Insider Guide to Chicago Children’s Theatre

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Indoor Places to Go

Wake Up, Brother Bear!

This review by Rachel Matuch is from January 27, 2020.

Kids catch butterflies, make a fabric ‘pond’ ripple like a parachute, light up their own firefly flashlights, and more at the Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Wake Up, Brother Bear! The show invites kids to take part in an adventure through the four seasons. Kids sit on a low mat all around the “stage”: a fuzzy green carpet that looks like grass, where Brother Bear and Sister Bear play as Musician Bear fills the air with playful renditions of classic songs on the cello.

Jonah Winston (center) is Brother Bear, Allyce Torres (left) is Sister Bear and Sonia Goldberg (above) is Musician Bear in Wake Up, Brother Bear! Photo by Charles Osgood.

Our thanks to the Chicago Children’s Theatre for providing tickets for this review. All opinions are my own.

Wake Up, Brother Bear! at the Chicago Children’s Theatre is a joyful, playful, and interactive show recommended for ages 0 to 6. I took my 2-year-old and 4-year-old along to check it out.

I was a little nervous about how my 4-year-old would take to the show; he can be nervous about loud noises and unfamiliar people. But he loved it! The performers (Allyce Torres and Jonah Winston, dressed up as big fuzzy bears) do a great job involving the crowd as they play.

Throughout the play, Sister Bear coaches kids through each activity and explains what’s happening. Brother Bear speaks through bear grunts and growls, as well as bits of sign language that the kids can follow along with.

Children light up their firefly flashlights and gaze up at the starry night sky. Photo by Charles Osgood.

Every kid gets a small pouch with a few props to aid the play. This was a really nice tactile element that made it much more approachable for kids. For example, they had a flower in their bags to hold out so a butterfly puppet could land in their outstretched palms. The biggest hit: light-up ‘firefly’ lights the kids could fly in the theatre, which was lit up with a night sky, before laying on the grass to look at the stars. Magic!

Best Ages for for Wake Up, Brother Bear!

As I mentioned earlier, Wake Up, Brother Bear! was designed with kids ages 0 to 6 in mind. It runs a bit shy of an hour and is full of opportunities to get up, play, make noise, and fiddle with props. I think most kids ages 3 and up will love the show. Many kids in the younger crowd will, too, but use your best judgement about whether they’ll enjoy it.

Deciding whether or not the show would be good for your younger kids? I’d think about how they usually react to live performances (even simple ones) and people in costumes. The great part is that kids are not expected to sit still and be quiet for the show! I saw several under-one kiddos having a blast, clapping their hands, and even occasionally laying down on the carpet. (As a parent, it was great to feel relaxed in the theatre!)

My two-year-old, who has never been able to sit through library storytime and is terrified of the Chick-fil-A cow, was predictably not into the show — but thankfully, the lobby was full of themed toys and activities. My husband took him out and they played in a cute little tent. The show played on a monitor so they could still feel a part of the action. It was so nice to have that option!

The lobby play area is also open before and after the show. I’d recommend coming a bit early so that you can get a good spot in the theatre. (Parents sit on a squishy bench behind the kids.)

How to See Wake Up, Brother Bear! at the Chicago Children’s Theatre

Runs Saturdays and Sundays, 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. through March 1, 2020. Select performances are touch tours, sensory-friendly, ASL, or open caption. For tickets, which start at $20, visit the Chicago Children’s Theatre website or call (312) 374-8835.

The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party

This review by Kristen Sheehan is from 2018.

I had the opportunity to attend The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party at the Chicago Children’s Theater at The Station over the weekend. I brought along my mom and two daughters, ages 5 and 7 months. This beautiful retelling of three Beatrix Potter classic tales delighted young and old! We enjoyed celebrating the holiday season with the cute activities before and after the captivating show.

The puppet and trunk show features the three classic stories of Mrs. Tittlemouse, Squirrel Nutkin, and the beloved Peter Rabbit. When my eldest daughter was born, a dear friend gifted us the complete collection of Beatrix Potter stories, so she was familiar with two of these tales. I would recommend reading at least the classic tale of Peter Rabbit prior to attending the show, just for reference. Kids tend to relish in it when they are familiar with a story, and then are able to see it brought to life!

We arrived to the theater 30 minutes prior to the show, which I highly recommend. There is an adjacent parking lot with ample free parking. In the lobby, there were pages to color and snowflakes to cut out and color. My kindergartner loves art and crafts, so this was perfect for her. There are restrooms as well as a place to hang your coats in the lobby.

We were escorted to the very cozy theater. There were three rows of low seats behind the front row floor mats for the children. Seats with backs and arms were also available.

The show takes place around three large stage props, which are transformed into the backdrops of each story. The three actors invited the children to come closer to each set of props prior to the telling of the story. The show was very interactive, and included singing and dancing, along with manipulation of the wooden puppets, to hold everyone’s attention. I made the decision to bring our 7-month-old daughter along to the show, and I could not believe how well she focused. She was enthralled! The show was 45 minutes from start to finish. There is no intermission, but the environment is very casual. If you are bringing your child to the theater for the first time, this would be a wonderful introduction.

Following the show, the children were invited up to the stage to manipulate the puppets, look at the story backdrops, and take pictures with the actors. My school-aged daughter loved this!

We were then invited back to the hallway, which had been transformed to the “tea party”. The tables were set with holiday decor, and we were served hot chocolate and cookies. My 5-year old thought she was very “fancy” with her hot chocolate cup.

If you are looking for a holiday event in the city, I would recommend the Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party. The show would be a great addition to seeing the tree at Daley Plaza with the Christkindlmarket, or the holiday windows at Macy’s on State Street. Watching my daughters’ faces entranced with this show was truly magical!

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical

This review by Annie Tandy is from November 11, 2018.

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical will be at The Chicago Theatre from November 16-25, 2018. We are excited to go this Friday and thought you might want to get tickets too! Keep reading for age recommendations, show length, show times, and ticket information.

Show Overview

Christmas is the best time to be living in Whoville – it’s every Who’s favorite time of year! However all the Christmas cheer in the world just isn’t enough to get The Grinch into the festive spirit. Teased as a child, this green grump has grown to become a rather mean old man determined to ruin Christmas for each and every Who! Will the kindness of one tiny Who be enough to melt his icy heart?

Featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” the Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this heart-warming holiday musical that The New York Times hails as “100 times better than any bedtime story.” Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” decides to steal Christmas away from the holiday-loving Whos.

Who is Playing The Grinch?

Two-time Tony Award®-nominated Broadway actor Gavin Lee is in the title role of the Grinch. Lee was most recently on Broadway as the tap-dancing show stopper Squidward Tentacles in SpongeBob SquarePants, for which he received his second Tony nomination. Previously, Lee originated the role of Bert in Mary Poppins on West End (Olivier nomination), Broadway (Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award) and on the first national tour. The British-born actor and proud dad of three is also known for his recurring role of Alan Woodford on USA Network’s “White Collar.”

“I am thrilled to step in to the furry, stinky green shoes of the world’s most beloved Christmas bad boy this holiday season,” Lee said. “As a dad myself, I know first-hand the magic of introducing kids to live theater and I look forward to hearts growing three sizes as they experience this beloved story in a whole new way…live on stage!” said Lee.

Age Recommendations and Show Length

The recommended ages for How The Grinch Stole Christmas is three years and older and all children and adults need a ticket. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission.

Show Times and Tickets

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical will perform at the Chicago Theatre Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.; Nov. 17 – 18 at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Nov. 20-21 at 7 p.m.; Nov. 22-24 at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Nov. 25 at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. For more information about Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at The Chicago Theatre, visit chicagotheatre.com/grinch. Tickets are available at The Chicago Theatre box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and Ticketmaster phone charge 1.800.745.3000. Groups of nine or more please call GroupTix at (773) 327-3778; discounts are available for groups of 20 or more. Tickets starting at $35.

The Hundred Dresses

This review by Annie Tandy is from January 25, 2017.

We had the pleasure of seeing Chicago Children’s Theatre’s The Hundred Dresses, a musical with live music, great performances, and a valuable anti-bullying message. It opened last weekend and runs through February 12, 2017 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Christine Bunuan plays Maddie and Erin O’Shea is Peggy in The Hundred Dresses.

Before the performance started, the actors mingle with the audience, as well as sing and dance on stage while engaging the audience. We arrived early to make sure we found a parking spot and found one on the street right in front of the theater faster than I thought, so it was nice to be entertained while waiting!

The Hundred Dresses was adapted and created by Ralph Covert, from Ralph’s World, and G. Riley Mills, so you know the music is going to be good, snappy, and enjoyable for kids. The characters each play instruments both on stage while talking, singing, and dancing, and as part of the small band in the back section of the stage.

The kids have the option of sitting in the audience seats in front of the stage or sitting on benches on the stage, which was a fun treat. My daughter chose to sit on the stage and the actors did a good job facing everyone in front and in back. There was a few times that I thought maybe she was missing some of their facial expressions, but that didn’t seem to affect her enjoyment or understanding of the show.

Emily Berman (center) plays Wanda, who is taunted by her classmates (from left) Maddie (Christine Bunuan), Cecile (Dana Omar), Peggy (Erin O’Shea/obstructed), Jack (Donterrio Johnson) and Willie Bounce (Nik Kmiecik) in The Hundred Dresses.

I love theater that is not only enjoyable to watch, but has meaning and purpose behind it. The show emphasizes not only how hurtful it is to be bullied and wrong it is to behave like a bully, but how it feels and what it means to say and do nothing. The main character realizes that she will never do nothing again. It teaches all of these things while being entertaining with prankster school boy characters, girls in a rainbow of dresses, high-energy rock music, and fun choreography!

Show Synopsis

Meet Wanda Petronski, the new girl in school. Wanda talks with a funny foreign accent and wears the same faded blue dress to school every day. Yet she swears her closet back home is lined with 100 beautiful silk dresses. Still, the “mean girls” at school pick on Wanda relentlessly. And those who stand by silently soon learn that doing nothing can be the worst form of bullying of all.

Based on Eleanor Estes’ timeless children’s novel, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s smash hit The Hundred Dresses takes audiences of all ages on a fun, funny, heartwarming musical journey that explores the bonds of friendship and the courage to be yourself.

Performance Information

Performances are now through February 12, 2017 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Show times are Tuesdays through Friday at
10 a.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Sundays at 11 a.m. and
2 p.m.

The Hundred Dresses runs approximately one hour and is ideal for ages 6 to adult. Single tickets are $10-$39. For tickets and information, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555.

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s performance home, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, is convenient to public transportation, surrounded by family-friendly restaurants and located just steps from the Magnificent Mile.

CCT also offers discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups. Email GroupSales@chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call
(773) 227-0180 x 15 to learn more.

Details for the Access Weekend

Access Weekend for The Hundred Dresses is Saturday and Sunday, February 4 and 5, with services for persons with disabilities integrated into public performances. These include:

Live open captioning for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing:
Saturday, February 4 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., Sunday, November 13 at 11 a.m. and
2 p.m.

Sensory friendly performance with quiet room for children on the autism spectrum or with Down Syndrome:
Saturday, February 25 at 11 a.m.

For more information about access services, visit chicagochildrensteatre.org/access or contact access administrator Alex Mauney at cmauney@chicagochildrenstheatre.org.

About Chicago Children’s Theatre

Since its launch in 2005, Chicago Children’s Theatre has cemented its reputation as the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families.

The company evolved out of Chicago’s need for high-quality, professional year-round children’s programming to match the quality and significance of theatrical powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre.

Likewise, CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are with high-profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain.

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