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David Lissner
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The 12 plays of Christmas

Leslie Ann Sheppard plays Gerda in Victory Gardens Theater's family holiday musical, “The Snow Queen.” (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Leslie Ann Sheppard plays Gerda in Victory Gardens Theater's family holiday musical, “The Snow Queen.” (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Our guide to Chicagoland holiday theater, cheery Christmas entertainment for children, families and adults, across the city and suburbs.

  1. Madam Barker Holiday Variety Show, Prop Thtr, Avondale, 11 p.m. Fridays, December 4 and 11, $10. (tickets).

    Madam Barker, John Fournier and a cast of Chicago magicians, musicians, comedians, dancers, the Barker Dames and 500 Clown for an hour and fifteen minutes of burlesque holiday entertainment, including Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill in River North, making guacamole. Adults only.

  2. Holiday Short Shorts, The Annoyance Theatre, Uptown, 8 p.m. Thursdays, Dec. 3–17, $10.

    Two original one act plays, “Breathing on Cougarness,” a peek into the lives of two maneaters during the holidays, and “Holiday Hunger Pains,” in which a hitchhiker gets a bit more than he expected. Not suitable for children.

  3. The Christmas Schooner, Theatre at the Center, Munster, Ind., through Dec. 20, $36–40.

    A heartwarming family musical about a brave Michigan shipping captain who sails Christmas trees across Lake Michigan to the German immigrants in Chicago. All ages.

  4. A Christmas Carol, Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace, through Dec. 21, $10–30.50.

    You’ll be well-fortified for the classic story of Scrooge and his ghosts if you sign up for one of the bountiful breakfast or dinner packages available at selected performances. All ages.

  5. 500 Clown Christmas, Madden Theatre at North Central College, Naperville, Dec. 18–23, $30.

    A musical celebration of action-based performance and improvisation with original live music performed by a three-piece band as clowns search for the meaning of Christmas. Suitable for ages 14 and up.

  6. The Snow Queen, Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Lincoln Park, through Dec. 27, $20–48.

    Hans Christian Andersen’s winter tale about a boy who is lost in the cold, and the girl who won’t give up until she finds him, comes to life in a family musical full of puppetryand storytelling. Suitable for ages 7 and up.

  7. It’s a Wonderful Life: Life at the Biograph, American Blues Theater at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Lincoln Park, through Dec. 27, $32–40.

    A live version of a 1944 radio broadcast of the classic story of one remarkable Christmas in Bedford Falls, with Foley sound effects and an original score. Ages 10 and up.

  8. A Christmas Carol, The Musical, Marriott Theater, Lincolnshire, through Jan. 2, $15.

    Music from composer Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin”) gives new life to Dickens’ classic Christmas story of a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge confronted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. All ages.

  9. The Santaland Diaries, Theatre Wit at Theatre Building Chicago, Lakeview, through Jan. 2, $24.

    David Sedaris’ sardonic tale about working as an Elf in Macy’s Santaland, starring Mitchell Fain. Not for children.

  10. Mother Superior’s Ho-Ho-Holy Night, Royal George Theatre, Lincoln Park, 8 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 3, $30.

    Vicki Quade, creator of the hit show “Late Nite Catechism,” sends Mother Superior to a new parish to help create a holiday pageant in a funny look at past and present Catholic Christmas traditions. Ages 10 and up.

  11. Miracle on 34th Street, Porchlight Music Theatre at Theatre Building Chicago, Lakeview, through Jan. 3, $40.

    A musical adaptation of the 1947 Christmas film in which a white-bearded gentleman claims to be the real Santa Claus, spreading a wave of love throughout New York City. All ages.

  12. A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant, A Red Orchid Theatre, Old Town, through Jan. 3, $25.

    In this satirical musical exploring Dianetics, merry children gather on a cold winter night to rejoice in telling the story of Scientology founder and hero L. Ron Hubbard. Despite its young cast, it’s not really a show for kids.