ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
What the Elf?
by Catherine “Land of Misfit Toys” Hellmann, Guest Critic
Second City shows can be rather hit-or-miss. Like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of Advent chocolates, you never know just quite what you’re gonna get…I was sort of hoping that What the Elf? was going to be a hilarious sendup of my beloved movie, Elf.
It’s not. But--it is very entertaining as an absurd collection of goofy holiday sketches with a very talented cast of six: three women and three men who deliver an exuberant collection of strange, oddball, occasionally touching, and frequently funny scenes.
The show begins with a funny tribute song about Chicago scenes like The Bean and traditions like “Don’t Eat Ketchup on Your Hot Dog.” My first favorite sketch was a funny song by Javid Iqbal called “The Muslim Song” with lyrics that he “can’t wait to eat with you” at the end of Ramadan.
Two “identical twin” elves appeared (never mind that they are different genders) to interact with the crowd with gift suggestions for those hard-to-buy-for loved ones on your list. Bill Letz’s over-the-top energy was incredible in every scene he inhabited. When told that one woman’s fiance loves “The Bears, wine, and his iPad,” the twins advise that she needs to get him “some other interests for Christmas.” The fiance was sitting right there, which made it even funnier, especially after a couple drinks. Another guest with a tough-to-buy-for relative was told: ”Get him a fucking flashlight or something.”
One of our absolute favorite sketches was a game-show-like premise to guess “Which one is NOT an Elf?” One sweet-looking character, played by the very talented Jenelle Cheyne, had a surprise Satan voice, accompanied by her contorted face and hands, that was hysterical. The final summary was: “Don’t trust someone because they say things with conviction and have a platform.” Wise message. ;-)
Before intermission, there was a wonderfully choreographed dance number from The Nutcracker performed in office chairs. That was a hoot!
Scrooge and Jacob Marley did a wonderful sketch using audience suggestions that worked beautifully into the dialogue. Very funny results using lines of dialogue from movies and song lyrics, like the Bruce Springsteen line of “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run!” on Scrooge’s gravestone. (You couldn’t predict an awesome moment like that!) And “You shook me all night long!” very inappropriately said to sweet, innocent Tiny Tim. This is what improv was made for!
Jenelle Cheyne had some marvelous audience interaction as a poor, hungry orphan begging for food from the front row. Someone gave her a lime, which she scoffed as “wet citrus.” She persuaded a woman to give her a coat and another lady her cell phone; those items she planned to sell on Ebay!
One of the highlights of the evening had to be the wives of the Three Wise Men dishing about their husbands. “For three wise men, our husbands can be morons!” That was a very inspired scene with their gossiping how Joseph was a carpenter who “must be good with his hands!” and how Mary “should have had a birth plan” before she gave birth in a manger! What was Mary thinking not getting a hotel reservation?!
There was a bonus Act III with more of the pure improv and joy that has made Second City famous. It’s worth sticking around.
Whether you live in town or the ‘burbs, if you're hanging at home for the holidays, or need to entertain out of town guests, What the Elf? is sure to please every adult on your list this holiday season.
Catherine Hellmann has a birthday near Christmas and has always felt rather ripped off. But at least she’s on vacation from school. Santa would put her on the naughty list based on swearing alone…
What the Elf?
It’s just not the holidays without hot cocoa…and hot takes! Make merry at The Second City with this original sketch, variety, and improv celebration of the season. After all, what better time to look back and laugh at 2022? Let’s toast to the best…and roast all the rest.
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
The Best of Holidays
We guarantee yule laugh a whole latke as The Second City unwraps the most wonderful time of the year in our nut-cracking-est, jingle-bell-ing-est revue ever! Celebrate over sixty years of sketches, songs, and comedic conviviality as the next generation of comedy superstars perform our greatest holiday hits.
Mondays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3pm
Holiday Improv Brunch
From uproarious laughter to limitless libations, The Second City’s Holiday Improv Brunch is the gift that keeps on giving! Bring your band of merrymakers as we scramble together two of everyone’s favorites, comedy and brunch, for a scrumptiously seasonal breakfast with a totally improvised experience from the city’s finest.
Sundays at noon
PrideArts’ JACK OFF THE BEANSTALK
to bring British holiday panto tradition to adult audiences
To borrow the catchphrase from the Monty Python TV series, PrideArts will next present “something completely different” for the holidays by bringing the British theatrical genre of panto to Chicago. Panto (short for pantomime, but not to be confused with mime), is a tradition with roots going back to Commedia Dell’Arte, and is a loud, fun, enjoyable musical comedy theatre production that takes well-loved children’s tales and turns them into a show full of giggles for kids along with subtle adult-minded jokes. PrideArts’ holiday show, though, will be the US Premiere of a very adult holiday panto that premiered in London in 2013 and has enjoyed multiple productions around the UK since then.
Top row L-R: Eustace Allen, Tyler Callahan, Hannah Eisendrath, Lisa Fiori.
Middle row L-R: Neill Kelly, Joe Lewis, Sam Martin, Peter Moeller.
Lower row L-R: Anna Seibert, Sara Torre.
JACK OFF THE BEANSTALK was written by Tom Whalley, arguably the leading panto artist of Great Britain. While Whalley has written for general, all-family audiences, he has additionally created several pantos, like this one, that are strictly for adults. PrideArts’ production will be a full-scale musical, with popular songs performed live by the cast, a four-piece band, and lively choreography. The show is recommended for ages 18 +. Press opening is Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 pm, following previews November 28-30. The production will play through December 18, 2022, at the Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago.
Whalley’s take on the traditional fairy tale of the boy who steals magic beans from a giant atop a huge beanstalk adds several characters - Princess Jill, who is a love interest for Jack and is kidnapped by the giant and his evil henchman Fleshlight. An ally for Jack Clapp and his mother Dame Clapp is Fairy Flick Bean. Though British in origin, JACK OFF THE BEANSTALK will include many local references and inside jokes, as is also part of the panto tradition. Songs, performed live by the cast and backed up by a four-piece band, will include favorites by such American artists as Kelly Clarkson and Whitney Houston. With audience participation involving call and response reactions, and with alcoholic drinks (available in the lobby for a donation) allowed inside the theater, the audience experience will be as much a party as attending a live performance.
Anna Seibert (Left) and Joe Lewis (right). Photo by Bryan McCaffrey Click on image to download high-res file.
JACK OFF THE BEANSTALK will be directed by Bryan McCaffrey, whose credits include stage and musical direction for PARADE, GUYS AND DOLLS, and SOMETHING ROTTEN for Theatre Nebula; PASSING STRANGE for Porchlight Music Theatre, and A CHRISTMAS KAROL: A HOLIDAY INTERVENTION for PrideArts in 2021. Music direction is by Anna Wegener, whose recent credits include PARADE and GUYS AND DOLLS (Theatre Nebula), QUEER EYE: THE MUSICAL PARODY (The Second City), and NOTES AND LETTERS (Underscore Theater). The choreographer is Ariana Cappuccitti, who recently choreographed SPONGEBOB: THE MUSICAL, CHICAGO, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, and BIG FISH in the Chicago suburbs and has performed in WONDERFUL TOWN (Goodman Theatre), FUNNY THING… FORUM (Porchlight Music Theatre), MAMMA MIA (Music Theatre Works) and SOMETHING ROTTEN (Theatre Nebula).
The cast who will deliver the outrageous humor, raunchy puns, and sexual innuendo of Whalley’s creation includes Joe Lewis, seen in PrideArts’ GIRLFRIEND and in 2021’s CHRISTMAS KAROL: A HOLIDAY INTERVENTION CABARET, as Jack. His love interest, the Princess Jill, will be played by Anna Seibert (of SHOUT! at Metropolis Art Center). Eustace Allen, whose credits include MODIGLIANI, and NIGHT OF THE IGUANA for The Artistic Home; and INTIMATE APPAREL and AFTER THE FALL for Eclipse Theatre, will be Jack’s mother, Dame Clapp. Neill Kelly (of Theatre Nebula’s PARADE) is Fleshlight and will also understudy Dame Clapp. Hannah Eisendrath will be Fairy Flick Bean, and Tyler Callahan is Fist the Cow. Additional understudies are Sam Martin (Jack), Lisa Fiori (Jill), Peter Moeller (Fleshlight, Fist), and Sara Torre (Fairy Flick Bean).
The production team, in addition to McCaffrey, Wegener and Cappuccitti, includes Victoria Jablonski (Costume Designer), Brett Baleskie (Scenic Designer), Amelia Simonoff (Lighting Designer), Valerio Toretta Gardner (Sound Designer), Carlos Concetta (Sound Engineer) AlJoya Hall (Master Electrician), Emma Ferguson (Props Designer, Assistant Stage Manager), and Christa Retka (Stage Manager).
Performances will begin with previews November 28, 29 and 30 at 7:30 pm each night. Opening night is Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 pm. Regular performance schedule is Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm. Tickets $35 for regular performances, $25 for previews. Seniors and students receive a $5 discount off regular performance prices. Tickets are on sale now online at www.pridearts.org.
Previews Monday, November 28, Tuesday, November 29, and Wednesday, November 30 at 7:30 pm
Press Opening Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 pm
Regular run December 1–December 18, 2022
Curtain times Wednesdays–Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm
Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago
Tickets $35 for regular performances, $25 for previews. Seniors and students receive a $5 discount off regular performance prices. Tickets and more information at www.pridearts.org.
Bryan McCaffrey (Director) in 2022 has directed productions of PARADE and GUYS AND DOLLS for Theatre Nebula. He has also served as Music Director for Theatre Nebula’s production of SOMETHING ROTTEN, for Porchlight Music Theatre’s PASSING STRANGE and for PrideArts’ A CHRISTMAS KAROL: A HOLIDAY INTERVENTION.
Tom Whalley (Writer) trained at Associated Studios, London graduating with a Diploma in Musical Theatre and studied Drama & Scriptwriting at Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom. Tom has made a name for himself as a performer and writer working with a number of theatre companies, directors and creatives in London and elsewhere in the UK. Following an appearance on BBC Three’s reality series Shoplife, Tom has since starred in a number of off West End productions and UK Tours (Dick Whittington eat your heart out!). Passionate about Pantomime, Tom starred in his first panto as an ‘Ugly Stepsister’ while still at school and has gone on to start his own business writing and licensing pantomime scripts for theatre companies across the globe: www.tomwhalleypantomimes.com
Jay Españo (PrideArts Artistic Director). Born in Manila, The Philippines, he joined the prestigious Tanghalang Pilipino’s Actors Company in 1998, where he trained with acclaimed Filipino director Nonon Padilla. He acted in several commercials, television series and films. Notably, he was a regular cast member of Koko KwikKwak - a spin-off of Batibot (Philippine SESAME STREET). He toured The Philippines with that show’s mascots, performing for kids throughout the country. In 2000, Jay was one of many Filipino actors who were cast in the Action Theater Singapore’s hit musical CHANG AND ENG, which toured Asia for several years.
Since joining PrideArts as Artistic Director in 2021, Jay has directed THE THINGS I NEVER COULD TELL STEVEN, 4000 DAYS, CHRISTMAS KAROL: A HOLIDAY INTERVENTION, TOMMY ON TOP, and GIRLFRIEND. Elsewhere in the Chicago area, Jay has worked with storefront theater companies such as Silk Road Rising, Prologue, Ghostlight, Halcyon, and PrideArts. He has played the role of the King in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE KING AND I with various theater companies in the US and in Canada.
PrideArts tells queer stories on a variety of platforms, including both live and virtual performances. Since its founding in 2010, PrideArts has had several chapters, including operating as an itinerant theater for their first six seasons, and as the developer and primary tenant in the Pride Arts Center since 2016.
The company produces full seasons of plays and musicals, as well as events including cabaret, and more. The company has earned 39 Jeff Awards and nominations, and six nominations in the most recent (2019) ALTA Awards from the Alliance of Latinx Theater Artists of Chicago. Programming has reflected the diversity of queer communities by including work made by and illuminating the experiences of women, gay men, transgender people, and BIPOC.
PrideArts is supported by The MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at The Richard Driehaus Foundation, The Illinois Arts Council, City of Chicago’s City Arts Fund, the Elliott Fredland Charitable Trust, The Pauls Foundation, The Heath Fund, The Service Club of Chicago, the AmazonSmile Foundation, Arts and Business Foundation, Tap Root Foundation, Arts and Business Council, and Alphawood Foundation.
PrideArts is a member of the Smart Growth Program of the Chicago Community Trust. PrideArts is a member of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Northalsted Business Association, Lakeview East, Uptown United, and The League of Chicago Theatre.
For more information and to donate, visit www.pridearts.org or call 1.773 857 0222.