Last December 31, Chicago's north Loop theater district was buzzing with activity. This year, only the Shubert has a show booked for the final night of 2000. But thanks to the enduringly strong off-Loop theater scene, there are plenty of choices for audiences seeking a New Year's Eve show--with or without the usual hoopla. Since December 31 falls on a Sunday this year, numerous productions around town and in the suburbs are having both matinee and evening performances. Some are regularly scheduled Sunday shows at regular prices. Others have special times and higher ticket charges, which usually include the traditional champagne toast and party favors. In addition to the prices listed here, many theaters offer discounts for children, seniors, students, and groups; call the theaters for details, and check the Reader Web site at www.chicagoreader.com for updates in the coming weeks. If you want to wing it, you can cut your expenses considerably by taking a chance on day-of-show tickets at the League of Chicago Theatres' Hot Tix booths, which sell tickets to many shows for half-price (plus a service charge) at seven city and suburban locations. An updated list of available shows is posted daily on the Web at www.hottix.org; for booth locations and hours, call 312-922-7212. The League of Chicago Theatres is also offering "Play Money" gift certificates that will be accepted in lieu of cash by participating theaters; these may be purchased at selected Hot Tix booths, or call 312-554-9800.
2540 N. Lincoln, 773-935-6100
The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler, features three actresses delivering a provocative collection of monologues about women's experiences. It plays at 7 and 10 PM. Admission is $60 for the 7 PM show and $65 for the 10 PM performance; $10 from every full-price ticket will be donated to the V-Day Fund, which distributes money to groups working to end violence against women.
2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500
In this multispace venue's first-floor studio, the Pyewacket theater group presents Gardner McKay's romantic drama Sea Marks at 5 and 9 PM; tickets are $20. The second-floor studio houses Porchlight Theatre's latest foray into the works of Stephen Sondheim--Into the Woods, the composer's tragicomic reworking of classic fairy tales. The 8 PM performance costs $19, which includes a postshow champagne toast. In the upstairs studio at 3 PM, Transplant Theater Company presents La Posada Magica, Octavio Solis and Marcos Loya's family musical about a Latin community's traditional reenactment of Mary and Joseph's search for shelter in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus's birth. Tickets are $10, or $8 for kids.
Bailiwick Arts Center
1229 W. Belmont, 773-883-1090
Bailiwick Repertory has New Year's Eve performances of its tried-and-true holiday productions, The Christmas Schooner, by John Reeger and Julie Shannon, and Mrs. Coney, by Belinda Bremner. The Christmas Schooner, which plays at 2:30 PM and costs $30, is the fact-based musical tale of a 19th-century schooner captain who brought Christmas trees to Chicago via stormy Lake Michigan. Mrs. Coney is a holiday fable about an old mountain woman with magical powers; it's performed at 7 PM for $20.
Black Ensemble Theater
Uptown Center Hull House
4520 N. Beacon, 773-769-4451
The company, which specializes in original shows about African-American life, offers special performances of two musicals celebrating legendary figures in American popular music. The Nat King Cole Story (Unforgettable) plays at 3 PM; the $40 admission includes champagne at intermission. In the evening, a 7:30 PM performance of the hit show The Jackie Wilson Story (My Heart Is Crying, Crying...), starring Chester Gregory II, is the centerpiece of an evening that begins with a Jamaican buffet at 6 PM at the Blue Mountain restaurant, 1319 W. Wilson, and climaxes with a postshow party featuring champagne, hors d'oeuvres, and dancing. Tickets are $115 for the whole evening, $75 for just the show and postperformance party, or $40 for the show only (including champagne at intermission).
Briar Street Theatre
3133 N. Halsted, 773-348-4000
The popular Blue Man Group--three silent guys in cobalt blue makeup accompanied by a rock band--offer their highly visual conceptual-theater piece Tubes at 4, 7, and 10 PM. Tickets are $39-$49 for the 4 PM show and $69 for the 7 and 10 PM performances (the higher price includes champagne and party favors).
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600
Tony-winning Broadway actor Brian Bedford, a favorite at the Stratford Festival of Canada, stages and stars in The School for Scandal, Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1777 satire of high society. The 3 PM matinee costs $45; a special 8:30 PM show costs $75, which includes a dessert buffet, champagne, party favors, and a view of Navy Pier's fireworks display.
2851 N. Halsted, 773-549-8080
The competitive improv show ComedySportz features teams vying for audience approval as measured on a scoreboard. This special performance celebrates "the (temporally correct) arrival of the new millennium." For their $60 admission, viewers get an open bar, snacks, champagne, party favors, and a "millennium keepsake gift" as well as the performance. Doors open at 9:30 PM; reservations are required.
3541 N. Clark, 773-880-0199
The comedy theater heralds the coming of 2001 with two New Year's Eve packages. For $70, patrons get a buffet dinner at 9 PM, an improvised musical by the resident troupe Baby Wants Candy at 10:30 PM, and a champagne toast at midnight; for $35, an open bar begins at 9 PM and a performance by ImprovOlympic house teams starts at 10 PM. Both shows will be followed by a dance party with a cash bar.
750 W. Wellington, 773-975-7171
Two long-running productions at this multispace theater have special performances. Famous Door Theatre Company's dark comedy Hellcab, the tale of a taxi driver's travails, plays at 8 and 10 PM for $21. BS, the Free Associates' improvised parody of TV's ER, has a special performance at 10:30 PM for $20. Admission for both shows includes a free drink in the Ivanhoe's cocktail lounge.
Low Sodium Entertainment
3435 N. Sheffield, 773-549-3250
Low Sodium's Countdown to Apocalypse 2: Electric Boogaloo! features a performance of the comedy group's current production The Evil Show!; Gameshow Apocalypse!, a special New Year's edition of its improvised audience-participation spoof of game shows; a "millennial midnight countdown;" and a dance party. The evening runs from 10 PM to 2:30 AM. The $35 admission includes a midnight champagne toast and party favors, and audience members are welcome to bring their own refreshments.
3745 N. Southport, 773-325-1700
It's the last night for The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Alfred Uhry's witty, touching comedy-drama about a Jewish family in 1939 Atlanta. The long-running show closes tonight with performances at 5 and 9 PM. The early show costs $45; the late one is $50. Prices for both shows include champagne and party favors.
230 W. North, 312-664-8844
The long-running comedy Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding offers audiences a buffet dinner and entertainment as part of one interactive experience. This mock Italian wedding, at which viewers mingle with actors playing the bride, the groom, and their wacky families, has two performances: at 5 PM for $79, and at 9 PM for $109. Parties follow both shows.
Royal George Theatre Center
1641 N. Halsted, 312-988-9000
The Royal George caps 2000 with performances on all four of its stages. On the main stage Mom's the Word features six actresses in an evening of storytelling about parenting. It plays at 5 and 8 PM; tickets are $39.50. The cabaret rings with the sound of close harmony singing in the long-running revue Forever Plaid, which both spoofs and celebrates the male doo-wop vocal groups of the 50s and 60s. There are shows at 6 and 9 PM, with tickets for each priced at $50 (both performances include a champagne toast). Another hit, Late Nite Catechism, in the Great Room, salutes and sends up the dos and don'ts of Catholic-school dogma at 3 PM; admission is $28. In the Gallery, the Noble Fool Theater Company presents a 3 PM matinee of Flanagan's Wake, its long-running audience-interactive improvised comedy about an Irish wake.
1616 N. Wells, 312-337-3992
Second City E.T.C.
1608 N. Wells, 312-642-8189
Chicago's best-known comedy theater offers cabaret revues in its main-stage and E.T.C. spaces. The main stage hosts Slaughterhouse 5-Cattle 0, directed by Jeff Richmond; the E.T.C.'s 22nd production, Better Late than Nader, is directed by Dexter Bullard. There are two performances of each show, at 8 and 11 PM; the $25 tickets include party favors and champagne, though the usual Sunday-night postshow free improv sets have been canceled.
22 W. Monroe, 312-902-1500
Actor-folksinger Theodore Bikel stars as Teyve, the milkman who talks to God, in Fiddler on the Roof, the 1964 Broadway hit about a Jewish community in czarist Russia. This touring production of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein's musical, which features a re-creation of the original choreography by Jerome Robbins, plays at 7:30 PM; tickets range from $45 to $75.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company
1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650
Steppenwolf brings 2000 to a close with 3 and 7:30 PM performances of The Weir, Conor McPherson's quasi-mystical drama about a group of people in a bar in rural Ireland. Amy Morton directs. The early show costs $45; tickets for the late show are $40.
Tommy Gun's Garage
1239 S. State, 773-728-2828
This restaurant-cabaret presents a Roaring Twenties-themed musical comedy revue in a speakeasy setting, with dining and drinking integrated into the show. Doors open at 8:30 PM, and the performance is followed by a costume party. Admission is $75 (this includes dinner, tax, and tip), with a $5 discount for persons in period costume; a cash bar is available, as are bar packages ranging from $17 to $27.
Victory Gardens Theater
2257 N. Lincoln, 773-871-3000
Victory Gardens' production of Jamie O'Reilly and Michael Smith's multimedia musical revue Hello, Dali: From the Sublime to the Surreal juxtaposes songs by musicians like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon with the work of such artists as Picasso and Gauguin; the 3 PM performance in the theater's first-floor main-stage space costs $33. In the second-floor main-stage space, Ann Noble Massey's Irish drama And Neither Have I Wings to Fly plays at 2 PM for $25. And in the second-floor studio, the Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre presents Nambi E. Kelley's religious drama Chris T. at 3 PM for $18.
3209 N. Halsted, 773-755-1693
The WNEP Theater Foundation's musical The Armageddon Radio Hour, done in the style of a 1940s radio play, is a dark comedy set on the eve of the apocalypse. It's performed at 10:30 PM; the $20 admission includes wine and a buffet. Earlier in the day, the theater hosts a performance of Runamuck Productions' kids' show How Santa Got His Job at 1 PM for $6; call 773-784-8100 for information on the Runamuck show.
Apple Tree Theatre
595 Elm, Highland Park, 847-432-4335
Country songwriter Roger Miller's hit Broadway musical Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a musical version of Mark Twain's novel, is presented at 6 and 9 PM; tickets for both shows are $45.
Drury Lane Oakbrook
Roosevelt and Butterfield, Oakbrook Terrace, 630-530-0111
Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical Carousel plays at 5:30 and 9 PM. Tickets for the early show only are $25; for the late performance, show-only tickets cost $45 (which includes champagne, party favors, and an after-show party in the lobby lounge). Dinner-show packages are $50 for a 4 PM dinner and the 5:30 PM performance; $70 for the 5:30 PM show and dinner at 9 PM; and $85 for dinner at 7 PM, the show at 9 PM, and the postshow celebration.
Drury Lane Theatre Evergreen Park
2500 W. 95th, Evergreen Park, 708-422-0404
The in-the-round extravaganza A Christmas Fantasy on Ice has two dinner-show options. The "Early Theatre Package" is $70 and includes a 4:30 PM performance and a 7 PM filet mignon dinner and cocktails, plus tax and tip. The "Late Grand Package" features a 7:30 PM show, dinner at 10 PM, live music, and a party with champagne for $95 (including tax and tip). Performance-only tickets are $30 for the early show and $35 for the late performance.
Light Opera Works
Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University
600 Emerson, Evanston, 847-869-6300
The Evanston-based operetta troupe presents The Great Waltz, the story of the rivalry between composer Johann Strauss Sr. and his son, Johann Jr., who became known as "the Waltz King" for having written "The Blue Danube" and other waltzes. The Strausses' lush melodies were adapted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Robert Wright, and George Forrest for this 1934 hit; Ron Toebaas directs LOW's revival. There are two shows: at 2 PM for $23 to $52 and at 8 PM for $37 to $54.
Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire
Rte. 21 (Milwaukee Ave.), Lincolnshire, 847-634-0200
Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I stars Kevin Gudahl (in his Marriott debut) as the haughty Siamese ruler and Mary Ernster as the British governess who sets out to tame him. There are two shows, at 5 PM for $43 and at 8:30 PM for $48; dinner-show packages are available.
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
111 Campbell, Arlington Heights, 847-577-2121
The center offers entertainment for families during the day and a decidedly "grown-ups only" show at night. The Emerald City Theatre Company's seasonal kids' show Frosty plays at 11 AM for $8. At 8 and 10:30 PM, Chicago's Second City comedy troupe presents a Second City Dysfunctional Holiday Revue; the price for both shows is $35, which includes champagne and party favors.
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie
9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300
The center's two theaters are booked with musicals for the holiday. Northlight Theatre presents Enter the Guardsman, Craig Bohmler, Marion Adler, and Scott Wentworth's adaptation of Ferenc Molnar's comedy The Guardsman; Hollis Resnik and David New star as a husband-and-wife acting team who test each other's love in 1930s Vienna. The 8 PM performance costs $50, which includes a postshow champagne toast. And PS Theatricals' environmental production Klub Kokomo, a romantic comedy peppered with hit songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, boasts guest appearances by Mark Lindsay, onetime lead singer with Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Turtles, featuring Flo & Eddie. The performance is followed by dancing to a DJ in the theater, which has been transformed into a nightclub for the show. Admission is $100; dinner-show and overnight packages are available with the adjacent Doubletree Hotel.
Pheasant Run Dinner Theatre
4051 E. Main (Rte. 64), Saint Charles, 630-584-6342
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical My Fair Lady is offered in a dinner-theater production. The $100 ticket includes dinner followed by the performance (the price includes a champagne toast at midnight); for $175 you get all that plus admission to three open-bar theme parties with live entertainment; deluxe overnight packages are also available.
Writers' Theatre Chicago
Books on Vernon, Nicholas Pennell Theatre
664 Vernon, Glencoe, 847-835-5398
Austin Pendleton's historical drama Booth focuses on the conflict between two great figures in American theater history: 19th-century actor Junius Brutus Booth and his more-celebrated son Edwin. Pendleton costars with Scott Parkinson under David Cromer's direction in this newly revised version of the play; the 2:30 PM performance costs $30.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Bachtell.