The Music Box's 12th annual Old-Fashioned Christmas Sing-along pairs a couple of Christmas movie classics with a big carol fest, where the audience sings to the theater's organ. Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life plays at 4 and 9:45 today and tomorrow. White Christmas, the 1954 Bing Crosby vehicle with a famous Irving Berlin score, is at 7 tonight, 1:15 and 7 tomorrow. The Music Box is at 3733 N. Southport; admission is $7.25. Advance tickets may be obtained by calling 559-1212.
Tonight and tomorrow are your last two chances to attend the Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic festival. The zoo dresses itself up with more than a quarter million white lights; you can stroll through the grounds from 4 to 9. Among the events will be storytelling by sports and media personalities, an appearance by Santa Claus, and an ice-carving demonstration. The zoo is located at First Avenue and 31st Street in Brookfield. Admission is $4.50, $2 for seniors and kids. Parking costs $4. Call 708-485-0263, ext. 879.
Although jazz pianist Willie Pickens usually plays with the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, he'll bring his own trio to Hyde Park tonight for a performance that benefits three south-side homeless shelters. It's at 8 at the Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn. Tix are $15. Call 363-6063.
The two Village theaters open up for free movies today for their annual children's holiday party. At the original Village Theatre, 1548 N. Clark, Andre the Seal is showing at 10 and noon; at the Village North Theatre, 6746 N. Sheridan, The Page Master is showing at the same times. Call the Village at 642-2403 and the Village North at 764-9100 for details. If you do the movie thing and the kids are still raring to go, try the ImprovOlympic's munchkin offering, A Rinky-Dink Christmas; the show, a collaboration with the Double-Take Theater, promises songs and lots of audience participation. It's at 2 at 3541 N. Clark. Tickets are $5, $3 for kids. Call 880-0199 for more.
The Psychotronic Film Society continues its weekly presentation of the weirdest stuff ever committed to celluloid with the holiday hemidemisemiclassic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This famously low-budget piece of early 60s filmic inconsequence tells the story of Santa Claus being captured by Martians to teach Martian parents how to discipline their kids. The film will be shown on video for free tonight at Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln, at 6. Call 472-2771 for more.
Two groups are competing to lure out young Jewish singles by offering Christmas Eve alternatives tonight. Matzo Ball, a party featuring dancing, hors d'oeuvres, and door prizes, is being thrown by the Society of Young Jewish Professionals at 8 at Drink, 541 W. Fulton. It's $20, $15 if you buy in advance. Call 604-1921 for more. Slightly north is the Oy Vay Alternative to Xmas Eve, which promises dancing, a fashion show, live music from the Soul Invaders, and more, at Crobar, 1543 N. Kingsbury. It's $10. Things here too get under way at 8. Call 935-6969 for details.
The Saint Wenceslaus Church offers a Christmas mass this morning, complete with a performance of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Baroque sacred piece Messe de minuit pour Noel. The church's resident Cantores in Ecclesia will sing accompanied by a string orchestra, flutes, and organ. Traditional carols will be sung also. Services at 9 are in English, at 10:30 in Polish. It's all free. The church is located at 3656 W. Roscoe. Call 588-1135.
In cold or sleet or rain or snow the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Loop walking tours go on. Today and every day except Christmas and New Year's the foundation offers a pair of tours that give you a history of high-rise building downtown--which is to say, given Chicago's architectural wonders, the history of high-rise building in America. "Early Skyscrapers" is at 10 Mondays through Saturdays, 1:30 Sundays; "Modern and Beyond" is at 1:30. The two-hour tours are $10 each, $15 when purchased together, and free to foundation members; students and seniors pay $7, $10 for both. Meet at the CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan. Call 922-3432 for more.
The magically surreal posters of Rafal Olbinski are on exhibit at the Polish Museum of America through February 15. Andre Parinaud, the president of Salon International De'Laffiche, says that Olbinski "wants to show us that our imagination is a magical world which we are capable of re-creating forever. He draws us into a different universe, and forces us to use our eyes to participate in a marvelous world which is the true dimension of dreams." The Polish artist is an acclaimed graphic designer whose work has been commissioned by many newspapers and magazines. The museum is open daily 11 to 4, except for Christmas and New Year's Day. There's a requested donation of $2, $1 for children and seniors. It's at 984 N. Milwaukee. Call 384-3352.
The Evanston Historical Society has hired Orange Cloud Productions for its annual New Year's storytelling session at the Charles Gates Dawes House. Today and tomorrow costumed performers will recite The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and other stories at 10. It's $3 per child. Accompanying adults are required and get in free. The Dawes House is located at 225 Greenwood in Evanston. Call 708-475-3410 for details.
December 29 through January 4
Need to get your karma and chakra and, um, other stuff in order for 1996? The Zen Buddhist Temple is the place to do it. "Kindling Light of Mind" is the joint's free New Year's Eve service. There will be a rite of removing one's defilements, a candle-lighting ceremony, and a dharma talk by the temple master. It's at 7 at the temple, 1710 W. Cornelia. There's also a New Year's Day service at 10. Call 528-8685 for more.
After more than a decade as celebrated but penniless avatars of the American indie-rock ideal, the Meat Puppets and their very smart take on southwestern boogie have finally gotten wide recognition; after a guest appearance on Nirvana's Unplugged show on MTV a couple years ago, the Arizona trio's latest album went gold. They're playing a free New Year's Eve show at 11 at the Hard Rock Cafe, 63 W. Ontario. Call 943-2252.
The tenth annual Young Playwrights Festival opens at 7:30 next Thursday night, January 4, featuring the talents of the four Chicago teens who won the festival's playwriting contest last year. High school students Katherinne Bardales, Jeanne Sullivan, Imran Shabbaz, and Patricia Colleen Nugent respectively broach the subjects of a Peruvian family struggling for survival, the death of a friend, an innocent man falsely identified as an armed robber, and a young woman subjected to physical and verbal assault. Their one-act plays have been professionally staged by local directors and will take place at the O'Rourke Performing Arts Center, 1145 W. Wilson. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2 through January 21. The $10 tickets can be reserved by calling 271-2638.
The 1996 Friends of Downtown brown bag lunch series on urban issues kicks off with a discussion led by J.F. Boyle Jr., the city's newly appointed commissioner of planning and development. He'll give a free talk on his department's goals for the downtown area. It happens at noon next Thursday, January 4, at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Call 726-4031 for more information.