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10 Holiday Shows That Are Way Off The Beaten Path

By Lauren Whalen in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 14, 2015 5:51PM

Tis the season: Chicago is abuzz with oodles of live holiday-themed shows. And while we all love (and have undoubtedly taken our parents to) Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol and Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker, there are many excellent alternatives for kids and adults alike. Whether your pleasure is family-friendly, drag queen fabulous, or somewhere in between, take a moment and peruse this list of Chicago's best and brightest holiday entertainment.

The Hypocrites' 'Burning Bluebeard.'

Burning Bluebeard (The Hypocrites)
At once vaudevillian and dark, this innovative musical spotlights Chicago history: specifically, a pantomime show that ended in fiery disaster. Six hopeful performers emerge from the remains of a horrific fire that killed 600 audience members, hoping to rewrite history and premiere their beloved Christmastime performance with a happier end for all. Inspired by the 1903 Chicago Iroquois Theatre Fire, Burning Bluebeard incorporates music, circus and dance in a live illustration of hope rising from tragedy - and in today's society, what could be more timely and meaningful? Not recommended for children under 12.

Burning Bluebeard runs through Jan. 10 at the Den Theatre's Heath Main Stage (1379 N. Milwaukee Ave).

Christmas Dearest (Hell in a Handbag Productions)
Picture legendary actress and terrible mother Joan Crawford as Ebenezer Scrooge and you've got the latest revival from Hell in a Handbag Productions. Leave the wire hangers at home and head to Andersonville for a healthy dose of drag, camp and…Bette Davis? Why not? Handbag Artistic Director and co-founder David Cerda reprises the role of Crawford, who's filming a biopic of the Virgin Mary and torturing her assistant Carol Ann Cratchit before embarking upon a loud and funny journey toward redemption. The holiday hit's already been extended through Jan. 2, but tickets are going fast…don't miss out on the city's most irreverent spin on Dickens.

Christmas Dearest runs through January 2 at Mary's Attic (5400 N. Clark St., above Hamburger Mary's).

Garrett Lutz, Christina Hall, Sasha Smith, Jaymes Osbourne and Emily Grayson in 'A Kokandy Christmas,' photo by Samuel Rose.

A Kokandy Christmas (Kokandy Productions)
Since 2010, Scot Kokandy's little-company-that-could has elevated Chicago musical theater to a whole new level, and their premiere Christmas production is no exception. A diverse quintet of the city's strongest vocalists, accompanied by a live trio, share old and new classic songs and their own personal holiday stories in an utterly delightful cabaret. Sweet and enjoyable for children and adults, A Kokandy Christmas celebrates personal and universal traditions with dynamic performances and smiles galore.

A Kokandy Christmas runs through December 23 at Theater Wit (1229 W. Belmont Ave).

'The Nutcracker' at The House Theatre of Chicago, photo by Michael Brosilow

The Nutcracker (The House Theatre of Chicago)
Remember the children's fantasy movies of the '80s that showed a perfect blend of innocence, whimsy and fear? The House Theatre's Nutcracker pays homage to classics like Labyrinth and The Neverending Story, and puts the power to save Christmas into the hands of its young protagonist. When Clara's beloved older brother Fritz doesn't return from the battlefront, her family is at a loss—until Uncle Drosselmeyer casts a spell on Clara's sassy and smart trio of toys. Cookie baking, snowfall and a battle with the Rat King ensue, as Clara learns to deal with her grief and guide her family toward the joy they once knew. Fierce and heart wrenching, the House's Nutcracker, a musical with comic and magical elements, is perfect for all ages: a lovely exploration of the losses we all face in our lives, and the strength we have to move on and remember.

The Nutcracker runs through Dec. 31 at Chopin Theatre (1543 W. Division St.).

Miracle on 34th Street (Beverly Arts Center)
We all could use a break from the cynicism that pervades the world, and this live musical production of the classic holiday movie is the perfect antidote. Featuring a diverse cast and music written by The Music Man's Meredith Willson—including the beloved "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"—Miracle on 34th Street explores the magic that comes from simple belief. Young Susan Walker, already well-versed in the harshness of life, starts to change her tune when she suspects that a department store Santa Claus may in fact be the real Kris Kringle. Charming from beginning to end, this Miracle on 34th Street is a gentle reminder that miracles can and do happen every single day - all we have to do is look for them.

Miracle on 34th Street runs through Dec. 23 at Beverly Arts Center (2407 W. 111th St).

Raven Theatre's 'Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose'

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose (Raven Theatre)
The (Christmas) spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is alive and well in this musical adaptation of his popular comedy-mystery story "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle." When Sherlock Holmes discovers a stolen gem in a Christmas goose, he and his faithful number two Dr. Watson set about London during the most wonderful time of the year. Now in its fifth season, Raven Theatre's holiday whodunit features new songs and dances and a kid-friendly hour-long running time.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose runs through January 3 at Raven Theatre (6157 N. Clark St).

Babes in Toyland/Christmas Blowout (The Call)
If you're looking for two nights of rollicking grown-up holiday fun, with a little charity on the side, look no further than The Call, Chicago's best and brightest drag bar. On Dec. 19, Call maven and drag star Ashley Morgan presents Babes in Toyland, a spectacularly naughty revue featuring Ms. Morgan herself along with queens Coco Sho-Nell, Muffy Fishbasket and many more. A suggested $5 donation at the door will benefit local no-kill animal shelter Felines & Canines.

If burlesque boys and girls are more your speed, head to The Call on Dec. 17 for Christmas Blowout, a night of striptease and drag featuring members of Boy Toy's Pocket Cabaret and Dirty Bird Burlesque. The $15 cover (or $10 with warm clothing accessory) goes to Edgewater food pantry Care for Real.

Babes in Toyland runs Dec. 19 and Christmas Blowout runs Dec. 17 at The Call (1547 W. Bryn Mawr).

'Hellcab' returns to Profiles Theatre

Hellcab (Profiles Theatre)
Playwright Will Kern did some serious time as a Chicago cabdriver, and Hellcab is a weirdly hilarious summary of his outrageous interactions. Following one driver on Christmas Eve in the city, Hellcab features a strange and wild cast of characters, from overly amorous couples to shifty-eyed psychopaths to a straight-up jerk who owns a popular sandwich franchise. As rideshares like Uber and Lyft gain popularity, more and more Chicagoans can relate to this driver's odd, never-a-dull-moment existence—and who hasn't been that drunk individual in the backseat before?

Hellcab runs through Jan. 10 at the Profiles Theatre Main Stage (4139 N. Broadway).

Francis Guinan (Scrooge), Tim Sniffen (Ensemble), Peter Gwinn (Ensemble), Beth Melewski (Ensemble), Danielle Pinnock (Ensemble) and Travis Turner (Ensemble) in The Second City’s 'Twist Your Dickens'

Twist Your Dickens (Second City/Goodman Theatre)
While Goodman's beloved A Christmas Carol plays on the theater's main stage, a very different Dickens happens in the Owen studio space. Twist Your Dickens is an interactive satire brought to you by members of Second City. Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the three ghosts still exist, but in this parallel universe they're a whole lot less wholesome. Be prepared for two hours of holiday special homages, witty one-liners and daring parody courtesy of former Colbert Report writers Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort. Twist Your Dickens contains mature content and is recommended for audience members 16 and up.

Twist Your Dickens runs through Dec. 27 at the Goodman Theatre (170 N. Dearborn St.).

Mrs. Claus, A Holiday Musical (Chicago Kids Company)
Now in its 17th year, Chicago Kids Company's holiday tradition continues. The Elf Class of 2015 is on a mission to find the missing Christmas list before time runs out! Recommended for ages two to 12, Mrs. Claus, A Holiday Musical is bright, colorful and an excellent introduction to live theater.

Mrs. Claus, A Holiday Musical runs through Dec. 23 at Beverly Arts Center (2407 W. 111th St).