Dance for the season
Ruth Page Center for the Arts presents a pair of virtual holiday events focusing on its acclaimed staging of “The Nutcracker.” “A Sugar Plum of a Tradition — Ruth Page’s The Nutcracker Past Present & Future” (Through Dec. 31, $20) is a behind-the-scenes look at the holiday classic featuring archival footage, interviews and commentary from the artists behind the production, a holiday tradition since 1965. “Visions — A Nutcracker Experience” (Dec. 4-20, $45) transforms the holiday tradition into a new concept, which takes place over the five floors of the Ruth Page Center. Visit ruthpage.org.
Holiday classic reworked
A creative performance collective puts its own unique touch on a holiday classic. Co-commissioned by Writers Theatre, “Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol” updates Charles Dickens’ tale as Aunt Trudy, an avowed holiday skeptic, is recruited to channel her late husband’s famous Christmas cheer. As is the company’s style, Manual uses hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes and a live original score to bring the story to life. Performances are livestreamed Dec. 3-20. Tickets: $15-$50. Visit manualcinema.com or writerstheatre.org.
A benefit for Season of Concern, the emergency fund for Chicago theater artists, features a reading of Maria Irene Fornes’ feminist classic “Fefu and Her Friends” performed by an impressive lineup of Chicago actresses: Charin Alvarez, Sandra Delgado, Ora Jones, Delia Kropp, Sadieh Rifai, Lisa Tejero, Janet Ulrich Brooks and Penelope Walker. Set in 1935 in a New England country home where Fefu and her female friends gather to talk and plan a charity benefit, the play shifts between realism and surrealism. Stacy Stoltz directs the reading, which streams Dec. 5-12. Tickets: $10. Visit seasonofconcern.org.
Vanessa Williams live
Singer-actress Vanessa Williams is the next performer featured on “Live from the West Side: Women of Broadway.” Streamed live from New York’s Shubert Virtual Studios, the concert features a mix of showtunes, pop songs and personal stories from the “Ugly Betty” cast member and former Miss America. And perhaps a holiday song or two? The concert livestreams at 7 p.m. Dec. 5. Tickets: $30. Visit northlight.org.
The Chicago Philharmonic, in collaboration with Midsummer’s Music, celebrates two influential Black composers — George Walker (1922-2018) and Florence Price (1887-1953) — in a virtual chamber concert featuring violinist David Perry. Midsummer’s executive director Allyson Fleck says these composers, who embraced their African roots, “need to be heard in these strenuous times, as they remind us of the power and beauty of universal feelings expressed in music.” Featured speaker is pianist Karen Walwyn, a specialist in the work of Price, who also performs Price’s “In the Land O’ Cotton Suite.” The livestreamed concert is at 4 p.m. Dec. 6. Tickets: $15 donation. Visit chicagophilharmonic.org.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s season continues with the virtual premiere of a new work from choreographer Jonathan Fredrickson. “The Sky Was Different” blends dance, verse and music into a dream-like journey through the imaginations of the Hubbard Street dancers. Fredrickson says he wanted to get to know the dancers and that became inspiring. “It became the door to making something happen,” he says. “I would give them prompts, and they would respond, and we would move through their stories, their reflections, their poems and their texts. The piece was born from those ideas.” The free film streams at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 and 5 and 2 p.m. Dec. 6. Visit hubbardstreetdance.com.
Click on St. Nick
Santa and his elves are preparing for a very different holiday season this year. And that means virtual visits with children via “Santa — The Experience,” an interactive self-guided journey through winter’s busiest wonderland. The visit includes Santa’s mailroom, the North Pole’s reindeer stables and, of course, the bustling toy factory. Plus you can video chat with St. Nick himself! Visits are available Dec. 1-24. Tickets: $34.95+. Visit santatheexperience.com.
Mary Houlihan is a Chicago freelance writer.