Chicago Children’s Theatre, Chicago’s largest professional theater devoted to children and young families, announced its 19th season today, launching in the fall with a world premiere play about Ben Franklin, filled with history and science, followed by two CCT “forever family favorites.”
CCT kicks off its 2023-24 season with Mesmerized: A Ben Franklin Science & History Mystery, adapted for the stage by Suzanne Maynard Miller, based on the book "Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France" by Mara Rockcliff. Through fabulous storytelling and fast-paced comedy, Ben and his niece, Sarah, travel to France and use the Scientific Method to test a mystical man’s magical cure-all. Kids will be tasked with helping solve this scientific mystery in this all-new production, fueled with stories about Ben Franklin’s many scientific discoveries and electrifying inventions.
Tommy Rapley directs. The production features China Brickey, Kasey Foster and Shawn Pfautsch and showcases the work of top Chicago designers Collette Pollard (set), Mieka van der Ploeg (costumes) and Matthew Muñiz (sound and original music). Performances are September 23-October 15, 2023.
(from left) Suzanne Maynard Miller, adaptor, Mesmerized: A Ben Franklin Science & History Mystery, cast members China Brickey, Kasey Foster and Shawn Pfautsch.
Next, ‘tis the season for The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s ever-popular holiday show, directed by co-creator Will Bishop. This undisputed annual rite of passage for Chicago toddlers often serves as their first introduction to live theater.
The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party returns for its seventh season with an extended run due to popular demand, November 4-December 31, 2023. Watch your little one become absolutely enchanted as four adorable Beatrix Potter stories spring to life in this ingenious, interactive trunk and puppet show. But that’s not all. Right after the show, families from all over the city gather in the lobby for photos with the cast, puppet play, and sitting together at a communal holiday-decorated table set with a festive spread of holiday treats!
(left) Felix Mayes and Lily Emerson, and (center) Felix Mayes, in the 2022 production of The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party. (right) Lily Emerson meets audience members at the post-show holiday tea party. Photos by Charles Osgood.
In spring, Chicago Children’s Theatre will revive A Year with Frog and Toad, the production that launched the company 18 years ago. Children’s author and illustrator Arnold Lobel's beloved characters hop from the page to the stage in this smash hit, Tony-nominated musical. It’s based on Lobel’s popular children’s book that follows two best friends – the cheerful, popular Frog and their forever companion, the rather grumpy Toad – through four fun-filled seasons.
Tapped to direct this charming story of a friendship that endures, weathering all seasons, is Michelle Lopez-Rios, who also staged CCT’s 2022 hit world premiere, Carmela Full of Wishes. Performances are April 13-June 9, 2024.
Matthew Yee (left) played Frog and Andy Nagraj was Toad in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s A Year with Frog and Toad in 2017. Photo by Charles Osgood.
Subscriptions to Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2023-24 season go on sale on Friday, May 26 at chicagochildrenstheater.org. Three-show subscriptions start at just $83. Or, choose a two-play package starting at just $53. Sign up for the CCT Family email list by June 30 for 25% off season tickets.
Single tickets, starting at $30, go on sale August 1. Email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2023-24 season
Mesmerized: A Ben Franklin Science & History Mystery
Adapted for the stage by Suzanne Maynard Miller
Based on the book "Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France" by Mara Rockcliff
Directed by Tommy Rapley
Featuring China Brickey, Kasey Foster and Shawn Pfautsch
Designed by Collette Pollard (set), Mieka van der Ploeg (costumes) and Matthew Muñiz (sound and original music)
September 23-October 15, 2023
Press openings: Saturday and Sunday, September 23 and 24, 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Public performances: Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
For ages 7 and up
Embark on a journey to France with Ben Franklin, one of our country's founding fathers and most famous scientists, and his smart, outspoken young niece, Sarah, where they discover that people are magically being cured by a mysterious man—Mesmer. Through fabulous storytelling, fast-paced comedy and drawing from true stories of Franklin’s many scientific discoveries and inventions, Ben and Sarah employ the Scientific Method to put Mesmer's mystical powers to the test. Is it science, is it magic, or will we all be Mesmerized? Kids, come help solve this scientific mystery!
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s world premiere, Mesmerized: A Ben Franklin Science & History Mystery by Suzanne Maynard Miller, is inspired by the book “Mesmerized” by Mara Rockliff.
CCT commissioned this new, science-infused play for Chicago and the national TYA canon, so this first production proudly boasts an A-list design team drawn from stages like Goodman and Steppenwolf, including Tommy Rapley (director), Collette Pollard (set design), Mieka van der Ploeg (costume design) and Matthew Muñiz (sound and original music). Likewise, the cast features top Chicago actors Shawn Pfautsch, Kasey Foster and China Brickey.
The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party
Based on the stories by Beatrix Potter
Created by Will Bishop, Lara Carling, Kay Kron, Grace Needlman and Ray Rehberg
Directed by Will Bishop
Puppet designs by Grace Needlman
Original music by Ray Rehberg and Charlie Malave
Starring Lily Emerson, Charlie Malave and Felix Mayes
Designed by Grace Needlman (puppets), Johan Gallardo (costumes) and Daniel Etti-Williams (sound)
November 4-December 31, 2023
Public performances: Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., with added weekday morning matinees for school groups and the holidays
For ages up to 8
(Left) Returning cast members Felix Mayes and Lily Emerson in the 2022 production of The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party. (right) Audience members enjoying the post-show holiday tea party. Photos by Charles Osgood.
Children, you are cordially invited to meet your favorite Beatrix Potter friends, including Mrs. Tittlemouse, the Two Bad Mice, the Tailor of Gloucester, and of course, Peter Rabbit.
These four adorable Beatrix Potter favorite tales come to life in Chicago Children's Theatre's ever-popular, 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 children, many experiencing live theater for the first time.
This handmade, lovingly crafted piece is an annual favorite at CCT. Over the past seven years, Beatrix Potter & Friends has 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, head to the lobby to play with the puppets, take pictures with the cast, and join fellow Chicago families for a communal tea party featuring a festive spread of holiday treats.
The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party cast member, Lily Emerson (left), and co-creator Rey Rehberg.
A Year with Frog and Toad
Book and lyrics by Robert Reale and Willie Reale
Based on the books by Arnold Lobel
Directed by Michelle Lopez-Rios
Music Direction and Musical Reductions by Christie Chilles Twillie
Designers include Courtney O'Neill (set), Lonnae Hickman (props) and Christie Chilles Twillie (sound)
April 13-June 9, 2024
Press opening: Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14 at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Public performances: Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
For all ages
(left) Toad (Andy Nagraj) encountered Mole (Lauren Vogel) on a winter sled ride in CCT’s 2017 staging of A Year with Frog and Toad. Photo by Charles Osgood. (right) Michelle Lopez-Rios will direct CCT’s new 2024 staging of A Year with Frog and Toad.
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 19th season finale is a celebration of the joyful energy that launched the company, A Year with Frog and Toad. Children’s author and illustrator Arnold Lobel's beloved characters hop from the page to the stage in this Tony-nominated musical based on his popular children’s book that follows two best friends – the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad – through four fun-filled seasons.
Michelle Lopez-Rios, who staged CCT’s 2022 world premiere Carmela Full of Wishes, returns to direct a new take on this beloved tale of friendship that endures, weathering all seasons. The design team features top Chicago professionals like Courtney O’Neill (set), Lonnae Hickman (props) and Christie Chilles Twillie (sound), underscoring CCT’s commitment to producing high caliber productions for children. The cast is TBA.
A Year with Frog and Toad was originally presented on Broadway by Bob Boyett, Adrianne Lobel, Michael Gardner, Lawrence Horowitz and Roy Furman. The play had its world Premiere at The Children's Theatre Company Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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, 100 S. Racine St. in Chicago’s West Loop, is Chicago’s destination for the best plays, musicals, classes and performing arts camps for young audiences.
The company 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.
In 2017, following 11 years of itinerancy, Chicago Children's Theatre celebrated the opening of its forever home in Chicago’s West Loop community. The building, formerly the 12th District Chicago Police Station, was repurposed into a LEED Gold-certified, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility. For children, parents, caregivers and teachers, CCT is a convenient, welcoming community hub, centrally located in the city, with free, onsite parking.
Chicago Children’s Theatre 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 2019, the company won the National TYA Artistic Innovation Award from Theatre for Young Audiences/USA. Chicago Children’s Theatre has also garnered six NEA Art Works grants, and in 2017, was the first theater for young audiences to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.
In tandem with its live productions, Chicago Children’s Theatre offers a full slate of Access services for patrons with disabilities, including ASL interpretation, open captioning, touch tours and sensory friendly performances. CCT also provides thousands of free and reduced-price tickets to under-resourced schools each season in partnership with Chicago Public Schools.
In addition to live shows, Chicago Children’s Theatre offers a full roster of performing arts education programs year round for ages 0 to 14. Visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org/family-programs for information on classes, workshops, winter, spring break and “school’s out” camps, and summer camps. Due to popular demand, in addition to its home in the West Loop, CCT camps and classes have expanded to new locations including Menomonee Club Drucker Center in Lincoln Park.
Chicago Children's Theatre also provides live theater experiences, classes and camps for children with autism and other special needs via its Red Kite Project, celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2023.
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 Access, 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, follow the company on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to its YouTube channel, CCTv: Virtual Theatre and Learning from Chicago Children’s Theatre.