The Crusader Newspaper Group

Local theatre events for the holiday season

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Fantastic Mr. Fox:

Emerald City Theatre to open the Chicago premiere of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” adapted for the stage by David Wood from the book by Roald Dahl and directed by ECT Artistic Director Jacqueline Stone, at Victory Gardens Začek-McVay Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Ave, on December 14, 2018.
Hyde Park resident Tia Pinson has been cast as Mrs. Fox. A native of Flint, Michigan, Pinson is an experienced actor and proud 2016 Western Michigan University graduate. She has performed in productions like “Borealis” (House Theatre of Chicago), “Uncorker of Ocean Bottles” (Filament Theatre), “Bonnie & Clyde” (Kokandy Productions) and more. Boasting a team featuring pedigreed designers, Broadway actors, musicians and more, Fantastic Mr. Fox opens on December 14, 2018, and runs through January 12, 2019, at the Victory Gardens Theater.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the first production presented by Emerald City Theatre on the main stage at Victory Gardens Theater. The two theater companies worked together last year on Play Pals, a collaboration that provided a theater experience for the whole family – ECT teaching artists offered workshops for children while their parents attended a Victory Gardens Theater performance. Says Stone: “We are delighted to continue growing our relationship with Victory Gardens Theater as we prepare for Fantastic Mr. Fox. This opportunity will allow us to move forward artistically as we expand our reach, particularly with older age groups, and the scope of what we are able to bring to life onstage.”
The production will feature Mario Aivazian (Mr. Fox), Brianna Buckley (Badger), and Aaron Lawson (Boggis), among other talented actors.
For more information, visit
The Music Box Theater features the 25th anniversary screening of the classic Chicago Christmas movie “Solstice.” After losing his leg in a tragic accident in 1986, Chicago native and filmmaker, Jerry Vasilatos, was able to overcome his setback and in 1993 go on to fulfill his dream of making his touching holiday film “Solstice” come true. The film went on to be a huge success and was broadcast into millions of households as Lifetime Television’s Original World Premiere Movie in 1994. This year, a newly restored edition with a brand new orchestral score to celebrate the 25th Anniversary will be screened at the Music Box Theatre located at 3733 N. Southport Ave. on December 18.
“The film deals with personal seasonal introspections as relevant today as they were 25 years ago. I hope the message of the story helps provide some hope and comfort to audiences during their own reflections on what the holidays should be about,” said director Jerry Vasilatos.
Set during a frigid, mid-winter solstice, the film tells the story of Nick Allman (Michael Kelley), a disillusioned young man who encounters a variety of characters that help him regain a sense of hope and optimism during a lonely Christmas Eve. Vasilatos went through some tough times – even losing hope – just like Nick in the film, whose character was inspired by the true events and emotional struggles in Vasilatos’ life at the time. Today Vasilatos has turned tragedy into triumph even going so far as to invent a device – called “Sandpad Landpad” – made to provide greater mobility for other amputees, and cane and crutch users in need of temporary or permanent support. With the ability to adapt and overcome, a passion for filmmaking and the ingenuity for creating cutting edge products, Vasilatos has had a successful career and sees nothing getting in the way of his ongoing endeavors.
The Music Box Theatre is featured in a key scene of the film, so it’s only natural for “Solstice” to be screened there with an Annual Holiday Sing-Along performed by house organist Dennis Scott. The film will be presented by Vasilatos, who will host a Director’s Q and A with the audience after the screening.  A newly produced ten-minute featurette with interviews of original cast and crew members reflecting the making of this everlasting Christmas classic will also be shown.
“We are very excited about the 25th Anniversary screening of the Chicago Christmas classic film “Solstice” coming to the Music Box Theatre. “It was a wonderful movie in 1993 and it is just as wonderful and relevant 25 years later,” said Music Box Theatre general manager Ryan Oestreich Ticket and holiday toy information is available here:
Price of Peace:
In honor of its 20th anniversary, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, led by Stephen Burns, commissioned The JuJu Exchange to write an original oratorio for their annual Concert for Peace. In partnership with Fulcrum Point, The Chicago Children’s Choir, and Young Chicago Authors, The JuJu Exchange, led by Nico Segal and Julian Reid, composed “Price of Peace.”
As the name suggests, the oratorio “Price of Peace” asks Chicago to look at its history, dating back to before its founding in 1833. Music and lyrics ask the audience: What has been the price for peace in this city? For peace to come now, what is the price? What must you do? What must we become? Instead of answering these questions for the audience, the musicians hope that “Price of Peace” will accompany each audience member down the path of response. The lyrics are inspired by texts from poets Kevin Coval (director Young Chicago Authors and the Louder Than a Bomb slam poetry festival), Chicago’s first National Youth Poet Laureate Patricia Frazier, and Indy Final champion Jalen Kobayashi.
“The Holidays are a time to bring families and friends together in celebration of life, love, and the blessings of the season. For our 20th Anniversary Concert for Peace we’ve invited our longtime collaborators and their protégées to create an expression of the joys of the season, while acknowledging that there are centuries of cultural, racial, and social injustices, which lie at the foundation of contemporary society,” says Stephen Burns, Fulcrum Point Founder and Artistic Director.
This new work will debut at the annual Concert for Peace on Wednesday, December 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, located at 205 E. Randolph St.General tickets start at $15. (This concert is also open to Teen Arts Pass users for a $5 entry fee). For information, visit
Cendrillon – Cinderella:
Experience all the magic and charm of Massenet’s Cinderella, a new production of your favorite fairy tale, where a mistreated girl overcomes the odds to find her Prince Charming — with a little help from her Fairy Godmother and a new pair of shoes.
This production is unlike anything you’ve seen at Lyric Opera of Chicago and is brought to life with an acclaimed cast of singers making much-anticipated company debuts. Siobhan Stagg, who has been called “vocally and dramatically compelling” by The Australian, sings the enchanting title role, with the “graceful, virtuosic” (New York Times) Marie-Eve Munger as her Fairy Godmother, the “strong and dignified and nuanced” (Washington Post) Elizabeth Bishop as the comically wicked stepmother Madame de la Haltière, and Derek Welton, who wowed audiences and critics at this year’s Bayreuth Festival, as Pandolfe. Lyric favorite Alice Coote, celebrated in the role of Octavian in Lyric’s Der Rosenkavalier, returns as Prince Charming, along with a cast full of Ryan Opera Center artists.
Reserve your Cinderella tickets today for the perfect night out. Or, with children’s tickets starting at $20, a trip to the Lyric could become a new family holiday tradition. The opera runs through January 20at the Lyric Opera, 20 N. Walker Drive; for ticket information, visit
ELLAbration with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra:
Join jazz vocalist Dee Alexander and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra for a swingin’ set of Ella Fitzgerald’s favorite holiday songs at ELLAbration with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra on Friday, December 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago’s Fine Arts Building.
CJO’s new holiday tribute to Ella Fitzgerald is paired with the troupe’s annual Nutcracker Suite, a live recreation of the beloved 1960 holiday album that introduced exciting new jazz interpretations of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, arranged by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
The ELLAbration begins with Chicago jazz star Dee Alexander essaying Ella Fitzgerald’s signature holiday classics like “Oh Holy Night,” “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”
Act two’s The Nutcracker Suite will make the holiday complete with holiday jazz favorites like “Toot, Toot, Tootie Toot” (inspired by Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Reed Pipes”), “Sugar Rum Cherry” (“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”) and “Arabesque Cookie” (“Arabian Dance”) from Duke Ellington’s and Billy Strahorn’s beloved holiday album, all performed by the “mighty CJO” (-Chicago Tribune). For information, visit
Macy Gray:
City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph St., announces the return of the multi-platinum singer/songwriter Macy Gray, among other great acts through now and early next year, including Grammy-nominated artist Anita Wilson, Kurt Elling, Shemekia Copeland and a New Year’s Eve show starring Avery Sunshine. Gray is an American R&B and soul singer/songwriter, musician, record producer, and actress. She is known for her distinctive raspy voice and a singing style heavily influenced by Billie Holiday. Gray will be performing at City Winery as part of her latest tour in support of her 10th and newest LP, Ruby, which was released in September. Gray will perform on Friday and Saturday, December 28 and 29, and tickets range from $55 to $75. More information is available at
Green Line Performing Arts Center:
The Green Line began hosting Arts + Public Life’s current education programs this fall, providing rehearsal and performance space for the Community Actors Program, a program supported by After School Matters where teens devise and perform original plays dealing with issues they face in their lives. The new center is also partnering with Vagabond School of the Arts to provide on-camera classes starting the top of 2019, and it anticipates that by summer 2019, the center will begin its design and technical theater education programs. The Green Line Performing Arts Center is located at 329 E. Garfield Blvd. For more information, visit
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the award-winning Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader newspaper. She is also the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood–South Side of Chicago.”

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