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Artful holidays to celebrate spirit of season in music, word and song

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(Photo courtesy of Tom King)
In the Fox Valley, the Paramount Theatre’s in-house production of “Annie” features 12-year-old Caroline Heffernan in the title role, with Gene Weygandt as Daddy Warbucks, and Mikey the dog as Sandy (not pictured). The director is the award-winning Rachel Rockwell of Berwyn.
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(Submitted photo)
Children in the cast sing carols outside Steel Beam Theatre for every performance of “Scrooge the Musical,” the main-stage production playing Fridays through Sundays until Dec. 23 in St. Charles, plus two Thursday evenings. After winning critical acclaim for his portrayal last season, Steve Connell returns as the title character.
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(Submitted photo)
The Sabre Room Dancers will star in holiday shows Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15, and New Year’s Eve.
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(Submitted photo)
Coming to Cantigny in Wheaton are the Canterbury Carollers, whose members Andrew Thies (from left), Leslie Menconi, Daniel Miller, Lisa Miller, Nikki Kanzia, Susan Eastwood and Alan Weiger are shown performing at the White House. The singers hail from Elmhurst, Bensenville and Villa Park.
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(Courtesy photo)
State Street Dance of Geneva’s “The Nutcracker” will be performed at 1 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, in the new Batavia Fine Arts Centre.

One of the best gifts of the holidays is sampling from the sumptuous array of entertainment. Friends and family can share the music of the season in concerts, enter the magical realms of “The Nutcracker” ballet, and experience the thrills of live theater in shows from heartwarming to comically skewed.

Agape Ringers
ADDRESS
Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, 149 W. Brush Hill Road, ElmhurstCONTACT (309) 365-2910, www.agaperingers.org Ring in the holidays with an accomplished handbell ensemble, The Agape Ringers, whose “Sounds of the Season” begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, in Elmhurst. The group, which rehearses in La Grange, is directed by David Weck, music editor with Agape/Hope Publishing Company of Carol Stream. The concert features Christmas favorites in fresh arrangements, along with selections from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite,” accompanied by guest artists from Midwest Ballet Theatre of Downers Grove. Tickets cost $19 until Dec. 8, and $25 after that date. Patron seats cost $35.

Sabre Room shows
ADDRESS
8900 W. 95th St., Hickory HillsCONTACT (708) 598-1200, www.sabreroom.com The Sabre Room Dancers will entertain, when the banquet hall — noted as a romantic spot for weddings and other special events — opens its doors to celebrate the season with holiday shows Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15. The evening also features a comedian and vocalist, with dancing after the show to tunes spun by a DJ in a room transformed into a winter wonderland. Dinner is served at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. “It’s festive and happy — all the dance numbers that the Sabre Room Dancers perform (in their) cute costumes … are set to the traditional holiday songs,” says owner-manager Jan Voit. The cost starts at $25, and guests order from the menu. The Sabre Room Dancers will be back for a special New Year’s Eve show at 10 p.m., preceded by dinner at 7 p.m. The cost is $75 per person, which includes a New York strip steak dinner, open bar, holiday show, dancing, hats, horns, favors and champagne toast at midnight. Call for reservations.

Ladies Night Out & Holiday Bazaar
ADDRESS
White Pines Golf Club & Banquets, 500 W. Jefferson Ave., BensenvilleCONTACT (630) 766-0304, Ext. 2, www.bensenvilleparkdistrict.org In another definition of entertainment, guests can complete their holiday shopping while spending time with friends at White Pines’ Ladies Night Out & Holiday Bazaar from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7. The Bensenville Park District notes the evening presents boutique shopping and pampering spa services, as guests sample from an array of hors d’oeuvres, sweets and wine. Each will receive a ticket for a chance to win prize drawings held all evening. Admission costs $10 at the door.
West Suburban Symphony
ADDRESS
Hinsdale Central High School, 55th and Grant streets, HinsdaleCONTACT (630) 887-7464, www.westsubsymphony.org Narration by Bill Moller of WGN Radio, as well as “Nutcracker” selections are among highlights of a holiday concert by the West Suburban Symphony, conducted by Peter Lipari. It begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, in Hinsdale. “You’ll capture the wonder of the holidays with joyful seasonal music at this concert for the whole family,” says Richard Lukes of Berwyn, president of the symphony. “And we expect a jolly visitor from the North Pole to drop in, as well.” Holcombe’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” will be narrated by Moller. Tickets cost $22, $20 for seniors, $5 for teens. Admission is free for children. Tickets may be purchased at the door starting at 3 p.m. on concert day with cash or check.
‘The Christmas Schooner’
ADDRESS
Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., ChicagoCONTACT (773) 325-1700, www.mercurytheaterchicago.com Fans of playwright John Reeger of Riverside can catch a production of his “Christmas Schooner.” Reeger penned the show’s book, in collaboration with the late Julie Shannon, who wrote the music and lyrics of the family musical. It’s back at the Mercury Theater in Chicago through Dec. 30. Returning cast members include Jeff Award winner Cory Goodrich of Carol Stream, and Kelly Anne Clark of Berwyn. The production features a company of 25 actors and musicians, and commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the final voyage of the Christmas Tree Ship (aka Rouse Simmons). Her captain and crew risked the violent winter lake to bring Christmas trees from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Chicago’s German immigrants. Last year’s staging of the show garnered a “Best Production” nomination for the 2012 Jeff Awards. Tickets range from $29 to $59.

‘Annie’ plus added shows
ADDRESS
Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., AuroraCONTACT (630) 896-6666, ParamountAurora.com Rachel Rockwell of Berwyn brings her award-winning directorial talents to “Annie,” at the Paramount Theatre, whose in-house production team promises an A-list cast appearing now through Dec. 30. A live orchestra performs such hits as “Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” in the story of Little Orphan Annie. Performances begin at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays. An added matinee starts at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11. No shows are set for Dec. 12, 20, 26 and 27, and there’s no evening show Dec. 19. Tickets cost $34.90 to $46.90. Rockwell, who also choreographed the show, will be back at the helm of “The Music Man,” opening Jan. 16. At the Paramount’s sister theater across the street, “The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue” delivers seasonal satire Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 13 to 23; tickets cost $35 to the R-rated show. Under the Streetlamp will perform two New Year’s Eve shows, and William Shatner beams up the new year in “SHATNER’S WORLD: We Just Live In It” Jan. 4.

‘Scrooge the Musical’
ADDRESS
Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main St., St. Charles CONTACT (630) 587-8521, www.steelbeamtheatre.com Anything but stingy on entertainment is “Scrooge the Musical,” as Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles unwraps a big production of the upbeat musical adaptation of the 1970 Academy Award-winning movie “Scrooge.” Masterful in the role of Scrooge in its many incarnations is actor Steve Connell, who returns after his hit turn last year. Both the play and movie were written by Leslie Bricusse, a prolific composer, lyricist and playwright of such hit shows as “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The musical plays the main stage through Dec. 23. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Dec. 13 and 20. Single tickets cost $25, $23 for students and seniors, and $22 for groups of 10 or more. The theater also offers children’s daytime performances of “Sing Along with Santa” on Saturdays and Sundays.

Good Lovelies
ADDRESS
Fermilab’s Ramsey Auditorium in Wilson Hall high-rise off Pine and Kirk roads, BataviaCONTACT (630) 942-4000, www.atthemac.org Good Lovelies brings three-part harmonies to a holiday show at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. The trio, known for fast-paced instrument swapping and witty on-stage banter, in 2009 won New Emerging Artist at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. The concert is part of the Fermilab Arts and Lecture Series, through a partnership with the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage. The Club MAC event will be held in Batavia, because the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn is undergoing a $35 million renovation project. Tickets cost $23, $21 for seniors, and $13 for College of DuPage students and youth.

‘The Winter Wonderettes,’ Second City
ADDRESS
Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. CharlesCONTACT (630) 584-6342, www.ticketmaster.com Fox Valley Repertory celebrates the season with “The Winter Wonderettes” musical set in 1968, and featuring nostalgic holiday hits. As a sequel to “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” the show follows Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy and Suzy who have to put the merry back in Christmas when Santa goes missing. The producers note the show is appropriate for the entire family. It continues through Dec. 30, with performances various Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets range from $32 to $42, with dinner show packages available. And “The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue” not only runs at 8 p.m. Fridays, Dec. 7 to 21, but returns for a special New Year’s Eve performance at 9 p.m. For information, visit www.foxvalleyrep.org.
Air Supply in holiday lineup
ADDRESS
Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. CharlesCONTACT (630) 962-7000, www.oshows.com Air Supply will star Friday, Dec. 7, in the Arcada Theatre, followed by the Gary Hoey Holiday Rock Show on Saturday, Dec. 8, Diamonds Christmas Show on Friday, Dec. 14, and Clay Aiken, the platinum-selling “American Idol” finalist in his Christmas concert, Saturday, Dec. 15. Tickets start at $39 for the 8 p.m. performances.

‘Humbug!,’ ‘Messiah,’ ‘Nutcracker’
ADDRESS
Batavia Fine Arts Centre, 1201 Main St.; use Wilson Street entrance to Batavia campus CONTACT (630) 937-8930, www.bataviafineartscentre.org; for tickets to “The Nutcracker,” visit statestreetdancestudio.com/events.htm or call (630) 232-0444 “Humbug!” unfolds at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, a one-actor musical “Christmas Carol.” Alan Safier plays 27 characters in this world premiere, with an original score by Sheldon Harnick and Michel Legrand. “The Do-It-Yourself Messiah” follows at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9; and State Street Dance of Geneva’s presentation of “The Nutcracker” at 1 and 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16. The ninth annual “Nutcracker” will feature former Joffrey dancer Ariel Cisneros, as the Grand Pas Cavalier, and former Miami City Ballet dancer Abdelazis Rogue as the Snow King. Another special guest will be Jessi Kennedy of TV’s “Dance Moms: Miami.” She and her partner have a treat in store for the second act. A pre-show is planned, and one lucky audience member will receive a special gift at the end of each performance. Tickets cost $28, $23 for children 10 and younger.

‘The Family Fruitcake’
ADDRESS
Albright Theatre, third floor of Batavia Government Center, 100 N. Island Ave.CONTACT (630) 406-8838, www.albrighttheatre.com The theater’s teaser for the Rebecca Frohling show is “There may be a few nuts here and there.” As a family gathers for the holidays, Mom wants to have a normal dinner, “just this once.” But with an acting-out, teen daughter, a younger daughter prepared (literally) for combat, a newly-married-into-the-family man getting lost in the backyard, and a great aunt whose wild stories get wilder by the minute, a normal dinner just isn’t in the cards. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 7 to 9 and 14 to 16. It’s rated PG.

Fox Valley Philharmonic
ADDRESS
Our Savior Lutheran Church, 420 W. Downer Place, AuroraCONTACT (630) 476-9072, www.fvacademy.org Fox Valley Philharmonic invites everyone to add their voices to the choruses in a “Do-It-Yourself Messiah” and holiday music at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, joined by the Academy Orchestra, guest soloists and Philharmonic Choir. Singing is optional for audience members, and a reception with refreshments follows. The concert is free, but donations are welcome for Lifespring Ministries. Those planning to sing along can bring their own music book, or borrow or buy a copy of “Messiah” at the door ($10 per purchased copy or refundable deposit per borrowed copy required). The church has a Nativity Scene Walk open all day in the chapel. The Fox Valley Philharmonic is an affiliate of the Fox Valley Academy of Music Performance. The academy’s Youth Strings and Academy Orchestra will perform Christmas favorites and classical works at a 1 p.m. concert that afternoon.
‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Ron Hawking
ADDRESS Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook TerraceCONTACT (630) 530-0111, www.drurylaneoakbrook.com
The musical “Singin’ in the Rain” is based on the 1952 film starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, named the top movie musical of all time by the American Film Institute. Set in glitzy, glamorous Hollywood in the Roaring ‘20s, the lighthearted tale centers on Don Lockwood, a film star who finds love while navigating the world of showbiz. Performances Wednesday through Sunday continue through Jan. 13. Tickets start at $35, $29 for seniors, with lunch and dinner theater packages offered. “A Christmas Carol” entertains until Dec. 22, and Drury Lane also offers families the opportunity to have breakfast or dinner with Santa Claus on select show dates. Performance-only tickets cost $12. Known for his homage to Frank Sinatra, popular Chicago vocalist Ron Hawking presents “His Way for the Holidays” at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17.

Solstice Walk
ADDRESS
Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53, Lisle CONTACT (630) 968-0074, www.mortonarb.org Commune with Mother Nature in a Winter Solstice Walk from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21. Hikers can join the Solstice King and Queen on their grand procession around Meadow Lake complete with storytelling, and participate in a ceremony to bring back the sun. The group will gather at Arbor Court, and the event is free with paid admission, which costs $12 for ages 18 to 64; $11 for seniors; and $9 for ages 2 to 17. The Arboretum also plans breakfasts and a supper with Santa, and festive shopping events.
West Suburban Symphony
ADDRESS
Hinsdale Central High School, 55th and Grant streets, HinsdaleCONTACT (630) 887-7464, www.westsubsymphony.org Narration by Bill Moller of WGN Radio, as well as “Nutcracker” selections are among highlights of a holiday concert by the West Suburban Symphony, conducted by Peter Lipari. It begins at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, in Hinsdale. “You’ll capture the wonder of the holidays with joyful seasonal music at this concert for the whole family,” says Richard Lukes of Berwyn, president of the symphony. “And we expect a jolly visitor from the North Pole to drop in, as well.” Holcombe’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” will be narrated by Moller. Tickets cost $22, $20 for seniors, $5 for teens. Admission is free for children. Tickets may be purchased at the door starting at 3 p.m. on concert day with cash or check.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life — Radio Show’
ADDRESS
Wheaton Drama, 111 N. Hale St., WheatonCONTACT (630) 260-1820, www.wheatondrama.org Tony Palermo’s adaptation of the classic Frank Capra movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” arrives just in time for the holidays. Dance and musical interludes and a raffle add special touches to the show playing Friday through Sunday, Dec. 14 to 16. Tickets cost $10.

‘Mr. Beasley’s Christmas Party’
ADDRESS
Gallery 200/STUDIO, 203 Turner Court, West ChicagoCONTACT (630) 234-5919, GalleryTickets@aol.com To brighten the season, “Mr. Beasley’s Christmas Party” will be performed in West Chicago. David Beasley believes that one man’s kindness can be the answer to one child’s Christmas wish. Gallery Theater presents the adaptation of an early 20th century Booth Tarkington story designed to entertain the entire family with quick changes, comic antics and surprising twists. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7 to 9. Tickets cost $9, $8 for seniors and students.

Canterbury Carollers
ADDRESS
Cantigny, just north of Route 38 and Winfield Road, WheatonCONTACT (630) 260-8162, cantigny.org The Canterbury Carollers, a Victorian ensemble, will perform a Christmas-themed concert in the Robert R. McCormick Museum’s Freedom Hall at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16. Their a cappella harmonies will grace traditional carols all written before 1870. Tickets are free, but distribution is by lottery because of limited seating. There’s a maximum of two per person. To enter, call (630) 260-8162 or e-mail register@cantigny.org before Dec. 7. Forty names will be drawn Dec. 8, and winners will be contacted by Dec. 13. Parking costs $5.

Spirito! Singers
ADDRESS
Immanuel Lutheran Church, 148 E. Third St., Elmhurst, and St. Francis Xavier Church, 124 N. Spring Ave., La GrangeCONTACT (877) 8WE-SING, www.spiritosingers.org A wait list is in place for Spirito! Singers’ “O Holy Night” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, in Elmhurst, and at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday Dec. 9, in La Grange. Artistic Director Molly Lindberg notes the concert will feature the Spirito! ensembles Bravura, Men of Spirito! and Ragazze, accompanied by a dozen musicians. If one dines before or after the show at Francesca’s Amici in Elmhurst or Francesca’s Bellezza in La Grange, the restaurant will donate 15 percent of the bill to Spirito! Singers. Concert tickets cost $20 by phone or $21 online.

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