so that students are largely responsible for almost 65 percent of university revenue.”  

Trends in Educational and Related Revenues at Illinois Public Universities

The board is also requesting $664 million in Capital Renewal funding to pay for imperative deferred maintenance. That is in addition to $1.5 billion that is necessary for regular capital projects.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Magic Waters and Six Flags Great America Combo Season Passes and Memberships Are On Sale Now

Six Flags Set to Dive In to 
Magic Waters Waterpark
All Taxing Authorities Approve Abatements for Rockford Waterpark

Six Flags Great America, the Thrill Capital of the Midwest, has received the last vote from the Rock Valley College approving the final of 11 real estate tax abatements on the Magic Waters property. Six Flags Great America now has the necessary approvals to begin managing Magic Waters Waterpark near Rockford, Illinois. The leasing agreement will officially begin on April 1, 2019 and will allow the largest regional theme park company in the world and the largest waterpark operator in North America to bring its unique and innovative brand to Rockford.
Magic Waters Waterpark, a 43-acre facility, has been owned and operated by the Rockford Park District since 1988. The park features a wide array of tube slides and body slides, an expansive children’s play area, a 1200 ft. lazy river and Tsunami Bay, Illinois’ largest wave pool.

“We are excited to add Magic Waters Waterpark to the Six Flags family of parks and continue to foster a great partnership with the Rockford Park District,” said Six Flags Great America Park President Hank Salemi. “We look forward to the many opportunities we will have with Magic Waters and the community. We can now offer tremendous added value to guests of Magic Waters by including Six Flags Great America and Hurricane Harbor in their Magic Waters Combo Season Passes.”

Six Flags Great America plans to begin the hiring process for the newly acquired waterpark in the New Year. “Privatizing Magic Waters Waterpark was something our community told us should be a priority to achieve. I cannot think of a better organization to partner with than Six Flags Great America as they have been outstanding to work with and our mission, vision, and service expectations align. They are the industry experts and will have more resources to invest in the waterpark. The District will now be able to invest its limited resources into our communities’ priorities for 2019 and beyond such as parks, paths, free family events, and youth,” said Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine. 

Magic Waters and Six Flags Great America Combo Season Passes and Memberships are on sale now. Guests will enjoy the benefits of a Season Pass or Membership at Magic Waters Waterpark and receive free admission to Six Flags Great America and Hurricane Harbor located in Gurnee, Illinois.

About Six Flags Entertainment Corporation
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation is the world’s largest regional theme park company and the largest operator of waterparks in North America, with $1.4 billion in revenue and 25 parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada. For 57 years, Six Flags has entertained millions of families with world-class coasters, themed rides, thrilling water parks and unique attractions. 

For more information, visit
Follow us on Twitter @SFGreat_America
Like us on Facebook at
Follow us on Instagram @SFGreat_America

About Rockford Park District
The Rockford Park District was proudly citizen-created in 1909 and is the third largest park and recreation system in Illinois with 179 parks and facilities. The Rockford Park District improves the quality of life for citizens by providing a vibrant and relevant park system which increases property values, stimulates economic development, decreases juvenile crime, and improves our community’s health. A vibrant and relevant park system also protects the environment, employs hundreds of area teens, and brings our diverse community together in unity, through the common love of play. For more information, visit

Make This Holiday A ChiIL One With Chicago Themed Gifts From Transit Tees

Hundreds of unique Chicago-inspired holiday gifts under $10, $20 and $30 at Transit Tees 

Original, locally produced winter hats, tees, socks, jewelry, mugs, 
puzzles, games, ‘L’ stop merch & more  

Here at ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows, we love our home town, Chi, IL. We're also huge advocates of shopping locally and supporting small businesses and artist made goods. The holidays are a great time to help out the local economy and stock up on some sweet, unique gifts for family and friends. These are on our wish list:

Transit Tees of Wicker Park and Andersonville has hundreds of original, local gifts all designed and produced in-house for under $10, $20 and $30 just in time for the holidays.  

Looking for that perfect gift for the person that has everything? Transit Tees in Wicker Park and Andersonville has a huge selection of unique, Chicago-inspired gifts for under $10, $20 and $30 just in time for the holidays.  

Designed in-house and locally produced, Transit Tees offers a wide range of exclusive, iconic merchandise including: Chicago Flag and Neighborhood-themed Winter Hats ($28), Tees ($20) and Whisky Glasses ($10); Chicago Hot Dog or Deep Dish Pizza Socks ($16), Pins ($12) and Ornaments ($9); and Chicago Beer Can Candles ($28). 

As official manufacturer of Chicago Transit Authority products, Transit Tees also designs and produces Chicago ‘L’ Pint Glasses ($10), Mugs ($14) and ‘L’ stop Transit Magnets ($5) for each of the 145 stops in the entire train system. 

Transit Tees also recently launched Chicago’s first transit-themed card game, LOOP: The Elevated Card Game ($20) which takes players on a hilarious urban adventure as they encounter Buskers, Train Car Preachers and Manspreading commuters, as well as some challenging aspects of Chicago commutes such as Sat in Puddle, Fell Asleep on the Train and Went to Wrong Airport. 

This holiday season, Transit Tees’ Wicker Park location (1371 N. Milwaukee Avenue) celebrates its sixth anniversary. The new storefront in Andersonville (5226 N. Clark Street) is also ready for the holidays, stocked with all the latest merchandise. 

Visit for additional holiday gift ideas available in-store or online. 

About Transit Tees 
Transit Tees, founded in 2001 by Tim Gillengerten, takes visuals from Chicago's metropolitan landscapes and transforms them into fashionable artwork, accessories, home goods and more. An official manufacturer of Chicago Transit Authority products, Transit Tees locally designs, fabricates and retails their signature brand online and at two storefronts in Wicker Park and Andersonville. Most store items are created in their design studio and produced on-site by local artists and craftsmen. For more information, visit 

Lyric Opera of Chicago's La bohème and Cendrillon Return in January With Discounts For Children and College Students

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Two favorites return to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the New Year:
La bohème (January 10-31) and 
Cendrillon (January 11-20)

 Photos: Todd Rosenberg

Lyric Opera of Chicago kicks off 2019 with two acclaimed productions: the return of the new production of Puccini’s captivating and tragic love story La bohème, and the Midwest premiere of a beloved production of Cendrillon, based on the Cinderella story. La bohème is a quintessentially Italian opera and the plot is forever youthful and eternally fresh. Cendrillon features an intelligent blend of wit, sensitivity, and elegance against the backdrop of a familiar storybook kingdom.

La bohème opened on October 6, 2018 to critical and audience acclaim and reopens on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at 7 p.m. for eight performances at the Lyric Opera House (20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago) through January 31. Single tickets start at $39 and are available now at or by calling 312-827-5600.

Cendrillon premiered at Lyric on December 1, 2018 to the delight of audiences and critics alike, and retakes the stage on Friday, January 11 at 7 p.m. with three performances through January 20. Single tickets start at $49 and are available now at or by calling 312-827-5600.

Special pricing is available for children’s tickets for all opera performances at Lyric when purchased with adult tickets. Children’s tickets ($20-$50) are available by calling Audience Services at 312-827-5600. Full-time college students may register for Lyric’s NEXT student discount tickets ($20) for select performances at

One of the most popular – and most performed – operas in the world, La bohème inspired the hit musical Rent and follows six relatable young-adult Bohemians experiencing the highs and lows of 1830s Paris. The cast stars Italian soprano Maria Agresta as Mimì, American tenor Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo this past October 2018, Australian soprano and Emmy Award winner Danielle de Niese as Musetta, American baritone Zachary Nelson as Marcello, and Romanian bass Adrian Sâmpetrean as Colline. Rounding out the principal roles are Puerto Rican baritone Ricardo José Rivera as Schaunard and American bass-baritone Jake Gardner as Benoît & Alcindoro.

The cast for the January performances of La bohème is the same as for the October performances. Venezuelan-Swiss conductor Domingo Hindoyan will lead all but the Jan. 31 performance, which will be conducted by Stefano Sarzani in his Lyric debut. British director Richard Jones created the new production, with set and costume designs by Stewart Laing and lighting designed by Mimi Jordan Sherin. Michael Black is chorus master.

Lyric’s Cendrillon (Cinderella) cast includes several artists who made triumphant company debuts in December. Australian soprano Siobhan Stagg portrays Cendrillon, and Prince Charming is played by British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, who returns to Lyric in the title role of Handel's Ariodante in March. Canadian coloratura soprano Marie-Eve Munger is the Fairy Godmother, American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop is Cendrillon’s stepmother Madame de la Haltière, and Australian bass-baritone Derek Welton is Cendrillon’s father Pandolfe. Ryan Opera Center ensemble members soprano Emily Pogorelc and mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Decker are Cendrillon’s stepsisters.

Lyric’s music director Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Cendrillon performances January 17 and 20. Canadian-Italian conductor Francesco Milioto makes his company debut leading the January 11 performance. French director Laurent Pelly created the production and designed the whimsical costumes, with scenery by Belgian designer Barbara de Limburg and lighting designed by Duane Schuler. Choreography is by Laura Scozzi, revived for Lyric by Karine Girard. Michael Black is chorus master.

New Lyric Opera coproduction of Puccini’s La bohème generously made possible by the Julius Frankel Foundation, Abbott Fund, Liz Stiffel, The Michael and Susan Avramovich Charitable Trust, Howard L. Gottlieb and Barbara G. Greis, and Roberta L. and Robert J. Washlow. 

Lyric’s premiere presentation of Massenet’s Cendrillon generously made possible by the NIB Foundation and Invesco QQQ.

About Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Founded in 1954, Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of general director, president & CEO Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become The Great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.

To learn more about Lyric’s season, go to You can also join the conversation with @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #Lyric1819 #LongLivePassion 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Storefront holiday favorite
returns this holiday season at The Den Theatre

New, expanded version of the storefront hit produced by
Yippee Productions LLC, comprised of
MCL Chicago,
Drew DeSantis, Jim Jensen and Mark Michelson

Through January 12, 2019

Guest Review 
by D'Arcy Mies

Upon entering the theatre, the stage was set. The year was 1987, and we were guests at the company Christmas party, at Nakatomi Plaza. Nothing says 1980’s corporate fun more than Wham! on the stereo and wine coolers under the tree. 

Photo credit for all: Michael Shepherd 

The fun continued throughout the show, with high energy musical numbers, embarrassingly familiar costumes, and lots and lots of cursing! The plot stays carefully close to the 1988 Bruce Willis release, so creative corner cutting was amusing to watch. Special effects include broken remote control toy vehicles and the Tandy brand walkie-talkies I had as a kid.

YKYMC manages to be both a close parody of the action movie, and rich with its own inner logic and metahumor. Twinkies are thrown, sexily. Terrorists tap-dance. Nakatomi, rendered almost immortal, reaches enlightenment and dies like a Shakespearean philosopher.  

The actors are hardworking and knee-slappingly funny. Erin Long in dual roles as terrorists Klaus and Tony, is a standout, completely inhabiting both roles. Bill Gordon as Bruce McClane, should be given an award for his fight scene with a My Buddy Doll. The humor was witty at times, slapstick at others, and kept both me and my teenager laughing throughout.

YKYMC is definitely what you’d hope from a musical parody of the best Christmas movie of 1988.  So come out to the show and have a few laughs!

D'Arcy Mies is a Montessori teacher, mom, and long time theater lover who lives in Chicago burb, Franklin Park. She drives a "Tardis Blue" car decked out like Dr. Who's time machine and can often be found at pop culture events.

Yippee Productions LLC, a new partnership between lead producer Drew DeSantis (Producer at Drury Lane Productions), Jim Jensen (Drury Lane, Royal George, Commercial Theater Producer and General Manager), Mark Michelson (MJA Ventures Chicagoland Theatre Fund, Founder) and the Board of Directors of the former storefront comedy theater MCL Chicago (2014-2018), announces an expanded version of the hit holiday musical Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Musical Parody. The book and score is conceived by Michael Shepherd Jordan, Alex Garday and Stephanie McCullough with direction by Tiffani Moore Swalley.

Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Musical Parody runs December 1, 2018 – January 12, 2019 at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee in Wicker Park. 

Gary Fields (Hans Olo)

 Nate Curlott (FBl Johnson)

Bruce McClane, a grizzled blue-collar NYPD cop, tries to reconcile with his estranged white collar wife Holly Generic at her job at the Nakatomi Plaza in sunny Los Angeles on Christmas Eve in 1987. German terrorist Hans Olo and his henchmen take the cast and audience hostage and it is up to Bruce—with some help from the LAPD, FBI and Arnold Schwartzen-Schnitzel—to save everyone before time runs out. Audience favorite characters like FBI Johnson, Hans Olo, and of course Bruce McClane return with new toe-tapping musical numbers and hilariously nostalgic ‘80s references in this expanded two-act musical.

“Yippee was our marquee holiday production while running MCL,” notes Michael Shepherd Jordan. “Over the four years we produced the show, it grew into a Chicago holiday tradition for us and our loyal audience. We’re thrilled to partner with esteemed Chicago producers to elevate this show and take it from storefront to an established venue.”

Garday adds, “As the former Artistic Director of MCL Chicago, I wanted the space to function exactly like a storefront theater should - as a space to workshop and refine this show so that it’s now ready for a broader mainstream theatrical audience. "The producers have provided the financial and operational support to allow the creative team to make this production the biggest, funniest, most wonderful run to date.”

“The juxtaposition of turning an action movie into a musical, no less a beloved holiday action movie like Die Hard, is ripe for parody,” comments producer Drew DeSantis. “As the lead producer for this musical, it has been a true pleasure working with Michael, Alex, and Stephanie to elevate this show to the next level. Jim, Mark, and I are thrilled to support a home-grown Chicago production as we fully develop this storefront favorite for a wider audience. It’s what Chicago theater should be doing.”

Erin Long (Klause)

 Ashley Geron

The cast features Jonathan Allsop (Fabrique/Theo), Caitlyn Cerza (Holly Generic), Nate Curlott (FBl Johnson), Gary Fields (Hans Olo), Ashley Geron (Officer Johnson), Bill Gordon (Bruce McClane), Jin Kim (Nakatomi), Terrance Lamonte Rogers Jr. (Carl Winslow), Erin Long (Klause), and Jenna Steege (Willis).

The creative team includes Eric Lucien (scenic design), Stephanie McCullough (sound design and music direction) and Sheena Laird (fight direction). The complete creative team will be announced at a later date.

Performances of Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Musical Parody are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are on sale now at For updates and information follow Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas on Facebook and Instagram @yippeethemusical, as well as

Previews: December 1 - 2, 2018
Regular run: December 6, 2018 – January 12, 2019

Thursdays:      8:00 p.m.                                                         
Fridays:            8:00 p.m.                                                            
Saturdays:        8:00 p.m.                                                           
Sundays:          3:00 p.m.

The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.


Box Office:                                           
1331 N. Milwaukee Ave
773-697-3830, or visit

About The Den Theatre
Artistic Director Ryan Martin opened The Den in 2010 with a single theatre space. Seven years later, The Den boasts five intimate and unique theaters on two floors ranging from 50 – 200 seats, as well as two additional spaces primarily used for classes and rehearsals. The Den is also equipped with two bars enveloped by a never-ending field of lounge space for audiences and like-minded culture hounds to drink, talk, read, watch, think, listen and live. The Den is home to seven resident theatre companies including First Floor Theater, Haven Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre, The New Colony, Broken Nose Theatre, WildClaw Theatre and Firebrand Theatre. Hundreds of other companies from Chicago and beyond have also called The Den home, utilizing its theaters, studio space and easily convertible cabaret space to accommodate a stream of programming, including plays, musicals, film screenings, classical and jazz performances, dance, improv and stand-up, seminars and speaking engagements. For additional information, visit

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