Don’t-miss picks for November 29 through December 5, 2018
1 Charlie Wilson
Soul:Years after making a name for himself with the Gap Band, Uncle Charlie continues to influence younger generations with his distinctly cheeky and nostalgic vocal style. It’s no wonder that many of today’s top artists, from Kanye West to Snoop Dogg to Justin Timberlake, have employed Wilson’s charisma to infuse their songs with something special.
11/30 at 8 p.m. $55–$129. United Center. ticketmaster.com
2 The Art Deco Nutcracker
Dance:Tchaikovsky’s traditional score meets Alexei Kremnev’s famed choreography in A&A Ballet’s fresh take on a treasured holiday classic, set in 1920s America for this rendition. Look out for a scene in which 175 performers are onstage simultaneously.
11/30–12/2. $30–$50. Studebaker Theater. aacenterfordance.org
Seasonal:It’s easy to get cynical about Chicago’s holiday standbys, seeing them more as can’t-avoid than can’t-miss events. That said, string lights, tiny Germanic huts, and the smell of warm mulled wine — served, of course, in a boot-shaped souvenir stein — have a funny way of melting such Scrooge-like sentiments away. And the market has been expanding its territory: It now occupies not just Daley Plaza but Naperville’s Naper Settlement, and — for those who would rather drive an hour or so north of the Loop than an hour toward it — Milwaukee’s Fiserv forum.
FREE Through 12/24. Daley Plaza. christkindlmarket.com
4 The Nutcracker
Dance:Tony Award–winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and an all-star design team hailing from London and Broadway joined up to build the Joffrey a sparkling new Nutcracker in 2016, moving the story from a stodgy upper-class living room to the fairgrounds of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It’s a Nutcracker for and about Chicago, and thus as lovably quirky.
Through 12/30. $35–$199. Auditorium Theatre. joffrey.org
5 The Santaland Diaries
Theater:It’s been nearly 26 years since NPR premiered David Sedaris’s subversive essay on working as an elf at Macy’s. The brief radio piece rapidly became a gimlet-eyed holiday theater classic in the form of a 90-minute one-man tour de force. Chicago’s show has been a scruffy, strictly way-Off-Loop affair until now, when it makes its main-stage debut at the Goodman. Jeff Award–winning Broadway vet Matthew Crowle (Spamalot) plays a gifted artist trapped in the heavily commercialized heart of the holiday season.
Through 12/30. $15–$51. Goodman Theatre. goodmantheatre.org
6 Chicago Style: Typography and the City
Design:Now that Printers Row is all condos, the next-best place to revisit Chicago’s typographical history is the 131-year-old Newberry Library with its extensive rare book collection. After a morning lecture by design experts Paul Gehl and Tanner Woodford, enjoy a typography-themed holiday card-making workshop led by the staff of the Design Museum of Chicago.
FREE 12/1 at 10 a.m. Newberry Library. newberry.org
7 Anna Netrebko
Opera:Nowadays opera rarely produces a figure with the instantaneous name recognition that Maria Callas or Enrico Caruso had in their time. The closest present-day comparison is this Russian diva, who gives a recital in just her second Chicago appearance (she played Mimi in La Bohème in 2013).
12/2 at 3 p.m. $59–$289. Lyric Opera House. lyricopera.org
Soul:This summer, the perfectionist R&B singer dropped the single “We Never Saw It Coming” along with The Glass House, a short-film music video for it. Twenty years after the release of the crooner’s experimental second album, Embrya, Maxwell continues to push himself creatively and artistically, signaling his latest 50-night tour is more than just your run-of-the-mill greatest-hits concert.
12/2–3. $51–$351. Chicago Theatre. ticketmaster.com
9 The Play That Goes Wrong
Theater:This play that goes wrong within this play features the dubious thespians of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and their gobsmackingly dysfunctional attempt at staging a whodunit. The mishaps are small at first (mispronunciations of the word “façade”) and balloon into a full-throttle homage to Buster Keaton (with plenty of prop comedy). If subtlety is your thing, be advised: Everything in this farce (by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields) is over the top.
12/4–16. $25–$98. Oriental Theatre. broadwayinchicago.com
10 What Remains
Dance:Lauded poet Claudia Rankine and Bessie-winning choreographer Will Rawls team up with filmmaker John Lucas for a multimedia exploration of the visibility of black people in society, or lack thereof. Created by New York artists, the piece was designed to be performed at the sprawling MCA Warehouse to locate it in Chicago, where geography and urban planning have facilitated a systematic disappearing of people of color for generations.
12/5–9. $10–$30. MCA Warehouse. mcachicago.org