Sleepless in Chicago

Letters to Santa: Weirder in the wee hours

What’s harder than crafting a scene out of nothing in front of a crowd of rowdy strangers? Doing it for 24 hours straight. The Second City (1608 N. Wells St.; 312-337-3992) presents its seventh annual 24-hour improv benefit The Second City That Never Sleeps: Letters to Santa, stocked with enough ensemble members, alumni, and guest artists to guarantee the hilarity will increase as sleep deprivation sets in. The show kicks off 9 p.m. Tuesday the 9th and finishes up 9 p.m. Wednesday the 10th with the added bonus of live-music sets from the local alt-country hero Robbie Fulks (noon Wednesday) and pop icons The Breeders (4 p.m. Wednesday), plus a grand finale from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (9 p.m. Wednesday). Tickets—$10 for the entire 24-hour show; $20 for the show plus Tweedy—are available at the door only; proceeds go to presents for needy kids.


Best Bets for Things to Do This Week

Feel Good
It’s a Wonderful Life is in such aggressive TV rotation this time of year, it’s hard to imagine seeing the tale in a new light. But American Theater Company (1909 W. Byron St.; continues to achieve the unthinkable with its annual production of It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, Frank Capra’s classic retooled as a 1940s radio program, complete with commercial breaks and live sound effects. The play runs through December 28th; tickets are $35 to $40; and—score!—free milk and cookies are provided after each show.

Dance Well
The dancing equivalent of the Do-It-Yourself Messiah, Dance-Along Nutcracker invites sugarplum fairies of all ages to learn steps from the ballet, with instruction from pros and musical accompaniment by the Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band. Pirouette lessons begin at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday the 7th at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.; 312-744-6630). Admission is free.

Dress Better
Clinton Kelly,
cohost of TLC’s What Not to Wear, signs copies of his new book, Freakin’ Fabulous, 7 p.m. Monday the 8th at Borders (830 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-573-0564). Before-you-go homework: Read up and dress chic. Kelly’s not one to hold his tongue when it comes to evaluating outfits, and you don’t want to be called out on those gold-lamé stirrup pants.
Sing Along
Harry Shearer
of This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind fame lends his wit to a genre that could use a little dressing down: Christmas carols. Shearer and his wife, the Welsh singer Judith Owen, lead a part-snarky, part-sincere holiday sing-along 8 p.m. Thursday the 11th at SPACE (1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; Tickets are $20 to $40.

Give Freely
Bacon-of-the-month is so fattening; flower-of-the-month is so granny. Still searching for the perfect way to say “I love you” all year long? Sign your sweetie up for the Art of the Month Club, a postcard series from Star RM, a.k.a. Ryan Maconochie. The graphic artist hosts a show of his monthly artwork to date from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday the 5th and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday the 6th at Country Club Chicago (1100 N. Damen Ave.; 773-368-4045). Entry is free; $20 gets you a subscription to the Art of the Month Club.

Party More
Less money on gas means more money for beer: Get down with the city’s two-wheeling set when the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) hosts its annual Bike Town Bash, 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday the 6th at Epiphany Episcopal Church (201 S. Ashland Ave.; Festivities include a raffle, food, drinks, and music from DJ Chris Colton. Tickets are $25.

Photograph: Courtesy of The Second City