Friday, September 23, 2022

REVIEW: Fiddler on the Roof at Lyric Opera Through October 7, 2022

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List
Fiddler on the Roof

Production photos by Todd Rosenberg


By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic 

I admit I had never seen Fiddler on the Roof before, and it wasn’t a musical that I felt compelled to see. But this fabulous North American premiere at Lyric Opera imported from the Komische Oper Berlin has made me a believer. Every aspect of this classic musical is incredible: the performers, the costumes, the direction, the staging, dancing, and the amazing set. I only wish it was playing longer so more people could see this because everyone should. 

The show opens startlingly with a young boy in a bright green hoodie on a modern scooter. (Drake Wunderlich, a very talented 5th grader from the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.) He rides across the vast Lyric stage and parks in front of a large door. He locates a violin case in the closet and begins to play a familiar tune. What’s this kid doing here? We hear a knock from inside, and there is Tevye. The connection from present to past is jarring. Is this Tevye’s great-great-great-great-grandson? Certainly the importance of family and yes, “tradition!” is ever-present in Jewish culture. I like to think it’s a nod to Tevye’s family’s resiliency and survival; he will have heirs into the current age despite countless obstacles. 

And then it seems the whole town of Anatevka pours onto the stage like an outpouring of clowns from a Volkswagon at the circus…if the clowns were Jewish and in much drabber clothes. The Lyric stage (the biggest in downtown Chicago) is used to full effect with the set which is composed of wood furniture like Grandma’s house has gone onto the market. Rufus Didwiszus is the set designer and Klaus Bruns is the mastermind behind the clever set. Characters are constantly appearing from behind closed armoires, making me wonder if Aslan might make a surprise visit as well. (As an English teacher, I racked my brain trying to pinpoint the symbolism of all those wardrobes and cabinets…”when God closes a door, He opens a window?” like Mother Superior says in Sound of Music? We may be against an obstacle, but another opportunity awaits---we just need the courage to step through? Or does it represent how the Jewish people cannot depend on stability? They always seem to be packing up belongings and moving because of religious persecution?? No matter the significance, it looks cool as hell.) 

Steven Skybell was born to play Tevye, the poor milkman struggling to feed his family of six women, his steadfast wife Golde (a charming Debbie Gravitte) and his five headstrong daughters. Skybell is mesmerizing as the questioning, funny, philosophic, stubborn patriarch. He doesn’t understand his three older girls’ defiance to marry men they love, rather than those chosen for them. The three girls and their loves are all outstanding. Lauren Marcus as oldest daughter, Tzeitel, begs her father to allow her to marry her poor but devoted tailor, Motel, sung by Drew Redington. They are so sweet together. Austen Danielle Bohmer as Hodel falls for the adorable Perchik, a tutor to her sisters and a devotee of the brewing Russian revolution. He is sung beautifully by Adam Kaplan. Maya Jacobson is Chava, and she melted my heart as the defiant daughter who faces her father’s wrath by loving a Christian boy. Michael Nigro sings Fyedka, the intellectual with an incredible voice. He holds forth on a sustained note over the crowd in an earlier scene that made me jot down,”Who sang that long note?”  

Alas, loving someone outside the faith is a travesty that Tevya cannot forgive. Chava is dead to him. It’s the one time in the show that I don’t feel sorry for Tevya. He’s being a stubborn dad. 

The Lyric Opera Chorus is to be commended for their commanding presence. And I love that a woman conductor, Kimberly Grigsby, led the orchestra. 

I didn’t expect the humor of the script, as when Tevya beseeches to God, ”I know we’re the chosen people, but can you sometimes pick someone else?” And Golda asks one of her girls, who doesn’t want to marry an older man with no hair,”You want hair? Marry a monkey!” 

Tevya and Golda’s song about arranged marriage “Do You Love Me?” is so endearing. They may have been chosen to be together by their parents, but their love for each other has become genuine. 

Another noteworthy song is the Day-of-the-Dead-type number where Tevya must confess to Golda that Tzeitel is no longer marrying the wealthy, older butcher. But he can’t simply admit that, so he stages an elaborate nightmarish dream to break the news to his wife. It’s a hoot with the skulls and surreal quality of the intricate lie. 

I overheard a woman in the lobby at intermission proclaiming,” The dancing is stupendous!” Indeed. The “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” number by the three girls with potential suitors is incredibly sweet. The whole production is simply wondrous. 

“Anastasia” is another Russian show currently playing downtown several blocks away. The snow in that musical is a fake projection. The “snow” keeps falling continuously in Act II at the Lyric. It’s a cool detail that reveals this was a full-out don’t-hold-back stunning production.  It’s one of those truly special shows that will be talked about and remembered for years. Please see it. You’re welcome. 

Highly recommended. 4 out of 4 stars ★★★★

Catherine Hellmann loves theater, Chicago, her kids, travel, coffee in the morning, Chardonnay at night, long walks, reading on the train, and Cincinnati Skyline chili. The order of her favorites is in no particular order and is subject to change.  

More About Fiddler on the Roof

The North American premiere of a bold new production of Fiddler on the Roof comes to Chicago’s biggest stage September 17 to October 7, 2022. Audiences are invited to experience Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Broadway classic on a musical and theatrical scale only Lyric Opera of Chicago can offer. 

A new Fiddler arrives in Chicago. Following the success of the production at its critically acclaimed 2017 premiere at the Komische Oper Berlin, innovative director Barrie Kosky ties this version of Fiddler on the Roof to his Jewish ancestry and heritage, centering tradition in every aspect of his thrillingly theatrical production. Accomplished conductor Kimberly Grigsby (Broadway’s Spring Awakening and Flying Over Sunset) makes her Lyric debut revitalizing the celebrated music of Fiddler with the incomparable Lyric Opera Orchestra. 

The traditional Fiddler you know, but seen and heard like never before. More than 50 years after its premiere, Fiddler on the Roof remains a story that still resonates with audiences of today. While the musical has always explored themes of tradition, family, and love, Kosky’s brave direction offers an even closer look into how communities like Anatevka are still struggling in today's world. This widely acclaimed production is supported by a massive ensemble of nearly 100 musical and dramatic artists, paving the way for audiences to enjoy another boldly unique musical theater experience that has become a Lyric Opera of Chicago signature. 

A miracle of miracles! Experienced Broadway performers Steven Skybell and Debbie Gravitte make their Lyric debuts as Tevye and Golde. Skybell, who won the Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding performance by a lead actor as Tevye in the 2018 Yiddish production in New York, brings his exceptional capacity for this role to Lyric. The accomplished cast also includes Glencoe native Lauren Marcus in the role of Tzeitel in her Lyric debut. She’s joined by Broadway veteran—and Lyric newcomer—David Benoit in the role of Lazar Wolf. Joy Hermalyn rounds out this stellar lineup of Lyric debuts as Yente.

The other talented singing actors in the cast include Austen Bohmer as Hodel, Maya Jacobson as Chava, Drew Redington as Motel, Adam Kaplan as Perchik, Michael Nigro as Fyedka, Liliana Renteria as Shprintze, Omi Lichtenstein as Bielke, Jackson Evans as Mendel, Tommy Novak as Avram, Steven Strafford as Mordcha, Bill McGough as the Rabbi, William Brown as the Constable, and Melody Betts as Grandma and Fruma Sarah. 

Tradition comes alive with a world-class creative team. Lyric’s Fiddler on the Roof features Rufus Didwiszus as set designer and Klaus Bruns as costume designer, both in their Lyric debuts, along with the lighting design of Diego Leetz skillfully recreated by Marco Philipp in a Lyric debut for both designers. Otto Pichler’s original choreography is masterfully recreated for Lyric by Silvano Marraffa. The robust forces of the Lyric Opera Chorus bring the village of Anatevka to life under the steady leadership of Lyric’s chorus master Michael Black—culminating in a musical production that is as wholly reimagined as it is filled with endless talent. 

Shout l’chaim from the rooftops, with 11 chances to see Fiddler on a scale only Lyric Opera of Chicago can produce. Through Joseph Stein’s book, Jerry Bock’s music, and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, audiences become a part of Tevye’s family with this timeless tale of the fragility of love, community, and tradition.

There are 11 performances of Fiddler on the Roof: September 17, 18 matinee, 22, 23, 24, 28 matinee, 29 matinee, 30, and October 2 matinee, 6, and 7, 2022.

For updated information about Lyric’s ongoing health and safety protocols, visit

One of the world's leading opera directors, Barrie Kosky is celebrated from Vienna to Paris and from Bayreuth to London, where his new Ring cycle will take the stage at the Royal Opera starting next year. When his production of Fiddler on the Roof premiered at Komische Oper Berlin in 2017, international critics heralded the arrival of a completely original and unique experience created from this revered, Tony Award-winning masterpiece. "Songs many of us have heard our whole lives sentimentalized...are given weight and take on deep meaning," raved the Los Angeles Times. Experience a Fiddler like no other, with the full power of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus as well as a production that is both grand in scale and intimate in its power to bring you directly to the heart of the village of Anatevka. Join us as Tevye, his wife Golde, and their five daughters experience the real joys and sorrows that have made this meaningful work an enduring part of our culture.

Please note, Fiddler on the Roof will not have an at-home streaming option.

Language: Sung in English

Running Time: 3 hours 15 minutes with 1 intermission

Location: Lyric Opera House

Lyric’s presentation of Fiddler on the Roof is generously made possible by Lead Sponsor The Negaunee Foundation with additional support from Production Sponsors the Gramma Fisher Foundation of Marshalltown, Iowa, The Zell Family Foundation, Marlys A. Beider, The Davee Foundation, Invenergy LLC, The Harris Family Foundation, Randy L. & Melvin R.* Berlin and Ethel & William Gofen.


Lyric Opera of Chicago thanks its Official Airline, American Airlines, and acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Enrique Mazzola, and Special Projects Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

Join us @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #LongLivePassion

For more information, visit


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Tonight CABARET ZAZOU’S Luminaire Makes Worldwide Debut In Chicago's Spiegeltent


Directed By Prolific Choreographer Dreya Weber and Featuring Acclaimed Chicago Favorites Frank Ferrante and LiV Warfield, Luminaire Opens Tonight at Cabaret ZaZou on Randolph

Tonight ChiIL Mama will be ChiILin' in one the most unique Chicago theatrical spaces, a vintage Spiegeltent on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel in the heart of Chicago’s Theatre District. This will be our 3rd visit to this space and we can't wait to see what's next for Randolph Entertainment LLC, producer of the fan favorite Teatro ZinZanni Chicago. We're lifelong lovers of all things circus and cabaret so we're beyond excited to be a part of the opening night festivities for CABARET ZAZOU’s premiere production, Luminaire. The new, groundbreaking, immersive variety dinner show is making its worldwide debut. Luminaire is directed by Dreya Weber, and stars critically acclaimed performers Frank Ferrante and LiV Warfield as they lead an international cast of exceptional entertainers. Sassy, sexy, and sultry, Luminaire is designed to dazzle and delight audiences with stunning cirque acts, interactive comedy, captivating vocalists, and a stellar band, complimented by a delicious multi-course meal.

Luminaire stars Frank Ferrante, an award-winning actor, comedian, and director best known for his interactive stage comedy, including The Caesar in Teatro ZinZanni, which earned him a Chicago Tribune nod as a top ten performer of the year in 2019, and his PBS national television program Frank Ferrante’s Groucho. The production also stars singer, songwriter, and producer LiV Warfield. Her achievements include a critically acclaimed hit solo album - The Unexpected, a Soul Train Music Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance, and performing as part of Prince’s New Power Generation. Liv Warfield has toured with some of music’s biggest names, bringing her unique voice and style to audiences around the world. Luminaire is directed by Dreya Weber, whose aerial design and choreography credits include Magic Mike Live in addition to aerials for Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Madonna, Cher, Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Kylie Minogue, and Pink’s 2010 Grammy Awards performance of “Glitter in the Air”. Dreya brings in her unique death-defying grace to dazzle CABARET ZAZOU audiences.

Luminaire also features an extraordinary cast of performers including Broadway star and Grammy nominee James Harkness from New York City, master juggler Viktor Kee from the Ukraine, thrilling contortionist Ulzii Mergen from Mongolia, and the highly acclaimed Hand to Trapeze Trio Trio Vertex from England. On the bandstand is music director Chuck Webb (bass), Jon Negus (woodwinds), Jose Martinez (drums), and new to the ensemble this fall are Theodis Rodgers (piano) and Phil Seed (guitar).


Tickets range from $125 - $210 with special VIP tickets available. “Show Only” tickets are $75. Special preview pricing of $99 available for performances through September 11. Individual tickets are available by visiting or by calling 312.488.0900. Tickets are available for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway in Chicago at 312.977.1710 or emailing


Randolph Entertainment is a partnership of 25 mostly Chicago-based individuals who share in the vision of bringing an extraordinary entertainment experience to Chicago. The partnership is committed to being a good neighbor and contributor to Chicago’s vibrant cultural community. Stanley Feig, a veteran of the entertainment industry with a career spanning several decades, manages the partnership. Randolph Entertainment introduced Chicago to Teatro ZinZanni and is proud to continue with their new spectacle CABARET ZAZOU’s Luminaire.

 For more information, visit

Facebook @CabaretZaZou ● Instagram @CabaretZaZou

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

REVIEW: ANASTASIA at Broadway In Chicago’s CIBC Theatre Through September 25, 2022

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List


Anastasia is recommended for ages 7 and older

Run Time is approx. 2 hours and 25 minutes with an intermission.

“Captivating, beautifully staged and emotionally vital. ANASTASIA hits the sweet spot!”



By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

History, mystery, royals, revolution, and romance...

Something old... something new. As a critic for the past 14 years and a lifelong theatre lover, I can attest that it's exciting to see a new musical. As a mother and a history buff, it's even more fun to see all the young kids in the audience making memories, watching a fierce survivor of a princess as a role model, and engaging with a live production at the CIBC Theatre, a lavish, historical venue. Early exposure to theatre increases empathy in children and who knows what those experiences might spark for the future. Anastasia is only in Chicago for a few short days, so don't miss this!

Anastasia has been a long time coming. Here at ChiIL Mama, we first wrote about the Broadway touring production in May of 2018, when it was slated to open in Chicago in March of 2019. Three years later we can attest that some shows are worth the wait, and in Anastasia's own words. "It's never too late. I'm here now."

We loved the lavish costumes, poignant score, and clever use of projections to transport the audience across the ocean and back in time to the fall of the Russian Empire and onward to 1920's Paris. 

Veronica Stern was a joy to see as Anya, well complimented by Willem Butler as Dmitry. We also enjoyed the performances of Ben Edquist as Gleb and Gerri Weagraff as Dowager Empress. There was a well deserved standing ovation on opening night. Kudos to the entire cast and crew for bringing soaring vocals, delightful dance numbers, and stellar storytelling to life on stage. The touring production may be a scaled down version of the Broadway hit, in production values, but it's well worth a look. 

From the devastating violence of war to the exiled expats reliving their glory days, the musical, Anastasia gives audiences a timeless and timely tale for the ages. Whether sweeping the streets in rags or attending the ballet and bravely facing the Dowager Empress, Anya excels. Was she the last of the Romanovs or a royally talented rogue, scamming her way out of Russia and into royalty? Where did she disappear to? Was the iconic music box a con or a concrete clue to authenticity? Did Anya and Dimitry both choose love over money, forgoing both the reward and a lineage with luxury? The Anastasia story raises more questions than it answers, in this delightfully complex mystery. Regardless of the realism, we were completely captivated by this riches to rags tale.

Fast forward to 2022. One hundred years later, Russia is once again at war in the region. Refugees and the impoverished still struggle to find food, water, and basic needs. Love blooms amid the wreckage of revolutions. And tenacious, smart survivors are always in fashion. Don't miss this. Recommended. 3 out of 4 stars ★★★

Anastasia played to sold out audiences on Broadway for more than 3 years before expanding it’s global “Fanastasia” community with productions on tour across North America and in Japan, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Globally, the show has been performed more than 2,500 times and sold 3.4 million tickets. Additionally, the show has garnered more than 15 major international awards, including Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards and Best New Musical in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theatre critic, photographer, videographer, actress, artist and Mama. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Broadway In Chicago is thrilled to announce that ANASTASIA is now playing at Broadway In Chicago’s CIBC Theatre (18 W. Monroe St.) through September 25, 2022. Ticket prices range from $27.00 to $118.00 with a select number of premium tickets available. Individual tickets are available at Tickets are also available for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or emailing

From the Tony Award-winning creators of the Broadway classic Ragtime and inspired by the beloved films, ANASTASIA is the new Broadway musical that’s “one of the most gorgeous shows in years!” (New York Observer). This dazzling show transports us from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love, and family. 


A sweeping adventure, romance and historical epic that piles discovery upon discovery.

Its fine craftsmanship will satisfy musical theater fans.”



Veronica Stern leads the show as ANYA, joined by Willem Butler as DMITRY, Ben Edquist as GLEB, and Gerri Weagraff as DOWAGER EMPRESS. The tour also features Bryan Seastrom (VLAD), Madeline Raube (COUNTESS LILY), Leela Chopra (LITTLE ANASTASIA), Alexandrya Salazar (LITTLE ANASTASIA), Thalia Attalah (ENSEMBLE), Lance Timothy Barker (SWING/DANCE CAPTAIN), Zachary Bigelow (ENSEMBLE), William Aaron Bishop (ENSEMBLE), Louis Brogna, (ENSEMBLE), Amin Fuson (ENSEMBLE), Rebecca Hartman (SWING), Kaitlyn Jackson (ENSEMBLE), Brooklyn Libao (ENSEMBLE), Alec Lloyd (SWING), Victoria Madden (ENSEMBLE/ASST. DANCE CAPTAIN), Billy McGavin (ENSEMBLE), Lathan A. Roberts (ENSEMBLE), Amy Smith (SWING), Sarah Statler (ENSEMBLE), Lauren Teyke (ENSEMBLE), Aidan Ziegler-Hansen (SWING)


Fantastical, intelligent, well-crafted, and exhilarating,

ANASTASIA deserves a coronation!"



ANASTASIA features a book by celebrated playwright Terrence McNally, a lush, new score by the Tony Award® -winning creators of the Broadway classic Ragtime, Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), and tour direction by Sarah Hartman based on original direction by Tony Award®-winning director Darko Tresnjak.

The creative team also includes Peggy Hickey (Original Choreographer), Bill Burns (Choreographer), Alexander Dodge (Set Design), Linda Cho (Costume Design), Donald Holder (Lighting Design), Peter Hylenski (Sound Design), Aaron Rhyne (Projection Design), Charles G. LaPointe (Hair/Wig Design), Joe Dulude II (Makeup Design), Tom Murray (Music Supervision), Jeremy Lyons (Music Direction), Doug Besterman (Orchestrations), David Chase (Dance Arranger), and casting by Jason Styres, CSA.

“An irresistible and sumptuous fairy tale!”


ANASTASIA began performances on Broadway in March 2017 at the Broadhurst Theatre with critics exclaiming “Ahrens and Flaherty have chosen the right moments to musicalize, and their score here sounds complete and full — one of the season’s strongest! (NBC)” and “Smartly adapted by Terrence McNally, Anastasia is a sweeping adventure, romance and historical epic whose fine craftsmanship will satisfy musical-theater fans (Time Out)”.

The original Broadway cast recording is available at, and iTunes. The 75-minute album includes the Academy Award-nominated favorite “Journey to the Past” alongside new numbers from the show such as “In My Dreams,” “Still” and “My Petersburg.”

Connect with ANASTASIA online at:

Twitter: @AnastasiaBway   ⬧   Facebook: AnastasiaBway  ⬧   Instagram: @AnastasiaBway




Performances are on Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m. (with a Wednesday matinee at 2:00 p.m. on September 21), Saturday, September 24 at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m., and the final performance is on Sunday, September 25 at 2:00 p.m.

COVID-19  PROTOCOL: Masks are recommended for all audience members.


Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and over the past 22 years has grown to be one of the largest commercial touring homes in the country.  A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway In Chicago lights up the Chicago Theatre District entertaining more than 1.7 million people annually in five theatres. Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop including the Cadillac Palace Theatre, CIBC Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at the Auditorium Theatre.

For more information, visit

Follow Broadway In Chicago: #broadwayinchicago

Facebook @BroadwayInChicago   ⬧   Twitter @broadwaychicago

⬧  Instagram @broadwayinchicago    

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

OPENING: Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster at Chicago Children’s Theatre September 10 - October 16, 2022

 ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List




Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster is ideal for ages 3 and up. 

Hundreds of illustrated puppets, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, hilarious actors on live cameras, and a live music soundtrack bring the popular children’s books by Mo Willems to life in a new Manual Cinema show that is...

“more like seeing a movie than attending a play…just one of this interactive production’s charms,” using “paper cutouts, fuzzy puppets, an energetic cast and funny songs to tell a story that is seamlessly projected onto a huge screen hanging over the stage.”  -The New York Times

Leonardo is a terrible monster. He tries so hard to be scary, but he just…isn’t. Then Leonardo finds Sam, the most scaredy-cat kid in the world. Will Leonardo finally get to scare the tuna salad out of someone? Or will it be the start of an unlikely friendship.

The plot thickens when Leonardo and Sam meet Kerry and Frankenthaler, an even scaredier-cat and her monster friend. Kerry and Sam need to make a big decision: will they just be scaredy cats or can they become friends?

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster is directed by Sarah Fornace, co-director of Manual Cinema, the Chicago-based, internationally-acclaimed multimedia artist collective known for their mind-bending fusion of shadow puppetry, video projection, DIY cinema, green screen techniques, original music, and immersive sound.

Performances are September 10-October 16, 2022

at Chicago Children’s Theatre, 100 S. Racine in the West Loop. 

(Free parking adjacent to the theater.)

Hundreds of illustrated puppets, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, hilarious actors on live cameras, and a live music soundtrack bring the popular children’s books by Mo Willems to life in a new Manual Cinema show the whole family will enjoy.

Leonardo is a terrible monster. He tries so hard to be scary, but he just…isn’t. Then Leonardo finds Sam, the most scaredy-cat kid in the world. Will Leonardo finally get to scare the tuna salad out of someone? Or will it be the start of an unlikely friendship?

The plot thickens when Leonardo and Sam meet Kerry and Frankenthaler, an even scaredier-cat and her monster friend. Kerry and Sam need to make a big decision: will they just be scaredy cats or can they become friends?

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster returns for its hometown debut after summer runs in Edinburgh and at New York’s New Victory Theater. There, the New York Times raved Leonardo! is “more like seeing a movie than attending a play…just one of this interactive production’s charms,” using “paper cutouts, fuzzy puppets, an energetic cast and funny songs to tell a story that is seamlessly projected onto a huge screen hanging over the stage.”

Leonardo! is directed by Sarah Fornace, co-director of Manual Cinema, the Chicago-based, internationally-acclaimed multimedia artist collective known for their mind-bending fusion of shadow puppetry, video projection, DIY cinema, green screen techniques, original music, and immersive sound.

In 2017, CCT was thrilled to present the world premiere of Manual Cinema’s The Magic City as the inaugural production in its now “forever home” at Monroe and Racine in Chicago’s West Loop. In 2018, Manual Cinema was named Chicago Tribune “Chicago Theater Artists of the Year.” Their national profile jumped again in 2021 thanks to their shadow puppet animation sequences in the critically acclaimed horror film Candyman, produced by Jordan Peele.

But Leonardo? He’s not scary.  

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster is ideal for ages 3 and up. The show will delight audiences whether or not they have read the books, but there are plenty of easter eggs to delight fans of Mo Willems.

Performances are September 10-October 16, 2022, Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Single tickets are $25-$36, fees not included. Mark your calendar, because these shows will sell out.

Or, guarantee your seats, save money and see three great plays – Manual Cinema’s Leonardo!, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show  – by purchasing a two- or three--show subscription to CT’s 2022-23 season, starting at just $37.

Subscriptions and single tickets are on sale now at Email or call (312) 374-8835 to learn more about discounted rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is a “no shushing” theater. It is centrally located at 100 S. Racine Ave., at Monroe, in Chicago's West Loop, in the former 12th District Chicago Police Station, now home to the city’s largest professional theater devoted to children and young families.]

Chicago Children's Theatre is minutes from I-90 and I-290, as well as downtown and Ashland Avenue. Free, onsite parking is available on the south side of the building. Free street parking can be found nearby on weekends, or try the Impark parking lot, 1301 W. Madison St.

BOO! Behind-the-scenes of Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster is created by Manual Cinema, and is inspired by the books “Leonardo, The Terrible Monster” and “Sam, The Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World” by Mo Willems. The production is directed by Sarah Fornace, from an adaptation by Sarah Fornace and Drew Dir, with music, lyrics and sound design by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter. 

The cast features Leah Casey (Kerry, puppeteer), Lily Emerson (narrator, character voices, guitar and vocals), Julia Miller (Sam, puppeteer) and Lindsey Noel Whiting (Leonardo, Puppeteer). 

The creative team includes Drew Dir, 2D paper puppet and prop design; Lizi Breit, hand and rod puppet design; Mieka Van der Ploeg, costume and wig design; Trey Brazeal with Nick Chamernik, lighting design; Megan Alrutz, dramaturgy; Maydi Díaz, stage manager and board operator; and Mike Usrey, technical director 

Manual Cinema is an Emmy award winning performance collective, design studio, and film/ video production company founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality. The company was awarded an Emmy Award in 2017 for “The Forger,” a video created for The New York Times and named Chicago Theater Artists of the Year in 2018 by the Chicago Tribune. In 2020 Manual Cinema celebrated their ten year anniversary and had their South American premiere at the Santiago a Mil festival. Their shadow puppet animations were featured in the 2021 film remake of Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions. 

Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with, or brought its work to Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), BAM (NYC), Arts Emerson, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Kennedy Center (DC), Under the Radar Festival (NYC), La Monnaie-DeMunt (Brussels), The Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands), The Kimmel Center (Philadelphia) The O, Miami Poetry Festival, The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), Davies Symphony Hall (SF), The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Saudi Arabia), The Ace Hotel Theater (LA), The Hakaway International Arts Festival (Cairo), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and elsewhere around the world. They have collaborated with StoryCorps (NYC), Erratica (London), The Belgian Royal Opera (Brussels), Hubbard Street Dance (Chicago), Pop-Up Magazine (SF), Nu Deco Ensemble (Miami), New York Times best-selling author Reif Larsen (NYC), three time Grammy Award-winning eighth blackbird (Chicago), NPR’s Invisibilia, Topic Magazine, Grammy Award winning Esperanza Spalding and The New York Times. Learn more at

Mo Willems is an author, illustrator, animator, playwright, and the inaugural Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, where he collaborates in creating fun new stuff involving classical music, opera, comedy concerts, dance, painting, and digital works with the National Symphony Orchestra, Ben Folds, Yo-Yo Ma, and others. Willems is best known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books, which have been awarded three Caldecott Honors (“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” “Knuffle Bunny,” “Knuffle Bunny Too”), two Theodor Geisel Medals, and five Geisel Honors (“The Elephant & Piggie” series). Willems’s art has been exhibited around the world, including major solo retrospectives at the High Museum (Atlanta) and the New-York Historical Society (NYC). Over the last decade, Willems has become the most produced playwright of Theater for Young Audiences in America, having written or co-written four musicals based on his books. He began his career as a writer and animator on PBS’ Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards (writing). Other television work includes two series on Cartoon Network: Sheep in the Big City (creator + head writer) and Codename: Kids Next Door (head writer). Willems is creating new TV projects for HBOMax, where his live action comedy special Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! currently streams. His papers reside at Yale University’s Beinecke Library. For more, visit

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About ATerrible Monster was commissioned by The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts with additional support from Chicago Children’s Theater and Utah Presents.

Playing next at Chicago Children’s Theatre in 2022-23

Later this fall, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s popular holiday show, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party, returns for its seventh season, November 19-December 24, 2022. 

A seasonal rite of passage for Chicago toddlers, this mesmerizing, interactive trunk and puppet show brings four adorable Beatrix Potter stories to life, followed by a festive holiday spread of juice, cookies and chocolate milk. 

Next spring, CCT will present The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show by Jonathan Rockefeller, creator of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. 

Kids love this bright, bold spectacle production with 75 larger-than-life puppets that bring four Eric Carle favorites – “The Very Busy Spider,” “10 Rubber Ducks,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” – from the page to the stage. 

The Chicago Tribune called it “incredible work…Eric Carle’s books are brought beautifully to life.” Chicago Parent wrote “be wowed by the live action colorful world.” Jerrell L. Henderson directs. Performances are April 10-June 4, 2023.

About Chicago Children’s Theatre

“The Chicago theater scene is legendarily vibrant, so naturally a number of companies tailor productions to younger audiences. The cream of the crop is Chicago Children’s Theatre.” – Chicago Tribune

Chicago Children’s Theatre was founded in 2005 with a big idea: Chicago is the greatest theater city in the world, and it deserves a great children’s theater. Today, Chicago Children’s Theatre is the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. CCT has established a national reputation for the production of first-rate children’s theater with professional writing, performing, and directorial talent and high-quality design and production expertise.

In January 2017, the company celebrated the opening of its new, permanent home, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, located at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop community. The building, formerly the Chicago Police Station for the 12th District, was repurposed into a beautiful, LEED Gold-certified, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that now welcomes all Chicago families.

CCT provides tens of thousands of free and reduced-price tickets to under-resourced schools each season in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. CCT also continues to grow its performing arts and STEAM education programs, offering classes, workshops, winter and spring break camps, and summer camps for ages 0 to 14.

In 2019, Chicago Children’s Theatre won the National TYA Artistic Innovation Award from Theatre for Young Audiences/USA. In addition, Chicago Children’s Theatre has garnered six NEA Art Works grants, and in 2017, became the first theater for young audiences in the U.S. to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is supported by Goldman Sachs, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, The Shubert Foundation, Polk Bros Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity and the Arts at Prince, Bayless Family Foundation, The Crown Family, Rea Charitable Trust, ComEd, US Bank, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), The Susan M. Venturi Fund in memory of James and Roslyn Marks to Support Theatre Education Accession, and Erin and Jason, Ben, Bici and David Pritzker.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, with Board President Armando Chacon.

For more, visit

Monday, August 22, 2022


ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List

Broadway In Chicago is thrilled to announce its fall season will feature 

Anastasia, Wicked, Disney’s The Lion King, A Magical Cirque Christmas, and Dear Evan Hansen.

Here at ChiIL Mama, we know that taking kids to live theatre boosts their empathy and can instill a lifelong love of the arts. I took my kids to age appropriate shows from the time they were toddlers and now my son's a senior theatre performance major at Northwestern University, one of the top schools in the country for theatre arts! He's also on cast at Bristol Renaissance Faire for the 4th season, entertaining and amusing thousands every weekend, all summer long. 

In our post-pandemic world, we're beyond elated that shows are touring once again. After the 2-3 year shutdown and slowdown, we will NEVER take live entertainment for granted again, and vow to catch as much theatre and music as possible. We're featuring five fall shows in the Broadway in Chicago lineup below, listed with recommended ages. As always, you know your own kids' maturity levels and interests best, so check out run times and get out and catch a play. Tickets make a great clutter-free holiday gift idea. Get out and make some experiential family memories this season.  

The Broadway In Chicago Fall line-up, including performance dates and venues, is as follows:



Sep. 20, 2022 – Sep. 25, 2022

CIBC Theatre (18 W. Monroe)

The mystery that fascinated the world is now the musical that captivated Broadway. A rumor is spreading across the land: the missing princess of the Romanov empire may still be alive. Then, a young woman appears with no name and no family, but with the drive to discover her destiny. As she sets out on an epic journey in search of her past, clues unlock and memories return. Could she be the one they call Anastasia? Her remarkable story, by Tony Award®-winning playwright Terrence McNally, soars with a score by Tony Award-winning songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, including the Academy Award®-nominated hit “Journey to the Past.” With its opulent settings, dazzling costumes, and directed by Tony Award winner Darko Tresnjak with choreography by Peggy Hickey and tour direction by Sarah Hartmann, ANASTASIA is Broadway’s most spectacular new musical. ANASTASIA is recommended for ages 7 and older.


Sep. 28, 2022 – Dec. 4, 2022

James M. Nederlander Theatre (24 W. Randolph)

WICKED, the Broadway sensation, looks at what happened in the Land of Oz…but from a different angle. Long before Dorothy arrives, there is another young woman, born with emerald-green skin—smart, fiery, misunderstood, and possessing an extraordinary talent. When she meets a bubbly blonde who is exceptionally popular, their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendships…until the world decides to call one “good,” and the other one “wicked.” From the first electrifying note to the final breathtaking moment, WICKED—the untold true story of the Witches of Oz—transfixes audiences with its wildly inventive story that USA Today cheers is “a complete triumph! An original musical that will make you laugh, cry, and think.” WICKED is recommended for ages 8 and older.


Nov. 17, 2022 – Jan. 14, 2023

Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph)

Giraffes strut. Birds swoop. Gazelles leap. The entire Serengeti comes to life as never before. And as the music soars, Pride Rock slowly emerges from the mist. This is Disney’s THE LION KING, making its triumphant return to Chicago! More than 100 million people around the world have experienced the awe-inspiring visual artistry, the unforgettable music, and the uniquely theatrical storytelling of this Broadway spectacular – one of the most breathtaking and beloved productions ever to grace the stage. Winner of six Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, Disney’s THE LION KING brings together one of the most imaginative creative teams on Broadway. Tony Award®-winning director Julie Taymor brings to life a story filled with hope and adventure set against an amazing backdrop of stunning visuals. Disney’s THE LION KING also features the extraordinary work of Tony Award®-winning choreographer Garth Fagan and some of Broadway’s most recognizable music, crafted by Tony Award®-winning artists Elton John and Tim Rice. There is simply nothing else like Disney’s THE LION KING. Disney’s THE LION KING is recommended for ages 6 and older.



Dec. 6, 2022 – Dec. 11, 2022

CIBC Theatre (18 W. Monroe)

The world’s greatest entertainers unite for a spell-binding and incredible holiday production – A MAGICAL CIRQUE CHRISTMAS! Experience the enchantment of Christmas as Magical Hostess Lucy Darling takes you through an evening of dazzling performers and breathtaking cirque artists, accompanied by your favorite holiday music performed live. Get into the spirit of the season with this merry treat that’s perfect for the entire family.


Dec. 6, 2022 – Dec. 31, 2022

James M. Nederlander Theatre (24 W. Randolph)

DEAR EVAN HANSEN has struck a remarkable chord with audiences and critics everywhere, including The Washington Post who says DEAR EVAN HANSEN is “Theatrical magic. One of the most remarkable shows in musical theatre history.” The New York Times calls it “a breathtaking knockout of a musical.” And NBC Nightly News declares the musical “an anthem resonating on Broadway and beyond.” DEAR EVAN HANSEN features a book by Tony Award winner Steven Levenson, a score by Grammy®, Tony®, and Academy Award® winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman), and direction by four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal).


Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and over the past 22 years, has grown to be one of the largest commercial touring homes in the country. A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway In Chicago, lights up the Chicago Theater District entertaining more than 1.7 million people annually in five theatres. Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop, including the Cadillac Palace Theatre, CIBC Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at the Auditorium Theatre.


Masks are recommended for all audience members.

For the latest health and safety procedures and guidelines, tickets, and scheduling details, visit

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