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posted: 12/21/2012 5:00 AM

Local theater: 'Oliver' coming to Cahn

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Another Dickens' tale

Charles Dickens' second novel inspired the 1960 musical "Oliver!" by Lionel Bart. Bart composed the music and wrote the lyrics and book of the show about an orphan who falls in with a gang of pickpockets presided over by the wily Fagin. Forced into thievery and failing at it, Olivers is ultimately befriended by a wealthy patron who turns out to be so much more. Light Opera Works' revival stars Streamwood's own Michael Semanic as Oliver and James Harms (LOW's "Man of La Mancha," Goodman Theatre's "The Iceman Cometh") as Fagin.

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8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22; 2 p.m. Sunday Dec. 23, and various times through Dec. 31, at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston. $32-$94. (847) 920-5360 or lightoperaworks.com.

Improv alternative

Looking for an alternative to holiday entertainment? Check out the Improv Playhouse which pairs audience-inspired improvised comedy with standup sets in both G and R-rated versions.

Family-friendly show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, mature audience show at 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at 735 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville. $10, $7. (847) 968-4529 or improvplayhouse.com.

Smits at Steppenwolf

TV veteran Jimmy Smits makes his Steppenwolf Theatre debut in the Chicago area premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis' dark comedy "The (expletive) with the Hat." The latest in the company's yearlong examination of how people respond when their past catches up with them, the play centers around a recently paroled drug dealer trying to stay sober, whose jealousy is piqued and whose rehabilitation is threatened when he discovers a hat that does not belong to him at his girlfriend's apartment. Ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro, who directed the Broadway premiere, directs Steppenwolf's production.

Previews begin Friday, Dec. 28, at 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. The show opens Saturday, Jan. 5. $20-$86. (312) 335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.

• National Pastime Theater hosts a Christmas Day performance of "Hannukatz The Musical!" at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 25, at 941 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago. The performance will be followed by a Chinese feast courtesy of the Orange Garden. Tickets to the performance and dinner are $50 for adults and $15 for kids under 12. (773) 327-7077 or npt2.com.

• Jim Post brings his original musical docudrama "Galena Rose: How Whiskey Won the West" to the Theatre at the Center from Thursday, Dec. 27, through Sunday, Dec. 30. The show chronicles the history of Galena, Ill., and the lovers, gamblers and whiskey drinker who made it charming. The theater is at 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind. (219) 836-3255 or (800) 511-1552 or theatreatthecenter.com.

• Former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" writer Hannibal Buress, headlines Chicago area Zanies comedy clubs from Saturday to Monday, Dec. 29-31. Buress performs at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Dec. 29 at Zanies at MB Financial Park, 5437 Park Place, Rosemont, (847) 813-0484. He performs at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30, at Zanies St. Charles at the Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 584-6342; and at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at Zanies Chicago, 1548 N. Wells St., Chicago, (312) 337-4027 or zanies.com.

• Chicago certainly does love Lucy, evidenced by the return of "I Love Lucy Live On Stage" to the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, beginning Saturday, Dec. 29. The show runs through March 3. Set in 1952, the show is an imagined look behind-the-scenes at the filming of Lucy and Desi's legendary TV show. Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta play Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Curtis Pettyjohn and Joanna Daniels play Fred and Ethel Mertz. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.

• The Hypocrites have added performances to its run of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado." Additional performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30, Jan. 10, 17-18 and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19, at the Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago. See the-hypocrites.com.

• Highland Park's The Music Theatre Company announced the passing of Chicago area actress Elana Faye Silverstein, 29, a founding member of TMTC, who died earlier this month. The company is accepting donations for the Maya Blue Silverstein Scholarship Fund in honor of her daughter with husband David Silverstein. See themusictheatrecompany.org.

• Red Tape Theatre has named Brooke Allen as its first playwright-in-residence as part of its revised Fresh Eyes Project. Established in 2005, Fresh Eyes is a workshop project designed to assist the development of innovative new plays. Over the years, the project has resulted in Caitlin Parish's "A Twist of Water" and Martin Zimmerman's "Making of a Modern Folk Hero" among others. Beginning in January 2013, Allen will work closely with Red Tape directors, actors and dramaturges as part of the six-month residency. See redtapetheatre.org for information.

• Pride Films and Plays has announced the five finalists for its 2013 Great Gay Play Contest. They are: "Directions for Restoring the Dead," about best friends facing life-changing tragedies, by Martin Casella; "The Red Train" about a composer who has an eye-opening encounter with his idol, by B.V. Marshall; "Dancing in the Mirror," about a professional dancer near the end of his career who inherits a dance studio, by Perry Ojeda; "Forbidden Glass," about a gay Iranian man who sweet talks an American reporter into helping him obtain sanctuary in Turkey, by Kirt Shineman; and "Sand Man," inspired by a 2007 shooting of an openly gay 15-year-old boy by a classmate, by G. William Zorn. See pridefilmsandplays.com for more information.

• The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Steppenwolf Theatre Company a $100,000 grant to support the world premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney's "Head of Passes," which premieres April 4. Inspired by the Book of Job, the play is about the role faith plays within the African American community. It unfolds during a surprise birthday party for a family matriarch Shelah, during which a dark family secret is revealed. Tina Landau directs ensemble members Alana Arenas and Tim Hopper along with Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Glenn Davis and Jacqueline Williams. See steppenwolf.org.

• About Face Theatre recently received a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to support its "Here Today: Queer Men of Color" initiative, a yearlong examination of the experiences of LGBTQ. The initiative includes About Face's annual XYZ Festival of New Works featuring plays by Paul Oakley Stovall and Harrison David Rivers and the commissioning of a new play by a minority playwright. See aboutfacetheatre.com for information on the initiative.

-- Barbara Vitello

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