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posted: 11/23/2012 5:15 AM

What's new in theaters

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• The Chicago stalwart, American Blues Theater remounts its annual production of "It's A Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph" a radio-play adaptation of Frank Capra's beloved film, that the company introduced to the city 10 years ago. Previews begin Friday, Nov. 23, at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, for director Marty Higginbotham's production, which opens Thursday, Nov. 29. Ticket sales Nov. 23-25 benefit the Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research. Milk and cookies, lessons on creating 1940s sound effects and a holiday singalong with Michael Mahler and Dara Cameron accompany all performances. Additionally, ABT celebrates Hanukkah at the 5 and 8 p.m. performances on Dec. 8 and Santa Claus visits the set at 5 p.m. Dec. 22. (773) 871-3000 or americanbluestheater.com.

• Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, remounts the holiday favorite, "The Christmas Schooner" the musical by John Reeger and Julie Shannon, about the Rouse Simmons, the ship that sank a century ago while carrying Christmas trees from Michigan to Illinois. Karl Hamilton and Cory Goodrich star as Peter and Alma Stossel, whose lives are portrayed onstage. Previews begin Friday, Nov. 23. The show opens Wednesday, Nov. 28. (773) 325-1700 or mercurytheaterchicago.com.

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• Mike Nussbaum plays Clarence and Cliff Chamberlain plays George Bailey in American Theatre Company's annual production of "It's a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play," which begins previews Friday, Nov. 23, at 1909 W. Byron St., Chicago. The show opens Tuesday, Nov. 27. (773) 409-4125 or atcweb.org.

• Mitchell Fain dons his candy stripe tights and pointed hat to play Crumpet the Elf in Theater Wit's annual production of "The Santaland Diaries," David Sedaris recounting of his tenure as a Macy's elf. The show opens Friday, Nov. 23, at 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. (773) 975-8150 or theaterwit.org.

• Performances begin Friday, Nov. 23, for Emerald City Theatre's adaptation of "Cinderella." Suitable for children ages 3 to 10, performances continue through Jan. 6, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.

• Citadel Theatre Company premieres a new adaptation by Ann Noble of Louisa May Alcott's classic "Little Women." Scott Phelps directs the production. which opens Friday, Nov. 23, at 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest. (847) 735 or citadeltheatre.org.

• Gorilla Tango Burlesque presents a holiday version of its weekly, adults-only burlesque show, which runs Fridays through Dec. 28 at 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. (773) 598-4549 or gorillatango.com.

• The Waltzing Mechanics debuts its "El Stories: Holiday Train" that latest incarnation of the company's ongoing theatrical series inspired by commuter stories. Performances run at 11 p.m. Saturdays, beginning Nov. 24, and continuing through Jan. 5 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 404-7336 or greenhousetheater.org.

• Porchlight Music Theatre presents a holiday edition of "Best Musical! A Completely Improvised Musical Comedy" Conceived by Matthew Loren Cohen, the first act consists of actors improvising songs based on titles submitted by audience members. In the second act, the actors return with an improvised musical based on the winning songs. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through Dec. 26, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. (773) 327-5252 or porchlightmusictheatre.org.

• "Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody" an adults-only sendup inspired by the best-selling novel, opens Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago, for a brief run. Producer Michael Mills describes the show as a combination of "Saturday Night Live" and Chippendales. (312) 988-9000 or theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.

• After a blizzard paralyzes a neighborhood, three young people climb out of a snowdrift determined to create a new world in Brian Tuttle's "Foreverendia," which gets its Chicago premiere courtesy of The Black Ship Co. The show opens Wednesday, Nov. 28, at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. (773) 935-6875 or blackshipco.org.

• Silk Road Rising partners with Valparaiso University for a staged reading of Federico Garcia Lorca's play about sexual repression, "The House of Bernarda Alba." Translated from Spanish by Emily Mann, the play centers on a domineering widow who insists her daughter mourn the death of their father for eight years and who refuses to let any of the girls marry until the eldest is wed. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, and Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St., Chicago. (312) 857-1234, ext. 201, or silkroadrising.org.

• Naperville's BrightSide Theatre revives "Company," Stephen Sondheim's musical about a single man and his well-meaning, but meddling friends who are encouraging him to get married. The production opens Thursday, Nov. 29, at Meiley-Swallow Hall at North Central College, 31 S. Ellsworth, Naperville. (630) 637-7469 or brightsidetheatre.com.

• The Building Stage artistic director Blake Montgomery conjures Charles Dickens in Montgomery's 2011 one-man show "Charles Dickens Begrudgingly Performs 'A Christmas Carol.' Again." The show finds the Dickens catering to fans by continuing to perform his beloved tale nearly 170 years after it debuted and becoming increasingly disgruntled at the obligation. Previews begin Thursday, Nov. 29, at 412 N. Carpenter St., Chicago. The show opens Sunday, Dec. 2. (312) 491-1369 or buildingstage.com.

• Hell in a Handbag Productions marks the return of its transvestite reindeer and his quirky pals in Dave Cerda's adults-only, LGBTQ satire "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer" beginning previews on Thursday, Nov. 29, at Mary's Attic, 5400 W. Clark St., Chicago. AJ Wright directs the show in which Rudolph and his not-gay-enough elf pal Herbie and a female prospector helps Santa save Christmas. (800) 838-3006 or handbagproductions.org.

• In a savvy counter programming move, Black Ensemble Theater presents one of its signature shows, "The Other Cinderella," which puts an Afrocentric twist on the classic fairy tale. Previews begin Thursday, Nov. 29, at 4450 N. Clark St., Chicago. The show, written and directed by founder Jackie Taylor, opens Sunday, Dec. 2. (773) 769-4451 or blackensembletheater.org.

• After awaking to find Neverland in ruins, Peter Pan attempts to restore its majesty in "Peter Pan's Shadow part three: Foreverland" by Jeremy Menekseoglu. Dream Theatre Company's production opens Thursday, Nov. 29, at 556 W. 18th St., Chicago. (773) 552-8616 or dreamtheatrecompany.com.

• The House Theatre of Chicago's modern, family friendly production of "The Nutcracker" -- adapted by Jake Minton and Phillip Klapperich from "The Nutcracker and the Mouse" by E.T.A. Hoffman -- runs through Dec. 30, at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago. (773) 769-3832 or thehousetheatre.com.

• Second City's seasonal sendup, "Nut-cracking Holiday Review" continues through Dec. 30, at the Up Comedy Club at Piper's Alley, 230 W. North Ave., Chicago. (312) 662-4562 or upcomedyclub.com.

• Mary-Arrchie Theatre's "Superior Donuts" -- the revival that keeps on going -- has been extended. Performances of Tracy Letts' play continue through Sunday, Dec. 9, at The Royal George Cabaret Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., Chicago. (312) 988-9000 or maryarrchie.com.

• Theatre Zarko has extended "fools tango" which showcases short puppet plays for children. Performances continue through Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., Evanston. (847) 350-9275 or theatrezarko.org.

• Riverfront Theater announced the cancellation of the December run of La Soiree. For information on ticket refunds call (888) 556-9484 or email boxoffice@riverfronttheater.com.

• Teatro Vista has announced the remainder of its 2012-2013 season which began with the world premiere of "i put the fear of mexico in 'em" running through Sunday, Dec. 9, at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago. Next up is ensemble members Juan Francisco Villa's one-man show "Empanada for a Dream" about his return to his Columbian family on New York's Lower East Side. It runs Feb. 14 to March 16 at the 16th Street Theater, 6420 16th St., Berwyn. The season concludes with a new play by this year's Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegria Hudes. "The Happiest Song Plays Last" is about a Iraq War veteran turned movie action hero and his cousin, who tries to sustain her crumbling neighborhood, and their individual searches for their place in the world. Edward Torres directs the play, which runs April 13 to May 12 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. See teatrovista.org for more information.

• Mercury Theater will offer subscriptions for its four-production season beginning with "Rodgers and Hammerstein's A Grand Night for Singing," (Jan. 10 to March 10), a revue of the duo's favorite hits from "The King and I," "Oklahoma" and "South Pacific" among other shows. "Barnum," the Cy Coleman-Michael Stewart-Mark Bramble musical about the live of famed impresario Phineas Taylor Barnum, runs March 27 to June 30. Next up is "The Color Purple" (Aug. 14 to Nov. 10) based on the Alice Walker book and the Stephen Spielberg film. The season concludes with a remount of the family-friendly holiday show, "The Christmas Schooner" (Nov. 22 to Dec. 29, 2013). Performances take place at 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. Subscriptions available at mercurytheaterchicago.com or (773) 325-1700.

-- Barbara Vitello

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