Don’t-miss picks for December 20 through Jan 1, 2018

1 Wicked

Theater:The unstoppable hit inspired by L. Frank Baum’s witches returns, bringing with it the riveting backstory of Glinda and Elphaba. The show also goes deep on other characters pre-Oz, including the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion. Even Dorothy makes a brief appearance.
Through 1/21. $144–$599. Broadway in Chicago at Oriental Theatre.


Theater:Aziza Barnes made waves throughout the country performing as a slam poet. Here, Barnes debuts as a playwright, with the story of four black women growing up, coming out, and navigating modern-day New York City. Director Nataki Garrett helms a cast that includes Namir Smallwood, notching his first Steppenwolf performance since being named an ensemble member earlier this year.
Through 1/28. $48–$89. Steppenwolf.

3 Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Classical:The violinist and conductor Nikolaj Znaider leads and plays Beethoven’s canonical violin concerto and leads Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, one of the composer’s greatest career successes and most memorable openings, with its angular double-dotted imitation.
12/21–23. $36–$255. Symphony Center.

4 Dee Alexander Quartet

Jazz:The powerhouse vocalist hits Jazz Showcase for a four-night billing, playing into the final minutes of Christmas Eve.
12/21–24. $20–$35. Jazz Showcase.

5 Mykele Deville and Jeffrey Michael Austin

Music & Poetry:Mykele Deville and Jeffrey Michael Austin—two-thirds of the Growing Concerns Poetry Collective and two of Chicago’s more protean artists—perform spoken word and music inspired by Edra Soto’s Open 24 Hours exhibit at the MCA.
FREE 12/22 at 6 p.m. Museum of Contemporary Art.

6 Peter Pan

Theater:Music Theater Works possesses something no other company in Chicago comes close to: a 26-piece orchestra. Consequently, every score has a lush, full sound you won’t hear anywhere else in the city. To close out the holiday season, MTW mounts the family-friendly tale of the boy who never grew up, his pirate nemesis, and the children who fly off with him to Neverland.
12/23–1/1. $17–$96. Music Theater Works at Cahn Auditorium.

7 Nancy Spero

Art:A key figure in the Monster Roster, a group of artists in Chicago in the 1950s, Spero became known for her commentary on Greek goddesses. This exhibit gathers her works from 1985 to 2000 (including two rare self-portraits)—many of which she created using a method of pressing colored inks on paper, despite arthritis in her hands.
FREE Through 12/30. Printworks.

8 Bettina von Zwehl

Art:This London-based photographer is known for her miniature portraits, which hark back to a 16th-century tradition of painting. The miniscule images in dark hues stand as allegories of the human condition. Take, for instance, the photo of a young girl on the cusp of adolescence, wearing a snake around her neck.
FREE Through 12/30. Catherine Edelman Gallery.

9 Winter Wonderfest

Seasonal:Now in its 17th year, Navy Pier’s indoor carnival returns with rides, cookie decorating, a polar climbing wall, and photo-ops galore (think hundreds of Christmas trees covered in more than 20,000 ornaments, with a 42-footer plopped right in the center).
Through 1/7. Free–$120. Navy Pier.

10 Christmas Around the World

Seasonal:Since 1942, this annual display at the MSI has grown from a single pine into 50 trees, each decorated in a different cultural tradition by volunteers from Chicago’s diverse ethnic community. This year’s display includes new trees from Assyria, Australia, and Nigeria.
Through 1/7. $9–$16. Museum of Science and Industry.