Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago’s largest professional theater devoted to children and young families, announced its 18th season today, launching this fall with a fun, engaging and innovative three-show slate of in-person shows.
CCT kicks off its 2022-23 season, live on stage, with Manual Cinema presenting the Chicago premiere of Leonardo! A Wonderful Story about a Terrible Monster. Hundreds of illustrated puppets, hilarious actors on live cameras, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, and a live soundtrack that both kids and parents will love bring the beloved children’s books by Mo Willems to life in Manual Cinema’s super fun new family show. Performances are September 9-October 6, 2022. Mark your calendar, because these shows will sell out.
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2022-23 season includes (from left) Manual Cinema’s Leonardo! A Wonderful Story about a Terrible Monster, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show.
Note: Manual Cinema and CCT fans may recall Leonardo! was originally set to debut here last January, but was postponed to fall due to health and safety concerns. But good news: Manual Cinema is now taking Leonardo! to New York’s New Victory Theater for a four-week summer run, June 4-26, 2022. Afterwards, Leonardo! will return home in the fall, riding a big wave of New York acclaim in advance of the show’s hometown Chicago debut.
Next, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s popular holiday show, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party, an annual rite of passage for Chicago toddlers, returns for its seventh season, November 19-December 24, 2022. Four adorable Beatrix Potter stories come to life in this mesmerizing, interactive trunk and puppet show, followed by families and artists gathering in CCT’s lobby for a festive holiday spread of juice, cookies and chocolate milk.
While “Chicago Not in Chicago” fell flat as the city’s tourism slogan, it's an apt metaphor for CCT’s ambitious plans next winter. Instead of performing locally, CCT will remount its current world premiere, Carmela Full of Wishes - cast, crew, set, costumes, magical dandelions and all - at Seattle Children’s Theatre, in January/February 2023. Based on the children’s book by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson, Carmela Full of Wishes is having its world premiere opening now through May 22 at Chicago Children’s Theatre.
By spring, CCT will be back home, welcoming audiences for The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show by Jonathan Rockefeller, creator of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. Kids love this bright, bold spectacle production with 75 larger-than-life puppets who bring four Eric Carle favorites from the page to the stage: “The Very Busy Spider,” “10 Rubber Ducks,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” When CCT first presented The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show in 2019, the Chicago Tribune raved “Incredible work…Eric Carle’s books are brought beautifully to life.” “Be wowed by the live action colorful world,” wrote Chicago Parent. Jerrell L. Henderson returns to direct. Performances are April 10-June 4, 2023.
Three-show subscriptions to Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2022-23 season start at just $70. Or, choose a two-play package. Sign up for the CCT Family email list by May 29 for 25% off season tickets. Subscriptions go on sale to the public on June 1 at chicagochildrenstheater.org.
Email email@example.com or call (312) 374-8835 to learn more about discounted rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups.
Chicago Children’s Theatre is a “no shushing” theater. It’s located at 100 S. Racine Ave., at Monroe, in the heart of Chicago's West Loop, minutes from I-90 and I-290, as well as downtown and Ashland Avenue. Free, onsite parking is available on the south side of the building. Free street parking can be found nearby on weekends, or try the Impark parking lot, 1301 W. Madison St.
More about CCT’s 2022-23 in-person productions
Manual Cinema presents Leonardo! A Wonderful Show about a Terrible Monster
- A Chicago premiere
- Based on the books by Mo Willems
- Created by Manual Cinema
- Directed by Sarah Fornace
- For ages 5 and up
- September 9-October 16, 2022
- Public performances: Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
- Single tickets start at $25
Leonardo is a terrible monster. He tries so hard to be scary, but he just…isn’t. Then Leonardo finds Sam, the most scaredy-cat kid in the world. Will Leonardo finally get to scare the tuna salad out of someone? Or will it be the start of an unlikely friendship? The plot thickens when this pair meets Kerry and Frankenthaler, an even scaredier-cat and her monster friend. Kerry and Sam need to make a big decision: will they just be scaredy cats or can they become friends?
Leonardo! brings Mo Willems’ books to life through hundreds of illustrated puppets, hilarious actors on live cameras, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, and a live soundtrack that both kids and their parents will love. The result is a “live movie” made onstage in front of the audience’s eyes and projected on a screen shaped like a giant picture book page. The production is designed for audience members to enjoy whether or not they have read the books, but there are easter eggs hidden throughout the show to delight fans of Mo Willems.
Critically-acclaimed multimedia artists Manual Cinema are known worldwide for their mind-bending fusion of shadow puppetry, video projection, DIY cinema, green screen techniques, original music, and immersive sound. CCT presented the world premiere of Manual Cinema’s The Magic City as the inaugural production in its now “forever home,” Chicago Children's Theatre, The Station, in 2017. In 2018, the Chicago Tribune named Manual Cinema “Chicago Theater Artists of the Year." Their profile jumped sky high in 2021 for their shadow puppet sequences in the acclaimed horror film Candyman, produced by Jordan Peele’s MonkeyPaw Productions. Learn more at manualcinema.com.
The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party
- Based on the stories by Beatrix Potter
- By Will Bishop, Grace Needlman, Ray Rehberg, Lara Carling and Kay Kron
- For ages 2-6
- November 19-December 24, 2022
- Public performances: Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
- Single tickets start at $45 including both the show and tea party
Children, you are cordially invited to meet your favorite Beatrix Potter friends, including Jeremy Fisher, Simpkin the Cat, and of course, Peter Rabbit. Four adorable Beatrix Potter favorite tales come to life in this mesmerizing, interactive trunk and puppet show, complete with original music on mandolin, violin, toy piano and banjo. Levers are pulled and cranks are turned to reveal images that surprise and delight.
This handmade, lovingly crafted piece is an annual favorite at CCT. Over the past six years, Chicago Children's Theatre's Beatrix Potter productions have toured to schools, libraries, cultural institutions, and even to China. CCT’s charming storytellers interweave the classic narration and guide gentle interactive moments, recruiting young watchers to join the adventure. After the show, come up on stage to play with the puppets and take pictures. Then, head to the lobby for a festive spread of hot cocoa and cookies.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
- Created by Jonathan Rockefeller
- Based on the books by Eric Carle
- Directed by Jerrell L. Henderson
- For all ages, 6 months and up
- April 10-June 4, 2022
- Public performances: Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
- Single tickets start at $25
Since it was first published in 1969, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” has nibbled its way into the hearts of millions of children all over the world. Fifty years later, Eric Carle’s colorful story about metamorphosis has been translated into 62 languages, sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, and remains a staple of baby showers, bed stands and classroom bookshelves.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is a bright, bold, puppet-filled live stage version of Eric Carle’s timeless children’s book about an insatiable caterpillar that munches its way to become a full-fledged butterfly. Jerrell L. Henderson returns to direct this captivating production featuring more than 75 larger-than-life puppets who bring “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” along with "The Very Busy Spider," "10 Rubber Ducks," and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear," from the page to the stage. Before and after the show, CCT’s lobby is a welcoming space for kids and families to relax and have fun, play games and create their own Eric Carle-themed keepsakes at colorful crafting stations.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show was created by Jonathan Rockefeller, who is also responsible for the acclaimed live stage version of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. His creative staging of Eric Carle’s books earned a Drama Desk Award nomination and won the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Family Show.
When Chicago Children’s Theatre first presented The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show in 2019, the Chicago Tribune gobbled it up, raving “Incredible work…Eric Carle’s books are brought beautifully to life.” Chicago Parent agreed, “Be wowed by the live action colorful world.” The production has gone on to become a global sensation having performed over 2,000 shows worldwide including sold out engagements in Australia, New York, United Kingdom, Dubai, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands.
Coming to Chicago Children’s Theatre’s virtual stage in 2022-23
In addition to live shows, CCT’s new virtual offerings include the release of as many as 12 new Walkie Talkies audio adventure tours. Pop in your ear buds and lace up your kicks, because this clever new podcast series takes families on free, guided audio tours of different Chicago neighborhoods, with fun, original stories that point out landmarks, historical figures, and top destinations along the way. Chicago theater artists like GQ, Shawn Pfaustsch and Jessica Ridenour, Leslie Ann Sheppard, Andy Slater and more are busy right now creating CCT's new series of Walkie Talkies.
Stay tuned for exciting news about a free Walkies Talkies podcast launch event this summer. Until then, go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify or chicagochildrenstheatre.org/event/walkie-talkies to download the current Walkie Talkies playlist, currently with 12 pods exploring city neighborhoods like South Shore, Bronzeville, Little Village, Humboldt Park, North Park Nature Center in Lincoln Park and Horner Park in Irving Park.
Meanwhile, on the company’s popular YouTube Channel, CCTV, look for the debut of new virtual programs like Edward the Tap Dancing Elephant by CCT teaching artist and performer Time Brickey. These new works of digital theater will join a full slate of original short films, fun tutorials for kids on how to make puppets, costumes, props and more taught by top CCT teaching artists, and adorable final productions created by local kids participating in classes and camps at Chicago Children’s Theatre.
Classes and Camps at Chicago Children’s Theatre
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s education programs are constantly expanding, with nearly 20 classes in the performing arts for children 0-14. Classes range from acting, improv, musical theater, puppetry, tumbling, and green screen video production, plus a special series of Red Kite classes for children on the autism spectrum.
This summer, Chicago Children’s Theatre will be a beehive of fun, learning and creativity, with a full slate of one- and two-week camps for children ages 5-13. From Performing in the Parks: The Saga of the High Seas for 2nd and 3rd graders, to Our Stories, Our Voices: Teen Devising Intensive for grades 6 to 10, students can learn the basics of acting, songwriting, scenic and prop design, choreography, and collaborative story development as they work together to create dynamic performances for friends and family.
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s classes run as eight-to-ten-week sessions year-round, and are offered in different age groups. Due to popular demand, in addition to its home in the West Loop, CCT camps and classes have expanded to new locations including nearby Whitney Young High School, Menomonee Club Drucker Center in Lincoln Park, and the University of Chicago Lab School in Hyde Park.
Classes and camps do sell out, so sign up early at chicagochildrenstheatre.org/classes. Note: Chicago Children’s Theatre offers financial aid and scholarships for students who are in need. Learn more at chicagochildrenstheatre.org/education.
About Chicago Children’s Theatre
“The Chicago theater scene is legendarily vibrant, so naturally a number of companies tailor productions to younger audiences. The cream of the crop is Chicago Children’s Theatre.” – Chicago Tribune
Chicago Children’s Theatre was founded in 2005 with a big idea: Chicago is the greatest theater city in the world, and it deserves a great children’s theater. Today, Chicago Children’s Theatre is the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. CCT has established a national reputation for the production of first-rate children’s theater with professional writing, performing, and directorial talent and high-quality design and production expertise.
In January 2017, the company celebrated the opening of its new, permanent home, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, located at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop community. The building, formerly the Chicago Police Station for the 12th District, was repurposed into a beautiful, LEED Gold-certified, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that now welcomes all Chicago families.
CCT provides tens of thousands of free and reduced-price tickets to under-resourced schools each season in partnership with Chicago Public Schools. CCT also continues to grow its performing arts and STEAM education programs, offering classes, workshops, winter and spring break camps, and summer camps for ages 0 to 14.
In 2019, Chicago Children’s Theatre won the National TYA Artistic Innovation Award from Theatre for Young Audiences/USA. In addition, Chicago Children’s Theatre has garnered six NEA Art Works grants, and in 2017, became the first theater for young audiences in the U.S. to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.
Chicago Children’s Theatre is supported by Goldman Sachs, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, The Shubert Foundation, Polk Bros Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Culture, Equity and the Arts at Prince, Bayless Family Foundation, The Crown Family, Rea Charitable Trust, ComEd, US Bank, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), The Susan M. Venturi Fund in memory of James and Roslyn Marks to Support Theatre Education Accession, and Erin and Jason, Ben, Bici and David Pritzker.
Chicago Children’s Theatre is led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, with Board President Armando Chacon.
For more, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org.