Chicago Tribune - November 23, 2007

Chris Jones' 9 shows to make your season bright

By Chris Jones | Tribune theater critic

Welcome to your theatrical holiday stocking. Each year, Chicago theaters trot out an ever-growing number of seasonal attractions, mostly designed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy and free-spending, but with a few noir and necessary theatrical shout-outs to those sardonic cynics who'd prefer to see Christmas boiled like a goose.

Each year, we try to separate the tinsel from the turkeys and ensure that you don't look like a fool in front of those needy relatives who've arrived from cities where they're lucky if they have even a couple of live holiday shows. Chicago has scores. And we're not even counting the many alternate, December good-time attractions ("Ella," "Cirque Dreams") that aren't strictly holiday shows.

Below, you'll find a list of nine holiday shows to consider. There should be something there for most tastes and generations. I've seen most of the shows in some cases, six or seven times. In the case of the new productions, I've kept the ones that most intrigue me. In the case of the older ones, I've stuck to my favorites.

"A CHRISTMAS CAROL" at the Goodman Theatre

"BLACK NATIVITY" by Congo Square Theatre Company at the Goodman Theatre

"SCROOGE! THE MUSICAL" at the Theatre at the Center in Munster, Ind.

THE RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR at the Rosemont Theatre

"THE NUTCRACKER" by House Theatre of Chicago at Steppenwolf

"IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" by American Theater Company

"A CHARLIE CHAPLIN CHRISTMAS" by Silent Theatre Company at the Chicago Cultural Center

"7 SANTAS" at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre

If you've been around Chicago for a while, you might remember Jeff Goode, the dark-souled writer who penned "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," which became a cynically droll holiday perennial in Chicago. This year, Goode is back with a new show. Entitled "7 Santas," it's -- stop reading now kids -- the tale of seven jolly fat men who find themselves in detox run by their estranged wife. I haven't see this one yet, but based on Goode's track record, I'm expecting a funny affair aimed squarely at those who despise tradition holiday schmaltz.

Through Dec. 30 at Bailiwick Repertory, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.; $25 at 773-883-1090.

"THE SNOW QUEEN" by Victory Gardens Theatre at the Biograph