She & Him: M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel
M. Ward (left) and Zooey Deschanel as She & Him

Ranked from highest profile to biggest surprise

JUST FOR LAUGHS 6/15-19 The comedy fest’s lineup includes the likes of Ellen, Denis Leary, and Aziz Ansari, but if you don’t have tickets already—well, that’s no laughing matter.

SHE & HIM 6/7 “Summer” is practically synonymous with “gratis”: June alone brings don’t-miss free concerts by The Books, Balkan Beat Box, Tinariwen—and this duo, composed of the indie-film It Girl Zooey Deschanel and the folkie singer-songwriter M. Ward.

BEETHOVEN FESTIVAL 6/2-20 Nine symphonies, three weeks, one dogged conductor: Bernard Haitink leads the complete Beethoven cycle at the CSO.

BEER HOPTACULAR! 6/4-5 Sort of like Beethoven Fest, with suds in place of strings: 30 microbreweries and counting (including World Beer Cup 2010 honorees Dogfish Head and Chicago’s own Goose Island) have signed on for this inaugural ode to beer.

JOÃO GILBERTO 6/29 Forget Beyoncé and Justin Bieber. If summer has one all-time official song, it’s “The Girl from Ipanema.” Are you listening, Gilberto? Consider that a request.

PRINTERS ROW LIT FEST 6/12-13 Ground zero for beach reads from the good and trashy to the rare and out of print; plus, literati including Adam Langer, Audrey Niffenegger, and Elizabeth Berg.

ABIGAIL’S PARTY 6/30-7/4 If the play’s two springtime extensions didn’t convince you, maybe the third time’s the charm: A Red Orchid Theatre reprises its Jeff-recommended take on Mike Leigh’s dark comedy at Theater on the Lake.

THE SCOTLAND YARD GOSPEL CHOIR 6/19 Gospel Fest rocks Millennium Park 6/5-6, but we’re saving a few hallelujahs for this local chamber-pop group’s triumphant return to the stage following a van accident last fall.

CHERRYWOOD Opening 6/17 A way-out-there play involving werewolves on an off-off-off-Loop stage? With the highly acclaimed David Cromer at the helm, yes.

PEOPLE WASN’T MADE TO BURN Through 8/29 In 1948, Ben Shahn created a series of illustrations for Harper’s Magazine on the trial of the Chicagoan James Hickman, who, after losing his children in a West Side apartment fire, killed his landlord. See the original drawings’ first public exhibition at the Smart.