Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Illinois icon-chevron-right Chicago icon-chevron-right 13 virtual holiday performances to watch this winter
Lookingglass Theatre The Steadfast Tin Soldier
Photograph: Liz Lauren

13 virtual holiday performances to watch this winter

From Christmas classics to creative adaptations, these virtual productions make for a merry and bright holiday season.

By Emma Krupp
Advertising

For many folks, packing into iconic Chicago theaters to see productions of shows like The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol is a beloved annual tradition. But even though stages remain dark throughout the city for now, there are still tons of ways to experience classic holiday theater this year. To start, look no further than your computer screen—from the Goodman Theatre to American Blues Theater, companies across the city have made some of their most iconic seasonal shows (and brand-new productions) available for live and on-demand streaming. Itching to see a performance in person? There are even a few socially-distanced productions sprinkled throughout this list. Grab the whole family and huddle around the couch: You're sure to have a merry Christmas in Chicago when you watch these festive virtual holiday performances.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do during the holidays in Chicago

Virtual theater in Chicago this winter

Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol
Photograph: Courtesy Manual Cinema

Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol

Theater Puppet shows Various locations throughout Chicago,

Writers Theatre is putting out two complementary virtual versions of the holiday classic A Christmas Carol this year as part of its program "Two Scrooges: A Christmas Carol, Two Ways." First, innovative interdisciplinary performance collective Manual Cinema tackles Charles Dickens’s famous holiday story, using hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes and a live original score to bring the classic narrative to life. Each performance concludes with a “Puppet Time” live chat with the artists behind the show.

Writers Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy Writers Theatre

One-Man Christmas Carol

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

In the followup production, Writers Theatre co-founder and artistic director Michael Halberstam takes on a solo performance for this one-man adaptation of the classic Christmas story, which will be pre-recorded and available for streaming throughout the month of December. Want to catch both Writers Theater productions? Opt for the "Two Scrooges" bundle—viewers can buy tickets for themselves, duos, trios or the entire family at various price points.

Advertising
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
Photograph: Liz Lauren

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

Hans Christian Andersen's tragic Christmas tale is a yearly staple at Lookingglass Theatre, and now it's headed for online streaming. Adapted and directed by Lookingglass ensemble member Mary Zimmerman, the lush production will be available online in its virtual run from December 1–27—expect a lovely set, whimsical costuming and plenty of doll-like pantomime. 

A Christmas Carol
Photograph: Liz Lauren

A Christmas Carol: An Audio Play

Theater Drama Various locations throughout Chicago,

The Goodman Theatre has put on its annual production of A Christmas Carol for more than 43 years now, making it something of a holiday mainstay in Chicago. This year, you can tune into a free audio version of the classic play—which was recorded especially for the occasion—throughout the entire month of December. If you'd like to make an event out of it, tune in to a broadcast of the show on WBEZ (91.5 FM) or Vocalo (91.1 FM) on Christmas Eve at 3pm or Christmas Day at 11am.

Advertising
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
Photograph: Collin Quinn Rice

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

In a sea of Christmas plays, a lone Hanukkah production from Strawdog Theatre emerges. Hershel of Ostropol, the folkloric Jewish trickster, must defend the old town synagogue from goblins as Hanukkah approaches in this stage adaptation of Eric Kimmel's 1989 children's book. The show's musical touches and silliness make it perfect for kids; plus, part of the proceeds from the production will go toward The Jewish Council of Urban Affairs, a social justice-oriented Jewish org in Chicago. 

Burning Bluebeard
Photograph: Michael Courier

Burning Bluebeard

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

This December, Porchlight Music Theatre will stream on-demand recordings of the theater's 2019 production of Burning Bluebeard, an utterly unique holiday tale centered around Chicago's former Iroquois Theatre (where more than 600 theatergoers perished in a Christmastime fire in 1903). Performed by the theater troupe The Ruffians, the show combines vaudevillian storytelling—clowning, acrobatics, music and the like—with genuinely moving reflection about the string of events that led to the tragedy. 

Advertising
PlayMakers Laboratory
Photograph: Evan Hanover

That's Weird, Grandma: House Par-Tay

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

PlayMakers Laboratory has taken its hilarious long-running show That's Weird, Grandma—in which professional actors perform silly, heartfelt adaptations of scripts written by elementary school students—to Patreon this season for weekly online performances. A new show premieres every Monday, but from December 7–28, they'll take on a holiday flair. 

The Nutcracker
Photograph: Anthony Robert La Penna

Visions: A Nutcracker Experience

Theater Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Rush & Division

If you still have visions of watching sugarplums dance across the stage in person this year, take heart: The Ruth Page Center for the Arts is putting on a socially distanced version of the iconic holiday ballet, guiding small audiences through five floors of immersive (and very festive) dance performance. Audiences will get to join Clara and witness classic scenes from the show, like the rollicking battle with the Mouse King, prancing candies and more fantastical sequences straight out of a Christmas Eve dream.

Advertising
Holiday microphone
Photograph: Shutterstock

Wally World

Things to do Various venues, Loop

In this new two-act radio play from Isaac Gómez, a group of employees at the fictional superstore Wally World tackle secrets and stress as they attempt to close the store on Christmas Eve. The show, which features a cast of Steppenwolf regulars like Cliff Chamberlain and Audrey Francis, requires a $75 Steppenwolf NOW streaming membership (which will also net you access to tons of other non-holiday shows through August 2021).

Art on theMART
Photograph: Courtesy Art on theMART

Art on theMART

Art Film and video Merchandise Mart,

You won't be able to watch the Joffrey Ballet's production of The Nutcracker this year, but Art on theMART will nonetheless give viewers a glimpse of the ballet's festive holiday tradition. Every evening through December 30, the 25-story facade of the building will light up with animated stills from the ballet as Tchaikovsky's iconic score plays in the background, in addition to other colorful light displays. The show is best viewed from the section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street, though there is a 100-person capacity limit and face coverings are required.

Advertising
It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
Photograph: Michael Brosilow

It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

The American Blues Theater has brought the humble story of George Bailey to life in various Chicago venues each year since 2002—but this season, the theater company will instead mount an interactive Zoom version of its music-infused radio drama, which is based on Frank Capra's classic 1947 film. In true Zoom production style, each actor will perform the play live from their own home. Have a holiday message to share? Write and submit an "audiogram" message meant for friends and family, which may be read during the live broadcasts of the show.

ballet
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Nutcracker

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

The dance company Ballet Chicago is offering two separate versions of the iconic Christmas ballet on select dates in December. In the first version, the company will stream an archival production of the show; the second, however, will combine archival footage with new recordings of the company's current dancers filmed this winter at the Athenaeum Theatre in Lakeview. Either way you'll be treated to the show's characteristically dazzling choreography, like George Balanchine's sweeping Sugar Plum Pas de Deux.

Advertising
Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special
Photograph: Rick Aguilar Studios

The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special

Theater Various locations throughout Chicago,

Hell in a Handbag Productions has brought back its campy hero Rip Nelson for a bizarre holiday spectacular, which is streaming through Vimeo on select dates throughout December. In this new virtual production, the parodic tv host Nelson—who embodies the over-the-top glitz of early-1980s television specials—makes his way back to the studio for a holiday variety show, complete with appearances from stars like Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald preening against a green screen background. 

More holiday fun in Chicago

Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising