Live theater is marking its comeback in the suburbs, and many of the region’s best venues are returning in a big way. Catch a glimpse at what’s to come in the months ahead.
When it comes to theater, there are many high-quality presentations to choose from in the Chicago region. After a significant period without audiences, local theaters, actors, musicians, technicians and designers are ramping up in a big way.
Here’s a quick peek at some of the region’s favorite theaters and what’s ahead for the coming months.
Raue Center for the Performing Arts
Crystal Lake’s downtown arts venue is decking the halls for the holiday season, and that’s just a taste of what’s to come.
On Dec. 4 and 5, Raue Center mounts its own take on a time-honored classic, “A Christmas Carol: Panto Edition.” Adapted from the well-loved story by Charles Dickens, this production promises to be an interactive, fun, family-friendly show that includes young performers from Raue Center’s Sage on Stage education program.
“This ‘Christmas Carol’ gets the whole audience involved,” says Richard Kuranda, Raue Center executive director. “It’s a great active, fun show with lots of singing, shouting and overall audience joy.”
Holidays aside, Raue Center’s resident improv company, Green Room Improv, returns with a new, monthly show. Founded in Elgin, Green Room has been delivering its brand of sharp, clean improv comedy for over 20 years now.
Raue Center’s other resident company, Williams Street Repertory, is still planning its big return with the debut of “Always…Patsy Cline.” This bittersweet musical explores the country music star’s life and features plenty of unforgettable hits.
What’s next is still in the works, but it could still include delayed performances of “Native Gardens” and “Matilda,” a musical collaboration with Sage on Stage that’s inspired by the Roald Dahl novel.
Metropolis Performing Arts Center
The arts venue in Arlington Heights returns to the indoor stage just in time for the holidays.
Their version of “A Christmas Carol” runs Dec. 2-24 and focuses on a warm-hearted, child-friendly telling of the adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge.
“It’s sort of our tradition,” says Brookes Ebetsch, executive operations director.
From Dec. 18-31, Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe returns with its annual Christmas revue, “It’s a Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Life.”
Then, from Feb. 2-March 12, Metropolis takes audiences back in time to one of Billie Holiday’s last performances. Lanie Robertson’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” is a musical play that explores Holiday’s fascinating and tragic life.
Up next, “Shout! The Mod Musical” swings into Metropolis from May 5-June 11, giving audiences a reason to dance, sing and wear wide-collared shirts. The musical explores the lives of five women in the 1960s and revives some of the decade’s most memorable hits.
Stage Coach Players
This community theater group in DeKalb makes a big return to stage with “Elf: The Musical,” running Dec. 16-19 at DeKalb’s historic Egyptian Theatre. The show is a stage-adapted musical based on the 2003 film about a man who thinks he’s an elf and winds up saving Christmas.
“It really is a beautiful story,” says Jan Kuntz, the show’s director. “And we’re going to make that sleigh fly at the Egyptian Theatre.”
Next, the Stage Coach Players plan to remount “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” a production they were forced to cancel earlier due to COVID. The show explores the complexities of a particular middle-aged couple’s marriage. Opening Jan. 20, the show runs at the Stage Coach theater in downtown DeKalb.
The crew also plan to deliver a hit of classics in the coming months, including Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” March 24-April 3, “Four Old Broads,” May 5-15, “Something Rotten,” June 9-19, and “Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced,” July 14-24.
The Stage Coach Players continue into the fall with “Drowsy Chaperone,” Aug. 18-28, “The Crucible,” Sept. 22-Oct. 2, and “Clue,” Nov. 3-13.
Audiences can contact the box office for tickets, audition information and volunteering opportunities.
Steel Beam Theatre
Small and intimate has always been a hallmark of this stage in downtown St. Charles, and it’s going to be a running theme in the year ahead.
“This year, we’re focusing very much on small productions,” says Marge Uhlarik-Boller, Steel Beam’s artistic director. “Smaller shows with two to three performers on stage at one time simply make it easier to stay safe in our space.”
Steel Beam’s latest show presents a vintage holiday cabaret called “Home for the Holidays.” Running from Dec. 3-19, the show stars singer, musician and actor Doug Orlyk.
“Doug is extraordinarily talented,” says Uhlarik-Boller. “He’s a wonderful actor and musician.”
From Jan. 14-30, Steel Beam presents “Hilarity Ensues,” a short play festival that features old and new comedic works.
Purchase tickets and learn more at steelbeamtheatre.com.
Expect plenty of big things at this downtown Aurora venue.
“This year, we’re doing ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,’” says Tim Rater, Paramount’s President and CEO. “It’s going to be one of the biggest productions that we’ve had for the holidays.”
The latest installment of Paramount’s popular Broadway Series brings together a large cast for a show that’s filled with classic show tunes. It runs Nov. 10-Jan. 9.
The Broadway Series continues Jan. 26-March 13 with “Groundhog Day: The Musical,” an adaptation of the Bill Murray film, followed by “Rock of Ages,” a 1980s rock ‘n’ roll medley that runs April 12-May 29.
Meanwhile, Paramount’s intimate and newly renovated Copley Theatre returns with Second City staging its annual holiday review. Come spring, the Copley brings a new lineup of relatively unknown new plays.
“We’ve been doing the renovation for almost two solid years,” says Rater. “It’s going to be fun to have our first audiences in that new space.”
Theatre 121, Woodstock
A recent amalgamation of the Woodstock Musical Theatre Company and TownSquare Players, this theater company is back with a fresh lineup of famous hits. Following their season opener of the play“Deathtrap,” Theatre 121 returns in November with “Elf: The Musical,” based on the beloved holiday film starring Will Farrell.
From Feb. 25-March 13, the group presents “Noises Off,” a farcical play that examines the theater world from backstage.
In April, they present the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show “The Sound of Music,” which centers around the governess of an Austrian family.
June brings Theatre 121’s production of “Urinetown: The Musical,” a satirical look at bureaucracy, politics and capitalism through the eyes of a dystopian society.
“If you’re in the Woodstock area, check out Theatre 121 at the Historic Woodstock Opera House,” says Travis Greuel, Theatre 121’s president.
All of Theatre 121’s shows are held at the historic Woodstock Opera House, on the same stage where film legends Orson Welles and Paul Newman once performed.