A scene from ‘War Horse’
HOUSE CALL The House Theatre’s reimagined Nutcracker is chock full of dark twists.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 12.26.12 through Tue 1.1.13:


theatre The nutcracker
Still need a Christmas fix? This reimagined show drops the Tchaikovsky ballet for an original score—and plenty of twisted drama.
GO: Through 12/30; $25–$35. House Theatre at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division. thehousetheatre.com


jazz Chicago Jazz Orchestra
Saxophonist Ernie Watts, a former Frank Zappa sideman, leads the 15-piece band in a stirring 72nd-birthday tribute to Zappa.
GO: 12/29 at 7:30; $15–$45. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E Randolph. chicagojazzorchestra.com


Marking the tenth year of reliably roof-raising holiday shows, the beloved local veterans again will serve up their boozy, boisterous combination of hardcore country twang and melodic punk wallop.
GO: 12/28 and 29 at 9; $14. Schubas Tavern, 3159 N Southport. schubas.com


Jimmy Smits makes his Chicago stage debut in this dark, irreverent tale of a paroled drug user who tries to return to life as normal—until he discovers his girlfriend may have cheated on him.
GO: 12/28–12/31; $20–$86, previews $20–$57. Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N Halsted. Steppenwolf.org


In celebration of the Hollywood megastudio, the film centre teams up with UCLA to present Universal Pictures: Celebrating 100 Years, a program featuring some of the studio’s biggest hits.
GO: Through 1/3.; $11 general admission, $7 students, $6 members. Siskel Film Center, 164 N State. Siskelfilmcenter.org


Zac Whittenburg
Zac Whittenburg

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals—a.k.a. people we like: Zac Whittenburg, the manager of communications at Hubbard Street Dance Company.

Thursday I’m going to meet up with a friend at Marty’s Martini Bar in Andersonville, which I love. It’s great in the wintertime. They do a classic dirty vodka martini pretty close to perfectly, which is kind of how I roll.

Friday, I got tickets to see Victory Gardens’ Failure: A Love Story. I’ve been trying to go since it opened last month, and this is the closing weekend coming up. Philip Dawkins, the playwright, is a dear friend of mine, but independent of that, I really enjoyed The Homosexuals, which is the last play of his that I saw. After that, I have a few friends still in town that are just as fanatic about karaoke as I am, and Bobby Love’s on Halsted has a pretty decent karaoke night. And it’s in Boystown, so there’s a healthy contingent of people who can really belt something out.

Saturday, I’ve been going to the Paper Machete [a weekly "live" magazine with performances and commentary on current events] since a little after it started in Lincoln Square. Now it’s in the Green Mill, which feels like the ideal location for what they do. It’s really hit its stride; the last couple of episodes I’ve been to have been really packed. A few weeks ago there was a whole tribe of Klingons who were there, performing to promote A Klingon Christmas Carol. I just love that concept of performing a live promo for a theatre production.

Sunday, I’ll meet some friends for brunch. It’s one of the great traditions of city life, and you’ve got to do it as much as you can. What I want to do Sunday evening is see The Book of Mormon. I have been working every connection I have to get into that show, but they are just completely booked. I may go and try my hand at the lottery, but if I can’t see it, it’s my resolution for 2013. —As told to Emmet Sullivan


Painter-cum-sculptor Sam Jaffe’s wildly inventive multicolored installations, produced from items found in thrift stores, provide a welcome respite from the ubiquitous white of December in Chicago, and her new project at 65 Grand is no exception.
GO: Through 1/5. 65 Grand, 1369 W Grand. 65grand.com


Photography: (Nutcracker) The House Theatre; (Whittenburg) Nathan West