Showing posts with label HOLIDAY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HOLIDAY. Show all posts

Sunday, November 27, 2022

REVIEW: What the Elf? At Second City Chicago

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


Saturday, November 26, 2022

JACK OFF THE BEANSTALK Via PrideArts November 28 Through December 18, 2022


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

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



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: 

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 or call 1.773 857 0222.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar



For mature audiences only.

Veronica Garza is Jeff nominated for solo performance for her portrayal of Cindy Lou Who in Theater Wit’s 2021 Chicago premiere of Who’s Holiday! by Matthew Lombardo, directed by Christopher Pazdernik. Who’s Holiday! is back for its second season due to popular demand, Nov 25-Dec 30, 2022. 

All Photos: Charles Osgood

Christmas Day is in our grasp.
Why the vodka? Glad you asked!

Theater Wit announces the return of Who’s Holiday!, a hilarious night out with a booze-guzzling, cigarette-smoking, 40-year-old Cindy Lou Who as she recalls the fateful night she met The Grinch, and the sordid events that happened after, November 25-December 30, 2022.

Back by popular demand following its smash hit, Jeff-nominated Chicago debut last holiday season, Theater Wit’s new seasonal comedy Who’s Holiday! is written by Matthew Lombardo, directed by Christopher Pazdernik, and stars Chicago favorite Veronica Garza, now Jeff-nominated for her portrayal last holiday season as an adult Cindy Lou Who.

Veronica Garza, Jeff nominated for her portrayal last holiday season as an adult Cindy Lou Who, returns for Theater Wit's 2022 remount of Who's Holiday!

Who’s Holiday! returns to Theater Wit not without controversy. In 2017, the playwright was locked in a legal battle with Dr. Seuss Enterprises over accusations of copyright infringement, delaying the play’s New York premiere for nearly a year. Ultimately, a U.S. District Court ruled in Lombardo’s favor, citing his depiction of an adult Cindy Lou Who living in a beat-up trailer in the snowy hills of Mount Crumpit as “fair use.” 

Freed of litigious red tape, Who’s Holiday! went on to be hailed “a raunchy riff on Dr. Seuss’s yuletide tale” (New York Times) that “dares to be as tasteless as possible while replicating Seuss’s trademark rhythms” (Time Out New York).

Chicago’s critics lapped up Theater Wit’s 2021 Chicago premiere, too. “Highly Recommended” said the Chicago Reader, with the best pull quote of all, “I loved this show!” agreed “Garza is a comic genius,” adding Who’s Holiday! is “a very funny, often poignant production guided with panache by an excellent director.”

In another apparent holiday miracle, the Jeff Committee’s heart grew three sizes last year, too. The newly announced 2021-22 Equity Jeff Award Nominations included noms for Garza for Best Solo Performer, and for Short Run-Design for Angela Weber Miller’s holiday-festooned, mobile home set. 

Angela Weber Miller’s holiday-festooned, mobile home set for Theater Wit's Who's Holiday! is Jeff-nominated, too. 

Photo: Charles Osgood

Don’t miss this wildly funny, yet heartfelt adults-only romp about the twisted turn of events Cindy Lou Who’s life took after her encounter with a green furry outcast attempting to burgle Whoville of its holiday cheer. 

Tickets to Who’s Holiday! are $24-$50, and are already on sale at or by calling the Theater Wit box office, (773) 975-8150. 

Previews are Friday, November 25 at 7 p.m., Saturday, November 27 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, November 28 at 3 p.m. Press opening is Monday, November 29 at 7 p.m. 

Regular performances continue Thursday, December 1 at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 2 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 4 at 3 p.m.; Thursday, December 8 at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 9 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, December 10 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 11 at 3 p.m.; Thursday, December 15 at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 16 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, December 17 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 18 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Tuesday, December 20 at 7 p.m.; Wednesday, December 21 at 7 p.m.; Thursday, December 22 at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 23 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; no shows Christmas Eve (December 24) or Christmas Day (December 25); Tuesday, December 27 at 7 p.m.; Wednesday, December 28 at 7 p.m;, Thursday, December 29 at 7 p.m.; and Friday, December 30 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Theater Wit is located at 1229 W. Belmont Ave., in the Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Parking is available in a lot across the street from the theater, behind Kubo restaurant, for $8 (pay at the Theater Wit box office.) Neighborhood street parking is also available. Theater Wit is accessible via the CTA 77 Belmont bus, and just three blocks west of the CTA Belmont Red/Brown/Purple line stop. 

And what are the holidays without a bit too much eggnog?

Cindy's Little Helper

Be sure to stop by Theater Wit’s bar for something better, your pick of a Who’s Holiday!-themed seasonal speciality drink like:

Cindy’s Little Helper (Chocolate liquor, Luxardo cherry liqueur, whipped cream and a cherry) - $6

The Grinch (North Shore Gin, Chartreuse, Drambuie, lime) - $12

Whosky Sour (house-infused citrus vodka, Jameson, Plymouth Sloe Gin, lime) - $12

The Snowplow (Peppermint Rumchata, Shipwreck Coconut Rum) - $12

Krampusberry (Koval Cranberry Gin, North Shore Gin, seltzer and a cinnamon stick) - $12

Note: Everyone (including audience members) at Theater Wit is required to be vaccinated to enter the building. Each audience member must show proof of vaccination and state ID at the door for admittance. Electronic photos and copies are acceptable. Patrons with medical or religious exemptions may be admitted but must contact the box office a minimum of 48 hours before the performance for additional review and guidance. While Cook County is at Medium risk level or above, all audience members must be masked for the duration of their visit. Masks are required for medical and religious exemptions as well. Visit for more details.

Behind the Scenes of Who’s Holiday!

Veronica Garza (Cindy Lou Who, she/her/hers) was last seen at Theatre Wit in Underscore Theatre’s Tonya and Nancy: A Rock Opera. She received a Jeff Award for her role as both Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan's mothers. Other roles include the Deputy in Groundhog Day (Paramount), Roz in 9 to 5 (Firebrand), Sister Amnesia in Nunsense (Milwaukee Rep), Babs in Miracle (Royal George), Prudie in Pump Boys and Dinettes (Theatre at the Center and Timberlake Playhouse), The Homeless Lady in A New Brain (Theo Ubique), Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas (Broadway Playhouse) and the Fortune Teller in Sideshow (Porchlight). 


Christopher Pazdernik (director, any pronouns) made his Theater Wit debut with Who’s Holiday! In Chicago he is best known for three seasons as Artistic Director of Refuge Theatre Project (Jeff Awards, Best Director and Best Production of a Musical, High Fidelity) and a long association with Porchlight Music Theatre, including directing eight Porchlight Revisits productions and three years working in producing, casting and company management. Currently, he is the Managing and Casting Director for Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, where he directed Godspell earlier this season. Also an openly HIV+ artist, Pazdernik is the founder and producer of Belting for Life, an annual benefit concert for Howard Brown Health, and co-captain of Team Option Up! for AIDS Run/Walk Chicago. 

Theater Wit’s Who’s Holiday! design team remains Angela Weber MIller, set; Shelley Strasser, lights; Uriel Gomez, costumes; and Lonnae Hickman, props. Jeremy Wechsler is Artistic Director at Theater Wit.

Matthew Lombardo (playwright, he/him/his) Broadway: High with Kathleen Turner at the Booth Theatre and Looped starring Valerie Harper in a Tony-nominated performance at The Lyceum Theatre. Off-Broadway: Who’s Holiday! (with Lesli Margherita) at the Westside Theatre; Tea at Five (with Kate Mulgrew) at the Promenade Theatre; Mother and Child (with Ann Wedgeworth) at Second Stage; End of the World Party at the 47th Street Theatre (director) and Guilty Innocence at The Actors’ Playhouse. His work has been produced at such prestigious theaters as Hartford Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, American Repertory Theatre, Seattle Rep, Arena Stage, Pasadena Playhouse, Cincinnati Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and others. Television credits include Another World (WGA Award Nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Writing). As a producer, he has presented concerts throughout the country for Broadway legends such as Carol Channing, Patti LuPone, Tommy Tune, Bernadette Peters, Barbara Cook, Billy Porter, Betty Buckley, Andrea McArdle and Faith Prince.

About Theater Wit

Theater Wit, Chicago’s “smart art” theater, is located at 1229 N. Belmont Ave., in the Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview community. Theater Wit is a major hub of Chicago’s neighborhood theater scene, where audiences enjoy a smorgasbord of excellent productions in its three, 99-seat spaces, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.

To purchase tickets, a Theater Wit Membership or to inquire about Flex Pass options, visit, send email to, or call the Theater Wit box office, 773.975.8150.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

December's Delightful at Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret In Chicago

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Make the Yule-tide Gay

New Year’s Eve Special Event Nitz and Howe Experience


The Wicker Park Venue Hosts Mr. Cooke for his Christmas Spectacular, Miriam Plotkin, Kim Grossman’s Holiday Spectacular and Much More During This December

Davenport’s Piano Bar & Cabaret, Chicago’s premier location for enjoying music in an intimate setting, announces its roster of December performances including Holiday offerings in its Cabaret and Piano Bar. Davenport’s, 1383 North Milwaukee Avenue, is open Thursdays from 7 - 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. - 12 a.m. and Sundays from 6 - 11 p.m. Performers, tickets and more are available at

*Please note: All patrons must be vaccinated. For entry, patrons must provide proof of vaccination, such as a Vaccination Cardand a valid photo ID. Masks will be required upon entry and when not seated.

All performances In The Cabaret are ticketed events with a two-drink minimum on the night of the performance. 

In The Cabaret this December are:

Jefferey Cooke

Holly and Berries and Everything Merry - My Christmas Spectacular!

Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 with a two-drink minimum

Join us for a fun, lighthearted tribute to the Christmas specials of yester-year. Packed with audience participation (including games and fabulous prizes), there will be a mix of old holiday classics and some songs that you may have never heard before; along with a surprise guest star.

Miriam Plotkin

Anxiety Tonight! (Pigtails are Kosher)

Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m.

These performances are sold out - encore performance added Saturday, Jan. 22 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 with a two-drink minimum 

After missing last year because of the pandemic, Miriam Plotkin returns with her hit show Anxiety Tonight! (Pigtails are Kosher), a Jewish themed parody song filled cabaret in true Allan Sherman fashion. Extra shpilkes! Masks! New material! Get ready to laugh your “OY” off and “shed” the neurosis, not the virus!

Kim Grossman

Kim Grossman’s Holiday Spectacular

Sunday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20 with a two-drink minimum

It’s been quite a while since we’ve been together and I’ve missed you all oh so dearly. So put on your coziest sweater, grab a friend and join us for an evening of holiday tunes both old and new. Featuring Kim Grossman, Kimi Arquines and Ben Hebert, with a special visit from your friendly neighborhood elf! Let's raise a glass and celebrate the season!

Las Tinas

Fa-la-la Las Tinas: A Christmas Special

Friday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $10 with a two-drink minimum

‘Tis the season to be DRAMATIC! Come see Fa-la-la Las Tinas: A Christmas Special, a show where your favorite telenovela stars will reward all who’ve been nice with a steamy kiss, punish the naughty with a treacherous slap and gift everyone with plenty of laughs.

Michael Joseph Mitchell

“Reclaiming the [Musical] High Ground”

Sunday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20 with a two-drink minimum

Us! In pants! In a room! Together! We’ll shake the rafters with some jubilant music, some exuberant harmonies, plus a few quiet moments to contemplate what the heck just happened. Pop, showtunes, unexpected mashups, mushy stuff, you name it. We’ve been holding it in for 18 months, so step back and give us some room. Or better yet, pipe up and chime in! Michael is joined by the amazing singers Devri Chism, Emily Goldberg and Valerie Jonkoff, plus Adam Whiteman on drums and Andrew Hollander-Urbach on piano.

Michael Joseph Mitchell is a Chicago-based actor and singer, who has performed at The Lyric Opera, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Victory Gardens, and many regional theaters. This is his fourth new act at Davenport’s.


Sarah Christine w/ Special Guest Taylor Tuke

The Festive Vibes Tour

Thursday, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. 

Tickets are $15 with a two-drink minimum

The wonderfully talented Sarah Christine is bringing her Holiday Tour to Chicago on the Davenport's stage! She will be singing favorite carols and, wait…WHAT?!? Yes! Some original holiday songs as well as requests of originals! Oh, but there’s more! The amazing Taylor Tuke is making his way from Nashville to join in the festivities! Missing this spirited show would be like missing Christmas morning itself. In other words - get your tickets now!


Jennifer Blades and John Bowen

Dear Santa, a Christmas Cabaret

Saturday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 with a 2-drink minimum

Join the dynamic cabaret duo of Jennifer Blades and John Bowen for a musical letter to the North Pole's most famous resident. This holiday romp will offer perspectives on the fat man in the red suit ranging from the traditional to the surprising to the downright shocking. So whether you're naughty or nice, check your schedule and check it twice, because if you don't see this show, not only do you not know Santa, you don't know Jack. . . Frost!


New Year’s Eve Special Event

Nitz and Howe Experience

Friday, Dec. 31 - doors open at 8:30 p.m. - show from 9:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.

Tickets are $25 

Davenport’s favorites celebrate the start of 2022 with a special New Year’s Eve performance. Ring in the new year at Davenport’s with song and laughter and a countdown to midnight with a champagne toast and party favors. The New Year’s Eve performance is limited to only 50 tickets.


December performances in The Piano Bar include: 

Sundays 8 - 10 p.m.

Every Sunday: Sunday Night Social Lounge. hosted by Micky York

Mondays 8 - 10 p.m.

December 13: George Howe Holiday Sing-Along

Thursday 8 - 10 p.m.

December 2: Julie Merchant

December 9: Mark and Anne Burrell

December 16: Mark and Anne Burnell

December 23: Closed

December 30: Closed

Fridays 8:30 - 11:30 p.m.

Every Friday: George Howe

Saturdays 9 p.m. - 12 a.m.

Every Saturday: The Nitz & Howe Experience+

Please note: Davenport’s will be closed from December 20 - 30.

+All Saturday appearances have a $5 cover, with no drink minimum and is limited to 50 guests.  


Davenport's Piano Bar and Cabaret is Chicago's premier location for enjoying music in an intimate setting. With two performance spaces, visitors may enjoy performances by national and local talent. The cabaret room has performances most nights showcasing a variety of types of music. The piano bar provides music from an accomplished roster of musicians and a talented serving staff that can both make a drink and sing you a Broadway-caliber song.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Review: Hell in a Handbag's Hilarious Holiday Special Perfect Panacea For Pandemic Blues

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 

Hell in a Handbag Productions Presents 

The World Premiere of



By Artistic Director David Cerda

Directed and Choreographed by Stevie Love

Now Streaming Through January 9, 2021

Grant Drager as Bing Crosby, Sydney Genco as Vampira, Tyler Anthony Smith as Bernadette Peters and David Lipschutz as Doug Henning in a publicity image forHell in a Handbag Productions’ world premiere of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special. All Photos by Rick Aguilar Studios.


THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes

The Holiday Edition, Vol. 2 recorded in 2019
Now streaming through December 31st

(*Virtual General Admission $15.00 +$2.55 Fee. Choose your amount to donate as all monies got to Groceryland in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago)


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

H... E... double toothpicks. H... E... double holiday shows. Yes, the intrepid drag queens, singers and comedians of Chicago's Hell in a Handbag have just the pill for your quarantine ills. They have not one, but two holiday shows now streaming and the best news is neither one is A Christmas Carol! Make it a double. 

I invited a friend over for the press opening of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special, and though we were masked and 6 feet apart, things almost felt normal. It was fun ChiILin' in Chi, IL in my heated back yard tent, getting my holiday Hell in a Handbag Productions fix, streaming another David Cerda original, projected on a 10' screen. I could almost see the steep, creaking stairs to the cozy confines of Mary's Attic, and taste the martinis. On the bright side, audience members don't have to make it to Chicago anymore to experience Hell in a Handbag's unique brand of hilarity. They've been at it for 18 years now, and aren't about to let a little thing like a worldwide pandemic stop the fun.

The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special is a brand new production, perfect for all the adults out there who've spent the last 9 months in quarantine exhausting everything on Netflix and cable and are about to resort to DIY puppet shows with their pandemic snacks, in desperation for something new. This green screen extravaganza is a welcome relief from the flood of Zoom theatre productions now streaming and allowed for lots of creative backgrounds, and even an exaggerated hourglass figure for Vampira. It is the darkest time of the year after all, and what's a holiday special without a touch of the macabre? The only ghosts of Christmas past are dead celebrities, and this 70's style variety show lineup is capably and campily played by a host of Handbag regulars. 

Coming along for the strange ride is Rip’s stage manager Tony (Michael S. Miller*) and his line-up of celebrity guests: Bing Crosby (Grant Drager*), David Cassidy (Nicky Mendelsohn), Shari Lewis and Lambchop (Caitlin Jackson*), Ella Fitzgerald (Robert Williams*), Charlton Heston (Michael Rashid*), Bernadette Peters (Tyler Anthony Smith*), Vampira (Sydney Genco*), Quentin Crisp (Danne W. Taylor*) Lucie Arnaz (Alexa Castelvecchi), and her mother, Lucille Ball (David Cerda*) – or at least that’s who Rip thinks they are.

The wacky plot is a kitschy nod to the star laden holiday shows of the past, with a dose of covid angst, and a Wizard of Oz twist at the end. This is a show best served to an all adult audience with copious amounts of booze and/or edibles. 

RipNelson-1 (left to right)Alexa Castelvecchi as Lucie Arnaz,David Cerda as Lucille Ball andEd Jonesas Rip Nelson in a publicity image forHell in a HandbagProductions’ world premiere of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special. Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios.

Sure, quarantine times are strange, and we miss live theatre passionately, but till we can safely meet again, we suggest this double feature as a fun alternative and a great way to forget about 2020 for a few hours. Highly recommended! 

(left to right)Tyler Anthony Smith as Bernadette Peters andNicky Mendelsohn as David Cassidy. 

(pictured)Ed Jones as Rip Nelson. Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 


Hell in a Handbag Productions celebrates the holidays with the return of America’s favorite funnyman, Rip Nelson (Ed Jones*), in the star-studded world premiere of The Rip Nelson Holiday Quarantine Special, streaming through January 9, 2021 via Vimeo. The world premiere is written by Artistic Director Cerda* and directed and choreographed by Stevie Love*, with music and lyrics by David Cerda and Scott Lamberty. Tickets ($25) are currently available at or The show streams at designated performance times (see schedule below). 

It’s 2020 and Rip is in the hospital after an ill-advised gig on a Pride cruise. Rip’s devoted make-up woman and confidante Gladys (Lori Lee*), is worried sick, but Rip is more upset that Ryan Seacrest is taking over as host of his annual television holiday special! Rip’s not going to let anything, including the overbearing Nurse Ursula (Terry McCarthy*), stop him from being on that show! A determined Rip makes it to the studio with a little help from trippy magician, Doug Henning (David Lipschutz*) and soon finds himself in his weirdest television special ever.

“Our production will be filmed in a large warehouse combining a physical set and green screen techniques to ensure the safety of the cast and crew,” comments playwright and Artistic Director David Cerda. “Many people look forward our holiday shows with a combination of absurd humor and heart. This show provides both – and addresses trying to stay sane in 2020.”

Performance Schedule:

Thursdays and Friday at 8 pm

Saturdays at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm

Sundays at 3 pm

Please note: shows stream at designated performances times. There will be an added performance on Wednesday, December 23 at 8 pm; there will not be a performance on Friday, January 1 (New Year’s Day).

The production team includes Peter Neville/Image Control Unit* (filming and editing), Pamela Parker* (scenic and props design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), Beth Laske Miller (costume design), Sydney Genco (make-up design), Jabberwocky Productions (puppetry), Keith Ryan* (wig design), Michael Rashid* (production manager) and Drew Donnelly* (stage manager).

*Denotes Handbag ensemble members and artistic associates

(pictured)David Cerda as Lucille Ball 

Hell in a Handbag Productions Presents
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes
The Holiday Edition, Vol. 2
By Artistic Director David Cerda
Directed by Ensemble Member Stevie Love

Celebrate the season in sunny Miami as Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia return for brand new holiday episodes in THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Holiday Edition, Vol. 2. Written by Artistic Director David Cerda* and directed by ensemble member Stevie Love*, the latest installment of Hell in a Handbag Productions’ long-running parody of the beloved TV sitcom recorded in 2019 at Mary’s Attic, in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. 

THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Holiday Edition, Vol. 2 features ensemble members Ed Jones* as Rose, David Cerda* as Dorothy and Grant Drager* as Blanche with Ryan Oates as Sophia. The cast also includes ensemble members Lori Lee*, Michael Miller* and Michael Rashid* with Steve Kimbrough and Tyler Anthony Smith.

THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes series began in 2017 and has been going strong ever since. Chicago loves Handbag’s long-running parody of the classic TV sitcom with original scripts.

The production team includes Chris Rhoton (scenic design), David Cerda* (costume design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), DJ Douglass (sound design), Pamela Parker (prop designer), Keith Ryan* (wig design), Sydney Genco* (make-up design) and Jeremy Hollis (technical director, additional scenic design).

*Denotes Handbag ensemble member.


Title: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Holiday Edition, Vol. 2
Written by: Artistic Director David Cerda*
Directed by: ensemble member Stevie Love*

Cast (in alphabetical order): David Cerda* (Dorothy), Grant Drager* (Blanche), Ed Jones* (Rose), Steve Kimbrough (Ensemble), Lori Lee* (Ensemble), Michael Miller* (Ensemble), Ryan Oates (Sophia), Michael Rashid* (Ensemble) and Tyler Anthony Smith (Ensemble).

About the Artists     

David Cerda (Playwright, Music & Lyrics) is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Hell in a Handbag Productions, now in its 18th year. As the resident playwright, his plays include POSEIDON! An Upside-Down Musical, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, Caged Dames, Christmas Dearest, Sexy Baby, Lady X- The Musical, The Drag Seed, and many more. Cerda was in inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame in 2016 and received an honorary lifetime Jeff Award in 2017 for his contribution to Chicago theatre. 

Stevie Love (Director/Choreographer) most recently played Nonnie in Hell a Handbag’s Poseidon! and Annie/Shelly in Evil Dead the Musical (Black Button Eyes Productions) which earned a 2019 Jeff Award nod for Supporting Actor. Other credits (directing, choreography, acting): Disney Cruise Lines, Steppenwolf Garage, Northlight Theatre, Ensemble Theatre Company, Pride Films and Plays, National Pastime Theater, Red Tape Theater, The New Colony, and many Handbag shows (notably: Helen in MIRACLE! which garnered Jeff and BroadwayWorld Award nominations).

Scott Lamberty (Music) is a composer, arranger, sound designer and audio engineer who has

been bringing sound and music to the Chicago theater scene since the early 1990s. He has written and produced musical scores for more shows than he can count including The Bad Seed The Musical and The Passion Follies at Corn Productions; and POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical, The Birds and Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer at Hell in a Handbag Productions. His work as an audio engineer has included the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera, Chicago a capella, Music of the Baroque and the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. He is the recording engineer for the Ravinia Steans Music Institute.

About Hell in a Handbag Productions

Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit. For additional information, visit

Monday, November 26, 2018

REVIEW: Hell in a Handbag Productions' World Premiere of SnowGirls – The Musical Through December 30, 2018 at Mary’s Attic

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar:

World Premiere!
Hell in a Handbag Productions Presents 
SnowGirls – The Musical
Book by Derek Van Barham
Music by David Cerda, Scott Lamberty & Jeff Thomson
Directed by Jon Martinez
Music Direction by JD Caudill

(pictured) Harper Leander in Hell in a Handbag Productions’ world premiere of SnowGirls – The Musical. All Production Photos by Rick Aguilar Studios.

November 15 – December 30, 2018 
at Mary’s Attic

Guest Review:
by D'Arcy Mies

If you are looking for looking for an adult-themed holly-jolly good time this holiday season, Snowgirls will not disappoint!  Not your mama’s Christmas show, this raunchy, silly, and high-spirited musical features all your favorite yuletide characters:  pole-dancing reindeer, foul-mouthed elves, and a horny Santa.

(left to right) Amelia Bell, Harper Leander and Sharon Rae Ryan 

Mary’s Attic, aglow with pink and red lights, serves up hot toddies and other holiday spirits to a laughing and appreciative crowd. 

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Mies

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Mies

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Mies

The show opens with an energetic musical number introducing small-town reindeer Snowmi Malone. Snowmi hitchhikes her way to the North Pole to become a dancer, and sexy hilarity ensues!  Snowgirls delivers catchy musical numbers, clever one-liners, and a sexy villainess who wouldn’t be out of place as the wicked queen in a (very twisted) Disney movie.

(pictured) Erin Daly

Don’t expect any plot-twists as Snowgirls closely parodies the 1995 movie Showgirls, but do expect full-frontal reindeer nudity, theatre-in-jokes, and a scene-stealing Mrs. Claus. References to “Saved by the Bell:”, Rankin and Bass Christmas specials, and even a bit of puppetry round out this naughty-but-nice addition to the Holiday theatre season.

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Mies

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Mies

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Mies

D'Arcy Mies is a Montessori teacher, mom, and long time theater lover who lives in Chicago burb, Franklin Park. She drives a "Tardis Blue" car decked out like Dr. Who's time machine and can often be found at pop culture events.

(left to right) Brittani Yawn, Marissa Williams and Patrick Stengle

(left to right) Brittani Yawn, Harper Leander and Grant Drager 

Hell in a Handbag Productions rings in the holidays with the world premiere of SnowGirls – The Musical, a parody of the classic cult film Showgirls. Featuring a book by Derek Van Barham, music by Artistic Director David Cerda* with Scott Lamberty and Jeff Thomson, direction by Jon Martinez and music direction by JD Caudill. SnowGirls will play November 15 – December 30, 2018 at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. Tickets are currently available at or by calling (800) 838-3006. 

(clockwise from left) Sharon Rae Ryan, Amelia Bell, Sydney Genco, Marissa Williams and Patrick Stengle 

SnowGirls – The Musicalfeatures Ensemble Members Sydney Genco*, Grant Drager* and Terry McCarthy* with Amelia Bell, Erin Daly, Harper Leander, Max McKune, Sharon Rae Ryan, Patrick Stengle, Marissa Williams and Brittani Yawn.

Snowmi Malone is a rebel who dreams of becoming a dancer. Her quest leads her to the cold cruel world of the North Pole, where she’ll stop at nothing to fulfill her fantasy. SnowGirls explores what happens at the North Pole the other 364 days of the year – and it isn't always pretty.

Harper Leander and Brittani Yawn 

The production team for SnowGirls – The Musical includes: Kate Setzer Kamphausen (costume design), Cat Wilson* (lighting design), Keith Ryan* (wig design) and Drew Donnelly (stage manager).

*Denotes Handbag ensemble member.

Cast (in alphabetical order): Amelia Bell (Ensemble, Dancer), Erin Daly (Mrs. Claus), Sydney Genco* (Ice Krystal), Grant Drager* (Zip), Harper Leander (Snowmi Malone), Terry McCarthy* (Santa, Tony), Max McKune (Rudolph, Ensemble), Sharon Rae Ryan (Ensemble, Dasher), Patrick Stengle (Ensemble, Herbie), Marissa Williams (Gay, Ensemble, Dance Captain) and Brittani Yawn (Jolly). 

(left to right) Sydney Genco, Brittani Yawn and Harper Leander

Location: Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago

Dates:Previews: Thursday, November 15 at 7:30 pm, Friday, November 16 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, November 17 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, November 18 at 6 pm.

Regular run: Sunday, November 25 – Sunday, December 30, 2018

Curtain Times: Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 6 pm. Please note: there will not be a 6 pm performance on Sunday, December 2 due to the Handbag Gala.

Tickets: Previews $17. Regular run $27 in advance, $30 at the door. Group rates $24 for 10 or more. $20 senior and student rates. 

About the Artists    

Derek Van Barham (Book) is the Associate Artistic Director of Pride Films & Plays and a member of the Red Tape Theatre ensemble. For PFP, he has directed Perfect Arrangement, Angry Fags (Steppenwolf Garage), Songs from an Unmade Bed (Jeff nomination), and (co-directing) PRISCILLA, Queen of the Desert: The Musical. He also wrote BITE: A Pucking Queer Cabaret and Kill Your Boyfriends. Other directing credits include The View Upstairs (Circle Theatre), Three Days of Rain (Boho), Miracle! by Dan Savage, Skooby Don't (Hell in a Handbag), and HOT PINK (New American Folk Theatre). Choreography credits include The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier (Permoveo/PFP), Nevermore, Shockheaded Peter, Coraline (Black Button Eyes) and Salonathon. He was named one of Windy City Times 30 Under 30, recognizing Chicago's LGBTQ+ community. Up next: directing When Adonis Calls and Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical and choreographing Evil Dead the Musical.   

David Cerda (Music) is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Hell in a Handbag Productions. Cerda has written or collaborated on POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical, Caged Dames, Sexy Baby, Lady X: The Musical, Christmas Dearest, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, SCARRIE-The Musical, and many others. He has also worked as a songwriter with Amazon Studios and as an actor around Chicago. In 2016, Cerda was in inducted into the Chicago GLBT Hall of Fame and in 2017 he received a Lifetime Achievement Jeff Award for his contributions to the Chicago theater community and philanthropic efforts.

Jeff Thomson (Orchestrations) is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award as well as the Dramatist Guild Musical Theatre Writing Fellowship. Jeff’s original musical Trails was performed in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Tokyo, winning him the NYMF award for Best Music, as well as the Stage Entertainment Development Award. Other projects include Virtually Me for TheatreworksUSA, and a club musical adaptation of the cult film Jawbreaker, an arena rock musical adaptation of Allan Moyle's Pump Up the Volume (book and lyrics by Jeremy Desmon). He was commissioned by Broadway Across America to compose the music to the children’s musical Mad Libs Live!, which premiered Off-Broadway. Jeff was selected by Amazon Studios to write the music for the animated movie musical, Midnight with lyricist David Cerda. Most recently, Jeff was selected by Simon & Schuster to pen the score to a new Broadway musical based on the iconic and beloved sleuth, Nancy Drew. 

Scott Lamberty (Arrangements, Tracks) has collaborated with David Cerda on several Handbag musicals including Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical, SCARRIE – The Musical, Sexy Baby and Lady X The Musical. Scott has also worked extensively with Corn Productions on the Tiff and Mom shows, The Bad Seed The Musical and Jesus Camp – The Musical, among many others.

Jon Martinez (Director) is excited to make his Handbag debut! Credits include: The Buddy Holly Story (American Blues Theatre), The View Upstairs (Circle Theater), In The Heights (Civic Theatre), On A Clear Day… (Porchlight Music Theater), It’s Only a Play, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Joseph Jefferson Award nomination) (Pride Films & Plays), Rock of Ages (Timberlake Playhouse), Tonya & Nancy The Rock Opera (Chicago Premiere – Underscore); 3C (Red Orchid); We’re Gonna Die (Haven Theater/Steppenwolf). Jon also directed the Theater On The Lake remount of Bailiwick Chicago’s Jeff Award-winning production of Murder Ballad. He also has served as assistant/associate director/choreographer on LIZZIE (Firebrand), Xanadu (American Theater Company); Carrie, Murder Ballad (Bailiwick Chicago). His first ballet, Le Apache, premiered in 2016 at The Harris Theater in Chicago. Jon is a company member of Underscore and Firebrand Theatre. 

JD Caudill (Music Director) is a Chicago-based director, music director and performer. Since coming to Chicago in 2014, JD has performed onstage with The New Colony, Hell in a Handbag Productions, New American Folk Theatre, Forks and Hope and Hobo Junction, and directed for over 15 companies, including Broken Nose Theatre, The New Colony and Haven Theatre. JD is a company member of Hell in a Handbag and Haven Theatre (where they are also marketing director), and an associate company member of Broken Nose Theatre.

(left to right) Harper Leander and Grant Drager

About Hell in a Handbag Productions
Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

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