After an extended stint working on collaborative albums (one with Joshua Abrams’s Natural Information Society and another with indie legend Bonnie “Prince” Billy), this local electronic outfit returned to their own act in November with Bajas Fresh. The seven-song album, their first since 2014, finds the band experimenting with the same sonic textures and New-Agey synth pads that gained them a cult following back in 2010. Here, they’ll greet a hometown crowd upon their return from the national stage.
Details:Hungry Brain. 8:30 p.m. $10. hungrybrainchicago.com
As the gleefully gruff Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, Offerman, a native of Minooka, Illinois, made a strong case for an old-school, hirsute brand of masculinity long presumed dead. That his standup mines similar territory should come as no surprise, since much of the Swanson persona was inspired by Offerman’s off-screen penchant for carpentry and the outdoors. See “Nick Offerman’s Influences: His Wife, Steve Martin, and (Actually) Nature” for more on his Full Bush tour.
Details:Chicago Theatre. 7 and 9:30 p.m. $40–$60. thechicagotheatre.com
Modern works in the classical tradition, no matter how good, rarely get a second performance. That applies to new-music pieces as well, but the creative string quartet Spektral plans to change that with a new series, Once More, with Feeling!, where the musicians play a piece, talk about it, and then play it again. Eliza Brown’s String Quartet No. 1 is first up.
Details:Constellation. 8:30 p.m. $5–$15. spektralquartet.com
Chicago Elite Classic
Near West Side
Some of the top high school basketball teams from Chicago and around the country face off in this two-day showcase, which offers a glimpse of top NCAA recruits and perhaps future NBA talent (Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker, and Jayson Tatum are among past participants who went pro). Two prolific point guards in the class of 2018 headline the event: University of Illinois–bound Ayo Dosunmu, from Chicago’s Morgan Park, and Tyger Campbell, of Indiana’s star-studded La Lumiere. Also watch for two standout juniors: Juwan Gary (Gray Collegiate in South Carolina) and Aurora native Malik Hall (Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas).
Details:UIC Pavilion. $10–$15. ticketmaster.com
The Joffrey Ballet’s revamped Nutcracker gets its second year in the sun after a marquee premiere in 2016. The brainchild of Christopher Wheeldon and a gaggle of Broadway designers, the production shines brightest in its first half, which sets the classic E.T.A. Hoffmann tale in the winter before Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition.
Details:Auditorium Theatre. $35–$165. auditoriumtheatre.org
For the month of December, Martin Lawrence Galleries will exhibit works by this Franco-Russian “father of Art Deco,” who created more than 200 covers for Harper’s Bazaar and helped design costume and the set for Ben-Hur. Perhaps more importantly, Barbara Streisand gushed that Erté’s art “stood the test of time”—not bad for an admiral’s son from St. Petersburg.
Details:Martin Lawrence Galleries in Schaumburg. Free. martinlawrence.com/art-gallery-schaumburg
Little Red Cyrano
Red Theater smashes together the wolfish violence of “Little Red Riding Hood” and the romantic eloquence of Cyrano de Bergerac in this fairy tale–swashbuckler hybrid. The performance, which features hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf actors using American Sign Language, uses physicality and clowning to blend the stories of a child’s encounter with a deceptive wolf and a besotted young man who outsources his wooing.
Details:Red Theater at Strawdog Theatre. $15–$40. redtheater.org
Theo Ubique mounts Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker’s profane riff on Christian music, which takes the form of a concert by a five-member boy band. The show is hilarious—though the pope probably wouldn’t think so.
Details:Theo Ubique Theatre at the No Exit Cafe. $20–$39. theo-u.com
Broadway vet Gary Griffin (Honeymoon in Vegas, The Color Purple) directs Lolita Chakrabarti’s deep dive on Ira Aldridge, the actor who, in 1833 at London’s Theatre Royal, became the first black man to play Othello. A star in Warsaw, Kiev, and Moscow, Aldridge was savaged by racist critics in New York and England. His history-making debut in London coincided with a Parliamentary bill advocating for the end of slavery, setting the scene for a historic intersection of art and politics.
Details:Chicago Shakespeare Theater. $20–$88. chicagoshakes.com
Cirque Musica Holiday Presents Believe
If you like your holiday cheer with a dash of contortionism, consider this touring show, which features acrobats, aerialists, clowns, and jugglers from the now-shuttered Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus (plus a live symphony orchestra).
Details:Rosemont Theatre. $25–$225. ticketmaster.com
Run the Jewels
They may be known for their half-political, half-hypersexual lyrics, but this hip-hop duo can be goofy, too. Take their zombie-fighting statuette, a collectible that features the two emcees rendered as action figures perched atop a mound of defeated undead. If you aren’t willing to scour the depths of eBay for one of those figurines, drown your sorrows at this raucous live show (tickets are in almost equally high demand).
Details:Aragon Ballroom. 7 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
There are comeback stories, and then there’s this local footwork producer’s comeback story. Rush emerged from Chatham more than two decades ago (at the unlikely age of 10) and had built a following by age 13, but eventually called it quits and headed to school. After studying at UIC and holding jobs as a CT scan tech, chemical engineer, and volunteer firefighter, Rush pivoted back to music, this year releasing the debut full-length Pariah, a boundary-pushing collection of songs that challenge just what it means to make footwork in 2017.
Details:Hideout. 11:59 p.m. $5. hideoutchicago.com
Now in its 12th year and showing no sign of slowing, this adults-only holiday bash sees dozens of drinkers take to the streets of downtown for a day of Yuletide bar-hopping. Santa costumes are required, though full beards are optional.
Details:Various venues. Noon. Free. originalchicagosantacon.com
Hit this holiday market for its Scandinavian handicrafts; stay for the candlelit St. Lucia processions and gratis folk-dance performances. Just keep an eye out for the tomten, a mischievous, elf-like creature who’ll make appearances throughout the day.
Details:Swedish American Museum. 10 a.m. $2 donation. swedishamericanmuseum.org
Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Fair
For 15 years, this event has been a source of funky holiday gifts—many of them handmade by creative Chicagoans—including jewelry, prints, chocolates, and other artisanal tchotchkes.
Details:Bridgeport Art Center. Free. renegadecraft.com
Near West Side
More than a year after Beyoncé dropped her masterpiece Lemonade—and with it, a slew of allusions to her husband’s infidelity—Jay-Z came out of the woodwork to confirm fans’ suspicions. On the title track of his latest album, 4:44, the rapper owns up to his shortcomings with excruciating honesty. What got less attention was the rest of the album, which addresses issues surrounding black wealth (“The Story of O.J.”), homophobia in hip-hop (“Family Feud”), and representation in pop culture (“Moonlight”). The latter even came with a video, featuring rising black performers starring in a watered-down remake of Friends. Count on the same multimedia storytelling at this big-budget stadium gig.
Details:United Center. 8 p.m. $40–$385. ticketmaster.com
Near North Side
Of the many holiday choral perennials, the concerts put on by this Bay Area–based all-male chamber choir rise above, and not just because the men frequently perform mixed-chorus music with some singing falsetto. The precision, chronological scope, impressive arrangements, and virtuosity on display exceed the expectations of those waiting for yet another version of “Silent Night.”
Details:Fourth Presbyterian Church. $39–$61. cso.org
Near North Side
Straight out of London comes this a cappella show, which applies pitch-perfect precision to beatboxing and vocal harmonies. Starring performers billed as the Girl, the Woman, the Man, the Chap, the Engineer, and the Diva, the production promises a wall of sound built solely from human singing voices.
Details:Broadway in Chicago at Broadway Playhouse. $36–$122. broadwayinchicago.com
For this production of Puccini’s last opera, Lyric bucks its season-long trend of booking singers familiar to Chicago audiences, with the exception of the title princess, played by big-voiced Amber Wagner. Stefano La Colla plays Turandot’s suitor, Calaf, who sings the showstopper “Nessun Dorma.” A feted Calaf all over Europe, La Colla makes a rare American appearance and his house debut here. Lyric casts two Liùs, Maria Agresta (December) and Janai Brugger (January), both also gracing Lyric’s stage for the first time.
Details:Civic Opera House. $17–$369. lyricopera.org
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
King was a teenager when she penned “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” in 1960. Since then, her music has provided the soundtrack for countless lives. This jukebox musical tracks her long career, including sure-to-please renditions of “You’ve Got a Friend,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” “It’s Too Late,” and more.
Details:Broadway in Chicago at Cadillac Palace Theatre. $30–$172. broadwayinchicago.com
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.
Details:Broadway in Chicago at Oriental Theatre. $62–$269. broadwayinchicago.com
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Hubbard’s winter series features three works by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite. The company has spotlighted the magnificent male solo from A Picture of You Falling several times. Here, the full duet is presented in its entirety alongside two company premieres: The Other You, penned for Pite’s company, Kidd Pivot, and Grace Engine, a work for the now-defunct Cedar Lake Ballet.
Details:Harris Theater. $25–$110. hubbardstreetdance.com
One of a Kind
Near North Side
Roughly 600 designers congregate for this annual high-end craft fest, where the focus is on handmade objects. Stroll the aisles for smaller items, like blown-glass sculptures and jewelry, or go all out with handcrafted furniture and large-scale paintings by artists on the rise.
Details:Merchandise Mart. $12–$20. oneofakindshowchicago.com
Near North Side
The iconic choreographer pulls from her massive body of work in Minimalism and Me, a world premiere created specifically for the MCA. In it, Tharp focuses on the influence of visual art in some of her pieces from the late 1960s.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $45. mcachicago.org
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Heedless of the wind and weather, the CSO’s subscription concerts continue chugging along through December without tinseled programming. The conductor Neeme Järvi leads Smetana selections and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5 on either side of Samuel Barber’s cello concerto, played by the MacArthur “genius” Alisa Weilerstein.
Details:Symphony Center. $34–$220. cso.org
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.
Details:Steppenwolf. $20–$89. steppenwolf.org
For years, Birbiglia was best known as a regular contributor to Chicago Public Media’s This American Life. But since 2012, he’s also written and directed two critically acclaimed indie flicks (including last year’s Don’t Think Twice), landed two Netflix specials, and made acting turns on Girls and Orange Is the New Black. Here, he pivots back to his brand of narrative standup.
Details:Chicago Theatre. 7 p.m. $33–$53. thechicagotheatre.com
The Chicago Architecture Biennial closes with this performance art event, which draws inspiration from a Miami dance party and asks how to make architecture more joyful. The answer? Music, dance, drag, a cash bar, and an installation on the Chicago Athletic Association’s former basketball court by fiber artist Melissa Leandro.
Details:Chicago Athletic Association. Free. 8 p.m. theside.show
The new-music sextet, which plugs in collaborators like a pan-musical socket wrench, performs a cantata with the electronic composer and fiddler Dan Trueman, the poet Paul Muldoon, and the Irish vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird. Olagón interweaves a traditional Irish tale about foster brothers who battle to the death with contemporary Irish economic struggles. Performed in English and Gaelic, it blends American, Irish, and Norwegian traditional music.
Details:Victory Gardens Theater. $20. eighthblackbird.org
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater
The contemporary company closes its 20th season with Indumba, a work by South African choreographer Fana Tshabalala that has been reconfigured to contextualize the impact of apartheid in the United States. Also included: a smattering of favorites from the company’s history.
Details:Logan Center for the Arts. $45–$150. deeplyrooteddancetheater.org
Hyde Park School of Dance’s take on the holiday ballet boasts 200 performers and a hip-hop battle between the mice and soldiers, who’ll go toe-to-toe with dance in lieu of stage violence.
Details:Mandel Hall. Free–$40. hydeparkdance.org
Trade Routes Festival
A beefed-up version of Links Hall’s Midwest Nexus program pairs five local artists with like-minded out-of-towners for a series of split-bill performances. Especially enticing: a match-up between Mitsu Salmon and butoh-inspired Michael Sakamoto, plus J’Sun Howard’s ongoing project called Working on Better Versions of Prayers.
Details:Links Hall. $10–$40. linkshall.org
The Jesus Lizard
This show marks the Chicago noise rockers’ first tour in nearly a decade, and it’s also part of the Metro’s ongoing 35th anniversary celebration. That’s apt, given that the band regularly packed the Wrigleyville venue for 25-song headlining sets during their heyday in the 1990s. After breaking up at the end of the decade, the Jesus Lizard returned for a brief stint in 2008, then called it quits again in 2010. Consider this your final final chance to see the raucous local legend.
Details:Metro. 9 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
Music Institute of Chicago
In Duke It Out, the Music Institute mashes up Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker with the version by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The dancing draws on a variety of styles—previous companies include Tapman Productions, Visceral Dance, and the Kate Jablonski Statement.
Details:Nichols Concert Hall. 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. $7. musicinst.org
In a recent interview with WWD, this singer, who began her career in Chicago and is now based in Asheville, North Carolina, described 2017 as her “yes year.” And since releasing her third solo album, My Woman, Olsen has certainly said yes to a lot, including festival sets, Conan appearances, and nearly nonstop touring. She’ll take a break eventually, but not before this homecoming show.
Details:Riviera Theatre. 8 p.m. $25. ticketfly.com
Sammy: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr.
Playwright Daryl Brooks premieres a bio of the Rat Pack member, activist, and entertainer. Expect juicy biographical details and plenty of music in a show that spans Davis’s vaudeville years to his ascension as a Las Vegas headliner.
Details:Black Ensemble Theater. $45–$65. blackensembletheater.org
Catch the abstract sculptor’s powerful retrospective before it closes. Known for filling pantyhose with sand and stretching them into provocative shapes, Nengudi uses the sculptures, which resemble sagging bodies, to comment on the gravity of motherhood.
Details:DePaul Art Museum. Free. museums.depaul.edu
Chicago Tap Theatre
Chock-full of holiday cheer, this tap extravaganza ushers in the winter with live music toasting Christmas and Hanukkah. If you’re not into The Nutcracker, this show offers a rousing afternoon of fun for the family.
Details:North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. 3 p.m. $24–$40. chicagotaptheatre.com
Near West Side
It wouldn’t be the holidays without a residency from these roots-rock Californians. Eclectic and compelling, their brand of Chicano rock continues to resonate with fans across the globe after more than four decades. In 2015, the Lobos released their 22nd (!) album, Gates of Gold, with influences from country and zydeco to folk and cumbia. And with a career dating back to 1973, you can count on a tight live show.
Details:City Winery. $65–$78. citywinery.com
One of the world’s most renowned contemporary architects, the Japanese minimalist uses concrete to create pieces reminiscent of flat, shimmering water. In a rare lecture, Ando details his trademark use of natural light and austere geometry in his newest building projects.
Details:Art Institute of Chicago. 6:30 p.m. Free with museum admission. artic.edu
The former VP’s sense of humor and down-to-earth personality have endeared him to those on both sides of the aisle, as well as to purveyors of political comedy (see the Onion’s Diamond Joe caricature). As he hits the road in support of his new memoir, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose (a copy of which is included in the price of admission), Biden attempts to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans, striving, per the press release, to go “beyond the 24-hour news cycle and 140-character arguments.”
Details:Chicago Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $40–$90. thechicagotheatre.com
Near North Side
He may not be a true hometown son, but his years in Chicago (and Lake Forest, where he was born) clearly made an indelible impression on the multi-instrumentalist. See “Andrew Bird Brings His Sweeping Symphony of Sounds to Chicago” for more.
Details:Fourth Presbyterian Church. $46–$54. ticketfly.com
Near North Side
In In Progress, photographer Suryajaya will create works in front of a live audience—an attempt at peeling back the curtain on his creative process. At the end, viewers can give feedback.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Free for Illinois residents. mcachicago.org
After years playing crumbling Chicago concert halls with questionable acoustics, this Brooklyn-bred band upgrades to the Civic Opera House. It’s a perfect setting for their brand of steady, contemplative indie rock, especially given that most of their fans’ moshing days are well behind them. Catch the two-night engagement behind Sleep Well Beast, September’s critically beloved seventh album of (slightly proggy) jams.
Details:Civic Opera House. Sold out; see resellers.
Near North Side
The Poetry Foundation’s annual bash brings together local poets and fans for music, libations, and readings by the likes of Mai Der Vang and CM Burroughs.
Details:Poetry Foundation. Free. 7 p.m. poetryfoundation.org
Post War and Contemporary Art Auction
Near West Side
Art aficionados know to hunt for masterpieces at Hindman’s auctions. This winter sale features international stars, like Liu Kuo-sung, China’s greatest modern master, whose ink and watercolor landscape from 2003 is estimated to fetch more than half a million dollars.
Details:Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. 10 a.m. Free. lesliehindman.com
Chicago Moving Company
In Untethered, this contemporary company highlights a range of new dances across two distinct weekends. The second weekend marks the culmination of Demonstrate, a component of the project that includes works in progress mentored by Peter Carpenter and Kristina Isabelle.
Details:Hamlin Park Fieldhouse. $5–$10. chicagomovingcompany.org
Consider this performance a milestone. Between 1741, when Handel composed the oratorio Messiah, and 1879, when the Apollo Chorus began performing the majestic choral-orchestral pillar, 138 years elapsed. This year marks the 138th anniversary of the chorus’s annual tradition. That makes it official: Apollo, the oldest continuously operating musical organization in Chicago, has now sung Messiah for half of the oratorio’s existence.
Details:Harris Theater. $30–$70. apollochorus.org
William Ferris Chorale
Lake View, La Grange
The long-sustaining chamber choir, which survived the sudden death of its eponymous founder seventeen years ago, went to radio silence after its holiday concerts last year. In a bonafied Christmas miracle, the choir has reassembled to put on a new seasonal performance, hopefully to continue into a new era of palatable but unpandering contemporary choral music.
Details:Dec. 16: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Dec. 17: Emmanuel Episcopal Church, La Grange. $25–$30. williamferrischorale.org
Twelfth Night, or What You Will
Director Dylan S. Roberts and composers Elizabeth Rentfro and Alex Mauney take on Shakespeare’s hilariously troubled love story about a melancholy countess who falls for a cross-dressing sailor. There’s also a lovesick prude whose cruel fate leaves the play with a hint of bitterness. As romances go, this one’s dipped in acid.
Details:Midsommer Flight at Lincoln Park Conservatory. Free (reserve seat online). midsommerflight.com
The Brandenburg Concertos
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, now a fixture on the chamber scene, reloads a holiday tradition that’s nonreligious, unless it’s the worship of J.S. Bach. The top-notch musicians—all world-class soloists and small-group players—run the gamut of Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos, perfumed with nobility if not with frankincense and myrrh.
Details:Harris Theater. 7:30 p.m. $30–$60. harristheaterchicago.org
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass
Perhaps no major orchestra is associated more closely with one of its sections than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is with its brass, a legacy established by the former music directors Fritz Reiner and Georg Solti. Every winter, the brass gets its own showcase concert, always when there’s a crowd in town for the Midwest Clinic, a band and orchestra conference.
Details:Symphony Center. 8 p.m. $33–$130. cso.org
It took mere seconds for this L.A. R&B singer (real name Solána Rowe) to sell out the Chicago stop on her tour back in September. Due to the demand (and after airing her frustrations on social media), the singer announced this second show, which sold almost as quickly. Those are two reasons to justify grabbing a resale ticket—in addition to the all-too-relatable tunes about romantic miscommunication and desperation.
Details:Concord Music Hall. 6 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The violinist and conductor Nikolaj Znaider leads and plays Beethoven’s canonical violin concerto and then just leads Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, one of the composer’s greatest career successes and most memorable openings, with its angular double-dotted imitation.
Details:Symphony Center. $36–$250. cso.org
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.
Details:Music Theater Works at Cahn Auditorium. $17–$96. musictheaterworks.com
Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas craft and food fair returns for its 22nd year—and frankly, it would be hard to picture a holiday season without it. Things can get crowded in the petite German village, but Glühwein and apple strudel await those who tough it out.
Details:Daley Plaza. Free. christkindlmarket.com
Near North Side
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.
Details:Printworks. Free. printworkschicago.com
Bettina von Zwehl
Near North Side
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.
Details:Catherine Edelman Gallery. Free. edelmangallery.com