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54 Things to Do in Chicago in January

A scene from 'Men on Boats'
Men on Boats Photo: Elke Young
Jan. 1
Recreation

New Year’s Day 5K

Lincoln Park

Get a jump on your fitness resolution with a brisk 5K on the first day of 2017. You’ll get more than 1,000 jogging buddies to keep you company and a complimentary long-sleeved T-shirt to keep you warm.

Details:Lincoln Park. 11 a.m. $20–$40. chicagoevents.com

Jan. 5–15
Comedy

SketchFest

Lake View

This annual sketch festival is notable not only for its size (1,000 performers each year) but also for historically groundbreaking shows. Keep an eye out for famous alumni, like T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) and Danny Pudi (Community).

Details:Stage 773. $37–$165. stage773.com

Jan. 6–Feb. 12
Theater

Her America

Lincoln Park

A story by Brett Neveu penned specifically for actor Kate Buddeke makes the world premiere of Her America a must-see. The one-person drama follows Lori, a Midwestern woman who holes up in her basement to sift through artifacts from a life gone awry.

Details:Greenhouse Theater Center. $34–$48. greenhousetheater.org

Jan. 6–Feb. 12
Theater

Men on Boats

North Center

Jaclyn Backhaus’s epic about westward expansion in 1869 casts gender as a spectrum rather than a binary. Trans director Will Davis helms the story of 10 explorers—some men and women, and others who identify as neither—as they map out the great rivers and valleys of the western wilds.

Details:American Theater Company. $20–$38. atcweb.org

Jan. 6–Feb. 25
Photography

A Closer Look at the Ordinary

River North

Lebanese photographer Serge Najjar’s shots of Beirut’s modernist architecture could be mistaken for colorful cubist paintings. But look closely, and you’ll spot faces staring out of windows and people strolling down the street—the 43-year-old ex-lawyer is fascinated by the ways humans interact with their environments.

Details:Catherine Edelman Gallery. Free. edelmangallery.com

Jan. 7–8
Classical

Beethoven’s Eroica

Elgin

The end of 2016 means the Elgin Symphony Orchestra steps down as the Illinois Council of Orchestras’ ensemble of the year. Its first 2017 program starts with Stravinsky’s Octet, a chamber piece that puts the neo in neoclassical. Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 follows, with Angelo Xiang Yu soloing. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) fills the final slot.

Details:Hemmens Cultural Center. $30–$65. elginsymphony.org

Jan. 7–28
Art

Brendan Fernandes

Wicker Park

This Canadian artist and choreographer moves dance out of its comfort zone. Take 2016’s Art by Snapchat, in which he sent instructions to dancers via Snapchat as they performed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. At his first solo exhibit in Chicago, Fernandes conveys movement by using unlikely materials, including glass sculpture and crystal coat hangers hanging in a storefront window.

Details:Monique Meloche Gallery. Free. moniquemeloche.com

Jan. 7–Feb. 18
Art

Underlying System Is Not Known

West Town

This jam-packed group show highlights current trends in patternmaking and repetition—that is, works from artists who obsess over geometry, visual games, and esoteric labyrinths. Featured participants include Geoffrey Todd Smith, Jessica Labatte, and Karen Arm.

Details:Western Exhibitions. Free. westernexhibitions.com

Jan. 9
Classical

Chicago Chamber Musicians

Loop

After almost 33 years presenting impeccable chamber music—and a 2014 change in name and management that many feared meant the end of the group—this veritable ensemble marches forward, here with a Mozart flute quartet and the diamond-in-the-rough nonet by the early romantic Louis Spohr.

Details:Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University. 7:30 p.m. $40. jeremiahccme.wixsite.com/chicagochambermusic

Jan. 11
Rock

Big Thief

Lake View

Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s narrative lyrics may appeal to fans of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but her raspy vocals channel contemporaries like Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten. If you aren’t sold, consider that Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy hailed the band’s debut album, Masterpiece, as one of his favorites of 2016.

Details:Schubas Tavern. 9 p.m. $15. lh-st.com

Helltrap Nightmare
Helltrap Nightmare Photo: Allison Taich
Jan. 12
Comedy

Helltrap Nightmare

West Town

Not for the faint of heart, this comedy showcase blends gross-out humor with experimental music. Hosted by comic Sarah Sherman, the show should appeal to fans of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. January marks Helltrap’s first anniversary, which Sherman celebrates with a “birthday funeral” fugue of uncomfortable humor.

Details:Hideout. 9 p.m. $12. hideoutchicago.com

Jan. 12–Feb. 12
Theater

Blues for an Alabama Sky

Hyde Park

Pearl Cleage’s poetic classic unfolds during the Harlem Renaissance, in an apartment building where artists, doctors, and social activists grapple with their dreams amid social turmoil.

Details:Court Theatre. $38–$68. harleminhydepark.com

Jan. 12–Feb. 25
Theater

The Tall Girls

Lake View

In Meg Miroshnik’s drama, women’s basketball could offer a way out of a dead-end, Depression-addled town. Director Louis Contey explores whether games are a luxury for the lucky or an outlet for dreams.

Details:Shattered Globe at Theater Wit. $20–$35. sgtheatre.org

Jan. 13–14
Dance

Streb

Millennium Park

The Harris opens a series of family-friendly matinees with SEA (Singular Extreme Actions), featuring the legendary Elizabeth Streb’s action-hero choreography—a type of death-defying acrobatics. The one-hour performance opens at the Harris’s Mix at Six cocktail hour on Friday (1/13), with a show for families on Saturday (1/14).

Details:Harris Theater. $10. harristheaterchicago.org

Jan. 13–15
Convention

Cubs Convention

River North

Last year’s celebration of the lovable once-losers was a spirited affair; this year’s should be downright legendary. With the team’s 108-year championship drought over, this long-running get-together is no longer for die-hards. Half the city will be jockeying for tickets to this toast to all things Cubs.

Details:Sheraton Grand Chicago. $108. chicago.cubs.mlb.com

Jan. 13–15
Classical

Newberry Consort

Various neighborhoods

Celebrating its 30th season, this early-music ensemble explores the songs of Oswald von Wolkenstein, a 15th-century composer and scoundrel. In one of the joys of early music, the consort plays on now-obscure instruments, such as the rebec, the vielle, and the gittern, and plans to accompany the music with visual projections, supertitles, and, in the case of the January 13 performance at the eponymous library, wine.

Details:Various locations. $5–$55. newberryconsort.org

Jan. 13–15
Dance

Sleeptalk

Roscoe Village

Philadelphian Ashley Fargnoli used recordings of people talking in their sleep to choreograph this trio about the unconscious. Sleeptalk is inspired by Fargnoli’s personal experience in which sleep talking arose from working as a trauma therapist.

Details:Links Hall. $10. linkshall.org

Jan. 13–Feb. 18
Theater

The Temperamentals

Lake View

In the 1950s, the term “temperamental” was code for “homosexual”—and in that era, being out as such meant dire personal and professional consequences. Jon Marans’s drama follows the Mattachine Society, one of the first LGBT rights organizations, and its fight for dignity in a world where being gay meant being targeted.

Details:About Face Theatre at Theater Wit. $20–$40. aboutfacetheatre.com

Jan. 13–Mar. 4
Art

Embodiment Abstracted: The Influence of Yvonne Rainer

West Loop

Choreographer Yvonne Rainer shook up the dance world in the 1960s by incorporating ordinary movements (slouching, shuffling) into routines, ultimately questioning what a normal body is and does. In this group exhibition honoring Rainer, eight dancers from Lebanon, Belgium, and Chicago incorporate her style into performance-art videos.

Details:Gallery 400. Free. gallery400.uic.edu

Jan. 13–Mar. 5
Theater

Diamond Dogs

Noble Square

Alastair Reynolds’s sci-fi space opera follows a group of humans and humanoids who’ve breached an antagonistic alien world. Althos Low adapts a tale of creatures lost in space and far into the future.

Details:House Theatre at Chopin Theatre. $15–$35. thehousetheatre.com

Jan. 14
Rock

Ceremony

Lake View

Once a pillar of hardcore punk, Ceremony has shifted focus in its five-album tenure. The group’s latest album, The L-Shaped Man, channels Joy Division’s demure postpunk more than anything fast and furious. The result is a heart-wrenching collection of songs lamenting the dissolution of a relationship.

Details:Schubas Tavern. 9 p.m. $15. lh-st.com

Phoebe Robinson
Phoebe Robinson Photo: Mindy Tucker
Jan. 14
Comedy

Phoebe Robinson

West Town

Between cohosting the podcast 2 Dope Queens, appearing on numerous late-night shows, and publishing a book of essays (You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain), Phoebe Robinson had a marquee year in 2016. Catch her flying solo at this standup set, part of Lincoln Hall and Schubas Tavern’s comedy and music festival, Tomorrow Never Knows.

Details:Hideout. 7 p.m. $20. hideoutchicago.com

Jan. 14–15
Gospel

Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah

Loop

Now in its 12th year, this gospel take on Handel’s Messiah, featuring 100 voices and a 45-piece orchestra, commemorates the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Details:Auditorium Theatre. $29–$68. auditoriumtheatre.org

Jan. 14–16
Classical

Chicago Sinfonietta

Various neighborhoods

The orchestra’s annual tribute to MLK starts this year with Vaughan Williams’s noble Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and ends with a stageful of guests pitching in on the “Ode to Joy” part of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Details:Various locations. $10–$99. chicagosinfonietta.org

Jan. 15
Hip-Hop/Jazz

BadBadNotGood

Lincoln Park

These Canadian musicians are best known for collaborations with rappers like Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Danny Brown, but their jazzy instrumental arrangements are a genre unto themselves. The group’s latest album, IV, blends wobbly synths and psychedelic grooves with the sounds of up-and-coming producers, such as Kaytranada.

Details:Lincoln Hall. 9 p.m. $15. lh-st.com

Jan. 17–July 2
Art

Chris Bradley

Gold Coast

Emerging Chicago artist Chris Bradley has catapulted to young fame for his grin-inducing sculptures, including wooden banana peels and dollhouse miniatures that hang from the ceiling. This solo exhibit features a variety of new art puns and “ice sculptures” carved from glass.

Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $7–$12. mcachicago.org

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Photo: Courtesy of Ropeadope Records
Jan. 19
Jazz

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

Hyde Park

This Grammy nominee may be a famed composer and producer, but he’s also one of the best-known trumpeters in the country. More than just jazz, Scott draws on Latin music, rock, and even hip-hop for his soulful tunes to craft a sound undeniably his own.

Details:Promontory. 7 and 10 p.m. $17–$42. ticketweb.com

Jan. 19
Classical

Beyond the Aria

Loop

Despite the title, you might hear arias at Beyond the Aria. The Lyric’s hair-down cabaret-style recital series, set on the Pritzker Pavilion stage with the doors closed to the weather, gives singers an opportunity to perform art songs, show tunes, folk songs, or even arias in an intimate setting on their days off from the opera. Appearing here are Christiane Karg and Adam Plachetka (Pamina and Papageno in the current Magic Flute production), as well as Lindsay Metzger of the Lyric’s training center.

Details:Harris Theater. 7:30 p.m. $60–$150. harristheaterchicago.org

Jan. 19
Jazz

Hot Club of Cowtown

West Loop

Praised by The New York Times as “an old-fashioned good time,” this Austin jazz and western trio has opened for the likes of Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan (on top of an aggressive touring schedule).

Details:City Winery. 8 p.m. $15–$25. citywinery.com

Jan. 19–20
Indie

Ben Gibbard and Julien Baker

Pilsen

Consider this two-night stand a survey of sad acoustic rock, old and new. At the top of the bill is Ben Gibbard, the 15-year frontman of weepy indie vets Death Cab for Cutie; second is Julien Baker, the self-described “queer, Southern, Christian, and proud” 21-year-old who demoed her 2015 debut in a college dorm.

Details:Thalia Hall. $37–$420. ticketweb.com

Silencio Blanco
Silencio Blanco Photo: Tommy Bay
Jan. 19–22
Puppetry

Silencio Blanco

Gold Coast

Part of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, Chiflón, el Silencio del Carbón uses newspaper marionettes to portray a young miner entering a dangerous quarry. Santiago Tobar and Dominga Gutiérrez give the show its North American premiere. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $10–$30. mcachicago.org

Jan. 20
Folk

The Lumineers

Rosemont

Released after a four-year hiatus, the Lumineers’ sophomore album, Cleopatra, clocks in at just 30 minutes and recounts their disillusionment at their rise to fame. This time around, the Coloradoans lean more easily into their Americana and folk roots, even as their brand of anthemic folk-rock becomes ubiquitous on FM radio.

Details:Allstate Arena. 7 p.m. $60–$260. ticketmaster.com

Jan. 20–Mar. 26
Art

Unreal Realms

River West

Celebrate the 125th birthday of Chicago outsider artist Henry Darger, a hospital custodian who died in obscurity but left behind a 15,000-page illustrated fantasy novel. Now internationally collected, Darger’s work is essential to Chicago history. See original artwork and a reconstruction of his Lake View painting studio.

Details:Intuit. $5. art.org

Jan. 21
Classical

Cleveland Orchestra

Loop

Recently minted sports powerhouse Cleveland also boasts one of the country’s top symphony orchestras. In fact, it’s the smallest city with a member in the so-called Big Five (along with symphonies in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago). While our own local ensemble tours Europe, music director Franz Welser-Möst brings the Clevelanders’ signature lush string sound here, bearing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 and Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2, two compositions that reflect the orchestra’s finesse.

Details:Symphony Center. 8 p.m. $27–$195. cso.org

Jan. 21
Rock

Joan of Arc

Loop

This experimental Chicago favorite, led by Tim Kinsella, plays a hometown show in support of its first studio album in four years, He’s Got the Whole This Land Is Your Land in His Hands. Despite the gap, Kinsella’s new music could have been plucked directly from Chicago’s gritty ’90s underground.

Details:Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. 8 p.m. $15. ticketweb.com

The Lumineers
The Lumineers Photo: Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune
Jan. 22
Comedy

John Cleese and the Holy Grail

Loop

When the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus was sued in 2013 over royalties surrounding the musical Spamalot, the group rallied for one final tour, with the explicit purpose of paying legal fees. Barring another court date, a second reunion seems unlikely—but this evening with the group’s de facto frontman is the next best thing. See Cleese riff on the group’s storied run after a screening of the slapstick classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Details:Chicago Theatre. 3 p.m. $65–$85. thechicagotheatre.com

Jan. 22–23
Classical

Mass in C Minor

Skokie, Loop

Masses of masses loom across Western music history, but Mozart’s K. 427 in C Minor, the center of two Music of the Baroque concerts this month, distinguishes itself with the moniker “Great.” Also great are the two sopranos lined up to solo, the lyric Susanna Phillips and the coloratura Kathryn Lewek, the current Queen of the Night in Lyric’s Magic Flute.

Details:North Shore Center, Skokie (Jan. 22); Harris Theater (Jan. 23). $27–$75. baroque.org

Jan. 22–Apr. 23
Art

A Wish to Repair

Hyde Park

Fascinated by the way adults outgrow their childhood imaginations, Jessie Mott plumbs the depths of the unconscious, drawing out beings with animal heads and human bodies, all rendered in a surreal style that evokes a children’s book. Mott debuts 30 ink drawings, a spray-painted mural, and an existential animation.

Details:Hyde Park Art Center. Free. hydeparkart.org

Jan. 23
Rock

Kings of Leon

Near West Side

For longtime fans of the ubiquitous Southern rockers, 2016’s LP Walls was a welcome return to the band’s roots. Just listen to “Waste a Moment,” the lead single, which barrels in with revved-up guitars, buoyant percussion, and singer Caleb Followill’s warm, familiar growl.

Details:United Center. 7:30 p.m. $30–$66. ticketmaster.com

Jan. 26
Classical

Dmitry Masleev

Evanston

The quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Competition has, in its piano division, laureled the likes of Van Cliburn and Daniil Trifonov. The most recent first-place winner, Dmitry Masleev, a late-20-something with serious technical chops, tours a recital running the gamut from Scarlatti to Rachmaninoff, capped with the calling card of pianistic virtuosity, Liszt. After this concert, he hits Carnegie Hall.

Details:Nichols Concert Hall. 7:30 p.m. $30–$40. liskermusicfoundation.org

Jan. 26
Electronic/Hip-Hop

Wax Tailor

Pilsen

The popular French producer Jean-Christophe Le Saoût (a.k.a. Wax Tailor) makes a rare appearance in Chicago behind By Any Beats Necessary, his first new album in four years. On it, he returns to his trip-hop beginnings with cuts rooted in down-tempo, sample-heavy electronica.

Details:Thalia Hall. 8 p.m. $18–$180. ticketweb.com

Jan. 26–Mar. 4
Theater

Faceless

Skokie

In Selina Fillinger’s new drama, an 18-year-old is accused of plotting an act of terrorism. Fillinger only recently graduated from Northwestern University, but her career is moving fast: In 2015, the two-time winner of Northwestern’s Agnes Nixon Playwriting Festival won the first-ever Judith Barlow Prize, a national student playwriting award.

Details:Northlight Theatre. $15–$70. northlight.org

Jan. 26–Mar. 12
Theater

The Nether

Old Town

Imagine an internet with which we could indulge every sense not just virtually but literally. That’s the premise of Jennifer Haley’s mind-bending story of sex, murder, and complete sensory immersion. Director Karen Kessler helms a world of deviance, delight, and death.

Details:A Red Orchid Theatre. aredorchidtheatre.org

Jan. 26–Apr. 2
Art

One Day This Kid Will Get Larger

Lincoln Park

Millennials have never known a world without AIDS, but most know of the disease only through reality TV and celebrity gossip. This exhibition takes aim at our understanding of HIV and AIDS with works by artists who grew up in the shadow of the crisis, including Vincent Chevalier, whose home video of an HIV confession parodies a TV talk show.

Details:DePaul Art Museum. Free. museums.depaul.edu

Batsheva Dance Company
Batsheva Dance Company Photo: Gadi Dagon
Jan. 27–28
Dance

Batsheva Dance Company

Millennium Park

The Israeli company presents Ohad Naharin’s Last Work, a product of the choreographer’s iconic Gaga style, in which dancers use structured improvisation to liberate the body from traditional dance techniques. The critically beloved 2015 piece features music by the Berlin electronic producer Grischa Lichtenberger.

Details:Harris Theater. $35–$125. harristheaterchicago.org

Jan. 27–28
Art and Film

Palace Film Festival

Loop

Aural and visual arts converge as musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers collaborate in a two-day festival of performances, featuring the Detroit band Adult premiering a 40-minute film set to live electronic punk.

Details:Fine Arts Building. $20. palacefilmfest.com

Jan. 27–Feb. 9
Food

Chicago Restaurant Week

Various neighborhoods

This two-week celebration of Chicago’s culinary scene features prix fixe menus at more than 350 locations.

Details:Various locations. Sold out; see resellers. choosechicago.com

Jan. 28
Pop

Twenty One Pilots

Near West Side

In 2015, this duo from Columbus, Ohio, played an early set at Lollapalooza to little acclaim; by mid-2016, they were regulars on FM radio. Their frustratingly catchy blend of hip-hop and rock (see the single “Stressed Out”) has become a staple of the Top 40—and with such earwormy choruses, it’s tough to say they don’t deserve it.

Details:United Center. 7 p.m. $40–$60. ticketmaster.com

Jan. 28–Feb. 24
Opera

Norma

Loop

Vincenzo Bellini, one of the three core composers of the opera style bel canto, concocted a bracing aria for the title character in Norma, his opera about a Druid priestess. “Casta Diva,” the sort of aria that would be found on a greatest-hits compilation, has been sung by supersopranos such as Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, and Anna Netrebko. Sondra Radvanovsky, recently Anna Bolena here, takes on the challenge.

Details:Civic Opera House. $20–$349. lyricopera.org

Jan. 28–Mar. 5
Theater

The Wolf at the End of the Block

Wrightwood Neighbors

A new work from local playwright Ike Holter (Exit Strategy, Sender) is always exciting, but this one—a Chicago-set thriller commissioned by Teatro Vista—should be a corker. In a timeline that takes place over 48 hours, the show tracks a neighborhood reeling in the wake of a brutal crime.

Details:Teatro Vista at Victory Gardens. $20–$30. teatrovista.org

Jan. 28–Apr. 30
Art

Provoke: Photography in Japan Between Protest and Performance, 1960–1975

Loop

This exhibit identifies the short-lived Tokyo magazine Provoke as Japan’s countercultural epicenter after World War II for its photographs of demonstrations and political performances in the traumatized postwar nation. The Art Institute—the exhibit’s solo North American host—displays nearly 500 photos and some 80 books, including those by Provoke’s chief contributors.

Details:Art Institute of Chicago. $10–$25. artic.edu

Jan. 29
Recreation

Chicago Winter Bike Swap

Palatine

Looking to upgrade your two-wheeler? You’ll be hard-pressed to find better deals on bikes, parts, and gear than at the 10th annual Bike Swap. More than an open market, it’s a chance to pick the brains of some of Chicago’s most knowledgeable riders.

Details:Harper College. 9:30 a.m. $5. chicagowinterbikeswap.com

Golden Dragon Acrobats
Golden Dragon Acrobats Photo: Amitava Sarkar
Jan. 29–Mar. 5
Theater

The Book of Joseph

Navy Pier

Though they stayed locked in an attic for years, the letters Richard Hollander found in his late parents’ home—a correspondence detailing the lives of Polish Jews during World War II—went on to fuel a book, Every Day Lasts a Year. Playwright Karen Hartman adapts the collection for the stage in this world premiere, staged by Barbara Gaines.

Details:Chicago Shakespeare Theater. $38–$58. chicagoshakes.com

Jan. 31–Feb. 2
Circus

Golden Dragon Acrobats

Skokie

While this renowned company’s matinee run is aimed at the K-to-12 crowd, the performers’ feats of contortion and balance will awe all ages. Choreographer Angela Chang blends traditional Chinese dance with stunning acrobatics.

Details:North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. $10. northshorecenter.org

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