Live Theater Performances

I’ll bet you remember a theater production you saw as a child much better than you remember a movie. Live performances provide a degree of engagement that you don’t find when watching a movie or reading a book. Theater can spark the imagination of children and a recent study confirms that it also increases their tolerance and empathy. Students who attended live performances also improved their knowledge and vocabulary.

This holiday season is the perfect time to treat your family to a live performance. In addition to the major Chicago theaters, there are dozens of local theaters with fine performances that are family-friendly and affordable. Here are some performances that are sure to wow you and the kids.



Oct. 16 – Nov. 26

Princess & the Pea

Chicago, Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St. Chicago Kids Company- Theatre for Children (CKC) presents Princess and the Pea, a one-hour musical adaptation!  Only a real Princess can feel a PEA under a stack of 20 mattresses!  Meet Princess Penelope and her crazy friends and find out if she can pass the ultimate Princess Test.  You won’t want to miss this great show and the 12-Foot Bed! The show runs one hour with no intermission, and is targeted for kids aged 2 to 12. $12 admission. More details.


Oct. 31 – Nov. 25, 2014 and Jan. 15 – Mar. 3, 2015

The 3 Little Pigs

Chicago, Stahl Family Theater, 5900 W. Belmont. Chicago Kids Company – Theater for Children presents The Three Little Pigs, a one-hour musical adaptation! Meet Roxanne, Petunia, and Babe – three Sister Piggies who set out to build their own houses. Roxanne (the Rock ‘n Roll Pig) builds hers out of Sticks, Petunia (The Pretty Pig) builds hers out of Straw, and Babe (the sensible, smart Pig) builds hers out of bricks! Which house will the Big Bad Wolf Huff and Puff and blow down? Don’t miss CKC’s most popular show! The show runs one hour with no intermission and is targeted for kids aged 2 to 12. $12 admission. More details.


Fri.-Sun. through Nov. 9

The Sound of Music

Des Plaines, Prairie Lake Community Center, 515 E. Thacker St. Spotlight Youth Theater of Northwest Cook County presents this beloved story of Maria Rainer with all the classic songs that you remember. Special rates for schools and groups. Here’s a money-saving coupon.  More details.


Fri.-Sun. through Nov. 29

The American Revolution

Chicago, Adventure State Chicago, 1012 N. Noble St. Adventure Stage Chicago (ASC), a professional theatre company, creates and tells heroic stories about young people in order to engage our community and inspire all of us to be the heroes of our own lives. The American Revolution is a critical history lesson in 50 minutes. Seven actors, suspended on a platform two feet off the ground, share 21 square feet of space to recreate the entire American fight for independence from Lexington to Yorktown. Combining tongue-in-cheek humor with a dash of derring-do, The American Revolution displays Theater Unspeakable’s rowdy brand of bare-boned and imaginative physical theater in its first ever extended run in Chicago. More details.



Nov. 6-16 in Rosemont

Nov. 19-30 at the United Center in Chicago

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® is proud to present LEGENDS!

Drama, surprise and wonder build the excitement for this circus so BIG that it could only be The Greatest Show On Earth®. Experience unimaginable family fun as amazing performers from around the globe perform awe-inspiring feats of daring, spectacles of strength and thrills of wonder. Free to all tickeholders, families can come to the arena floor an hour before show time and participate in interactive, up-close circus experiences. Click here for tickets. Parking is free with ticket purchase.


Nov. 7-9 & 14-16


Zion, Christian Arts Auditorium, 2500 Dowie Memorial Dr. Spotlight Youth Theater presents this Rogers & Hammerstein classic story about the bumpy road of true love. Special rates for schools and groups. Here’s a money-saving coupon.  More details.


Nov. 7-9

Musical Honk

Elmhurst, Sandburg Middle School, 345 E. St. Charles Rd. The Elmhurst Children’s Theatre invites you to enjoy a delightful adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling. This heart-warming celebration of being different is sure to delight audiences of all ages with its sparkling wit and memorable score! The cast is made up of children in grades 5th through 8th throughout the Elmhurst community. All tickets are $8 and are sold at the door. More details.


Nov. 7-8 & 12-15

Til We Have Faces

Wheaton, Arena Theater, Jenks Hall, 433 N. Howard St. Arena Theater at Wheaton College presents performances of “Till We Have Faces.” The production is Deanna Jent’s adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s last novel “Till We Have Faces.” Jent is founder and artistic director of Mustard Seed Theatre based in St. Louis, Missouri. More details.


Nov. 8-9 & 15-16

A Circus Night’s Dream

Evanston, The Actors Gymnasium, Noyes Cultural Center, 927 Noyes St. A marriage, a circus and Nature itself, All hang in thrall to love’s suspended health, while the King and Queen of forces unseen…Do quarrel as mortals through a midnight dream. Directors Chris Mathews and the outstanding young performers from The Actors Gymnasium add their own fantastic spins and twirls in an original, acrobatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s most imaginative comedy. Tickets ONLINE only.


Nov. 8, 10:30am

Kids Fare: Extraordinary Orchestra

Evanston, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Dr. The Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra magically melds strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion in this vibrant and exciting program for kids. Don’t miss the pre-concert “instrument petting zoo” from 9:45-10:15am in the lobby. Tickets $6/person, $4/children and students. More details.


Fri. – Sun., Nov. 7 – Dec. 20

The Love of Three Oranges

Evanston, Piccolo Theatre, 600 Main St. This dusted-off, reworked classic Italian fairy tale is about a boy who needs a friend. An evil witch curses the miserable Prince Tartaglia to go on a quest for three giant oranges. The once-lonely prince encounters wizards, trickery, talking animals, monarchs, and a narrator not far-removed from the action, and finds love in the most unexpected of places. Featuring wildly raucous physical comedy, infectious songs and dances, and fanciful characters you will remember forever, this highly interactive adventure story leaps off the stage and into your heart. More details.


Nov. 14-16 & 21-23

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom

Western Springs, Theatre of Western Springs, 4384 Hampton Ave. Bradley Chalkers is the school bully. He’s failing his classes, picking on the smaller kids and is an all-around “monster.” It’s not until the school hires an unconventional student counselor does Bradley’s life start to turn around and he comes to some realizations about himself. This play by the beloved author of “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” and “Holes” is all about growing up: teasing, being the new kid and making friends. $12/adult, $6 ages 18 & under. More details.



Nov. 15 – Dec. 28

A Christmas Carol

Chicago, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. This Chicago holiday tradition presents Charles Dicken’s classic tale of the greedy businessman, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by ghosts for a spectacular adventure. More details.


Nov. 15

The Bully Show

Lockport Township High School Auditorium, 1333 E. 7th St. AlphaBet Soup Productions. Join Professor McBumble and his group of rag-tag actors as they present three different fairy tales, each with an anti-bullying message. Updated adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood, The Ugly Duckling, and Three Billy Goats Gruff are performed in this family friendly musical. ‘It’s not cool to be cruel” and “It’s so lame to call people names” are just a few of the messages taught in this fun and important show! $10/person. Click here for more times and locations.


Nov. 19 – Dec. 23

A Christmas Carol

Oakbrook Terrace, Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane. Drury Lane’s annual holiday tradition. The hour-long production uses 14 of the most versatile actors in Chicago to bring more than 30 of the colorful Dickensian characters to life. Drury Lane Theatre also offers families the special opportunity to have breakfast or dinner with Santa Claus on select performance dates in the dining room with a festive buffet-style menu complete with seasonal favorites. More details.


Thur. – Sun., Nov. 21 – Dec. 21

From the Heart

Lake Forest, Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd.  From the Heart is the world premiere of a new play by Jessica Puller. It weaves two well-known stories, O Henry’s “The Gifts of the Magi” and Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” that each describe how the perfect gift is one that comes ‘From the Heart’. More details.


Nov. 28 – Dec. 24

A Christmas Carol

Arlington Heights, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St. A holiday tradition returns to Metropolis. A miserly and miserable man, Ebenezer Scrooge greets each Christmas with a ‘bah humbug,’ until he is visited one Christmas Eve by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Through a restless night, the spirits show him memories from his past, cruel realities from the present and the grim future should he continue his miserly ways. Celebrate the holiday season with this classic as Scrooge learns the errors of his ways. More details.



Fri. – Sun., Nov. 28 – Dec. 14

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Naperville, Theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth. Celebrate this holiday season by gathering your friends and family and step back in time to Christmas Eve in 1946 at the WBST Radio Studio and be a part of the live audience broadcast of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Watch five actors bring this beloved American holiday classic to captivating life as they play fifty different characters, create all the sound effects and music in this inventive retelling of the timeless story. With the perfect blend of Christmas cheer and theatrical magic, audiences will fall in love all over again with George Bailey and the angel named Clarence who saved his life on Christmas Eve. More details.


Dec. 4-23

Mrs. Claus

Chicago, Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St. Chicago Kids Company’s Holiday Classic returns for the 16th Year! Our biggest and most colorful show will put you in the Holiday Spirit in no time. Join the new Elf Class of 2014 as they try to find the missing “list” in time for Christmas. $12/person. More details.


Dec. 6, 9-11am

Compose Yourself

Evanston, Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave. This morning of music for families, which is sponsored by First Bank & Trust, begins at 9 a.m. with an open house in the Nichols Concert Hall lobby. Kids can enjoy playing a variety of instruments at the Music Institute Instrument Petting Zoo, parents can talk with faculty and staff, and everyone can enjoy student performances. At 10 a.m., Chicago composer James Stephenson introduces kids to the instruments of the symphony orchestra and then leads the audience through the creation of a new work. $5/person. Get tickets here.


Fri. – Sun., Dec. 12-21

A Christmas Carol

Evanston, Next Theater, 927 Noyes St. Mudlark Theater, a children’s theater company, presents this classic tale. Join Ebenezer Scrooge on that fateful holiday eve as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future come to warm the heart of the infamous old miser. Featuring an extraordinary cast of both adult and youth performers, Mudlark Theater is thrilled to present our brand new adaptation of this beloved holiday story. $12/person. More details.


Dec. 12-14

The Nutcracker

Chicago, Mandel Hall, U. of Chicago Campus, 1131 E. 57th St. Hyde Park School of Dance (HPSD) once again offers ballet fans its annual presentation of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, featuring a record 175 dancers, from four-year-olds to grandparents, supported by more than 100 volunteers. Prior to the performances on December 12, 13 and 14, the Pre-Ballet Holiday Show showcases 70 of HPSD’s youngest ballet students in performance. A Sugar Plum Tea featuring costumed characters from The Nutcracker and catered treats takes place after the December 14 matinee. More details.