Wednesday, November 24, 2021

20th Anniversary Production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Through December 31, 2021

 ChiIL Live Shows on our radar 

American Blues Theater Presents

20th Anniversary Production of

It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

From Frank Capra’s film

Directed by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside

Music Direction by Ensemble Member Michael Mahler

 November 26 – December 31, 2021

American Blues Theater marks its return to live, in-person theater with its 20th Annual Production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! from Frank Capra’s film and directed by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside with musical direction by Ensemble Member Michael Mahler. It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! will run November 26 – December 31, 2021 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Avenue. Single tickets go on sale October 26 and are available at (773) 871-3000 and online at  

To date, American Blues has done 524 performances of It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

George Bailey, the Everyman from small town Bedford Falls whose dreams of escape and adventure were stopped by family obligation and civic duty, has fallen onto desperate times. Only a miracle can save him from despair. Filled with original music and classic holiday carols, this critically acclaimed, warm “holiday favorite makes the bell ring every time.” (Chicago Tribune) For 20 years, American Blues has treated audiences to a live retelling of the Frank Capra classic in a 1940s radio broadcast tradition, making It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! the second longest-running holiday play in Chicago!

Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside comments, “We have so many milestones to celebrate with this year’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! This year marks American Blues’ 20th annual production of this holiday favorite, as well as John Mohrlein’s 20th turn as “Clarence” and “Mr. Potter.” It feels so fitting that the first show we welcome audiences back to experience is one that means so much to the entire American Blues Theater family. We can’t wait to see everyone!”

The cast of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! includes Audrey Billings* (Mary Bailey), Manny Buckley* (Joseph), Dara Cameron* (Violet), Yuchi Chiu (Harry), Brandon Dalquist (George Bailey), Shawn J. Goudie* (Foley), Michael Mahler* (Announcer / Pianist), and John Mohrlein* (Clarence/Mr. Potter), Joe Dempsey* (U/S Clarence/Mr. Potter), and Gwendolyn Whiteside* (Mary Bailey, 12/29 & 12/31).

The creative team includes Grant Sabin* (Scenic Designer), Christopher J. Neville* (Costume Designer), Katy Peterson Viccellio (Lighting Designer), Rick Sims* (Sound Designer), Elyse Dolan* (Set Dressing / Props Designer), and Shandee Vaughan* (production & stage manager).

*Denotes Ensemble member or Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater

This year’s production marks 20th anniversary of It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!


About the Artists

GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE she/her (Artistic Director/Director) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and has served as Artistic Director since 2010. In her tenure, she created the nationally-recognized Blue Ink Playwriting Award and new work development program, implemented community service into the company’s mission, and adapted the arts education program The Lincoln Project for Chicago Public Schools serving nearly 4,000 students annually during a traditional school year. She led American Blues through its reorganization in 2009, building the operational budget from zero to $1 million. She secured the company’s first-ever operating reserve and endowment. Whiteside served on numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and sat on the Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters and League of Chicago Theatres. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University (BS), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). As a producer, she’s received 14 Joseph Jefferson nominations or awards. As an actress, she’s received 5 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations; 2 After Dark Awards; and 1 Broadway World Chicago Award.

AUDREY BILLINGS she/her (Mary Bailey) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She’s thrilled to reprise her role as Mary Bailey (and others) in It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (And in person – Hooray!) Previous credits include: Christmas Eve in the long-running production of Avenue Q at the Mercury Theater, Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Antonia in Man of la Mancha, and Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof. She has worked at the Paramount Theatre, Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Theatre at the Center, Lookingglass Theatre Company and is a proud member of Actor’s Equity.

MANNY BUCKLEY he/him (Joseph) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is a Chicago-based director, actor, playwright and teaching artist. Blues credits include It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, Six Corners, Looking Over the President’s Shoulder (Jeff Award Nomination-Best Solo Performance), and Dutchman/TRANSit (Black Theatre Alliance Award Nomination). Manny toured nationally as “Satchel Paige” in the original production of The Satchel Paige Story, and appeared in The Father (Helen Hayes Award Nomination) at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. He originated the role of “Carson” in Hit the Wall, which sold out extensions in Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep. Select Chicago credits include The Brothers Size, 1984, and Of Mice and Men (Steppenwolf); Dorian (House Theater); and Love’s Labor’s Lost (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). Mr. Buckley is the recipient of a Black Theatre Alliance, and Black Excellence Award. He most recently directed Kingdom, an audio drama, with Broken Nose Theatre.

DARA CAMERON she/her (Violet) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and is grateful to be performing back onstage at her artistic home. Favorite credits include The Spitfire Grill (Jeff nomination) and Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater); Old Jews Telling Jokes (Royal George and Off-Broadway); The Secret of My Success (Paramount Theatre); Elf, Hero (Jeff nomination), South Pacific, October Sky, Sister Act, City of Angels, Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, Fiddler on the Roof (Marriott Theatre); Addams Family (Mercury Theater); Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Theatre at the Center), and Sunset Boulevard, Seussical, and Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Drury Lane Theatre). She is a graduate of Northwestern University and a member of Actors' Equity. She is married to actor Michael Mahler, and when they aren't singing in Bedford Falls together, they are busy chasing after their stinker of a toddler, Ezra!

YUCHI CHIU he/him (Harry) is a Chicago-based actor, teacher, singer/songwriter, and musician. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he moved to Chicago to study at Northwestern University and subsequently taught high school special education for five years. Yuchi then transitioned into acting by enrolling in classes at Acting Studio Chicago as well as completing the ACADEMY program at Black Box Studio. Now, Yuchi proudly serves as an instructor at Black Box. Outside of acting, he can be found bartending, exercising, reading/writing, and trying to get his dog to actually return balls while playing fetch. Credits include Baked! The Musical (Underscore Theatre); How Do We Navigate Space (Strawdog Theatre); BJ's Mobile Gift Shop (Sundance Film Festival 2021); The Miscellany (The Passage Theatre). Yuchi is represented by DDO Artists Agency and is excited to join the It's a Wonderful Life family!

BRANDON DAHLQUIST he/him (George Bailey) is happy to return to Bedford Falls for his 5th season. Broadway: Bronx Bombers. Regional: As You Like It (Guthrie Theater); The Glass Menagerie (Milwaukee Repertory); A Little Night Music, 1776 (American Conservatory Theatre); Shakespeare in Love, Rhinoceros, 1776 (Asolo Repertory); 12 Angry Men (Maltz Jupiter Theater); Dogfight, City of Angels (San Francisco Playhouse); Sunday…George, Murder on the Nile, Lombardi (Peninsula Players). Chicago: Secret of My Success (Paramount Theatre), Miracle the Musical (Royal George Theater), A Little Night Music, Arcadia, Oh Coward! (Writers Theatre); Cabaret, Meet Me in St. Louis, Sugar (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Assassins, Sunday…George, Best Musical! (Porchlight Music Theater). On Camera: Difficult People (Hulu), Chicago P.D (NBC), The Chi (Showtime). A popular photographer, Dahlquist is on social @ IG: @thats_on_brandon & @BrandonDahlquistPhotography. For Mutti & Mom.

SHAWN J. GOUDIE he/him (Foley) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He is excited to be returning for his thirteenth season of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago, because where else are you told it is ok to smash plates and slam doors. Shawn is also a founding member of The Dolphins of Damnation sketch comedy group and a Stormtrooper in the 501st Legion. He would like to thank his amazing wife, their endlessly curious children, and his loving parents.

MICHAEL MAHLER he/him (Announcer/Pianist) is a proud Ensemble Member of American Blues, most recently seen as the Announcer/Pianist/Music Director in Blues’ live streaming production of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Past Blues productions: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Jeff Award – Best Music Direction), Little Shop of Horrors, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, and Side Man. Other recent roles include The Baker in Into the Woods (Writers); Jim Hardy in Holiday Inn, and Jack Singer in Honeymoon in Vegas (Marriott Theatre). Michael co-wrote the songs for the Netflix movie My Little Pony: A New Generation and contributed additional lyrics to Cameron Mackintosh’s most recent Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Other works as a composer/lyricist include The Secret of My Success, Miracle (Jeff Award – Best New Work), Diary of a Wimpy Kid, October Sky, The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes (Jeff Award – Best New Work), and Hero (Jeff Award – Best New Work). Michael is married to fellow Ensemble Member Dara Cameron and proud father to their son Ezra.

JOHN MOHRLEIN he/him (Clarence/Mr. Potter) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. 20 years as “Clarence/Mr. Potter,” and he loves getting to revisit and reinvent these characters year after year. At American Blues, he’s appeared in Half of Plenty, It’s a Wonderful Life, A View from the Bridge, Strictly Dishonorable, American Dead, The Hairy Ape, A Lie of the Mind, Endgame, American Buffalo, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Threepenny Opera, A Stone Carver (Jeff nomination for Best Actor, After Dark Award for Outstanding Performance); and directed Catch-22. Other credits: The Glass House at the Art Institute of Chicago; nine productions at Goodman Theatre; and Cripple of Inishmaan, Heart of a Dog, and Murder of Cardinal Tosca at Northlight Theatre. His extensive television and film work includes Golden Boy, Good Night Sweet Wife, Dillinger, Killing Floor, Early Edition, Crime Story (recurring role), Untouchables, Devil’s Dominoes, Stranger Than Fiction, No Place to be Somebody, Hellcab, Hero, and Cold Justice. Now he’s developing Star Crossed Lovers, Pope Frank in Venice, and Glass House, while continuing to install his art works.

JOE DEMPSEY he/him (U/S Clarence/Mr. Potter) is a proud Affiliate of American Blues Theater and has appeared for in Scapin and Pledge of Allegiance. His last show was The Steadfast Tin Soldier at Lookingglass before the world ended. He has worked at Goodman, Steppenwolf, Northlight, Court, Chicago Shakespeare, Drury Lane Oak Brook, and Paramount among many other Chicago theatres as well as Milwaukee Rep, St Louis Rep, Centerstage (Baltimore), and City Theatre (Pittsburgh). TV work includes Somebody Somewhere, Chicago Fire, ER, and Early Edition and film work includes several indies you've never seen.

Dates:  November 26 – December 31, 2021       


Wednesdays: 7:30pm (December 22 and 29 only)

Thursdays: 4:30pm (December 23 only); 7:30pm

Fridays: 7:30pm

Saturdays: 4:30pm (December 4, 11 and 18 only) & 7:30pm

Sundays: 2:30pm

*No performances December 24 or 25

Additional performance on December 31 at 4:30pm

Location:  Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Avenue, Chicago

Ticket prices:  $25-$65

Group Sales discounts and Blue Card Memberships available beginning October 12, 2021 by calling (773) 654-3103 or visiting

Box Office:   Buy online at or by calling

                                    (773) 871-3000

The cast will celebrate with special holiday events, including Hanukkah on November 28 and Kwanza on December 26.

In the long tradition of honoring heroes during the run of It’s a Wonderful Life, American Blues will honor a teacher at each performance with a “Teacher Tribute.” Nominations are accepted at Selected recipients will receive complimentary tickets to a performance of It’s a Wonderful Life and a live tribute during the show.

American Blues proudly partners with NAMI Chicago, USO, and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Complimentary tickets are offered to CPS teachers, the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (IL chapter), and American Indian Center.

Bedford Boxes are available for $50, and include: a 20th anniversary Wonderful Life ornament, a commemorative printed program, a cocktail recipe book Martini's Specials - inspired beverages of Bedford Falls, a pair of socks, a copy of the original short story that inspired Capra, chocolates, and an "I Earned My Wings" sticker.

About American Blues

Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home. American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.

The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. As of 2021, the theater and artists received 221 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and 40 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Q Brothers Christmas Carol is Back at Chicago Shakespeare Theater Through December 23, 2021

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List 

Q BROTHERS & Chi Shakes bring all the joys to The Yard!

Chicago Shakespeare Artists and Audiences come together for the holiday season


Hip hop holiday hit returns in limited engagement. 

December 7-23, 2021

This is one of our all time top favorites in the Christmas genre. Chicago's own world renowned Q Brothers are truly a treat to see in action. We highly recommend Q BROTHERS CHRISTMAS CAROL and we adore The Yard, Chi Shakes' newest space. This show has multigenerational appeal and may well be one of the funniest holiday shows out there. We've caught every year this show has been performed since they workshopped the first version of this show back around 2012 or 13 and it's become a beloved family tradition of ours. Don't miss this!

Chicago Shakespeare Theater is once again the ultimate destination for the holiday season. The 80-minute hip hop holiday hit Q Brothers Christmas Carol, created by Chicago sensations the Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax, and Pos) and developed with Creative Producer Rick Boynton, is back in a limited engagement in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, December 7-23, 2021. The Theater will again host the popular virtual Holiday Artisan Market, December 2-5, 2021, in support of local theatermakers and community artists. Nearly 20 Chicago-area artisans will showcase more than 250 handcrafted wares in an online pop-up shop—perfect for holiday gift-giving. One hundred percent of proceeds will directly benefit the artisans.

The wildly entertaining Q Brothers Christmas Carol remixes the Charles Dickens classic, mashing up musical styles ranging from reggae and dancehall music, to dubstep and epic rock ballads. Fully decked out in the holiday spirit with stage-side cocktail tables and theater seating, the Theater is strewn with more than two miles of twinkling lights as the Ghosts of hip hop Past, Present, and Future lead Scrooge on a journey of rhythm, rhyme, and redemption.

The internationally acclaimed Q Brothers Collective fuses hip hop and theater—adapting classic stories with a wholly original style of performance that has amassed a cult following of fans in Chicago and beyond. The Q Brothers Collective pioneered the concept of "ad-rap-tation" with their Off-Broadway hit The Bomb-itty of Errors. Their award-winning collaborations with Chicago Shakespeare Theater Creative Producer Rick Boynton include Othello: The Remix—which premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe and toured to sold-out houses in London, Australia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Off Broadway—and Funk It Up About Nothin’, which garnered the Jeff Award for Outstanding Ensemble and the Dress Circle Award for Best Musical Production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Q Brothers Christmas Carol features the members of the Q Brothers Collective portraying all of the roles in the timeless story: GQ (Scrooge), JQ (Marley / Belle / Present / Lil’ Tim), Jax (Fred / Dick Wilkins / Mama Cratchit), and Pos (Bob Cratchit / Past / Martha Cratchit)—joined by DJ Clayton Stamper spinning live beats live onstage. The creative team features Scenic and Costume Designer Scott Davis, Lighting Designer Jesse Klug, Sound Designer Stephen Ptacek, Associate Sound Designer Ralph Loza, and original Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal, with Choreography by Anacron. Q Brothers Christmas Carol is written by the Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax, and Pos) with music by JQ. A Chicago Shakespeare production, Q Brothers Christmas Carol is presented by CST and Richard Jordan Productions.

In its ongoing commitment to accessibility, Chicago Shakespeare offers accessible performances for Q Brothers Christmas Carol:

Audio-described performance – Sunday, December 12, 2021, at 3:00 p.m.

A program that provides spoken narration of the play’s key visual elements for patrons who are blind or have low vision.

Open-captioned performance – Wednesday, December 15, 2021, at 7:00 p.m.A text display of the words and sounds heard during a play, synced live with the action onstage.

Run time is 80 minutes (no intermission). Single tickets ($38–$56) are on sale now with special discounts available for groups of 10 or more. For more information, visit or engage on social at #QChristmas.


Virtual pop-up shop with 100% of proceeds benefiting local artists, December 2-5, 2021

Back by popular demand, Chicago Shakespeare’s Holiday Artisan Market will feature more than 250 one-of-a-kind goods from nearly twenty local artists. All of the participating artisans are members of the creative sector—including onstage performers, backstage technicians, designers, and community partners from the Theater’s annual Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks program. From jewelry and ceramics to knitwork and more, the virtual Holiday Artisan Market is not only a one-stop-shop for bespoke and beautifully made gifts, but also celebration of the talent and resilience of our city’s creative community.

Featured artisans include:

Taí Ramírez, a youth musician with Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center who appeared in Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks DREAM in 2021, with her whimsical jewelry creations.

Actor Nick Harazin who has appeared in in six Chicago Shakespeare productions, sharing his woodworking skills with unique wooden jewelry and furniture pieces.

Brittany Taylor, member of Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce’s Business Development Cohort, and her hand-poured Black Luxe candles.

Three-time Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks Green Show performer Noelle Klyce and cozy items from her crochet line Hook Me Up, Design Co.

Chicago Lighting Designer Travis Shupe and his hand-thrown pottery creations, which are both functional and beautiful.

Theatrical costume maker Maggie Hoffman (SIX, Macbeth, Nell Gwynn) delights with holiday-themed goods in her PaisleyAndGlue shop.

Participating artisans to date include: Maggie Hoffman – PaisleyAndGlue; Emma Lyons – Emma Lyons Art; Beth Uber – Betherella; Dail Kirkpatrick – Dail Kirkpatrick Art; Nikki Way; Brittany Taylor – Black Luxe Candle Co; Taí Ramírez – Atabey; Cass Westover – Homegrown Wrappings; Elizabeth Flauto – Elizabeth Millinery; Nicholas Harazin – Kindred Woodworks; Travis Shupe – Ceramics by Travis; Jen Smith – JenSmithGlass; Karen Avery; Robin Power; Catherine Daniels – CDaniels Design.

The pop-up shop will be live December 2-5, 2021 at with one hundred percent of proceeds going directly to the artisans.


A Regional Tony Award recipient, Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a year-round season—featuring plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions, and theatrical presentations from around the globe—alongside nationally recognized education programming, each year serving tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lifelong learners. Founded in 1986, the Theater’s onstage work has expanded to as many as twenty productions and 650 performances annually. Dedicated to welcoming the next generation of theatergoers, one in four audience members is under the age of eighteen. As a nonprofit organization, Chicago Shakespeare works to embrace diversity, prioritize radical inclusion, provide equitable opportunities, and offer an accessible experience for all. On the Theater’s three stages at its home on Navy Pier, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multifaceted cultural hub—inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire us.

Monday, November 22, 2021

“‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE…” BY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL at The Chicago Theatre, November 26 - December 5, 2021

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List 




 Tickets for performances at The Chicago Theatre, November 26 - December 5, are now on sale!

Here at ChiIL Mama we're way beyond excited that Cirque du Soleil will be back in Chicago imminently! It's been way too long and we are so overdue for some circus inspired holiday joy. Of course tis also the season for gifting, and the family that plays together makes memories instead of clutter. So think about tickets and plan some multigenerational fun. 

Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. (MSG Entertainment) and Cirque du Soleil are pleased to announce that the acclaimed family holiday theatrical – “‘Twas the Night Before…” by Cirque du Soleil – is returning to The Chicago Theatre (175 N. State Street) for 17 performances only from November 26 through December 5, 2021, prior to opening in New York at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden December 9.

“‘Twas the Night Before…,” Cirque du Soleil’s exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas tale, is about the wonders of sharing and friendship. The production marks Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever Christmas show and is a flurry of Christmas cheer – rip-roaring fun with hugely lovable characters that will introduce audiences to the magic of Cirque du Soleil and help families create new holiday traditions.

The international cast features Roberto Alvarez Serrano (Spain), Lucas Gabriel Morales Bravo (Argentina), Sekou Camara (Guinea), Jean-Marc Giese (France), Quentin Greco (France) and Evan Tomlinson Weintraub (United States) performing Hoop Diving and Acrobatic Table; Alicia Beaudoin (Canada) performing Acrobatic Bicycle and as Isabella; Danila Bim (Brazil) performing Hair Suspension; Suren Bozyan (Russia) & Karyna Konchakivska (Ukraine) in Duo Straps; Ming-En Chen, Shuo-En Liao, Tsung-ying Lin, Hao Yu (Taiwan) performing Diabolo; Holler Zavatta & Kimberly Zavatta (Italy) performing Roller Skating; Miguel Gigosos Ronda (Spain) performing as Jolly Santa and clown; Masha Terentieva (Canada/Russia) performing Hotel Cart; Alexis Vigneault (Canada) as Father and performing Acrobatic Lamp; and Jenna Beltran, Carlo Darang, Shannon Kelly, Samuel Moore and Bianca Vallar (United States) along with Kalila Hermant (Belgium), as ensemble dancers.

The creative team consists of Manuel Bissonnette as Creative Director, James Hadley as Writer and Stage Director, Genevieve Lizotte as Set Designer and Artistic Director, Edesia Moreno Barata 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 Paul Bisson as Sound Designer. The show is produced by Cirque du Soleil Executive Producer and Head of Creation Marie-Josee Adam and Chief Creative Officer Diane Quinn.

The critically acclaimed production of “‘Twas the Night Before…,” returns to The Chicago Theatre and Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden after debuting at both venues in 2019. The Chicago run sold more than 50,000 tickets, completely selling out its 17-show engagement, while the New York run sold out a whopping 25 performances.  Among the national buzz this holiday theatrical garnered:


“’Twas the Night Before… delivers terrific holiday entertainment that should delight children and adults alike.” – THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER


“The acrobats are all glamour and athleticism, the skaters all speed and daring.” – THE NEW YORK TIMES


“Cirque du Soleil unwraps a happy new holiday gift for family audiences with its ‘Twas the Night Before…., a cheerful high-performance show.” – NEW YORK STAGE REVIEW


Tickets for “‘Twas the Night Before…” at The Chicago Theatre start at $30 and can be purchased online at or at the Ticketmaster Box Office at The Chicago Theatre. Box office hours are Monday-Friday, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Service charges apply to internet orders. For group sales, please call 212-465-6080. Accessible and companion seats are available via the Disabled Services Department at 888-609-7599. 

The Chicago Theatre continues to operate in accordance with all government mandates, and current City of Chicago and State of Illinois guidelines require that all guests age 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in The Chicago Theatre, except while actively eating or drinking. Government mandates, venue protocols and event requirements are subject to change, so be sure to continue to check for the latest information.


Connect with us on social!

The Chicago Theatre: | |

MSG Entertainment:



‘Twas the Night Before… is the 49th original production of Cirque du Soleil. Originally composed of 20 street performers in 1984, Cirque du Soleil completely reinvented circus arts and went on to become a world leader in live entertainment. Established in Montreal, the Canadian organization has brought wonder and delight to more than 200 million spectators in more than 450 cities in over 60 countries on six continents. Cirque du Soleil is owned and operated by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. For more information, visit

About Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. (MSG Entertainment) is a leader in live entertainment. The Company presents or hosts a broad array of events in its diverse collection of venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden, Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; and The Chicago Theatre. MSG Entertainment is also building a new state-of-the-art venue in Las Vegas, MSG Sphere at The Venetian. In addition, the Company features the original production – the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes – and through Boston Calling Events, produces the Boston Calling Music Festival. The Company’s two regional sports and entertainment networks, MSG Network and MSG+, deliver a wide range of live sports content and other programming. Also under the MSG Entertainment umbrella is Tao Group Hospitality, with entertainment dining and nightlife brands including: Tao, Marquee, Lavo, Beauty & Essex, Cathédrale, Hakkasan and Omnia. More information is available at 

Thursday, November 11, 2021


ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List:

FLASH GIVEAWAY enter through noon 

Friday 11/12!

Enter HERE for your chance to WIN a 4 movie pass good for your choice of any CICFF films through Sunday 11/14.

The Festival Includes the Launch of Young Adult Program, New Dimensions, In-Person Screenings at FACETS and ChiTown Movies Drive-In with National Streaming through the Eventive Platform 

Here at ChiIL Mama, we've attended, promoted, and volunteered at Chicago International Children's Film Festival as a family for years. I started volunteering at FACETS in 1990, working their box office and concessions a handful of times monthly for decades. Even as technology has changed, FACETS and CICFF remain an invaluable resource in the indy film scene. FACETS Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival is still going strong and celebrating their 38th season with a full streaming option, as well as limited in-person screenings in Chicago at FACETS as well as opening night at ChiTown Drive-In. Don't miss this amazing international, multicultural smorgasbord of films for all ages. 

FACETS 38th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF), one of only two Academy Award qualifying international children’s film festivals in the world, announces this year’s tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at

Presented from Friday, Nov. 5 through Sunday, Nov.14, FACETS is pleased to offer limited in-person screenings as well as the entire festival available via national streaming.  The in-person screenings will take place at FACETS, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. and Opening Night will be held at ChiTown Drive-In, 2343 S. Throop St.

Also new this year will be the launch of New Dimensions, a program designed for film enthusiasts 18 years old and older. CICFF, traditionally showcasing films for ages 3-18, believes the young adult audience should continue to have the opportunity to experience the best in cinema within this festival that cater to their interests, life-experiences and curiosities. The program will contain more mature content, new innovative, edgy animation and high-quality shorts, documentaries and feature films. The full schedule for the CICFF will be available the day of the ticket on-sale, October 14.  General ticket prices are $10 for in-person and $15 for virtual screening, with festival passes and FACETS’ Members discounts available. Ticket buyers should visit to view all the ticket options and to purchase tickets. 

Karen Cardarelli, executive director of FACETS said, “Through the many phases of programming over the years, none have had as big of an impact as the current global pandemic.  Last year, we swiftly shifted the festival to an all-virtual format and we are so pleased to once again be welcoming guests for live screenings from around the world.  Our new relationship with ChiTown Movies is one we are extremely excited to offer families as it will bring the thrill of the screen to a safe and outdoor space. We are so committed to maintaining quality programming that we are even expanding and offering more films for young adult and college-aged audiences 18 and older.  We have named this program New Dimensions and with its launch we hope to bring back our much loved audience who may think they have ‘aged out’ of our festival and also those who believe in high quality programming and love experiencing the well-curated cinema in general.” 

Every year FACETS’ Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF) is proud to present a diverse selection of high-quality films for children and teens from around the world. For the 2021 season, CICFF’s carefully  curated selection of shorts and features presents girls and young women who are powerful and determined and young people who struggle, triumph and are free to express joy through all the stages of growing up. CICFF38 films feature young and upcoming Black actors and directors like Camrus Johnson ("Luke Fox" aka "Batwing" in the CW/HBOMax series Batwoman), and FreeBird, a short that lovingly depicts a child with downs syndrome for the first time ever in an animated film. CICFF38 also showcases familiar family-friendly content like the animated shortRunaway Bunny based on the award-winning book and narrated by Tracie Ellis Ross with music by Mariah Carey and Rufus Wainwright, and the unfamiliar like the live-action, critically acclaimed short for teens, The Right Words that just premiered at Cannes Film Festival and was selected to screen at CICFF.


Festival Highlights - FEATURE FILMS 

Any Day Now (Finland) 

Directed by Hamy Ramezan  • Persian with English Subtitles • 82 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 11-14

Ramin is 13 years-old and about to start junior high school. He and his Iranian family have been living in a refugee center in Finland. The audience will see their everyday joys, morning rituals before school, parties with friends and how Ramin and his family keep a positive attitude despite the always looming danger of deportation. It is a sweet coming of age story caught in the difficult reality of immigration. As families await final news about their asylum applications, Ramin wonders how to approach a girl he likes. Any Day Now shows the human side of immigration and provides insight into the experiences, challenges and hopes of youth who await news of their status.


Ape Star (Sweden)

Directed by Linda Hambäck • English • 74 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 6-10

Based on Frida Nilsson’s award-winning novel “The Ape Star,”, this family film brings together Jonna, a young girl who desperately wants to be adopted with her new mom, who to everyone’s surprise is a gorilla.  As the pair overcome their physical differences, they find common ground and learn about love, acceptance and the true meaning of family. They will have to work together to defeat a town bully who not only threatens the future of the orphanage but also tries to break up their new happy home. 


Birta (Iceland)

Directed by Bragi Thor Hinrisskon • Icelandic with English subtitles • 85 Minutes • No Trailer Available • Recommended for ages 8 - 14 

Birta, an 11-year old, overhears her single mom talking about their precarious financial status and determines that Christmas may not happen this year. She decides to take on the responsibility for making Christmas possible for the family and goes on a quest to make enough money before the holidays to help her hard-working mom. Birta is a charming, persuasive, young entrepreneur with amazing problem-solving skills. She enlists the help of her younger sister and best friend to sell everything from cookies to frozen fish.  However, not everything goes as planned.  It's not so easy when one is  only eleven years old and trying to keep it all a secret. Birta is fun, family entertainment that will melt a frozen holiday heart but also has lessons about the true meaning of giving and importance of honesty.


City of Lost Things (Taiwan)

Directed by Yee Chih-Yen • Chinese with English subtitles • 91 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 14+ 

City of Lost Things has a visual style sure to appeal to lovers of sophisticated animation. It centers on Leaf, a 16-year-old struggling urban teenager. He doesn’t think much about his life. He lacks self-confidence and views himself as worthless and disposable. When Leaf skips classes and runs away from home, he ends up, mysteriously, in a place called the City of Lost Things. There he finds discarded, forgotten trash and decides he has finally found a place where he belongs. He befriends Baggy, a plastic bag who doesn’t see himself as just another piece of unwanted junk. Baggy has a purpose in his life and wants Leaf to help him lead his friends and family away from the City of Lost Things. Leaf faces several challenges along the way and must decide who he is and where his loyalties lie. He must also recognize his own value in order to find his true purpose.


Dear Werner (Walking on Cinema) (Spain)

Directed by Pablo Maqueda • English • 79 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 18+

In 1974 Werner Herzog walked from Munich to Paris, an act of faith to prevent the death of his mentor Lotte Eisner. In 2020, a young filmmaker follows in Herzog ́s footsteps in an act of love to one of the best filmmakers of our time. Pablo Maqueda collaborated with Herzog and the resulting film has been described as poetic, inspirational and beautiful.  This “film letter” is a meditation on filmmaking and a must see for admirers of Werner and lovers of film. 


Youth v Gov (United States)

Directed by Christi Cooper • English • 109 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 11+

This inspiring documentary follows the lives of a group of brave, young American citizens from across the country who decide to take on the world’s most powerful government. Twenty-one courageous youth lead a groundbreaking lawsuit against the U.S. government, asserting that it has willfully acted over six decades to create a climate crisis, thus endangering their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. Youth v. Gov not only informs but motivates young people to take action.


Festiva Highlights - SHORTS 

DỌLÁPỌ̀ IS FINE (United Kingdom)Directed by Ethosheia Hylton • English and Yoruba with English subtitles • 15 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 11+

Nigerian teenager, Dọlápọ̀ attends a British boarding school. She is bright, fun and free-spirited but when she tries to find a job in London’s financial center, she is pressured by a Nigerian female mentor to abandon her natural hairstyle, wear a wig and use a nickname that is easier to pronounce. Dọlápọ̀ is faced with questions about her identity and self-image. She must decide if she is willing to change who she is in order to meet the expectations of others.


Salt (United States)

Directed by Alicia Scott Nichols • Nonverbal • 6 Minutes • Recommended for ages 6-10

This beautifully animated short depicts West Africa near the Senegalese city of Dakar where for generations the people have harvested salt at Lake Retba. Young Sanura learns to find her joy one afternoon, during the salt harvest, working alongside her mother.

Stairs (Mongolia)

Directed by Zoljargal Purevdash • Mongolian with English subtitles • 12 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 11+

Stairs is an inspirational story about Sonor, a talented young man who uses a wheelchair. His goal is to get the additional training he needs to land his dream job.  While issues of access and the attitudes of others about disabilities threaten to stand in his way, it is his young sister’s love and unwavering support that inspires and helps him to overcome the obstacles and see his dream fulfilled.

Vanille (France)

Directed by Guillaume Lorin • French with English subtitles • 29 Minutes • View Trailer • Recommended for ages 8-10

Vanille is a fresh example of innovative TV that mixes animation and live action backgrounds to tell the story of Vanille, a feisty, 9-year-old girl who is bi-racial.  Vanille straightens her hair every morning because she doesn’t like the way it looks. She reluctantly leaves her home in Paris to visit her aunt in Guadeloupe. She finds herself on a journey that takes her to the heart of the lush tropical rainforest to battle a shapeshifting creature in order to lift a strange curse. The real journey, for Vanille however, is finding out who she is, where she comes from and learning to love herself just the way she is.

FACETS Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Mission Statement

Established in 1984, FACETS Chicago International Children’s Film Festival strives to support the work of talented and dedicated filmmakers by showcasing international films of the highest quality and awarding prizes in multiple categories of production formats and genres. The film experiences of young viewers are deepened through a broad range of programs which extend Festival film viewing into discussion and learning. 

To maintain its longtime standing as one of the top children's film festivals in the world, films presented in CICFF38 will be issued awards at its conclusion by the CICFF Professional Jury, Youth Jury, and Children's Jury, including in the Academy Award Qualifying Best Animated and Best Live-Action Short Film categories. CICFF juries are composed of independent filmmakers, film industry professionals, educators, parents, and kids and teens who have graduated from FACETS Film 101 summer camp. 

About FACETS  

FACETS  connects people to independent ideas through transformative film experiences. Founded by the late Milos Stehlik in 1975,  FACETS  inspires audiences to engage with film not simply as entertainment, but as an exciting tool to bridge cultural divides, promote digital literacy, and expand perspectives through empathy-driven storytelling.  

FACETS presents the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF), one of only two Academy Award-qualifying international children’s film festivals in the world. The 38th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF38) will be presented November 5 - 14 at FACETS and Chi-Town Drive In. Learn more:

FACETS’ CICFF38 is supported by the Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Comer Family Foundation, NEA Art Works, Illinois Arts Agency (partial support), Kirckland & Ellis LLP, Prince Charitable Trust, Allstate, Conant Family Foundation, Stuart & Jesse Abelson Foundation, Seabury Foundations (New Dimensions program), Sterling Bay, and WTTW.


What We're Watching

I've been a fan of the CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG books since my own childhood, and my kids grew up loving the series, so I’m happy to be partnering with Paramount Studios on behalf of the upcoming film, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, which will be released in theaters and on Paramount+ November 10th.


SYNOPSIS: When middle-schooler Emily Elizabeth (Darby Camp) meets a magical animal rescuer (John Cleese) who gifts her a little, red puppy, she never anticipated waking up to find a giant ten-foot hound in her small New York City apartment. While her single mom (Sienna Guillory) is away for business, Emily and her fun but impulsive uncle Casey (Jack Whitehall) set out on an adventure that will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat as our heroes take a bite out of the Big Apple. Based on the beloved Scholastic book character, Clifford will teach the world how to love big!

Here at ChiIL Mama we adore big dogs and currently have Finnie, a two year old, 110 pound king German Shepherd as part of our family, along with Iggy, a Husky Beagle mix. Here's our four legged kids Clifford-sized. 

Still, there's no comparison to Clifford, when it comes to BIG dogs. We can't wait to see him leap to the big screen, and excite a new generation of readers and dog lovers. Come on out to the 
34th Annual Streeterville Dog Halloween Party and/or Harry’s Halloween Dog Costume Contest at Navy Pier, tag @CliffordMovie and @ChiILMama on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, and you're automatically entered to WIN. 

Make your pet as BIG as Clifford! You can Clifford-Size your pet for free. Try it now:

We have been compensated for sharing the above events and movie details with our readers. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Paramount Theatre's Cinderella Through JAN. 9, 2022

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List


Mikayla Renfrow plays Cinderella and Markcus Blair is Prince Christopher in Cinderella, directed by Brenda Didier, running now through January 9, 2022 at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora. For tickets, visit or call (630) 896-6666. Credit: Liz Lauren




The principal cast for Paramount's Cinderella is (from left) Mikayla Renfrow as Cinderella, Markcus Blair as Christopher, Jerica Exum as Fairy Godmother, Sarah Bockel as Stepmother, Jacquelyne Jones as Grace, Tiffany T. Taylor as Joy, Rashada Dawan as Queen Constantina, Lorenzo Rush Jr. as Lionel and Michael Kingston as King Maximillian. 

You may think you know the story, but you’ve never seen it like this!

I'll be out to review December 1st, so check back soon for ChiIL Mama's take on this revamped classic featuring the "Enchanted version" of Cinderella. This modern re-writing features Cinderella as a stronger heroine. In the meantime, book your tickets before they sell out. For the holidays, we're huge fans of experiential gift giving, like theatre tickets, that create memories and reduce clutter. 

Paramount Theatre presents Cinderella, the beloved musical by the genius minds of Rodgers and Hammerstein, in a mesmerizing new production bringing a reimagined take on the classic children’s story that has enchanted families for generations.

Paramount’s Cinderella promises to come with all of the spectacle and splendor audiences have come to expect. Pumpkins will transform into horse-drawn carriages, right before your eyes. Jaws will drop as tattered rags magically become a beautiful gown. By the end of the show, young and old alike will wish fairy godmothers and glass slippers weren’t just for fairy tales. After all, you’re never too young for a little magic. And never too old to believe.

Completing the experience, Paramount’s Grand Gallery will be fit for a royal ball, with a giant two-story Christmas tree and all the trimmings, making it the ideal backdrop for annual family photos.

Previews of Cinderella start November 10. Press opening is Friday, November 19 at 8 p.m. Cinderella runs through January 9, 2022. Tickets are $36 to $79. Cinderella is suggested for ages 5 and up. For tickets and information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Performance schedule: Show times are Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. 

Exceptions: No 1:30 p.m. matinee on November 9. Added performances are Tuesday, November 23, at 7 p.m.; Friday, November 26, at 3 p.m.; Thursday, December 30, at 1:30 p.m.; and Thursday, January 6 at 1:30 p.m. Show time Friday, December 31 (New Year’s Eve) is 3 p.m. No shows Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving), Thursday through Saturday, December 23-25 (including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), and no evening show on Thursday, December 31 (New Year’s Eve). 

Access Services: Paramount’s offers assistive listening devices free of charge at all performances. Check in at the coat room before the show to borrow a listening device. For patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, Cinderella will be presented on Friday, January 7, at 8 p.m. with two certified sign interpreters translating all dialogue and lyrics into American Sign Language. Patrons can purchase single tickets with special seating for this performance for $30 with the code ASLPARAMOUNT. If you require wheelchair or special seating or other assistance, please contact the box office at (630) 896-6666 or in advance.

Pay What You Can: Performances Wednesday, November 10, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, November 13, at 3 p.m. are Pay What You Can events. Both days, starting at 10 a.m., visit the Paramount box office in-person to request your tickets. Customers will be asked how much they’d like to pay and will pay what they can. Limit four tickets per person. Offer not valid toward previous purchases. Online or phone sales not permitted. Paramount’s Pay What You Can events are part of the theater’s new program, REACH - Resources Expanding the Arts and Connecting Humanity. 

COVID 19 protocols: Patrons must adhere to all COVID-19 safety protocols as determined by Paramount Theatre at the time of the event. This could include but is not limited to mask wearing, and providing proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Paramount Theatre is adhering to all COVID-19 safety guidelines as mandated by the state of Illinois. Patrons will be contacted prior to their event with current policies. Children 2 and under will not be admitted. For current Paramount show Covid protocols, visit

Behind the scenes of Paramount’s Cinderella

Making her Chicago debut as Paramount Theatre’s Cinderella is Mikayla Renfrow, a new graduate of the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, most recently seen as Alice in Seven Brides for Seven Brothersat The MUNY. 

The principal cast also features Markcus Blair as Christopher; Jerica Exumas Fairy Godmother; Sarah Bockel as Stepmother; Jacquelyne Jones as Grace; Tiffany T. Taylor as Joy; Rashada Dawan as Queen Constantina; Lorenzo Rush Jr. as Lionel and Michael Kingston as King Maximillian. 

Ensemble members Brian Bandura, Adia Bell, Matthew Bettencourt, Anna Brockman, Max J. Cervantes, Evan C. Dolan, Tim Foszcz, Kelli Harrington, Christopher John Kelley, Ron King, Ashley Lanyon, Jenna Napolitano, Jason Richards, Camille Robinson, Katherine Viviano, Shelbi Voss and Natalie Welch complete the 26-person cast.

The production team is Brenda Didier, director and co-choreographer; Tiffany Krause, co-choreographer; Kory Danielson, music supervisor, director and conductor; Angela Weber Miller, scenic designer; Theresa Ham, costume designer; Victoria Bain, lighting designer; Adam Rosenthal, sound designer; Katie Cordts, wig, hair and makeup designer; Jesse Gaffney, properties designer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Gaby Labotka, intimacy director; Joey Stone, associate director; Terri Woodall, assistant choreographer; Celia Villacres, associate music director/associate conductor; Maegan Burnell, stage manager; and, JC Widman, assistant stage manager.

Chicago theater veteran Brenda Didier (director and choreographer) has received 31 Chicago Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, receiving seven Jeff Awards in Direction and seven Jeff Awards in Choreography, most recently for Paramount’s 2019 production of The Producers. She is the recipient of the 2018 Guy Adkins Award for the advancement of Musical Theatre in Chicago, two After Dark Awards, two Choreography Awards from the Society of Theatre Artists and Friends, the National Youth Theatre Award, Broadway World Chicago’s fan favorite 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Choreography Award, 2016 Director Award and has been listed in the Chicago Sun-Times Top 5 for Musical Theatre Choreography in 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2017. Didier is also artistic director and owner of the Lincolnshire Academy of Dance.

Based on the French fairy tale by Charles Perrault, Paramount’s Cinderellais actually the third version of the original Rodgers and Hammersteinmusical, which premiered on TV in 1957. Adapted from Oscar Hammerstein II’s book, the script was modernized to appeal to contemporary audiences by updating its themes, particularly re-writing its main character into a stronger heroine. Today, it’s commonly referred to as the "Enchanted version" of Cinderella, a salute to the still popular 1997 TV musical with Brandy becoming the first Black actress to portray Cinderella on screen. 

Credits for Paramount’s Cinderella are: Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Adapted for the stage by Tom Briggsfrom the teleplay by Robert L. Freedman. Original Orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett. Adapted by Tom Helm. Orchestration reductions by Macy Schmidt.

Paramount’s Broadway Series sponsors are The Dunham Foundation, City of Aurora, BMO Harris Bank, ComEd and the Illinois Arts Council. Paramount’s Broadway Series production of Cinderella is sponsored by Jake’s Inc. and Rush Copley Medical Center.

What’s next in Paramount’s 10th Anniversary Broadway Series?

Groundhog Day, based on the classic Bill Murray film comedy, will be the second Midwest regional premiere produced by Paramount Theatre in the span of one year. Imagine being stuck in a time loop, waking up and realizing you’re living the same day over and over and over and over again. Set your alarm to make sure you see this uproariously funny, surprisingly touching and simply inspirational musical comedy, nominated for seven Tony Awards. Paramount Theatre Artistic Director Jim Corti will direct. Previews start January 26, 2022. Opening Night is Friday, February 4, at 8 p.m. Performances run through March 13.

Are you ready to rock? Rock of Ages will take audiences back into the iconic music era of the ‘80s, where rock ‘n’ roll dreamers turn their fantasies into reality. Nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Rock of Agesis a Hollywood love story told through the mind-blowing hits of top ‘80s rock bands like Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, Poison and more. Paramount Theatre Artistic Producer and New Works Director Amber Mak will direct. Previews start April 13. Press opening is Friday, April 22, at 8 p.m. Performances run through May 29, 2022.

Join the growing ranks of more than Broadway Series subscribers at downtown Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. New three--play subscriptions including Cinderella, Groundhog Day and Rock of Ages are on sale now, ranging from $54 to $118.50 (without fees). 

To subscribe or purchase single tickets, visit , call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora.

About Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., is the center for performing arts and education in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. The beautiful, 

1,843-seat theater, graced with a strong 1930s Art Deco influence and original Venetian décor, nationally known for its high-quality productions, superb acoustics and historic grandeur, has been downtown Aurora’s anchor attraction since 1931.

After launching its own Broadway Series in 2011, Paramount Theatre grew to be the second largest subscription house in the U.S. Before Covid, more than 41,000 subscribers from all over Chicagoland and the Midwest were enjoying Paramount’s critically acclaimed, 2019-20 Broadway-caliber productions. In addition, Paramount also presents an array of internationally known comedians, music stars, dance events and family shows annually. 

Paramount Theatre is one of four live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority. ACCA also oversees downtown Aurora’s newly renovated 165-seat Copley Theatre, RiverEdge Park, the city’s 6,000-seat outdoor summer concert venue, the new Paramount School of the Arts, and the Stolp Island Theatre, an immersive space opening in summer 2023. 

Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.

For the latest updates, visit or follow @ParamountAurora on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Free Live Performances of HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS Via Strawdog Theatre Company

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List

 Strawdog Theatre Company Presents the Holiday Hit


Based on the Book by Eric Kimmel

Adapted by Michael Dailey

Music and Lyrics by Jacob Combs

Directed by Hannah Todd

Music Direction by Ricky Harris

November 20 – December 12, 2021 at Rivendell Theatre


Strawdog Theatre Company is pleased to welcome back live audiences this winter with its annual holiday hit Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, playing November 20 – December 12, 2021 at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. in Chicago. Returning for its fourth consecutive year, Hershel is based on the award-winning book by Eric Kimmel, adapted by ensemble member Michael Dailey*, with music and lyrics by Jacob Combs, direction by Hannah Todd and music direction by Ricky Harris. Tickets are free and are available at while supplies last. 

Please note: Audience members aged 2+ years must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth at all times. All audience members aged 12+ years must provide, before entering the venue: proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or proof of negative PCR test (taken no more than 72 hours prior to entry) or proof of negative COVID-19 antigen test (taken no more than 6 hours prior to entry)

Hershel will feature Morgan Lavenstein as Hershel, Charlie Baker as Leor, Christopher Thomas Pow as Sammy, Rebecca Marowitz as Max, LaKecia Harris as Sara and Amy Gorelow as Al.

Understudies: Andrew Clancey, Teagan Earley, Katie Incardona, Elizabeth McAnulty Quilter, Gavin Mueller and Becca Rowland.

A traveling troupe of actors comes to town to find no one celebrating Hanukkah. They must put on a show to save the holiday! Will they bring back the spirit of Hanukkah to the town? Will Hershel of Ostropol outsmart the goblins who haunt the old synagogue? In this adaptation of the Caldecott Honor-winning book, the story comes to life with music, puppets and a little bit of magic for families of all ages to enjoy.

Performance schedule: Saturdays and Sunday at 1 pm and 4 pm. Please note: there will be an added understudy performance on Friday, December 10 at 7:30 pm.

The production team includes ), Caitlin McLeod (scenic designer; co-puppet designer), Gregory Graham (costume design), K Story (lighting design), Daniel Etti-Williams (sound designer), Foiles (props designer, co-puppet designer), Amanda Crockett (choreographer), Stephanie Diaz (puppetry consultant), Karissa Murrell Myers* (casting director), Sophia Sinsheimer (assistant director), Oswald Avile (stage manager), Paul Cook* (production manager), Evan Sposato (technical director), Catherine Miller (cultural consultant) and Kelly Levander (marketing).

Comments Strawdog Artistic Director Kamille Dawkins, “This incredibly imaginative retelling of Hershel will truly captivate and entertain in ways unparalleled. Hannah Todd’s direction and our amazingly skilled designers and performers are crafting something heartfelt, fun and exciting.” *Denotes Strawdog ensemble member


About the Artists

Eric Kimmel (Book) is the author of over 130 books for children, including Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock and the classic Hanukkah tale, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. He is a five-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award and the Sydney Taylor Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Michael Dailey (Adapter) has been a Strawdog company member since 1997. He has appeared as an actor in 24 Strawdog productions. Writing credits include three radio plays presented as part of Radio Theatre 7, co-writer on the late-night series The Adventures of Picklebot and Lawfer and script editor for Strawdog’s productions of 1001 Afternoons in Chicago, Julius Caesar and Measure for Measure.

Jacob Combs (Music and Lyrics) is a writer, composer and director based in Los Angeles. Jacob wrote the music and lyrics for Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (based on the beloved children’s book by Eric Kimmel), which has been produced annually since 2018 by Chicago’s Strawdog Theatre. Previous theater projects include Selling Out (Strawdog Theatre), Legends & Lore (New York Theatre Barn, Musical Theatre Workshop) and Palin! The Musical. A lifelong film nerd, Jacob recently worked in the writers' rooms of two top-secret projects at Pixar, and wrote several episodes of the Disney+ documentary series Inside Pixar. Jacob also wrote the short film Messrs., which is beginning its festival run, and his first short film as writer/director, Without, showed at several festivals in 2019 and 2020.

Hannah Todd (Director) is a director based in Chicago by way of Washington, D.C. Directing work includes Thrones! A Musical Parody at the Apollo Theater, Cambodian Rock Band at Victory Gardens/Merrimack Repertory Theater (Associate Director) and work at Theater Alliance, Lean & Hungry Theatre and We Happy Few (co-founder) in D.C. Assistant directing includes Northlight, Lookingglass, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Folger Theater, Studio Theater and Shakespeare Theater Company. Hannah received her MFA in Directing from Northwestern University.

Ricky Harris (Music Director) is a composer, performer and music director throughout the city. He is also a seasoned teaching artist in Chicago, having taught for many years with Raven Theatre, PlayMakers Laboratory and The Beverly Arts Center Chicago, to name a few. He is currently starting in Porchlight Music Theatre's production of Pump Boys & Dinettes.

About Strawdog Theatre Company

Since its founding in 1988, Strawdog Theatre Company has offered Chicagoland the premiere storefront theatre experience and garnered numerous Non-Equity Jeff Awards with its commitment to ensemble acting and an immersive design approach. The celebrated Company develops new work, re-imagines the classics, melds music with theatre, asks provocative questions and delivers their audience the unexpected.

Strawdog Theatre Company is supported in part by The MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Chicago Holiday Plays On Our Radar 2021

ChiIL Live Shows on our Radar


League of Chicago Theatres’ annual Holiday Guide highlights seasonal productions


Yes, I know there are still pumpkins on the porch and spider webs decking the halls, but it's November and time to start thinking about those gift lists. There's a host of fabulous theatre productions this holiday season, for a variety of ages and tastes. Make a present of tickets and make your presence known in audiences all over town. It's the clutter-free way to make memories with friends and family. The smiles will last long after the final curtain call. Check out the League of Chicago Theatres' comprehensive Holiday Theatre Guide, Hot Tixs site for half price deals, and (adult)/ (family friendly) for giveaways, original reviews, interviews, arts and entertainment news, and the scoop on fun in Chi, IL and beyond. 

Chicago theatres will present a wide variety of festive plays, musicals, dance, and comedy offerings this Holiday season. In support, the League of Chicago Theatres will create a comprehensive Holiday Theatre Guide that will be available for distribution beginning in mid-November.

An updated list of holiday shows with additional details about each production will be available throughout the season at Additionally, many holiday shows will be available at Hot Tix (, Chicago’s local, half-price ticketing service.


The following is a selection of Holiday-themed work playing in Chicago this season:

We've marked family options with an asterisk to designate some of our favorite family friendly options as *ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List. Several theatres are producing original productions of the holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol. *Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol, a holiday tradition for more than 44 years, will be presented from November 20-December 31, 2021. Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the return of the wildly entertaining ad-rap-tation of the Dickens’ classic, *Q Brothers Christmas Carol, December 7-23, 2021. Theatre Above the Law has a unique spin on the classic with Eb & Belle, telling the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his first love, before he became curmudgeonly, November 18-December 19, 2021. Hell in a Handbag Productions’ Christmas Dearest is a holiday parody starring Joan Crawford as Scrooge, from November 27-December 31, 2021.

This season also brings unique retellings of classic Holiday stories. The House Theatre introduces a new wintertime tradition with a reimagination of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fable, *The Snow Queen, November 12, 2021 - January 2, 2022. In *'Twas the Night Before..., Cirque du Soleil puts an exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas classic, at The Chicago Theatre, November 26 - December 5, 2021.

Journey to Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair with *The Joffrey Ballet’s reimagined The Nutcracker at Lyric Opera House, December 4-24, 2021. A&A Ballet will perform *The Art Deco Nutcracker at the Athenaeum Theatre on December 4, 2021, while Ballet Chicago will perform its production of *The Nutcracker at the Athenaeum Theatre, December 10-19, 2021.

Holiday radio plays are back on stage this season with American Blues Theater presenting the 20th Anniversary production of its beloved, live 1940s radio broadcast tradition It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, November 26 - December 31, 2021 at Victory Gardens Theater. Oil Lamp Theater will perform its version of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play on stage November 26 - December 30, 2021. BrightSide Theatre will present Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play at North Central College’s Meiley-Swallow Hall, December 10-19, 2021.

Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody, the Off-Broadway hit and holiday season sendup of the iconic romantic comedy and Christmas movie Love Actually, debuts in Chicago at the Apollo Theater, November 17, 2021 - January 2, 2022.

Deck the Hallmark: A Greeting Card Channel Original returns to The Second City’s Up Comedy Club Thursday-Sundays starting November 5, 2021. The Second City’s Best of The Holidays, performed by the cast of The Second City Touring Company, plays Monday evenings and weekend matinees starting November 22 on The Second City Mainstage. The Second City’s Holiday Revue: It’s a Wacky, Wonderful Life will be presented at Paramount Theatre, November 26 - December 23, 2021.

Who's Holiday! is a wildly funny and heartfelt adults-only comedy that tells the story of Cindy Lou Who as she recalls that Christmas Eve she first met the Grinch and the twisted turn of events her life has now taken. Presented at Theater Wit, November 26 - December 26, 2021.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Christmas Bingo: It’s a Ho-Ho-Holy Night invites audience members to play bingo and win prizes, while answering questions about Christmas traditions. Presented by Vicki Quade’s Nuns4Fun at Greenhouse Theater Center, November 28, 2021 - January 2, 2022.

With story, music and magic, Strawdog Theatre brings to life the family-friendly stage adaptation of Eric Kimmel’s book *Hershel and The Hanukkah Goblins, November 20 - December 12, 2021.

Northlight Theatre is producing the world premiere of Mr. Dicken’s Hat, a warm winter’s tale with music directed by David Catlin and featuring colorful characters, constables, and carolers, November 26, 2021-January 2, 2022.

Holiday concert offerings this season include Home Alone in Concert performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, November 26-28, 2021; Holiday Baroque performed by the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians, December 5, 2021; and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: Brandenburg Concertos at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, December 8, 2021.

Popular Broadway performers will also perform Holiday concerts this season, including Leslie Odom, Jr.—The Christmas Tour, presented by Broadway In Chicago at the CIBC Theatre, December 4, 2021; Sarah Brightman - "A Christmas Symphony," at the Auditorium Theatre, December 10, 2021; and Merry Christmas, Darling: Heidi Kettenring Sings Karen Carpenter, at the Marriott Theatre, December 13-14, 2021. Plus, Emmy-nominee Angela Ingersoll captures the voices of a dozen divas in a yuletide spectacular The 12 Dames of Christmas, at the Marriott Theatre, December 6-7, 2021.

PlayMakers Laboratory welcomes back live audiences for its holiday play *That’s Weird Grandma: Comes Home For the Holidays from December 10-19, 2021.

Drury Lane Theatre rings in the season with Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, a joyous, family-friendly musical featuring thrilling dance numbers, laugh-out-loud comedy, and a parade of Irving Berlin’s hit songs, November 19, 2021 – January 9, 2022.

For a comprehensive list of Chicago productions, visit the League of Chicago Theatres website, Available half-price tickets will be listed at

Chicago theatres prioritize safely gathering. Patrons are encouraged to confirm current protocols at each theatre. Shows and protocols are subject to change.

About Chicago theatre 

Chicago theatre is the leader in the U.S. with more than 250 theatres throughout Chicagoland, comprising a rich and varied community ranging from storefront, non-union theatres to the most renowned resident theatres in the country, including 5 which have been honored with Regional Tony Awards, and the largest touring Broadway organization in the nation. Chicago’s theatres serve 5 million audience members annually and have a combined budget of more than $250 million. Chicago produces and/or presents more world premieres annually than any other city in the nation. Each year Chicago theatres send new work to resident theatres across the country, to Broadway, and around the world. For more information, visit #ChiTheatre

The League of Chicago Theatres’ Mission Statement

Theatre is essential to the life of a great city and to its citizens. The League of Chicago Theatres is an alliance of theatres, which leverages its collective strength to support, promote and advocate for Chicago’s theatre industry. Through our work, we ensure that theatre continues to thrive in our city.