Sure, you’ve checked your list (twice!) and made all the appropriate holiday plans, but don’t forget about all of the shows your elves are jingling and jangling to see! Chicagoland is stuffed with as much theatrical merriment as the jolly guy’s toy bag, but here are three family-friendly productions perfect for making memories sweeter than gingerbread.
While not a traditional “holiday” show, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” has more whimsy, adventure and, well, magic, than you can shake a decorated branch at. You’d be hard-pressed to find any other December show that features a captive princess sought after by a dedicated prince, not to mention a dragon or a band of genies (played by Chicago child actors Casey Lyons, Parker Scribner and Asher Alcantara). The score is gorgeous, the comedy rich, and if your kids have never before experienced an opera, let alone one at the unparalleled Lyric Opera, this is definitely the one for the whole family. (Moms and dads: Giving your kids the culturally wonderful gift of opera this holiday? You’ve just earned yourself another candy cane.)
Dec. 10-Jan. 27
Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago
Did you know that “Annie,” the story of everyone’s favorite redhead, has a sequel? Directed and choreographed by Jeff Award-winning Linda Fortunato, the Theatre at the Center’s new artistic director, the show opens on the morning of Annie’s first Christmas morning in the Warbucks household. While the premise is slightly dated—Daddy Warbucks has 60 days to find a “proper mother” for Annie or risk the terms of her adoption—there’s no end to the timeless joy that these characters bring to the stage. (Another reason to love this production? S’Wheats, the pup taking on the role of Annie’s faithful Sandy, spends his non-actorly time working as a local therapy dog.)
Through Dec. 18
Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.
Intrigued by the premise of the famed Nutcracker story but not necessarily feeling all of that orchestration or those twirling moves? The edgy storytellers at The House have you covered with their returning—and totally ballet-free—version of this tale. (While not a new production, it gets nowhere near as much holiday cred as it richly deserves for the younger crowd.) This one starts with a slightly darker spin (FYI, it centers on grief and loss), but the modernized classic will spellbind your whole family, from the first moment the inventive and heroic Clara battles the Rat King to the last ounce of incredible stage magic featuring more than a few puppets.
Through Dec. 30
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago