About the Town in January




By Philip Vidal



The 75th annual “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” at the Museum of Science & Industry runs through January 7.

A number of exhibitions carry over into 2018.  Several are holiday related, such as the 75th annual “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” exhibit representing holiday traditions from more than fifty countries, at the Museum of Science & Industry.  But several are not, including the Chicago Architecture Biennial at the Chicago Cultural Center, “L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters” at the Driehaus Museum, and Hebru Brantley’s “Forced Field” exhibition at the Elmhurst Art Museum.  All close on January 7.  See them while you can.


Actress Sarah Paulson is this year’s honoree at the Steppenwolf Women in the Arts fundraiser luncheon.

Golden Globe® and Emmy®-winning stage and screen actress Sarah Paulson is this year’s honoree at the annual Steppenwolf Women in the Arts fundraiser luncheon at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago, on January 22.  Paulson is perhaps best known for her roles in several seasons of “American Horror Story.”


On January 19, “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” airs on WTTW/Channel 11.

“Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” airs on WTTW/Channel 11 on January 19.  It profiles Chicago writer Lorraine Hansberry, best known for her play ”Raisin in the Sun” based on her family’s experience with Chicago’s racially motived restrictive covenants in the 1930s. The Chicago premiere of Anna Ziegler’s “Boy,” inspired by true events about gender identity, opens January 10 at TimeLine Theatre Company.


Tony Award® nominee, actor, writer and female impersonator, Charles Busch returns to Pride Arts Center January 21-22 with “Charles Busch: My Kinda ‘60s,” an evening of songs and storytelling about growing up during the swinging ‘60s.  Last year’s shows were sell-outs.


Julia Sweeney’s stand-up show “Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider” will be at Second City’s Judy’s Beat Lounge from January 12 to March 18.

Julia Sweeney’s most memorable character on “Saturday Night Live” was the sexually ambiguous Pat.  Writer and performer Julia Sweeney brings her stand-up show “Julia Sweeney: Older and Wider” to Second City’s Judy’s Beat Lounge from January 12-March 18.  The 17th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival returns to Stage 773 on Belmont.  There will be 130 sketch comedy shows over the festival’s January 11-21 run. The Capitol Steps, aka “musical political satirists,” return to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, January 25-28, to perform their latest revue “Orange is the New Barack.”


“Is It Still Funny?”  This movie series continues at the Music Box Theater with a screening of Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy “Some Like It Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon on January 10. The movie begins in Chicago with Curtis’ and Lemmon’s characters on the run from mobsters after witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  They dress up as women, join an all-girl band and flee to the Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach.  San Diego’s Del Coronado Hotel, another enormous wooden Victorian hotel, was used as the stand-in.   The Royal Poinciana is long gone, but I had the pleasure of staying at “The Del” a few years ago.  And is “Some Like It Hot” still funny? A resounding “YES!”


The Gene Siskel Film Center plays “All the Queen’s Horses” from January 12-17.

After being closed in December for renovation, the Gene Siskel Film Center re-opens January 5. “All the Queen’s Horses” is back at the Film Center, January 12-17.  It’s the true story about the biggest municipal fraud in U.S. history.  Rita Crundwell, city comptroller of downstate Dixon, Illinois, stole $54 million from the town’s coffers and used the money to fund her hobby – raising champion horses.


The Newberry Library begins the renovation of its first floor in January.  I can’t wait to see the results.


The Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts Eva Maddox for a book talk on January 18. Photo by Michael Salisbury.

Eva Maddox, one of Chicago’s top commercial interior designers, has many renovations to her credit.  Maddox talks about her career in a new book, “Eva Maddox: Innovator, Designer, Educator” by Romy Wyllie, during “Book Talk: Eva Maddox’ Groundbreaking Career in Interior Design” on January 18 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). The event is free, but reservations are required.  The CAF is moving from its current location on South Michigan Avenue to 111 East Wacker in 2018. In the 1980s, I worked for the U.S. League of Savings Institutions which had its headquarters at 111 East Wacker.  The trade association represented the now defunct savings and loan industry.


“Rodin: Sculptor and Storyteller” at the Art Institute of Chicago is a terrific show of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures and drawings, through March 18.  Because the show consists entirely of pieces from the museum’s and private collections, it does not include Rodin’s beautiful marble bust of Chicago’s own Bertha Palmer, which is at the Musée Rodin in Paris.


First Bites Bash at Navy Pier’s Aon Grand Ballroom on January 25 kicks off Chicago Restaurant Week. Photo by Adam Alexander Photography.

Besides sketch comedy, architecture and impressionist art at the Art Institute, Chicago is known to be an incredible restaurant town.  The 11th annual Chicago Restaurant Week (January 26-February 8) is a great way to sample the fare at restaurants all over the city and suburbs with special prix-fixe lunches and dinners that are a great value.  The First Bites Bash, January 25 at Navy Pier’s Aon Grand Ballroom, kicks off restaurant week.


If learning a new instrument is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you might want to attend the second annual New Year Kick-Off (January 3-6) at the Old Town School of Music, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.  This open house is a marvelous way for people of all ages to sample the wide variety of music, dance and art courses that the school has to offer.  Most events are free, but registration for the Wiggleworm classes is recommended.


There are many other music-related events this month.  The University of Chicago and Northwestern University have scheduled concerts on the same nights.  No doubt some choices will be made based on school loyalties.


René Marie.

On January 19 –


The Boston Camerata will feature “The Play of Daniel.”

On January 21 –


Jennifer Koh.

On January 28 –


Two musical events over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend are the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Chicago premiere of composer Laura Karpman’s multi-media symphonic piece “Ask Your Mama,” January 14 at North Central College in Naperville, and January 15 at Symphony Center in Chicago. The 13th annual “Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah” returns to the Auditorium Theatre January 13 and 14.


The Chicago History Museum celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. day with lots of family-friendly activities on January 15 starting at 10:00 am.  The museum is free on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day if you have ID showing an Illinois address.  Illinois residents receive up to 25% off admission at several museums around the city during Museum Week, January 18-26. Happy 200th to Illinois!


For those who miss the TV series “Glee,” you might enjoy the seventh annual Youth Choral Festival hosted by Chicago a cappella, which brings high-school students from all over Chicago together for a day of workshops and rehearsals ending with a concert at the Logan Center in Hyde Park on January 20.  The festival is non-competitive so there shouldn’t be the drama that unfolded on “Glee.”


Chicago Park District’s Polar Adventure Days is on January 20 from noon to 4 pm.

One doesn’t normally associate January in Chicago with enjoyment of the outdoors, but who can resist hot chocolate, which will be available for sale while you tour the Northerly Island Natural Area during the January installment of the Chicago Park District’s Polar Adventure Days on January 20 from noon to 4 pm.






If you really enjoy the outdoors this time of year, that same day, on January 20, scores of brave souls will take a dip in Lake Michigan’s icy waters during the 17th annual Chicago Polar Bear Club (CPBC) Polar Plunge at Oak Street Beach. Proceeds from the plunge go to families supported by the CPBC.


Lake Geneva’s 23rd annual Winterfest takes place from January 27 to February 4.

The U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition and human dog sled races (I was a human Huskie when I pulled a sled during a Boy Scouts sled race) are just a few of the events that are part of the 23rd annual Winterfest in Lake Geneva, January 27-February 4.






I can’t wait to see what has been submitted to the Arts Club of Chicago’s 88th annual Exhibition of Professional Members. The show opens to the public on January 19 and runs through February 24.


The 33rd annual Chicago Cubs Convention is on January 12-14. Photo by Chris Sweda.

Meet another type of pro at the 33rd annual Chicago Cubs Convention, January 12-14 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, or the 26th annual SoxFest, January 26-28 at the Chicago Hilton.  A sure sign the home openers and spring are just a few months away.


Please note that dates, times and availability are subject to change.