10 Non-Holiday Shows in November

A lot of Chicago theaters open shows in November. Here’s a list of fun shows that aren’t necessarily about scrooges or santas.

A lot of Chicago theaters open shows in November. Here’s a list of fun shows that aren’t necessarily about scrooges or santas.

Seussical the Musical

In this fantastical, magical musical, some of your favorite Dr. Seuss characters are lovingly brought to life with the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Lazy Mayzie and all of the Whos of Whoville. These classic, colorful tales are brought together by Jojo, a young “thinker of strange and wonderful thinks.”

Goodnight Moon wakes up the stage

When it comes to beloved bedtime stories, few can claim suchwidespread affection as Margaret Wise Brown’s classic, GoodnightMoon. But fans of the 60-year-old story may be surprised to learnthat the tale has been translated to the stage at ChicagoChildren’s Theatre.

After all, the story is better known for its gentle repetitionand intricate illustrations than its exciting action sequences orelaborate plot. The play’s director David Kersnar says the book maytake about 15 seconds to read, but there’s a lot packed in itspages.

“Every part of that book comes alive in the play,” Kersnar says.”There are a lot of implied stories.”

Those stories, which include a story-within-a-story from Brown’sother boardbook hit The Runaway Bunny, are woven through the basicplot of the little bunny and the old lady who wants him to go tosleep.

Favorite characters like the mouse, the cat and the fiddle, thethree bears and the cow jumping over the moon also make anappearance.

The whole tale is told through fun music by instruments such asa singing saw and a ukulele, audience interaction, puppets anddance numbers.

“The bears are in this amazing tap number,” Kersnar says. “Thatnumber alone is reason to come see the play. …The way they enter ishilarious.”

Humor is a big part of the show, with Kersnar citing thecow-jumping-over-the-moon sequence as laugh-out-loud funny.

But he also says there’s a deeper message at play, one about thefleeting nature of childhood and about enjoying the things aroundyou while you can.

Although the play is recommended for ages 3 and up, Kersnar saysit’s really an all-ages show that parents-and even big sibs-willenjoy as much as little ones. He hopes it encourages families topull the beloved story off the bookshelf and enjoy it together.

But Kersnar does have one caution for parents bringing littleones in their PJs and hoping for an early bedtime: “This play willnot put you to sleep.”

The Hills Are Alive at Drury Lane

To be fair, I’m probably not the best person to review a stageversion of “The Sound of Music.”

I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to the movie, which I haveseen more times than I’ve keep track. I adore Julie Andrews -between this and “Mary Poppins,” she made being a governess looklike the world’s best job. And I have frolicked through the park inSalzburg, Austria where they filmed the “Do, Re, Mi” song, eventhough I can’t even remotely be described as a dancer.

So the stage version of the show – which actually came out sixyears before the iconic movie – at Drury Lane had a lot to live upto in my mind.

Fortunately, the charming production more than meetsexpectations.

Jennifer Blood gives a lovely performance as Maria, younger andmore naïve than Andrews’ version, with a sharp wit that portraysher difficulty fitting in at the Abbey. Larry Adams is sternlyhandsome as Captain Von Trapp and bests Christopher Plummer withhis powerful singing voice.

The real scene-stealers, though, are the Von Trapp kids, fromsixteen-going-on-seventeen Leisl on down to adorable little Gretl.Although some might think they lack the polish and poise of someperformers, the scenes featuring the children learning how to singand dance ring true to life with a lovable awkwardness I enjoyed.”Do-Re-Mi,” “The Lonely Goatherd” and “So Long, Farewell” allreceived enthusiastic ovations from the audience.

The stage show is funnier than the movie, with some self-awarewinks to the audience, and a sly performance of “Sixteen Going onSeventeen.” The slower spots for kids are the usual suspects:basically, any scene set in the Abbey. If you’re looking for abathroom break before intermission, consider the “MorningHymn/Climb Ev’ry Mountain” sequence (my least favorite as a child),or the wordless wedding scene in Act II.

One of the final scenes, set at the Kaltzberg Festival, does anexcellent job of drawing the audience into the action, although Iwon’t reveal any details.

True devotees to the movie will notice several changes to thestory. The show follows the original Rodgers & Hammersteinstructure, so it opens in the Abbey, not on the mountain.Crowd-pleaser “My Favorite Things” is performed earlier in the showand by Maria and the Mother Abbess (a strong-voiced PattiCohenour), rather than during the thunderstorm scene (where you’llhear “The Lonely Goatherd”).

Plus there are two additional numbers, “How Can Love Survive?”and “No Way to Stop It,” both featuring the characters of ElsaSchraeder and Max Detweiler. The second song puts more emphasis onthe Captain’s struggle with the Nazi regime coming to power inAustria and could be a good conversation-starter with olderchildren about whether it’s good to “go with the flow” and if youshould look out for yourself first and foremost.

The show runs about 3 hours with intermission, so if your kidshave an early bedtime, consider the afternoon shows, rather thanthe 8:30 showtime on Friday and Saturday nights.

But whatever time you see it, this delightful production willhave you humming, singing, dancing all the way home – even if, likeme, you consider the movie version of “The Sound of Music” the goldstandard.

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