12 Holiday Shows You Can’t Miss This Season

In a city like ours, the plethora of marvelous holiday productions is almost a gift unto themselves. In 2020, the choices will be on a much smaller scale, with intermission snacks coming from your kitchen instead of the lobby. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a show just the right size for Cindy Lou Who or a date night that your own Mrs. Claus would thrill for? We’ve got you covered like a newly fallen blanket of Chicago snow.

Goodman Theatre: A Christmas Carol Virtual Radio Play

When: Dec. 1-31

Best for: Late Elementary+

Join Ebenezer Scrooge as he journeys through his past, present and future to discover the importance of friendship and love—with plenty of jubilant musical numbers, spectacular costumes and hilarious “Bah Humbugs!” along the way. In 2020, experience the perennial delight of Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol anew with the audio streaming version. The voices you love—including Larry Yando as Scrooge—and the signature soundscape come to vivid life in your home.

Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish – The Musical

When: Nov. 27-Dec. 27


Best for: Preschool-Late Elementary


Kids ages 3 and older can enjoy the musical that tells the story of a rag doll named Eleanor who lives in the magical world of The North Pole. Despite her love for her family there, including Santa, Mrs. “Cookie” Claus, Clara Claus, and the elves – Twinkle, Sprinkle, and Sparkle, Eleanor’s very merry Christmas wish is for a best friend and home of her own. Realizing that wishing is not enough, she writes a letter to Santa expressing her dream. The letter opens the door to answering many questions and to the journey which leads to her wish (and others) coming true. Based on the book of the same name, families can stream the show with special appearances by the original cast. Include a party pack in your purchase to add games, a copy of the book, Santa stationery for kids to write their own letters and more.


Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins


When: Dec. 4-20 (Saturday & Sunday)


Best for: Late Elementary+


This new stage adaptation of the classic children’s holiday book. Music will help tell the fantastical story of Hershel of Ostropol defeating a series of goblins over the eight days of Hanukkah. Each virtual performance will be performed live. At the end of the run, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs.


Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol


When: Dec. 3-20


Best for: Late Elementary+


Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol is a live streaming adaption of Charles Dickens’s holiday classic created specifically for the 2020 holiday season. Each performance is live as hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes and a live original score come together for an imaginative reincarnation of the holiday tale.


Tidings of Tap!


When: Dec. 18-20


Best for: Late Elementary+


A warm and wondrous celebration of tap dance and the winter holidays, celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s and the winter season. While audiences hear many of their favorite seasonal tunes, they also experience an array of performances and an opportunity for local tap performers to join the holiday production. This virtual stream of the 2019 performance is available for 36 hours.


Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Christmas Eve and Other Stories


When: Dec. 18


Best for: Middle School+


The multi-sensory extravaganza of music and staging will highlight the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s roots in the album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories.” The music, staging and lasers will all be there on the live stream. Fans will also get a chance to peek behind the curtain and view classic interviews.



Holiday Art on theMART


When: 7 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 30.


Where: Chicago Riverwalk, Wacker Drive and the south bank of the Chicago River from Franklin Street to Lake Shore Drive, Chicago


Best for: All ages


Just in time to celebrate the holidays, The Joffrey Ballet will debut a moving-image work of art featuring production images from its acclaimed production of the Christmas classic The Nutcracker set to music from Tchaikovsky’s beloved score; the Art Institute of Chicago will present images from two of its current exhibitions, Monet and Chicago, and Bisa Butler: Portraits; and Arts of Life, a nonprofit working with individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities, will show a compilation of the artists’ bold images, animated together as a video projection.


In accordance with Chicago’s pandemic guidelines, no more than 100 people can be on the Riverwalk jetty and all must comply with social distancing regulations. All spectators must wear masks.


A Sugar Plum of a Tradition: Ruth Page’s “The Nutcracker” Past, Present & Future


When: Nov. 27-Dec. 31


Best for ages: Early Elementary+


Catch a behind-the-scenes view of the longest running Nutcracker in Chicago’s history. This online documentary produced by HMS Media shares archival film footage, interviews with distinguished guest artists, performance highlights and commentary from the creative forces that have brought this famous Holiday production to millions of people since 1965.


Virtual Enchanted Evening: The Nutcracker


When: Dec. 4 (ages 4-6) & Dec. 11 (ages 7-9)


Best for ages: Preschool-Late Elementary


The Joffrey Academy of Dance’s Trish Strong will lead a class of young dancers and dance enthusiasts on a Nutcracker journey, complete with special guest appearances from The Joffrey Ballet Company Artists Edson Barbosa and Julia Rust.


Beyond the Nutcracker Experience


When: Dec. 11-20


Best for ages: Early Elementary+


Ballet 5:8’s beloved twist on the holiday classic ballet will be performed this year at Ballet 5:8 studios in a safe environment with limited seating and brand-new expanded elements. Enjoy the magic and inspiration of Tchaikovsky’s magical score, dancers from Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts in-person and on film, guest artists from the Ballet 5:8 professional company, and original choreography by Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager, plus an interactive exhibit that transports you to the countries that Emma visits.


Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker”


When: Dec. 19-Jan. 1


Best for ages: Late Elementary+


The McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn is hosting a Christmas on Demand series to bring holiday favorites home. Families can enjoy on-demand programming of “A Christmas Carol,” New Philharmonic’s “Holiday Sing-Along with the Symphony,” “Presley, Perkins, Lewis & Cash: A Million Dollar Christmas” and Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” (dates vary by performance). The “Great Russian Nutcracker” delivers quintessential Russian artistry replete with magical toys, falling snow and growing Christmas trees.


Ballet Chicago’s The Nutcracker


When: 2 p.m. Dec. 19, 20, 26 & 27, 7 p.m. Dec. 23 & 30


Best for ages: Early Elementary+


Every year The Nutcracker takes us on an unforgettable journey with young Marie as she travels from her home on Christmas Eve to the Kingdom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets. In 2020, Ballet Chicago will offer two streaming options.


​The first features fully intact historic archival performances to be streamed through Zoom.​ ​The second will include dancers from its current roster, with 12 restaged and socially distanced dances to be safely filmed at​ the Athenaeum Theatre. These dances will then be inserted into existing historic footage to create Ballet Chicago’s 2020 Nutcracker, also streamed to viewers through Zoom. Ballet Chicago’s Nutcracker, one of the city’s favorite holiday events, ​is performed by more than 120 Ballet Chicago students, ranging in age​ f​rom 3 to adult!


This story originally published Nov. 29, 2018. It has been updated with the most recent information.


Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.


- Advertisement -


Video Games Might Actually Have Positive Effects on the Brain

A new study suggests that more video game time might have benefits for children’s brain development.

Best Family Movies and Shows to Stream This December

Get comfy with these kid-friendly streaming picks!

Best Things to Do with Kids in Chicago and Suburbs This December

Plan ahead! We've rounded up some of the best activities and events to do with kids in Chicago and suburbs this month.

- Advertisement -