Williams Street Rep, Raue Center’s in-house Equity theater company, stages just a portion of the many acts that appear in downtown Crystal Lake.

A Diverse Lineup of Entertainment Ahead

You don’t have to travel far to find world-class musical and theatrical performances. Check out the lineup of top-notch entertainment that’s coming to the Raue Center for the Arts.

Williams Street Rep, Raue Center’s in-house Equity theater company, stages just a portion of the many acts that appear in downtown Crystal Lake.

Whether you’re into nationally touring acts, hit Broadway musicals, local personalities or holiday traditions, you’re likely to find it this season at Raue Center For The Arts, 26 N. Williams St., in downtown Crystal Lake.

This year’s lineup offers a broad array of entertainment aimed at audiences young, old and in between. Visitors come not only from the Crystal Lake area but also from Chicago and other suburban regions.

“Last year, we had 241 days of programming at the Raue Center, and there are only 365 days in a year,” says Miriam Naponelli, marketing manager. “We program a ton of shows.”

Events based on classic Americana, holiday cheer and good old-fashioned laughter are just the beginning of this season’s schedule.

“We have a diverse range of audiences,” Naponelli says. “With each show and audience, there is always a buzz and a neat atmosphere in the theater.”

The fall season kicks off in September with two big-name guests in a single week.

Chicago’s own Jim Belushi, a “Saturday Night Live” alum whose late brother, John, also appeared on the show, makes an appearance in Crystal Lake on Sept. 22. Belushi will be joined by comedians Megan Grano, Larry Joe Campbell and Joshua Funk – each a professional improviser who regularly tours the country.

Two days later, on Sept. 24, acclaimed humorist, author, and radio personality Garrison Keillor arrives to share insight and stories from his journey as one of America’s greatest storytellers.

Skipping ahead to November, some of the Midwest’s finest magicians and entertainers combine tricks, sleight of hand, amazing illusions and juggling during the “Nothin’ Up My Sleeve” show on Nov. 4.

“Cocktail Hour: The Show,” brings an acclaimed floorshow-to-stage experience that reinvents the excitement of classic entertainment with a mix of choreography, music and costume design. The show, produced by Ballets With A Twist, arrives Nov. 11.

Historical interpreter Clay Jenkinson graces the Raue Center stage on Nov. 18 with a unique one-man show. One of the nation’s leading interpreters of Thomas Jefferson, Jenkinson appears on stage, in costume and character, for a debate between Jefferson and President Theodore Roosevelt. The appearance is, in part, a fundraiser for the Crystal Lake Library Foundation.

Fans of live music are sure to enjoy the many tribute shows passing through the stage, including Heartache Tonight, on Nov. 25. This Eagles tribute band authentically captures the sound and style of this rock super-group.

On Jan. 6, take a glimpse into the Beatles’ history book with American English, a tribute band widely considered to be the best Beatles tribute band on tour. The show includes vintage costumes, authentic instruments and fun special effects.

Live theater remains a strong and growing part of the Raue repertoire, with Williams Street Rep (WSR) returning for another exciting season. The Raue’s in-house Equity theater company hosts regular musical theater performances and other programs that introduce audiences to some of the Chicago area’s newest thought-provoking plays.

Just in time for Halloween, WSR presents the beloved musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” which runs from Oct. 6 to Oct. 29. The sci-fi musical, based on the popular film by Roger Corman, tells the story of a boy, his crush and a bloodthirsty plant set on global domination. The next season of WSR will be announced soon, but until then, set a date to see one of WSR’s LAB Series events. The unique staged reading introduces cutting-edge new scripts read dramatically by WSR members.

The Christmas season is not to be missed at Raue Center, which becomes a flurry of celebrations meant to get you into the holiday spirit.

The Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra begins the season right when it returns for another rousing Holiday Pops Concert on Dec. 8.

The community at large is invited to participate in “Sing-Along Messiah,” with Voices in Harmony, on Dec. 10. Join the melody with these talented singers, a 25-piece orchestra and McHenry County Chorus as you celebrate one of the most meaningful holiday traditions.

“The Nutcracker,” performed by Crystal Lake’s Berkshire Ballet Theatre, returns to the Raue stage on Dec. 16 and 17. Hear Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable music, see lavish costumes, and enjoy the amazing dancing talents of area youngsters and dance professionals as they bring the classic ballet to life.

Modern Day Romeos & Lava Rock wrap up the season with a special “Home For The Holidays,” concert that runs the weekend before Christmas and again before New Year’s. Reminisce with WSR Ensemble members, the WSR Comedy troupe and other local favorites in this homegrown holiday special.

The new year opens with a hoot as three-time Emmy Award-winning comedian Louie Anderson graces the Raue Center stage on Jan. 27. Anderson, who was named one of the “100 greatest stand-up comedians of all time” by Comedy Central, is one of the country’s most recognized and adored comics.

Plenty more is to come. Keep an eye out for the new Raue Café programming, which brings talented local artists to the coffeehouse-style environment of the Raue lobby. The intimate venue has a small stage, with drinks and light snacks available for purchase. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

The small café is also home to the Get Lit(erary) monthly reading series, in which WSR members read selected themed classic and contemporary literary works on the second Thursday of the month. And, the stage welcomes periodic open mic and poetry night events that are gaining notice.

Naponelli promises much more lies ahead throughout the new year.

“We try to find a mixed bag of names, rock ‘n’ roll acts and community acts that the community can join as well, like Sing-Along Messiah,” Naponelli says. “We also have wonderful restaurants and bars right down the street, so people can come to the area and have dinner before coming to a show.”

A Selection of Upcoming Shows:

Jim Belushi
Sept. 22, 8 p.m. This “Saturday Night Live” and “Second City” veteran graces the stage with members of the Board of Comedy – all experts at improv comedy sketches.

Garrison Keillor
Sept. 24, 8 p.m. This acclaimed humorist, author and radio personality is best known as the former host of the live radio variety show “A Prairie Home Companion.”

WSR: “Little Shop of Horrors”
Oct. 6-29, Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.; Oct. 13, 7 p.m. The campy, gleefully gruesome musical about a boy, his crush and a bloodthirsty plant who has his mind set on global domination. Presented by Williams Street Rep.

Nothin’ Up My Sleeve
Nov. 4, 7 p.m. A family-friendly variety show filled with magic, juggling and comedy entertainment.

Cocktail Hour: The Show
Nov. 11, 8 p.m. “Ballet with a Twist NYC” reinvents the glamour and excitement of classic entertainment, combining Hollywood’s Golden Age with a sleek 21st century sensibility.

Clay Jenkinson
Nov. 18, 8 p.m. Appearing in costume and character, Jenkinson presents both sides in a debate between Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.

Heartache Tonight: Eagles Tribute
Nov. 25, 8 p.m. Relive the Eagles experience with some of the group’s greatest hits.

Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra
Dec. 8, 8 p.m. Enjoy the beloved Holiday Pops Concert, featuring festive combinations of contemporary and classic hits.

Sing-Along Messiah
Dec. 10, 4 p.m. Voices in Harmony and a 25-piece orchestra perform Handel’s masterwork, with help from McHenry County College Chorus and the audience.

“The Nutcracker” Ballet
Dec. 16-17, Sat. 1 & 5 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m. The Berkshire Ballet Theatre delights with lavish costumes and powerful dancing set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved music.