Christmas would not be complete without The Nutcracker. The Joffrey Ballet's production choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon tells a magical story of love and family and the 1893 World's Fair. Or, try the House Theater of Chicago's alternative: an inspiring, ballet-free rendition.
The Nutcracker12/1-12/30: Thu-Fri 7 PM, Sat-Sun 2 and 7 PM; also Wed 12/19, 7 PM; Wed 12/26, 2 PM; Fri 12/21 and 12/28, 2 PM; and Mon 12/24, 2 PM; no performance Sun 12/2, 7 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells, 312-386-8905, joffrey.org, $35-$179.
The NutcrackerThrough 12/30: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 7:30 PM, Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 773-769-3832, thehousetheatre.com, $20-$50.
Looking for something more traditional? The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be playing its annual "Merry, Merry Chicago!" show starting December 14 and Handel Messiah on December 20-23, and the American Blues Theater is performing its live 1940's radio broadcast of It's a Wonderful Life.
"Merry, Merry Chicago!" 12/14-12/23, dates and times vary; see website, and Handel Messiah 12/19-12/23, times vary; see website, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, cso.org, $41-$155.
It's A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Through 1/5/19: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 4:30 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM; also Thu 11/29, 2:30 PM, and Mon 12/31, 7:30 PM; no performances Thu 11/23, 7:30 PM, and 1/5 7:30 PM, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-654-3103, americanbluestheater.com, $19-$59.
There are six productions of A Christmas Carol this year. Goodman Theater's annual performance (with Larry Yando back as Scrooge) offers a heartwarming musical evening for the whole family. Chicago Shakespeare Theater is bringing back its hip-hop Q Brothers Christmas Carol, and E.D.G.E. of Orion Theatre presents A Klingon Christmas Carol, performed entirely in Klingon.
A Christmas Carol Through 12/30: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 6:30 PM; also Wed 12/19 and 12/26, 2 PM; Thu 12/20 and 12/27, 2 PM; and Mon 12/24, 2 PM, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800, goodmantheatre.org, $40-$130.
Q Brothers Christmas Carol Through 12/30, Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 6 and 8:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; also Sun 12/23 and 12/30, 6 PM, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600, chicagoshakes.com, $30-$52.
A Klingon Christmas Carol Through 12/16: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 8 PM; no performances Sat 12/1, 3 PM, Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, 773-387-9237, edgeoforion.com, $22.
For a uniquely Chicago theater experience, visit El Stories: Holiday Train by Waltzing Mechanics, a dramatized train ride based on real commuters, or join Neo-Futurists and the Ruffians for Burning Bluebeard and imagine what might happen if the performers killed in the 1903 Iroquois Theater fire came back to life and tried to recreate their old show.
El Stories: Holiday Train 11/30-12/22: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln, 773-404-7336, waltzingmechanics.org, $25.
Burning Bluebeard 12/26-12/31: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3 and 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Mon 7 PM, Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland, 773-878-4557, neofuturists.org, $25-$35.
Looking for a good laugh? Annoyance Theater has several holiday performances, including It's Christmas, Goddamnit!, a macabre holiday comedy in which a family gathering turns from dysfunctional to deadly. Vicki Quade returns for Christmas Bingo: It's a Ho-Ho-Holy Night, part one-woman comedy show, part bingo night, full of trivia and family-friendly laughs.
It's Christmas, Goddamnit! Through 12/28: Fri 8 PM, the Annoyance Theatre, 851 W. Belmont, 773-697-9693, theannoyance.com, $20, $18 students.
Christmas Bingo: It's a Ho-Ho-Holy Night 11/30-12/30: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted, 312-988-9000, ticketmaster.com, $30.
The world premiere of SnowGirls: The Musical, by Hell In A Handbag Productions, tells the story of a young reindeer who wants to be a pole dancer, and reveals what really goes on at the North Pole. Through 12/30: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark, 312-409-4357, handbagproductions.org, $27-$120, $20 students and seniors.
Barney the Elf by Pride Films and Plays is an LGBTQ-themed musical about an elf who must find a new home after Santa retires. 12/14-1/6/19: Wed-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3:30 and 7:30 PM, Sun 3:30 PM, Pride Art Center, 4139 N. Broadway, 773-857-0222, pridefilmsandplays.com, $15.
New this year from Silk Road Rising, Christmas Mubarak tells the story of Jesus from both Quranic and New Testament perspectives. Strawdog Theatre has adapted the playful and spooky children's book Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins into a musical.
Christmas Mubarak 11/30-12/11: Fri 8 PM, Sat-Sun 2 PM, Mon-Tue 7:30 PM, Silk Road Rising, 77 W. Washington, 312-857-1234, silkroadrising.org, $38, $21.50 students.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins 12/1-1/5/19: Sat-Sun 11 AM and 1 PM, Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice, 773-644-1380, strawdog.org, $25, $20 kids.
On the hunt for family-friendly fun? Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party by Chicago Children's Theatre invites children to drink hot cocoa and enjoy a puppet show. There will be two sensory-friendly performances on December 23. Other children's classics include The Steadfast Tin Soldier: A Christmas Pantomime, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, at Lookingglass Theatre Company, and Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical at Theater at the Center.
Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party 12/8-12/24: Sat-Sun 11:30 AM and 2 PM; also Mon 12/24 9:30 and 11:30 AM, The Station, 100 S. Racine, 773-227-0180, chicagochildrenstheater.org, $52.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier: A Christmas Pantomime Through 1/13/19: Wed 7:30 PM, Thu 2 and 7:30 PM, Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 2 and 7:30 PM, Tue 7:30 PM; no performances 11/22 or 12/25, Lookingglass Theatre Company, 821 N. Michigan, 312-337-0665, lookingglasstheatre.org, $60-$85.
Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical Through 12/23: dates and times vary; see website, Theater at the Center, 1040 Ridge Rd., Munster, Indiana, 219-836-3255, theateratthecenter.com, $42-$46, $20 students. v