Saturday, November 30, 2019

REVIEW: Cirque Du Soleil’s World Premiere of “‘Twas the Night Before” Now Playing The Chicago Theatre Through December 8th, 2019


All-New Family Production Now Playing At
The Chicago Theatre This Holiday Season


Tickets On-Sale Now

 Photo Credit for all: Errison Lawrence

by Dugan Kenaz-Mara

I loved Cirque Du Soleil’s “‘Twas the Night Before”. As a whole, it was a huge spectacle and incorporated many interesting acts, each with their own unique sensory experience. Some of the acts were truly unique in their execution, such as the Hotel Cart and Aerial Lamp acts, where performers used unusual objects as aerial apparatuses. These acts brought me joy as a performer to see how the concept of what can be used to make a performance can really extend as far as the performer’s imagination allows. 

Some of the acts brought new life to acts usually overdone in the circus: for example, in the Diabolo act, “‘Twas the Night Before” had performers use long ropes fit for 10 person jump-roping to pass diabolos around audience participants. This is something I have never seen before and it brought a new light to what could be done to add new light to a typically overdone skill in the circus. 

Speaking of lights, the lighting in this show was one of the main focuses and is extremely well done. The performance includes everything from handheld lights ‘passed’ between performers to chaser lights in the Hoola hoops to using a light for an aerial act. And to compliment all of that further the stage lights bring out the true colors of each act, especially when they shimmer off of the enormous strands of tinsel used as the set. 

The costumes were also spectacular, as is usual in Cirque du Soleil shows. All of the costumes were really expressive of the characters, some even bringing a new idea to how a character is presented, for example, the character Jolly being portrayed in most of the show as having a ragged soot-stained cloak, rather than the ‘typical’ Santa outfit of a red suit and white beard. Overall, it tells a really nice story about family and passion, and how stories can connect us all in a time of digitization where we are less likely to spend quality time together by letting us find our passion or ‘spark’ and share it with the world. 

Dugan Kenaz-Mara is studying theatre (performance) at Northwestern University. He was born and raised on Chicago theatre productions since early childhood. He has also studied circus arts/performance at Actors Gymnasium in Evanston and CircEsteem in Chicago. The past two seasons, he spent summers on cast at Bristol Renaissance Faire.

Cirque du Soleil and The Madison Square Garden Company (NYSE: MSG) have partnered up on the all-new family production, ‘Twas the Night Before…, which makes its debut at The Chicago Theatre this holiday season. 'Twas the Night Before... is an exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas classic as only Cirque du Soleil could imagine. This festive show about the wonders of sharing and friendship promises to spark lasting memories in the hearts of families this holiday season. The production is now playing at The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Street, through December 8, 2019 for 17 performances. Tickets are on sale now.

Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever Christmas show, ‘Twas the Night Before... is a flurry of love, Christmas cheer, rip-roaring fun and hugely lovable characters that will become a new tradition for families to cherish. Join Isabella, a curious girl who’s become jaded by the hoopla surrounding Christmas, as she is whisked away to an upside-down, inside-out world where she meets characters inspired by the original timeless poem. Discover what happened before Santa dropped in!

The international casting lineup features Tuedon Ariri (Canada) performing the Aerial Hammock; Katharine Arnold (United Kingdom) performing Aerial Cart; Rosie Axon (United Kingdom) and Adam Jukes (England) performing Inline Skating; Ming-En Chen, Tsung-Ying Lin, Ting-Chung Wang and Chia-Hao Yu (Taipei) performing Diablo; Michele Clark (United States) performing Hula Hoop and as Isabella; Nicole Faubert and Guillaume Paquin (Canada) in Aerial Duo Straps; Francis Gadbois (Canada) performing Box Juggling; Quentin Greco (France), Jacob Gregorie (Canada), Chauncey Kroner (United States), Timothé Vincent (France), Jinge Wang (China) and Evan Tomlinson Weintraub (Canada) performing Hoop Diving and Acrobatic Table;  Alexis Vigneault (Canada) performing Aerial Acrobatic Lamp and Jenna Beltran, Samuel Moore, Paul Ross, Diana Schoenfield and Bianca Vallar (United States), along with Kalila Hermant (Belgium), as ensemble dancers. 

The international casting lineup features Tuedon Ariri (Canada) performing the Aerial Hammock; Katharine Arnold (United Kingdom) performing Aerial Cart; Rosie Axon (United Kingdom) and Adam Jukes (England) performing Inline Skating; Ming-En Chen, Tsung-Ying Lin, Ting-Chung Wang and Chia-Hao Yu (Taipei) performing Diablo; Michele Clark (United States) performing Hula Hoop and as Isabella; Nicole Faubert and Guillaume Paquin (Canada) in Aerial Duo Straps; Francis Gadbois (Canada) performing Box Juggling; Quentin Greco (France), Jacob Gregorie (Canada), Chauncey Kroner (United States), Timothé Vincent (France), Jinge Wang (China) and Evan Tomlinson Weintraub (Canada) performing Hoop Diving and Acrobatic Table;  Alexis Vigneault (Canada) performing Aerial Acrobatic Lamp and Jenna Beltran, Samuel Moore, Paul Ross, Diana Schoenfield and Bianca Vallar (United States), along with Kalila Hermant (Belgium), as ensemble dancers. 

The creative team consists of Daniel Fortin as Vice President Creation, Manuel Bissonnette as Creative Director, James Hadley as Stage Director & Writer, Genevieve Lizotte as Set Designer & Art Director, Edesia Moreno as Acrobatic Choreographer & Performance Designer, Vinh Nguyen Kinjaz as Choreographer, Jean-Phi Goncalves as Musical Composer, James Lavoie as Costume Designer, Maryse Gosselin as Make-Up Designer, Nicolas Brion as Light Designer, and Ben Scheff as Sound Designer. The show is produced by Jayna Neagle  under the helm of Cirque du Soleil Producer Marie-Josee Adam and Chief Executive Producer Yasmine Khalil.

“We are so excited to announce our cast and creative team for ‘Twas the Night Before…, and can’t wait to showcase their talents upon the stage in Chicago this holiday season,” said Khalil. “Featuring original acrobatics, spectacular choreography, dazzling costumes, and familiar music sure to strike an emotional chord,  ‘Twas is a completely new experience that brings families together to celebrate the holiday spirit.”

“We are thrilled to share with audiences the premiere of ‘Twas the Night Before…, an all-new family production, as this classic Christmas story is brought to life onstage through the creative lens of Cirque du Soleil,” said Darren Pfeffer, executive vice president, MSG Live, The Madison Square Garden Company.  “Through the visionaries behind the creative team coupled with the incredible artistry of the performers, we look forward to delivering an unforgettable production for families this holiday season that can only be seen at our venues: The Chicago Theatre and Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.”

For more information and tickets to ‘Twas the Night Before… at The Chicago Theatre, visit or call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or the Ticketmaster Box Office at The Chicago Theatre. Box Office hours are Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tickets starting at $30. Groups of ten or more please call 773-327-3778; discounts available for groups of 20 or more. Service charges apply to telephone, internet and box office pick-up orders. Accessible and companion seats are available via the Disabled Services Department at 888-609-7599.

About Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group
‘Twas the Night Before… is the 49th original production of Cirque du Soleil, part of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group is a world leader in live entertainment. On top of producing world-renowned circus arts shows, the Canadian organization brings its creative approach to a large variety of entertainment forms such as multimedia productions, immersive experiences, theme parks and special events. It currently has 4,500 employees from nearly 70 countries. Going beyond its various creations, Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group aims to make a positive impact on people, communities and the planet with its most important tools: creativity and art. For more information about Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, please visit

About The Madison Square Garden Company
The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) is a world leader in live sports and entertainment experiences.  The company presents or hosts a broad array of premier events in its diverse collection of iconic venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden, Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; the Forum in Inglewood, CA; and The Chicago Theatre.  Other MSG properties include legendary sports franchises: the New York Knicks (NBA) and the New York Rangers (NHL); two development league teams –  the Westchester Knicks (NBAGL) and the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL); and esports teams through Counter Logic Gaming, a leading North American esports organization, and Knicks Gaming, MSG’s NBA 2K League franchise.  In addition, the Company features the popular original production – the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes – and through Boston Calling Events, produces New England’s preeminent Boston Calling Music Festival.  Also under the MSG umbrella is TAO Group, a world-class hospitality group with globally-recognized entertainment dining and nightlife brands: Tao, Marquee, Lavo, Avenue, Beauty & Essex and Vandal.  More information is available at

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cirque du Soleil’s Alegría On Sale Starting December 5th For Chicago Shows June 5-28, 2020 at Soldier Field

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Fall in Love Again with Timeless 
Cirque du Soleil’s most iconic production returns to Chicago for three weeks only

June 5-28, 2020, at Soldier Field South Lot
 Public tickets available beginning December 5

Credit for all Photos: Marie-Andrée Lemire / Costumes Dominique Lemieux / Cirque du Soleil 2019 

Cirque du Soleil is thrilled to be returning to Chicago with the revival of Alegría, its most iconic production. For three weeks only, from June 5-28, 2020, audiences are invited under the Big Top at Soldier Field South Lot (1410 Museum Campus Drive) to fall in love again with timeless Alegría; a true Cirque du Soleil classic reinterpreted through today’s creative lens.

A production destined to change its history, Cirque du Soleil first presented Alegría in April 1994, launching an emblematic show that was to win over more than 14 million spectators in 255 cities in over 19 years of touring and earn a Grammy Award nomination for its title song. To mark the show’s 25th anniversary, Cirque du Soleil is now revisiting its iconic Alegría through today’s lens—including refreshed costumes and set design, a renewed acrobatic vocabulary, and modernized musical arrangements —to touch new generations of spectators.

With its signature songs, stunning acrobatics, memorable characters and enchanting artistry that have helped define the Cirque du Soleil aesthetic, Alegría is the reincarnation of a classic, reinterpreted for the age, and rekindled to inspire fans—old and new alike.

More about Alegría:
Alegría (‘joy’ in Spanish) takes audiences at the heart of a once glorious kingdom now in decay led by the king’s fool and a dusty aristocracy. Carried by an intangible wind of change, an emerging movement from the streets strives to shake this established order, instilling hope and renewal to bring light and harmony to their world. With its joyful spirit, Alegría is a vital, energizing force driven by a thirst for a brighter tomorrow.

In true Cirque du Soleil fashion, Alegría unfolds soul-touching clown antics and remarkable acrobatic performances in a whimsical and immersive visual universe. Perched at the top of the Big Top, gymnasts fly from one High Bar to the next, and leap into the void to reach the hands of mighty catchers suspended on a cradle swing.  Using all her limbs, an artist dazzles with her ability to spin and twirl a multitude of hoops while contorting her body with otherworldly ease. Other Jaw-dropping highlights include a daredevil Fire Knife Dancer eating, breathing, touching and juggling with flames; a sublime couple on Aerial Straps soaring through a delicate snowstorm; and fourteen tumblers bouncing off a Powertrack (trampoline tracks) embedded into the stage to perform criss-crossing series of daring somersaults.

For more information about Alegría, visit
Follow #Alegria and #cirquedusoleil on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

To watch a preview video of Alegría, visit

Ticket Information:
Tickets for Alegría in Chicago are available online exclusively to Cirque Club members starting today, with our 40% off Black Friday offer. Cirque Club membership is free and benefits includes access to advance tickets, special offers and exclusive behind-the-scenes information. To join, visit Public tickets for Chicago performances of Alegría will be available beginning Thursday, Dec. 5, at Tickets start at $49. Plus, to live the Cirque Experience to the fullest, VIP and Behind the Scenes packages are available; find more information at

Cirque du Soleil would also like to thank its official Official Partners, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and Villa Maria Wines.

About Cirque du Soleil
From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is a major Québec-based organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has close to 4,500 employees, including 1,400 artists from 70 different countries.

Cirque du Soleil, a division of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, has brought wonder and delight to more than 200 million spectators in more than 450 cities in over 60 countries on six continents. The revival of Alegría is Cirque du Soleil’s 44th original production since 1984, and its 19th presented under the Big Top. For more information, visit

ALEX JENNINGS at Gene Siskel Film Center following National Theatre Live screening of Hansard, Friday evening, December 6

Three-time Olivier Award-winning actor ALEX JENNINGS,
in Chicago for The Light in the Piazza,
makes a special appearance at Gene Siskel Film Center
following National Theatre Live screening of Hansard,
Friday evening, December 6

NT Live, Alex Jennings in person! Film Series : National Theatre Live
2019, SIMON GODWIN, UK, CA. 100 MIN.

Three-time Olivier Award winner Alex Jennings (Netflix’s The Crown), in Chicago rehearsing for his upcoming role in the Tony Award-winning musical, The Light in the Piazza, at the Lyric Opera House Dec. 14-29, will make a special appearance at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (164 N. State Street) following the National Theatre Live screening of the engrossing new work, Hansard, in which he co-stars with Olivier and Tony Award-winning actress Lindsay Duncan (Private Lives), Friday evening, December 6, at 7:45pm.  Jennings will be on hand afterwards to answer questions about his acclaimed Broadway, West End, and TV career.

Hansard, a witty and devastating portrait of the ruling class by Simon Woods, portrays a summer’s morning in 1988, as Tory politician Robin Hesketh (Jennings) has returned home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with Diana (Duncan), his wife of 30 years.  But all is not as blissful as it seems.  Diana has a stinking hangover, a fox is destroying the garden, and secrets are being dug up all over the place.  As the day draws on, what starts as a gentle ribbing and the familiar rhythms of marital scrapping quickly turns to blood-sport. Directed by Simon Godwin as part of National Theatre Live, this brand new play is part of an initiative operated by the Royal Theatre in London which broadcasts performances of their productiions live via satellite to cinemas and arts venues around the world.

Tickets for Hansard at the Gene Siskel Film Center will be on sale Friday, November 22 and priced at $14 (general) and $8 (members/students). Hansard will be screened Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:45pm, and Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2:30pm; Jennings will appear following the Dec. 6 screening only.  For more information, please visit

Alex Jennings reprises his role as Signor Naccarelli in The Light in the Piazza after appearing in the production at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Alex is a three-time Olivier Award winning TV, film and theatre actor who has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and throughout the West End. His three Olivier Awards include Best Comedy Performance for Too Clever by Half (Old Vic), Best Actor for Peer Gynt (Royal Shakespeare Company) and Best Actor in a Musical for My Fair Lady (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). His screen appearances include playing Edward VIII in the critically acclaimed Netflix series The Crown, Alan Bennett in The Lady in the Van and Prince Charles in The Queen, alongside his many television roles which most recently include Unforgotten (ITV), A Very English Scandal (BBC), The Halcyon (Left Bank) and Victoria (Mammoth Screen).

Jennings is in Chicago rehearsing for his role as Signor Naccarelli opposite four-time Grammy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Renée Fleming as Margaret Johnson in the limited holiday engagement of the beloved Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza, December 14-29, 2019, at Lyric Opera House (20 N. Wacker Drive).  Fresh from critically acclaimed runs in LA and London, The Light in the Piazza is produced by John Berry CBE and Anthony Lilley OBE for Scenario Two and Karl Sydow. The production is directed by multiple Olivier Award-winning director Daniel Evans and features the Lyric Opera Orchestra under the baton of Kimberly Grigsby, conductor of the original Broadway production.

The perfect feel-good alternative to traditional holiday fare, The Light in the Piazza’s rich, emotional score is unique amongst 21st-century Broadway musicals. Unapologetically lyrical, it was described upon its Broadway debut as having “the most intensely romantic score of any musical since West Side Story” (New York Times).

Based on the novel by Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza book is by Craig Lucas, with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel. Scenario Two’s production of The Light in the Piazza is directed by Olivier Award winner and critically acclaimed musicals expert Daniel Evans and designed by Robert Jones, with costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, movement by Lucy Hind, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Kai Harada.

Tickets for the limited holiday engagement of The Light in the Piazza at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House (20 N. Wacker Drive), December 14-29, 2019, start at $49 and are on sale now. The Chicago engagement follows the production’s acclaimed runs at the LA Opera and London’s Royal Festival Hall. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented cutting edge cinema to an annual audience that has grown to over 120,000. The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts over 1,700 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances every year. The Film Center was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2000 after the late, nationally celebrated film critic, Gene Siskel. Visit to learn more and find out what’s playing today.

Lincoln Commons Hosts Tree Lighting, Santa and Reindeer December 5th & Menorah Lighting December 22, 2019

Lincoln Park’s newest destination to host 
first Tree Lighting & Menorah Lighting

Lincoln Common, 2345 N. Lincoln Ave., in partnership with the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, kicks off its first holiday season on Thursday, December 5 at 5:30 p.m. on its central Plaza with Alderman Michele Smith. The evening will include an appearance by Santa, two of his reindeer, caroling with Old Town School of Folk Music, special holiday dance performances by Equinox Lincoln Common and hot cocoa from Philz Coffee. The 22-foot tree will be centered on the Plaza beneath the trellis, complete with a large snowflake topper.

Lincoln Common and Belmont Village Senior Living will mark the first night of Hanukkah, Sunday, December 22, with the Festival of Lights, a family-friendly evening of activities. From 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., guests will gather and enjoy lite bites at Belmont Village, 700 W. Fullerton Ave., then proceed to the Lincoln Common Plaza for the lighting of the menorah at 5:30 p.m. with Alderman Smith and Rabbi Mendy Benhiyoun of Chabad Lincoln Park.

Guests are invited to take advantage of the multiple CTA travel options or park in the Lincoln Common garage located at 2316 N. Lincoln Ave., where the first 90 minutes are free with validation.

Visit for event details or call (773) 938-3001.

About Lincoln Common
Lincoln Common, developed by Hines and McCaffery and designed by world-renowned architect Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Antunovich Associates to LEED Silver certification standards, is home to world-class residential, retail, dining and fitness experiences, featuring 100,000 square feet of retail space, 538 upscale luxury apartment units, 32 luxury condominiums, a five-story boutique office building, an 850-stall parking garage, a 156-room senior living facility, and more than an acre of open space for residents, Chicagoans and visitors to enjoy. Offering year-round events on the central plaza, this conveniently located live-work-play destination and vibrant new crossroads of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is a gathering center for community members of all ages. For more information, visit Follow Lincoln Common on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

Hot Chicago Deals Today, Black (out) Wednesday, November 27th Through Cyber Monday

It's the final countdown to Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Whether you're visiting Chicago this weekend or entertaining guests here in sweet home Chicago, we've got you covered. Gear up for extended time with the family with (Black(out) Wednesday) deals. Tonight is a notorious night where bars everywhere are packed with guests celebrating a long weekend before family gatherings and we are here for it! From half-price cocktails to extended happy hours at the hottest Chicago bars and restaurants and more, we have rounded up the top limited time deals and exciting events in Chicago below just in time for the holiday weekend.

Half-Off a Sky-High Menu
VU Rooftop Bar, the hot rooftop destination in the city’s South Loop neighborhood at 133 East Cermak, is honoring the biggest drinking night of the year with half off their entire food and cocktail menu! Guests who visit VU Rooftop Bar on Black Wednesday, November 27 beginning at 4 p.m., will enjoy sips and bites complemented by a live DJ performance. Restrictions may apply. For more information, please visit

Extend Happy Beyond an Hour
Bobby’s Lincoln Park, Lincoln Park’s contemporary restaurant at 2518 N Lincoln Ave., is offering an extended happy hour on Black Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the bar area. Guests may indulge themselves with a list of intricate chef creations and quench their thirst with decadent cocktails including their Barrel Manhattan Shorty and Ultimate Margarita. Patrons may also opt for a selection of $6 wines by the glass, $3 regular Hop Beers, and an assortment of $4 Crafted Hops. For more information, visit or call 773-799-8555.

Black Friday Boozy Hot Chocolate Bar 
The Albert will be offering a special opportunity for shoppers to rest amongst hectic Black Friday shopping with a “Mr. Black Friday” hot chocolate bar. The build-your-own hot chocolate bar will feature Mr. Black coffee products from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on November 29 and may even opt for a boozy add-on for $10 or stick to the original for $6. From fun marshmallows and whipped cream to everything in between, the Albert is the perfect place to warm up and grab a quick bite, while searching for the next deal. For more information, visit

Buy One Get One Free DIY Gifts & Cards
Paper Source, the premier paperie and gift retailer, will offer shoppers BOGO 50% off Holiday Card Sets and Roll Wrap, 40% off Holiday Photo Cards, 30% off personalized Gifts and 30% off all planners this holiday weekend. For more information or to find a Paper Source location, please visit

Stay in Style in the Heart of Chicago’s Theatre District
Cambria Chicago Loop – Theatre District, located in the same building as the James M. Nederlander Theatre, is offering guests 20% off overnight accommodations booked on Black Friday, November 29 through Monday, December 2, here. The limited time offer will allow guests to book a stay through February 29, 2020. For more information, visit

Get a Hotel Stay as Good as Gold
Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is inviting guests to book the Gold Rush Package (Weekends only, Buy Two Nights Get One Free) between November 28 – December 2, for arrival through March 31, 2020, for Fairmont to automatically upgrade the stay to a suite! For those looking to gift a vacation, Fairmont will send the gift giver a Golden Certificate to gift in style this season. The package may be booked here. For more information, please visit

Party Hard with Free Games and Rick & Morty
Replay Lincoln Park is celebrating in style this year with a variety of special deals and events. Guests 21 years of age and older are encouraged to stop by for the below offers. For more information, visit

Black Wednesday: On Wednesday, November 27, get ready for Turkey Day with close friends with a special edition of Replay's popular Psycho Bingo, plus music being spun by DJ Lech in the main room directly following, karaoke in Level Up and more! On special for the night, in honor of the Rick and Morty pop-up, guests may order Pickle Rick shots for just $5.
Black Friday: On Friday, November 29, enjoy an extended Friday Funky Hour with $3 craft draft, cans, cocktails and free funk from 3 - 8 p.m. DJ Maggie will be spinning the night away beginning at 9 p.m. in the main room.

Cyber Monday: On Monday, December 2, enjoy the final days of the Rick and Morty pop-up with 1/2 price all Rick and Morty-themed cocktails all night long. With Rick and Morty and 1/2 price Rick and Morty cocktails. 

Shop Early for Classical Music Fanatics
For music and performing arts lovers, the nation's most diverse orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, is offering a special, limited-time deal for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. Beginning Friday, November 29, guests may purchase a three-concert package with B-level seating for $99 using the code HOLIDAY. Beginning on Monday, December 2, Cyber Monday shoppers may purchase a two-concert package using the code CYBERMONDAY. Both offers are only valid for the 2019-2020 season concerts and will expire at 11:59 p.m. CST on Monday, December 2. The offer page will go live on Wednesday, November 27 at 3 p.m. CST, where guests will be able to purchase tickets here. For more information, visit

Two Theatre Tickets for the Price of One!
In celebration of Cyber Monday on December 2, First Folio Theatre is offering a 2-for-1 ticket special valid for any Wednesday or Friday performance of the theatre's two remaining 2019-2020 season productions. Available for one day only, guests who redeem will have the opportunity to see JEEVES SAVES THE DAY, a new comedy about the indefatigable Jeeves and his tribulations and triumphs, running February 1 - March 1, and LITTLE WOMEN, a world premiere adaption based Louisa May Alcott's famous story, running March 28 - April 26. To purchase tickets with the Cyber Monday deal, guests may use discount code: CYBERMONDAY, both online and by calling the box office. For more information please visit

More Gift Cards for your Dollar
Ocean Prime Chicago, the Modern American restaurant and lounge from renowned restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, is offering a special gift card promotion perfect for holiday gifting. for every $100 in gift cards purchased, a $25 bonus gift card will be included. For more information, please visit

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Ruffians’ Burning Bluebeard Returns to Chicago This Holiday Season Dec. 13 - 27

DECEMBER 13 – 27

(pictured) The cast of The Ruffians’ 2014-15 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD.
 All photos by Evan Hanover

Featuring Original Cast Members and Directed by Halena Kays, Jay Torrence’s Seasonal Spectacular Comes to the Gold Coast for the First Time in its Eight Year History

Here at ChiIL Mama, we've caught The Ruffians’ Burning Bluebeard many times, since their inaugural show 8 years ago at the Neofuturarium. They're top favorites of ours, and this holiday season they're moving to the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. We'll be out for the press opening, Dec. 15, so check back soon for my full review. We're eager to catch long time friends, Pamela Chermansky (Fancy Clown) and Anthony Courser (Henry Gilfoil), who taught my teens circus arts with Circesteem, when they were children.

(left to right) Pam Chermansky and Anthony Courser in The Ruffians’ 2014-15 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD. 

(left to right) Leah Urzendowski, Anthony Courser, Jay Torrence and Pam Chermansky in The Ruffians’ 2014-15 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD.

Although this ghost story is macabre, and sadly all too true, The Ruffians' production is a poignant and powerful celebration of life. I can't see a show in what is now the Nederlander Theatre (formerly The Oriental and before that, the doomed Iroquois) without echos of Burning Bluebeard in my mind. I see the tragic series of events that led to a fireball and the deaths of 600 theatergoers, mostly women and children. Leave the ghost lights on. The stories and memories of a scrappy band of actors and their actions that day have been given new life, in this darkly compelling tribute to love, loss, and heroism. Burning Bluebeard has become a beloved annual tradition for our family, and we can't wait to embrace this heart wrenching moment in time once again, and remember the stories that seep into spaces and stay. 

(left to right) Ryan Walters and Crosby Sandoval in The Neo-Futurists and The Ruffians’ 2018 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD.

Burning Bluebeard, created and performed by the critically acclaimed theatre troupe The Ruffians, has been touted as “a show you won’t quickly forget and that you could only see in Chicago” by the Chicago Tribune and New City says the production is “filled to the brim with irreverent humor, riveting dance sequences and enough charm to fill a bucket…” Told with music, clowning, tumbling, acrobatics and dance, Burning Bluebeard is a physical-performance phenomena inspired by the true story of Chicago’s former Iroquois Theatre and the unforgettable events that resulted in tragedy for 600 theatergoers at Christmas time in 1903.

A Chicago holiday tradition for many since its debut in 2011, each performance is a vaudevillian musical delight with a story that excavates the poetic and poignant remains of a piece of our city’s rich history and leaves the audience with an unforgettable experience.

(left to right) Ryan Walters, Jay Torrence and Pam Chermansky in The Ruffians’ 2014-15 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD. presented by The Hypocrites.

Porchlight Music Theatre is proud to present The Ruffians’ Burning Bluebeard, making its downtown debut at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street, December 13 – 27. Now in its eighth year,  this annual tradition for many is a fantastical tale inspired by Chicago’s 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire, written by Jay Torrence and directed by Halena Kays. Previews are Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. Opening Night is Sunday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. with the performance schedule Thursday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21 at 3:30 and 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22 at 2 and 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 26 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Friday, Dec 27 at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are on sale now at or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office, 773.777.9884.

The 2019 cast of Burning Bluebeard includes original performers Pamela Chermansky (Fancy Clown); Anthony Courser (Henry Gilfoil); Jay Torrence (Robert Murray); Leah Urzendowski (Nellie Reed); Ryan Walters (Eddie Foy) with Crosby Sandoval (Faerie Queen).

The Burning Bluebeard production team includes Maggie Fullilove-Nugent (lighting design); Robert Hornbostel (associate sound design); Jeffrey D. Kmiec (set design); Bill Morey (costume coordination); Mike Tutaj (original sound design);  Sam Moryoussef (production manager); Justine Palmisano (stage manager) and Alex Rhyan (production and operations director).

 (pictured) Ryan Walters in The Neo-Futurists’ 2011 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD.

 (left to right) Leah Urzendowski, Jay Torrence, Anthony Courser and Pam Chermansky in The Ruffians’ 2014-15 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD.

ABOUT JAY TORRENCE, Playwright and “Robert Murray”
Jay Torrence is a Ruffian and the playwright who created Burning Bluebeard, Roustabout! The Great Circus Trainwreck and Ivywild. As a former Neo-Futurist artistic director and ensemble member, Torrence worked over a decade writing, directing and performing hundreds of short plays that debuted in Chicago and toured throughout the nation. Other theater credits include: 500 Clown, Theater Oobleck, Akvavit Theatre, The Actor’s Gymnasium, Theater on the Lake, The Hypocrites, Redmoon Theater, Woolly Mammoth, Geva, Shakespeare Theatre Company (DC), The New Victory Theater (NY), The Actors Theatre of Louisville and Edmonton Actors Theatre. Internationally, this is the 13th production of Burning Bluebeard.

Halena Kays is a theater director, deviser and performer. She most recently served as the artistic director of The Hypocrites, where she both performed and directed. She is the co-founder and former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys, where she created and directed the majority of their public performances. She is a founding member of the artistic collaborative, The Ruffians, and directs their recurring hit production of Burning Bluebeard, as well as their other experiments in live performance events. She is a UT-Austin and Northwestern graduate, former member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care unit, past co-artistic curator for Theater on the Lake and assistant professor at Northwestern University.

Kays is an artistic associate with the Neo-Futurists where she directed Pop/Waits, 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, Burning Bluebeard, co-created and directed Daredevils and Daredevils Hamlet and the sight specific extravaganza, Fake Lake. Some interesting Chicago directing credits include: Endgame, Ivywild, Six Characters in Search of an Author at The Hypocrites; The Magic Play at The Goodman, Lord of the Flies at Steppenwolf; On Clover Road at American Blues Theater; Feast (part of a collaborative directing effort) with The Albany Park Theatre Project at The Goodman. Regionally, Halena has directed The Magic Play at The Olney Theater Center, The Actor’s Theater of Louisville, Portland Center Stage and Syracuse Stage, Love Song with The Nashville Story Garden and Secretary for Nashville Rep’s Ingram New Works Festival.

Kays has been nominated for a Jefferson Citation for Best Supporting Actress and Best Direction, named one of the top 50 “players” in Chicago theater by NewCity, is a recipient of the prestigious 3Arts award and received a signed letter from Mr. Rogers saying she was “special” in 1978. She is a proud member of the Stage Directors and Choreography Society.

(left to right) Anthony Courser, Ryan Walters, Jay Torrence, Pam Chermansky and Leah Urzendowski in The Ruffians’ 2014-15 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD.

Porchlight Music Theatre is proud to be part of the 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre, presented by the City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres. To truly fall in love with Chicago, you must go to our theatres. This is where the city bares its fearless soul. Home to a community of creators, risk-takers and big hearts, Chicago theatre is a hotbed for exciting new work and hundreds of world premieres every year. From Broadway musicals to storefront plays and improv, there’s always a seat waiting for you at one of our 200+ theatres.

The Ruffians are an artistic collective of theater makers (clowns, daredevils, acrobats, dancers, writers, performers, designers, directors). The Ruffians have all honed their craft working over a decade in Chicago’s various and thriving experimental, clown and storefront theater communities. A Ruffians objective is to make beautiful things with rough edges. A Ruffians motto: Breathe. Dare. Live.

Porchlight Music Theatre is proud to be a member of the vibrant Ruth Page Center for the Arts community and an Artist In-Residence. Central to the Ruth Page Center for the Arts’ programming is the Artists In-Residence program, which is designed to serve organizations looking for a home base while they grow or expand their artistic and organizational capabilities. The Center is committed to nurturing and assisting dance and other performing artists, allowing for exchange and collaborative relationships to develop within the artistic community. The Ruth Page Center for the Arts is a destination for quality performing arts, accessible to a wide community regardless of race, gender, age, education or disability. An incubator of artistic energy and excellence, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts carries forward the vision of its founder, legendary dance icon Ruth Page, to be a platform for developing great artists and connecting them with audiences and community.

As the home for music theatre in Chicago now in its 25th season, Porchlight Music Theatre is nationally recognized for reimagining classic productions, developing new works and showcasing musical theatre’s noted Chicago veterans and rising stars. Porchlight elevates the genre by providing intimate and powerful theatrical experiences of music theatre through the lens of the “Chicago Style.” The 2017–2018 year marked a milestone for Porchlight as the company became an Artist In-Residence at the historic Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Porchlight’s rich history includes the staging of more than 70 productions with 15 Chicago premieres and five world premieres. Through Porchlight’s “Off the Porch” new works program, the musicals of the next generation are developed and given a first audience. The School at Porchlight is Chicago’s center for music theatre training in the areas of performance, writing and appreciation including the launch of a youth summer “Make Your Own Musical” Camp in 2017. The company’s many accolades include 28 Black Theatre Alliance nominations and 12 awards, as well as a total of 150 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations resulting in 42 Jeff Awards including five consecutive Best Production awards for The Scottsboro Boys (2017), Dreamgirls (2016), Sondheim on Sondheim (2015), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (2014) and A Class Act (2013).

The 2019 – 2020 25th Anniversary Season is dedicated to the memory of long-time Board Member George K. “Kim” Sargent.

Porchlight Music Theatre’s 25th anniversary subscriptions and single tickets are now on sale at Discounted subscriptions are available for the mainstage productions (Sunset Boulevard, Sophisticated Ladies and Disney’s Freaky Friday) and single tickets for special events including Porchlight Revisits Call Me Madam and The Ruffians’ Burning Bluebeard.

Porchlight Music Theatre is partially supported by generous contributions from the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, Allstate, Bayless Family Foundation, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Chapman | Spingola, Attorneys at Law, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Elegant Event Lighting, Elevate Energy, James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation, Harris Family Foundation, Hearty Boys, Hopsmith,  A.L. and Jennie L. Luria Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Prince Foundation, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, Daniel and Genevieve Ratner Foundation, The Saints, the Stuart Family Foundation, and the Topfer Family Foundation . The season program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency, and by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

 (center) Pamela Chermansky with the cast of The Neo-Futurists and The Ruffians’ 2018 production of BURNING BLUEBEARD.

Monday, November 11, 2019

REVIEW: Bad Apple Fall Youth Circus Show at Actors Gymnasium Through November 17th

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:

November 9, 10, 16, & 17
Saturdays at 4:30 & 7:30 PM and Sundays at 3 PM

by bonnie kenaz-mara

Fruit flies... along with terrifically talented teens, in this year's Fall Youth Circus Show at Actors Gymnasium. Bring the whole family and get inspired by an array of circus acts with a dash of myth, fairy tale, and a lot of good apples. I was particularly enamored with the nod to notorious RBG as judge presiding over the apple on trial for multiple homicides, deceptions, and sketchy plots over the centuries.

AG's Bad Apple incorporates lots of aerial arts like silks and straps as well as juggling, unicycle acts, acro, comedy and more, into a highly entertaining show.

My own son and daughter were cast in Actors Gymnasium's excellent fall and spring youth circus shows for years, and it was a stellar experience. I highly recommend catching their shows as well as auditioning and taking their adult and kids classes. Everyone cast in the youth circus shows hones their existing circus skills through hours of rigorous rehearsals and the results show. These are cleverly crafted, themed productions and a ton of fun for all ages. Don't miss this!

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she has published frequently since 2008: (adult) & (family friendly).

The Apple is everywhere. It’s in fairytales, fables, folklore, modern technology, and even your belly. But what does it mean? Bad Apple weaves together stories of this seemingly simple fruit from the demise of Snow White to the chaos of quarreling goddesses. We journey through high schools, courtrooms, and kingdoms, all the while, asking the question: Is this a good apple...or a bad one?

Click here to purchase tickets in advance and for information on classes, upcoming shows and more!

Friday, November 8, 2019

GIVEAWAY: WIN 2 Tickets ($90 Value/3 Winners) To The World Premiere Holiday Musical THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS November 27 – December 29, 2019

CPA Theatricals, Inc and LCG Entertainment, LLC, in collaboration with Greenhouse Theater Center Present
World Premiere Holiday Musical 
playing November 27 – December 29

**Use discount code MAMA57 for 20% off of tickets**

**Recommended for ages 10+**

In the plethora of holiday theatrical offerings, most are either family friendly fare that skew young or adult humor. There's a lack of offerings for tweens and teens as well as strong, female leads, so we're excited to partner up with Greenhouse Theatre to introduce our readers to THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS. This female-driven show is completely original 90-minute musical about a brilliant young woman just out of high school and her quest to save ChristmasI'll be out for the press opening, December 7th, so check back shortly after for my full review. In the meantime, 3 of ChiIL Mama's lucky readers will win pairs of tickets (Up to $90 Value), good for any production of THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS at Chicago's Greenhouse Theater through December 29th.

Enter below for your chance to WIN 
through midnight Sunday, 
November 24th.
2 Tickets ($90 Value/3 Winners) 

THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS is a brand new holiday musical featuring Grace.  Grace is a young woman, stuck working in her family’s Sheboygan, WI, toy store three days before Christmas.  She is desperate to leave and do something important in her life.  Suddenly, she is summoned to the LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS where Cassiopeia – the Queen of the Northern Sky – tells her that Santa has been kidnapped by his evil sister Charlotta!  It’s up to Grace and her rag-tag group of forgotten, broken toys to rescue Santa and save Christmas!

This female driven show features women writers and strong three-dimensional female characters including Grace, her sidekick Nikki and of course – Charlotta.  Click HERE to listen to Charlotta’s villain song.

A diverse cast, including 6 children rotating in 4 roles, stunning visuals and a touching story that reminds us that: 

Sometimes a great adventure leads you back home.

Larry Little, lead producer and creator of the story and characters, says, “Finally, children have a new classic Christmas fantasy musical!  I’ve had girl scout leaders come up to me and say – every girl needs to see this story!”

He continues “I see Grace as a female version of Luke Skywalker!  Driven, determined to make a difference in the world, but feeling stuck and unsure about her path forward.  It is her passion in asking for guidance that she is transported to the LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS.”

Every child needs to know that they can be anything and do anything they want – it takes commitment, passion and a powerful dream!

**Use discount code MAMA57 for 20% off of tickets**

Nov 27 – Dec 29.  Th, Fr, Sat at 7:30pm, Sat and Sun at 2pm. Greenhouse Theater Center. Individual tickets, priced at $45.00, are on sale now at or by phone at 773-404-7336. Group Tickets, priced at $39 ($25 for student groups over 11 years old), are available at For more information visit


CPA Theatricals, Inc. – Creative Productions And Theatricals – is a 501-C-3 non-profit corporation.  Its mission is the development of new musical theatre productions for the benefit of underserved populations.  In recent years, its primary focus has been to serve female audiences and performers, through the development of musicals incorporating strong female leads.  Its first major project with this focus was the musical 57th NATIONAL MATHLETE SUM-IT, which premiered Off Broadway at the New York Musical Festival and was subsequently licensed for international distribution to high school, college, and community theaters by Theatrical Rights Worldwide.  Current projects include THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS, intended for the commercial market, and GIRLHOOD, intended for performance in middle schools and high schools.

Enter HERE for your chance to WIN 
2 Tickets ($90 Value/3 Winners) 
To The World Premiere Holiday Musical 
Winners' choice of dates November 27 – December 29, 2019
Enter through midnight Sunday, November 24th.

Disclosure: It's our pleasure to partner up with THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN TOYS on a ticket giveaway for our readers. They have provided complimentary tickets. As always, all opinions are my own.