By Graham Meyer, Crain’s Chicago Business
10 THINGS TO DO
Whether it’s a gala event, a once-in-a-lifetime concert or a hidden gem of a play, we’re here to up your cultural (and fun) IQ. Here are top picks for your cultural calendar for the coming week, the coming month and beyond.
➊ The Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert is a local takeoff of the waltz-and-schmaltz burst of gemutlichkeit played annually by the Vienna Philharmonic. A touring production company brings together the Chicago Philharmonic, well-known from its own concert series here and from accompanying the Joffrey Ballet, and ballet and ballroom dancers, many from Eastern Europe, and Viennese vocal soloists and conductor. Dec. 31. 2:30 p.m. $27-$115. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.
➋ Johann Strauss Jr.’s operetta “Die Fledermaus,” the batty story of an elaborate prank where a man is tricked into seducing his own wife in disguise as a Hungarian countess, waltzes in the new year with Dec. 31 performances in cities all over the world, one of which is always the town where it’s set, Vienna. Light Opera Works, in a last hurrah before it changes its name to Music Theater Works, produces the three-quarter-time wingding (in English, despite its untranslated title) all week leading up to 2017. The role of Frosch, the jailer who gets a comic monologue, frequently about current events, will be played by “Saturday Night Live” alum Tim Kazurinsky. $34-$98. Dec. 26-Jan. 1. Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston.
➌ Adding to the truckloads of Strauss at this time of year, the New Philharmonic drives out a few of its own, on a program also trafficking in film music by John Williams, “Auld Lang Syne” and tenor solos sung by Jesse Donner. He is a current member of the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric, the company’s troupe of divas and divos in training. Donner dons the flower, metaphorically at least, in the showstopping aria “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee” from “Carmen,” whetting appetites for Lyric’s version in a couple of months. A Champagne toast is included in the ticket price. Dec. 31. 2, 5:30 and 9 p.m. $10-$65. McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn.
➍ Weather, scheduling inconveniences and monstrous football have conspired to create a bear market for Bears tickets, normally a three-figure prospect for even the most altitudinous of nosebleeds in the flying saucer. For those whose Christmas Eve plans don’t happen until evening or tend to involve Chinese food, the Bears-Redskins game might present the best chance at (relatively) affordable live pro football in (relative) climatic comfort. Secondary-market sites such as StubHub and SeatGeek have tickets going for as little as $20, and the current forecast pegs the temperature at kickoff above freezing. Dec. 24. Noon. Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive.
➎ Starting the day after Christmas, Kwanzaa celebrates the connection of Americans to their ancestral roots in Africa, which, if you go back far enough, is all of us. On Dec. 27, the second day of the seven-day secular holiday and the one feting kujichagulia (“self-determination” in Swahili), the DuSable Museum invites all to a party beginning with a drum call at noon and continuing with performances by dancers and singers, including the excellent Maggie Brown. Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri! Dec. 27. Noon-2:30 p.m. Free. DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place.
➏ Pegasus Theatre Chicago has run its Young Playwrights Festival for 30 years, and now the number of submissions of one-acts from high school playwrights has reached 600 for four slots, making it even more selective than the famously exclusive selective-enrollment high schools many of them attend. The bumper crop of submissions leads to high quality, to gauge from reviews of previous years, so don’t sell them short. The kids can all write. Jan. 4-29. $18-$30. Pegasus Theatre Chicago at Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen St.
➐ In Italian-American tradition, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a celebratory meal on Christmas Eve in which the fruits of the sea are prepared in myriad ways, sprung from a Catholic prohibition on eating meat for the vigil. Fast from meat, feast on fish. The seven doesn’t necessarily mean seven courses, though, and in the case of Nico Osteria’s version, it’s a five-course prix fixe, in which every course plunges into some denizen of the sea (except for dessert). Dec. 24. 3-10 p.m. $125. Nico Osteria, 1015 N. Rush St.
➑ Eight decades in and still just playing his ax, Buddy Guy will take up residence in his namesake club every weekend in January, keeping the fires burning on a 20-year-plus winter tradition. Guy headlines 16 shows, each of which might more accurately be called a marathon. Depending on the day of the week, doors open at 11 a.m. or noon, and Guy goes on between 9 and 11 p.m. Tickets are general admission, and the post announcing the shows on his blog says seats tend to fill up many hours before Guy plays, leaving standing room for the latecomers. Jan. 5-29. $55-$70. Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S. Wabash Ave.
➒ The 16th Annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival this year draws 160 groups from all over, outlining the largest skit-show in the world. SketchFest’s lineup of more than 180 shows can trigger the paradox of choice for the comedy-uninitiated, so if you look at the long list and you’re close to saying “F troupes” and giving up without picking any, try this: Only a few acts have multiple shows scheduled. Pencil those in. Jan. 5-15. $15 per show; multishow passes $35-$250. Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
➓ Chicago Restaurant Week, the annual winter business-goose of $22 lunch and $33 or $44 dinner prix fixes, this week unfurled the buffet of menus and began taking reservations. Like the now 14-day “week,” the number of participating restaurants has ballooned, making it harder to detect the worthwhile deals. If you’ve got time, find the prices of the dishes on a prix fixe menu on the restaurant’s everyday menu. Often the prix fixe saves only a few dollars or even costs more. If you don’t have time, look for places that normally would run a diner more than $44 in food (Naha, Boka and the Lobby ), have prix fixes longer than three courses (GT Fish & Oyster), do something thematic (Bistronomic) or are steakhouses that offer anything other than a filet on the Restaurant Week menu (Kinzie Chophouse). Reserve promptly; the goosing works, at least for the good deals. Jan. 27-Feb. 9. $22-$44. Various locations.
|Event schedules and availability change; phone ahead. Send your weekend tips in an email (without attachments) with the date in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re sorry, but the volume of submissions makes it impossible for us to respond individually to emails.
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