It’s cold outside and maybe being indoors at a bar is not enough. Sometimes you have to insulate yourself further and Chicago has this trend of bars within bars that really set it apart and sometimes those bars are better than the ones they’re housed in. Here are our three favorite ones right now.
Sometimes these inner bars are a little difficult to find. When you are in Pops for Champagne find the stairs that go to the basement and you’ll be in one of the best beer and cocktail bars in the city, Watershed. This warm, cozy parlour is great to have conversations with your friends and get away from all the pretense of the swanky venues around town. However, the highlight is their beer program that seems to consist of every possible beer in the Midwest, and the skills of the bartenders will remind you that cocktails are as much a work of art and passion as well as a pleasurable drink.
601 N. State St.
Headquarters Beercade has two trends in one not only with the bars within bars but with being a bar arcade. At their Lakeview location you can get old school with their Pincade where you can enjoy almost 30 pinball games from all eras, television shows, movies, and comic books while enjoying their excellent selection of craft brews. The River North location has a similar arrangement but this time on the second floor where it’s a bit more cozy and you can take a break from the games and relax in their booths.
2833 N. Sheffield Ave. and 213 W. Institute Pl.
Unititled has five inner bars so you have a lot to choose from, but one of our favorites is the Whiskey Library as it holds the largest selection of American whiskeys in the world. Stepping into the Whiskey Library feels like stepping into the VIP room of a speakeasy during Chicago’s gangster era with a mix of velvet and leather seats, red walls, and of course the beautiful whiskey display. If you’re an actual VIP at Untitled you get your own private locker in the library to store your favorite bottle. The hard part will be picking a favorite.
111 W. Kinzie St.
Every city stands on the shoulders of residents that not only make sure that it is running correctly but that its culture is thriving and all who visit have a great time. The interesting thing about those residents is that they are largely invisible to the tourists and often even to those who live there. The Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s latest production is a portrait of the invisible residents of one of the countries biggest party towns, New Orleans.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour’s “Airline Highway” creates a moving tableau of the life of those who help New Orleans become a party capital all told through a group of friends consisting of strippers, prostitutes, street poets, and hustlers who don’t have much in possessions but have a strong community to depend on. The ensemble comes together to give iconic burlesque performer Miss Ruby a living funeral—yes, a funeral before she dies. With the return of one of their own who has gone on to a “better life” many demons and a lot of pain surfaces, but with every moment where things get real there is comic relief waiting to ease the tension.
The play gives the audience the same feeling as another play that premiered at Steppenwolf, “August: Osage County,” where you’re dropped in the middle of a situation filled with drama and an ensemble cast that takes you on a thrilling roller coaster ride of emotions. The actors do a tremendous job getting into characters that will instantly remind you of certain people in New Orleans if you’ve ever spent time in the city.
What the actors do and especially D’Amour’s does best is make you leave that theater never ignoring another resident that holds their city on their shoulders no matter if their work is involved or not with vices. They all have lives worth hearing about and respecting. That is what makes “Airline Highway” a must-see play.
“Airline Highway” is playing at the Steppenwolf Theatre located at 1650 N. Halsted St. through Feb. 8, 2015. For ticket and show times visit steppenwolf.org.
Krista Krauss, senior concierge at the James Hotel, a member of The Chicago Hotel Concierge Association, a native Chicagoan, and a local theatre artist, is this week’s concierge correspondent and shares her theater hot picks for December and January.
The gifts of Chicago theater are vast and varied. There are many amazing holiday shows to enjoy this time of year. Some of my favorite Christmas classics include: “A Christmas Carol” at The Goodman Theatre, “The Christmas Schooner” at The Mercury Theatre and American Blues Theatre’s “It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” However, maybe you’re looking to do something a little different, or perhaps start a new holiday tradition this year. This month’s Hot Picks offer a wide variety of alternative shows to celebrate with this holiday season. Cozy up at one of these theaters and create holiday memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t forget, a trip to the theater is a great holiday gift for both you and your loved ones.
Almost everyone has heard of the Great Chicago Fire, but what many people don’t know is that Chicago’s history includes more than one infamous fire. A few decades after the Great Chicago Fire there was another disastrous fire, but this time it was in a brand new theater. The Ruffians’ hit holiday show directed by Halena Kays is now back by popular demand at Theatre Wit. The show pays homage to Chicago’s Iroquois Theatre Fire that took the lives of over 600 people during a matinee on Dec. 30, 1903. While the subject matter doesn’t exactly sound like your typical holiday show, rest assured the production is full of magic, mystery, and wonder. The poetic script by Jay Torrence transforms this awful catastrophe into a beautiful story of atonement and fulfillment. Six performers set out to finish the show they started years ago so that they may finally achieve their happy ending. The lost souls retell the story of “Mr. Blue Beard,” which was the musical performing on that fateful day when a light malfunctioned in act two, creating sparks that set the theater ablaze. “Burning Bluebeard” is a modern, hilarious and poignant vaudeville spectacle featuring various forms of performance art including: clowning, music, dance, and acrobatics. This avant garde holiday hit is sure to captivate audiences with its humor, spirit and razor sharp wit.
“Burning Bluebeard” presented by The Ruffians at Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Runs through January 4.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Select Mondays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. Special performances commemorating the fire on Tuesday, Dec. 30th at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Tickets: $36 – $50.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.
The House’s “The Nutcracker” takes the renowned holiday tale “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffmann and reinvents it in a way that delights theatergoers of all ages. The Nutcracker ballet that the 1816 story inspired has been a timeless tradition for many families, but The House’s interpretation—written by Jake Minton and Phillip Klapperich, music by Kevin O’Donnell, and lyrics by Jake Minton—manages to pack in even more magic, whimsy, and heart than you would ever think possible. Under the fantastic direction of Tommy Rapley, the show ditches the ballet and focuses on the story of Clara who is out to save Christmas. With the aid of her magical Uncle Drosselmeyer, her dolls and nutcracker come to life to fight the evil rats and bring back Christmas to her home. Will Clara and her merry crew find the light and rescue Christmas from the mysterious dark forces that envelope her family? There is only one way to find out; head to the theater. .
“The Nutcracker” Presented by the House Theatre at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St.
Runs through Dec. 28.
Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Additional performance Monday, Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Recommended for ages 5 and up.
Are you looking to enjoy a holiday show but unsure which to choose? Why not try six. Head over to Chicago Dramatists and check out Step Up Production’s second annual “HoliDaze.” The lineup features six short holiday-themed pieces by playwrights Kristiana Rae Colón, Dana Lynn Formby, Aline Lathrop, Steven Peterson, Joshua Rollins, and Steve Simoncic. The topics range from heartwarming to heartbreaking, but all feature a complex yuletide spirit. While many holiday celebrations are full of laughter and love, we cannot forget there are others that are not. However, we take comfort in the fact that there is something special about “the most wonderful time of the year” that brings unexpected hope to even the most hopeless of situations. The showcase highlights a variety of characters experiencing the holidays in their own unique ways whether it’s pulling their families together despite trauma, finding friends in unexpected places, or just getting black out drunk. No matter what your personal relationship with Christmas may be, you will find this collection of short works both entertaining and enjoyable
“HoliDaze” presented by Step Up Productions at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave.
Runs through Dec. 21.
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.
If you’re seeking non-holiday theater but still desire a show with ample heart head over to The Greenhouse Theatre because Remy Bumppo has a wonderful night in store for you. Sarah Ruhl’s “The Clean House” is a beautiful production that will make you both laugh and cry—sometimes in the same breath. Director Ann Filmer has expertly crafted a world that is both realistic and fantastic, where the everyday is just a bit more magical. Lane, a highly respected doctor has the seemingly perfect life consisting of a perfect job, perfect doctor husband, and a perfect house with a maid to go right along with it. However, things slowly start to get messy. It begins with her cleaning lady Matilde. Matilde is depressed from her parents’ death and as it turns out, she actually hates cleaning and aspires to be a comedian instead. Meanwhile Lane’s somewhat estranged sister, Virginia, loves cleaning, so Matilde and Virginia come to an agreement that Virginia will take over the cleaning duties without Lane’s consent. One day it all comes crashing down when Lane’s husband confesses that he is leaving her for another woman that he believes is his soul mate. Devastated that her life could spin so out of control, Lane is forced to decide whether she wants to embrace the lovely and tragic mess, or whether she will hide her dirty laundry under the bed. Filmer’s thoughtful production is layered and complex ranging from exquisitely clean to wonderfully dirty.
“The Clean House” presented by Remy Bumppo at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Runs through January 11.
Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Additional 2:30 p.m. show times on Dec. 26, 27, and Jan. 1.
Tickets: $42.50 – $52.50
Recommended for ages 14 and up.
There’s no better way to ditch the winter doldrums than with a good laugh and some yuletide beverages. “A Die Hard Christmas Musical” is the perfect way to warm up a wintery night out on the town. This gut-busting new musical is based on the classic holiday film Die Hard. Because who doesn’t include Die Hard on their list of favorite holiday films? No ’80s child I know. Naturally, there are a few comical twists. The show transports us to downtown L.A. on Christmas Eve at Nakatomi Plaza. Our beloved New York cop John, I mean, Bruce McClane gets caught up in a heist conducted by the dapperly dressed German terrorist Hans Solo and his team of lackeys. Can McClane save his wife and the hostages from peril? The show is filled with over-the-top musical numbers, hilarious characters, and, of course, a ton of geeky Die Hard references. Oh, and the MCL Chicago is BYOB, so bring your own eggnog to get you in the holiday spirit.
“Yippee Ki-Yay, Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Christmas Musical” at MCL Chicago, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave.
Runs through Jan. 10.
Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Additional performance Dec. 27 at 10:00 p.m.
Recommended for adults.
Tags: Burning Bluebeard, Chicago Dramatists, Chopin Theatre, Greenhouse Theater Center, HoliDaze, House Theatre, Krista Krauss, Krista Krauss Theatre Picks, MCL Chicago, Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Christmas Musical, Remy Bumppo, Step Up Productions, The Clean House, The Nutcracker, Theatre Wit, Yippee Ki-Yay
You’re in your warm office just enjoying the day and excited about the holidays, but it only takes one silly thought to take you into a tangent of pure hysteria when you realize that disease, death, destruction, degradation, and disgrace can come at any moment from the people, places, and things around you as well as from inside yourself. Are you freaking out yet? Don’t worry because The Second City’s new Mainstage show will, as always, take that dread and transform it into gut-busting sketches.
“Panic on Cloud 9″ is The Second City’s 103rd revue and it brings back familiar faces like Chelsea Devantez, John Hartman, and Emily Walker while bringing in some new ones that fit right in with Paul Jurewicz, Daniel Strauss, and Christine Tawfik. The cast takes the diseases, insecurities, and panic-inducing situations that we all constantly find ourselves in and maybe some we definitely don’t find ourselves in—unless you’re Batman—and actually provides a bit a therapy through all the laughs.
What makes this revue stand out from others is the tiny moments where genuine emotions peak through. For instance, when Walker plays Jurewicz’s wife and he is in a coma. They hilariously rehash their arguments before he was in a coma but share some tender moments as well. Another case is where Hartman, who is so talented that he’ll likely have his own television show soon, plays a deaf bully and shares some of his insecurities with his counselor played by Strauss. Hartman’s facial expressions during those soft moments can bring you to tears, but when he goes back into bully mode can quickly snap you into laughter.
The soft moments help create some dynamics throughout the show but don’t be confused because there is non-stop laughs throughout. Those who have been on Hubbard Street on a weekend night will be bending in laughter at Devantez, Walker, and Tawfik playing Russian woman taking part in an American-style bachelorette party where they poke fun at some of the ridiculous rituals and common occurrences. In addition, Jurewicz really shines with his sketch where he helps us all realize how creepiness of Neil Sedaka’s “Next Door to an Angel.”
Enough reading about it. Go see “Panic on Cloud 9″ at The Second City located at 1616 N. Wells St. Tickets range from $18 to $23. For showtimes and more information visit secondcity.com/performances/detail/2473.
In 1960 Chicago was lucky and surprisingly powerful enough to contain the voice of Etta James as she recorded one of the most impactful albums in music history—”At Last.” The Black Ensemble Theater brings the powerhouse’s life to the stage with “At Last: A Tribute to Etta James.”
If you know anything about Etta James you know that there was nothing simple about the woman. Even her vocals traveled from pure grit to sweet solace to heavenly highs in a matter of seconds, so it makes sense that Jackie Taylor would bring in five fantastic actresses to play James during different phases in life. Audiences will travel through James’ story as the five actresses take part in group therapy to work through the triumphs and tragedies of her life.
Of course the show is filled with the songs James made so famous like “Sunday Kind of Love,” “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “Fool that I Am,” and of course “At Last.” The five actresses definitely do the songs justice as they try and capture the same spirit that James performed those songs. The same spirit that brought down the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1975 with James’ performance of “I’d Rather be Blind,” which you can use as a primer before seeing the show.
“At Last: A Tribute to Etta James” runs through Jan. 11, 2015 at the Black Ensemble Theater located at 4450 N. Clark St. For showtimes and ticket information visit blackensembletheater.org.
In the throws of a holiday shopping spree and a deadline approaching it is easy to forget what the holidays are about. The American Blues Theater brings you the best reminder with an adaptation of a holiday classic.
“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” transforms Frank Capra’s classic film into a live radio show. Aside from hearing the great story of George Bailey’s selfless actions and his realizations that his loved ones need him as much as he needs them, audiences can enjoy holiday carols, actual radio commercials from real sponsors, and milk and cookies with the cast and crew of the American Blues Theater’s adaptation.
On Dec. 20 all children under the age of 12 will receive a special keepsake for the Hanukkah performance, Dec. 21 children can expect a visit from Santa as well as other keepsakes.
“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” runs through Dec. 28 at the American Blues Theater located at 2257 North Lincoln Avenue inside the Greenhouse Theater Center. Tickets range from $19 to $49. For more information on showtimes and tickets visit americanbluestheater.com/performances/season-29-lost-sound/its-a-wonderful-life-live-in-chicago.
Remix your holiday tradition this year at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier as they present a fresh take on a beloved classic with A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol.
This hip-hop reinterpretation of the holiday favorite by Charles Dickens takes on the cherished tale and wrestles it from its classic roots with irreverence, an array of music styles, and a lot of heart. The story is underscored with beats spun live by DJ Super Nova at the turntables, mashing up everything from reggae and dancehall music, to dubstep and epic rock ballads.
Audiences will encounter Dickens’ familiar characters in new and unexpected forms—from a miserly Ebenezer Scrooge with an erotic passion for cash to a Jamaican Jacob Marley and Lil’ Tim, the tiniest Cratchit with a slew of maladies. The time-traveling Ghosts take Scrooge on a voyage through the hip-hop ages—decade by decade from past to present to future—documenting the evolving musical art form. This holiday treat promises to be as cheeky, intelligent and street smart as audiences have come to expect from the Q Brothers.
A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol is presented in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, through Dec. 31, 2014. Tickets are $30–48 and may be purchased by calling Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visiting http://www.chicagoshakes.com.
You think Chicago only has neighborhood festivals in the summer? Well West Town is proving you wrong with a festival primed for the season.
West Town Winterfest is a great way to get to know the city outside of the Loop while also getting some shopping done, trying some great food, playing in the snow, and even get a 5k in.
You can explore some of the great local businesses through the Shopping Trolley Tours that will take you one of six routes throughout the neighborhood. Get some great winter wear at Penelope’s, cool prints and posters at Paperish Mess, or Western wear at the infamous Alcala’s. Of course, don’t miss the bars and restaurants where you can get some samples like the utterly delicious Frontier, the thirst quenching Cleos, or the mouthwatering Smoke Daddy.
In addition to the Trolley tour, you can get a mile run or 5k in with the Santa Sprint Family Fun Run where runners of all ages are encouraged to dress up as the big jolly elf to see who is the fastest. Participants will receive a goodie bag and Santa hat.
If that isn’t enough you can sharpen your snowman skills with the traditional Snowman Making event where participants will be given a 6-foot wooden snowman to decorate with materials provided or brought from home. The snowmen will then be displayed on Division Street and Honore Street throughout the holidays.
West Town Winterfest kicks off Dec. 6 – 7 with the headquarters at Eurofurniture located at 2145 W. Grand Ave. Proceeds of the festival will go to the Lasalle II Magnet School. For tickets and more information visit westtownchicago.com/events/.
Navy Pier’s annual Winter WonderFest is back for another full season of winter-themed fun!
This enormous winter extravaganza is the perfect getaway for kids ages 1 to 92. Set-up as a sprawling indoor holiday playground, Winter WonderFest offers ceaseless entertainment for everyone in the family from Dec. 5 Jan. 11 so plan your visit now!
Start with a twirl on the indoor Chicago Blackhawks Skating Rink or try out of the new attractions this year like the Wintertube (an indoor, dual-lane 15-foot high tubing hill), Toboggan Tunnel (a dual-lane toboggan roller sled chute), or the 5-hole Winter Rules Mini Golf course.
For those looking for something a little more low-key, take a ride on the indoor Ferris Wheel for a beautiful view of the Winter WonderFest spread, or go for a spin on the beautifully decorate Kringle Carousel. Plus, all day long live entertainment will be provided on the Winter WonderStage, offering jugglers, magicians, and a variety of ethnic cultural fun for all ages.
No matter if you’re looking for holiday thrills or to stroll around and take in the wonderful sights, there’s no shortage of options.
For hours, additional information, and tickets make sure to visit winterwonderfest.com
It’s cold outside, but you didn’t come to Chicago to stay in your hotel. Luckily enough the world’s best museum, according to TripAdvisor, will keep you warm and definitely entertained with some great holiday events and exhibits.
You can tell by the wreaths on the lions outside that the Art Institute of Chicago knows how to get in the holiday spirit. Head inside and see some great holiday traditions like the holiday decorations on the miniature Thorne Rooms with the new additions of a miniature replica of a Pullman Observation Car that was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and a traditional Chinese interior decorated to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Coming back for a second year is 18th Century Neapolitan crèche “The Nativity and Three Wise Men and Their Courts and Treasures,” an intricate model of the Nativity scene that includes over 200 figurines displayed in a beautiful Baroque cabinet. The crèche is only displayed for a few weeks a year due to it’s fragility, so don’t miss it.
The Institute also takes this time to present it’s “Gifts to the City,” an exhibit featuring its latest acquisitions like the “Kukje Art Center.” The museum adds some fun to it by including a game where you have to find each piece, write down the name, and then uncover a secret word. Once you’ve discovered that word you can go to the museum’s store to claim a prize, while supplies last.
Along with these great pieces of art, visitors can enjoy fun events like the Holiday Choral Series, gingerbread house building, art making for the whole family, caroling tea, museum talks, and much more.
The Holiday Thorne Rooms will be on display through Jan. 6, 2015 while the Neapolitan crèche will be on display through Jan. 11, 2015, and the pieces from the Gifts to the City will be on display year round at the Art Institute of Chicago located at 111 S. Michigan Ave. For more information on the holiday exhibits and events visit artic.edu/visit/holidays-2014-open-something-greater.