Beautiful — The Carole King Musical thru Jan. 28 at Ford Oriental Theatre (151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 800-775-2000) Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ’n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation. Details: www.broadwayinchicago.com

Billy Elliot the Musical thru Dec. 31 at Ruth Page Center For Arts (1016 N. Dearborn Parkway, Chicago, 312-335-1650) Based on the 2000 film “Billy Elliot” and featuring music by Elton John with book and lyrics by the film’s screenplay writer Lee Hall, it is the winner of both the Tony Award and Olivier Award for Best Musical, “Billy Elliot the Musical” is an inspirational story set in an English mining town during the miners’ strike of 1984-’85. Billy Elliot’s journey from the boxing ring to a ballet class challenges the long-held beliefs of his hometown. Along the way, he discovers a passion for dance that unites his family, inspires his community, and changes his life. Details:
www.porchlightmusictheatre.org

BLKs thru Jan. 21 at Steppenwolf Theatre (1650 Halsted St., Chicago, 312-335-1650) Some days feel like they will never end. After a morning that includes a cancer scare and kicking her girlfriend out of the house, Octavia decides to have a last turn-up with her best friends. In poet Aziza Barnes’ ingenious portrait of a day in the life of four young women of color in New York City, “BLKS” explores the joy and anguish of growing up and out. Details: www.steppenwolf.org

The Christmas Schooner thru Dec. 31 at Mercury Theater (3745 N. Southport Ave.,  Chicago, 773-325-1700) Based on the shipwrecked Rouse Simmons, “The Christmas Schooner” is a moving story with a score by Chicago favorites John Reeger (book) and Julie Shannon (music and lyrics). Set in the late nineteenth century, this holiday musical tells the song-and-dance-filled story of a close-knit group of German immigrants who receive a message from a Chicago-based cousin lamenting the lack of traditional Christmas trees. A shipping captain and his crew then undertake a risky late-season journey across the notoriously violent Lake Michigan to deliver the precious timber to the city, carrying with them a full cargo of holiday hope and joy. Details: www.mercurytheaterchicago.com

A Dickens Carol thru Dec. 24 at Madison Street Theatre (1010 Madison St., Oak Park, 708-406-2491) It’s 1842 Victorian London, and Dickens popularity is on the wane. His marriage and finances are in trouble, and he has become embittered toward life itself. Yes, in a way, Dickens has become a bit of a Scrooge, a character he has yet to even create. But on a cold Christmas Eve, his fortunes take a dramatic turn when a train crash sends Dickens into the icy Kent river. There, in a sinking carriage, Dickens is visited by three spirits who lead him on a journey through his past, present, and future. A journey that transforms his life and inspires him to write his most celebrated work ever. “A Dickens Carol” is not only the carol behind the most famous carol of all time. It’s an all-new twist on a family ghost story that promises to melt the heart of any Scrooge out there. Details: www.mstoakpark.com

Elf The Musical  thru Jan. 7 at Paramount Theatre (23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 630-896-6666) Based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie, “Elf” is one of those rare holiday shows that will have both kids and adults laughing, humming tunes like “A Christmas Song” and “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” and rediscovering what it means to be a family. Details: www.paramountaurora.com

The Humans  Jan. 30–Feb. 11 at Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 800-775-2000) Stephen Karam’s “The Humans” is an uproarious, hopeful, and heartbreaking play that takes place over the course of a family dinner on Thanksgiving. Breaking with tradition, Erik Blake has brought his Pennsylvania family to celebrate and give thanks at his daughter’s apartment in Lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside the ramshackle pre-war duplex and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the Blake clan’s deepest fears and greatest follies are laid bare. The modern age of anxiety is keenly observed, with humor and compassion, in this new American classic that won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play. Details:  www.broadwayinchicago.com

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat  Jan. 18–March 25 at Drury Lane—Oakbrook (100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, 630-530-0111) The meteoric first collaboration of Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” finishes our season with a bang. Join Israel’s favorite son, Joseph, through his tumultuous ascent to the top in this timeless reminder of the unquenchable thirst of a man with a dream who had the courage to forge the destiny of a people and its powerful message of hope. The classic story of Joseph is paired with exuberant music, featuring favorites such as “Close Every Door,” “Go, Go, Go Joseph,” and “Any Dream Will Do.” Details:  www.drurylaneoakbrook.com

It’s a Wonderful Life — A live Radio Play thru Dec. 30 at Oil Lamp Theater (1723 Glenview Road, Glenview, 847 -834-0738) This show-within-a-show takes place on December 24th, 1946, in Studio A at WBFR Radio, where a cast of six actors is preparing to present “It’s a Wonderful Life” live to the listening audience. With the help of a sound-effects artist, the ensemble reenacts the beloved story of George Bailey, a young man who’s given up on his dreams and stands on a bridge, ready to end it all. Just then, an angel arrives to show Bailey how the lives of those he loves would be affected if he were not around. The story’s message is profound and remains relevant for today’s audiences. Details: www.oillamptheater.org

Nice Girl  Jan. 24–March 11 at Raven Theatre (6157 N. Clark St., 773-338-2177) Josephine has a dead-end job, still lives with her mother, and has settled into the uncomfortable comfort of being single at age thirty-seven. But when she’s given the possibility of change, she takes tentative steps toward a new life. A play about the tragedy and joy of figuring out who you are and letting go of who you were supposed to be.
Details: www.raventheatre.org

The  Nutcracker thru Dec. 30 by The Joffrey Ballet at Auditorium Theatre (50 East Congress Parkway, Chicago, 312-386-8905) A ballet in two acts, the show opens on Christmas Eve in Chicago, 1892, mere months before the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known as the World’s Fair, a marvel unlike anything the city has ever seen. Marie and her younger brother Franz arrive at home, where their immigrant mother—a sculptress of modest means—designs the seminal masterpiece that will preside over the Fair. A festive Christmas potluck ensues, only to be interrupted by the mysterious Great Impresario, creator of the World’s Fair. He entertains with enchanting visions of the what’s to come, distributing gifts in the process, which includes a mercurial nutcracker for Marie. That evening, Marie awakens to an epic battle between toy soldiers and rats led by The Rat King and the now-life-size Nutcracker. Unexpectedly, Marie saves the day, as The Great Impresario and the Nutcracker, now transformed into a Prince, set sail on a magical journey into the night. Details: www.joffrey.org

Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience — a Parody by Dan and Jeff thru Jan. 7 at Broadway Playhouse (175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, 800-775-2000) Whether you camped outside a bookstore for three days awaiting the release of the “Deathly Hallows” or you don’t know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff, the comedy, magic and mayhem of this show makes for an entertaining visit to the theatre. The fast-paced show, which has made audiences aged six to Dumbledore (who is very old indeed) roar with laughter all over the world. Details: www.broadwayinchicago.com

Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol thru Dec. 31 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (800 East Grand Avenue, 312-595-5600) CST and Chicago hip-hop sensation the Q Brothers—creators of “Othello: The Remix”—have toured around the world, playing to sold-out houses in Germany, South Korea, Australia, England. Now the team turns up the volume on Charles Dickens’ classic tale, mixing everything from reggae, dancehall, and dubstep to epic rock ballads. The Ghosts of Hip-hop Past, Present and Future lead Scrooge on a journey filled with rhythm, rhyme, and redemption. Details: www.chicagoshakes.com

The Second City’s Nut-cracking Holiday Revue  Dec. 20-31 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre (111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, 847-577-2121) The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue captures all the magic, mystery, and mayhem of the season with original songs, brand-new sketches, and some classic favorites. It will have you and yours laughing all the way through the festive season. More: www.metropolisarts.com

Traitor  Jan. 5–Feb.25 at A Red Orchid Theatre (1531 N. Wells St., Chicago, 312-943-8722) In this world premiere adaptation of Heinrich Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People,” a small, north Chicago suburb finds the town’s restart button with an investment in a newly opened charter school. After issues with the school grounds are discovered by its head of sciences, Dr. Stock, a quest to inform and correct is met with support. But suspicion and rancor mount as truths bubble to the surface. Details: www.aredorchidtheatre.org

Turandot thru  Jan. 27 at Lyric Opera  (20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312-332-2244) “Turandot” (1926), the final work of Puccini’s career, showcases the composer’s magnificent melodic outpourings (including the tenor’s celebrated “Nessun dorma”) and reveals Puccini at his peak as a creator of exotically beautiful orchestration. Taking place in ancient Peking, the story centers on the icy Princess Turandot, who will marry the prince who answers her three riddles correctly, but any suitor who fails is put to death. Calaf is the unknown prince who falls in love with Turandot at first sight and, victorious in the riddles, challenges her to learn his name. Calaf is loved by the slave Liù, who serves his father Timur, the exiled Tartar king. The lighter side of the opera is contributed by Turandot’s three lively ministers—Ping, Pang, and Pong. Details: www.lyricopera.org

Violet thru Jan. 13 from Griffin Theatre Company at The Den Theatre (1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773-697-3830) Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts, this award-winning musical fuses a powerful rock, folk, and gospel score. With a ticket, a suitcase, and a heart full of expectation, Violet Karl, facially disfigured since childhood, boards a bus and travels across the deep south in 1964 to see if a faith healer can transform her life. Along the way, she forms unlikely friendships with her fellow passengers, who teach her about beauty, love, and courage, and that it’s the journeys you take in life that help you discover who you are. Details: www.thedentheatre.com

Wicked thru Jan. 21 at Ford Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, 800-775-2000) Long before Dorothy drops in, two other girls meet in the Land of Oz. One, born with emerald-green skin, is smart, fiery, and misunderstood. The other is beautiful, ambitious, and popular. “Wicked” tells the story of their remarkable odyssey and how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. Details: www.broadwayinchicago.com

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