2 festive arts and culture events to see this month

Need some good cheer this holiday season? Both picks this month include joy, joy and more job. (Enough to take you well into January). 

‘A Christmas Carol’—and one very special Tiny Tim

When: Through Dec. 31

Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago

Four decades in, the people know what they want. And, overwhelmingly, the Christmas performance worth its weight in sleigh bells is the Goodman’s take on the Charles Dickens classic. And with good reason, too: the rich performances and gorgeously spooky ambiance make this show one to revisit year after year. Need more reasons to love this trip to Victorian-era London? Not only is it an accessible show (specific enhanced performances include ASL interpreted, audio described, open captioned, Spanish captioned and sensory-friendly), but it’s a gender non-conforming one as well.

Any Chicagoland youth would consider themselves lucky to tread the boards at the Goodman. But diminutive, 11-year-old Paris Strickland also happens to be a pioneer.

Last year marked the first time that the Goodman cast a female in the role of Tiny Tim (“I feel proud to play a boy role to show that girls can do anything,” she says), and one with such an inspiring story at that. Diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was only days old, Strickland was born to be a fighter—and has more than a little in common with Dickens’ Tiny Tim.

“We both have families that love and support us,” she told me. “We both are children that inspire people and we both have the power to change people’s way of thinking.”

Paris, who shares the role this year with 9-year-old Henry Lombardo (she’ll be Tim every weekend as well as during the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas), has a few ideas why families return year after year to this holiday tradition.

“Sometimes people forget, but it’s important to remember what Christmas is all about, giving to others and being kind, and I think my character Tiny Tim helps people remember that.”

Hanukkah musical fun

When: Dec. 9, 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.

Where: Chicago Botanic Garden (Alsdorf Auditorium), 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

Celebrate the Jewish festival of lights with a spirited Hanukkah Concert at the Chicago Botanic Garden, courtesy of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. Curious as to what, exactly, is klezmer? A Hebrew word combining “kley” (vessel) and “zemer” (melody), it’s a musical style dating back to the Middle Ages—and no one does it better than the Midwest’s most popular Klezmer band, named for Chicago’s old Sunday morning Jewish marketplace. (The band, known for their warmth and humor in concert, has toured Europe and even performed in a little ol’ place called Carnegie Hall.)

Before (or after!) you’ve danced up a storm, make time for the Wonderland Express, included in your concert ticket. A wintry exhibit like no other, this glittering (indoor!) snow-filled extravaganza features model trains galore (keep an eye out for Thomas the Tank Engine) and a plethora of miniature Chicago landmarks, nestled amidst gorgeous seasonal horticultural displays. Make sure to bundle up for the impressive ice carvings, and keep that voice nice and warm for caroling, too.

This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.

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