Chicago’s known as a great theater town – not just for adults, but kids as well. Any visit to the Windy City with kids should include a big time theater performance. One choice is Broadway-style shows for kids in the Chicago Loop’s Theater district. Another must-see theater group is the Chicago Children’s Theatre, located just off of the the Mag Mile. Their latest production is a modern twist on Alice in Wonderland: “Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure.”

“Alice in Wonderland” Rocks at the Chicago Children’s Theatre

"Wonderland, Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure"    photo credit: Charles Osgood courtesy of the Chicago Children's Theatre

“Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure” photo credit: Charles Osgood courtesy of the Chicago Children’s Theatre

Chicago Children’s Theatre is an Equity theater (meaning unlike community theater, these are professional actors who belong to the actors’ union) with a world class group of performers. They stage professional, imaginative productions of both beloved and original tales. They’re far more than just a children’s theater group. I’ve attended many of their performances, and have never been disappointed.

A Modern Twist on “Alice in Wonderland”

Kashmir: The Led Zeppelin Show, at a sold out show at the Acorn Theater, Three Oaks, MI. April 11, 2015 Charles Osgood Photography

“Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure: photo courtesy 
Charles Osgood Photography

There are two Alices alternating in this modern production of Alice in Wonderland. I saw the performance where a 15-year-old named Ariana D. Burks led the cast. A spunky, energetic Alice, she embodied the teen and tween angst of Lewis Caroll’s iconic character. Filled with doubt, she took children and adults with her on a journey through the looking glass that reflected her own inner self-doubt about herself and the world around her. In this raucous coming-of-age tale, Alice eventually comes to understand herself better and achieves a confidence that we will wish for our children. As always, the Chicago Children’s Theatre has put on a production that speaks to both children and adults, but on different levels. It’s a tough task, but when done right leaves theatergoers of all ages feeling like they’ve just experienced quality theater.

Autism-Friendly Performances

Kashmir: The Led Zeppelin Show, at a sold out show at the Acorn Theater, Three Oaks, MI. April 11, 2015 Charles Osgood Photography

“Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure” photo courtesy: 
Charles Osgood Photography

Chicago Children’s Theatre was the first to offer autism-friendly live theater performances. Most of the their productions, including the modern take on Alice in Wonderland, now offer a couple of these special performances with sensory modifications that meet the needs of families bringing kids on the autism spectrum. While it’s still the same play, certain elements are modified to create a more welcoming and inclusive audience experience for each children with autism:
• Reduction of loud sounds
• House lights stay on creating a dim light in the audience for the entire show
• Audience members are free to talk, make noise and/or be active
• Extra staff and volunteer support
• Family bathroom available
• “Quiet Room” available during the show

Pre and Post-Performance

The Chicago Children’s Theatre’s performs out of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, in Chicago’s tony Gold Coast neighborhood. This is a safe, family-friendly neighborhood, just a few blocks off the Magnificent Mile. Consider combining your theater performance with a stop at one of these nearby destinations within easy walking distance:

  • Tea at the American Girl Cafe: Girls just want to have fun, and there’s no sweeter way to do that, than tea time at American Girl Place. This is THE perfect introduction to high tea for little ones. Finger sandwiches? Check! Petit fours? Check! A booster seat just for your doll? Check! Head over to the Mag Mile’s Water Tower Place for an afternoon you’ll likely never forget. You’ll surely leave humming “Thank heaven for little girls.” Afternoon tea served daily at 4pm, $19 /person. Best for girls ten and under.
  • Glazed and Confused: Don’t have time to make an entire afternoon out of high tea? Make a quick stop at the best donut shop in the Midwest, Glazed and Confused. There are serveral locations in Chicago, bu the closest to the theater is at 30 E. Hubbard. This is not your local Dunkin Donuts. These are one-of-a kind creations that will bring a smile to everyone’s face. Consider a lavender donut, or, as a salute to Chicago’s history as the hog butcher to the world, go for the maple bacon Long John. Sweeet!
  • Hard Rock Cafe: Traveling with too-cool-for-the-family-vacation teens and tweens? Show them just how hip you are by taking them to this popular lunch and dinner spot. Loaded with rock-n-roll memorabilia and a fun gift shop, this is definitely a destination restaurant. My recommendations? Chicago has some gerat barbecue, so try the Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich followed by the cheesecake with Oreo cookie pieces.

Where to Stay in Chicago Near the Theater

Just a half mile from the theatre, along Chicago’s shopping Mecca, Michigan Avenue, the Peninsula Hotel makes even the littlest guests feel like a million bucks.Tell the front desk you’re coming with children and they’ll be sure there’s something special in the room to greet them. When we visited, it was the kiddy cocktail of my children’s dreams, a martini glass filled with gummy bears! The Peninsula also has THE nicest indoor pool in Chicago with jawdropping views of the downtown skyline. Relaxing in the hotel pool or jacuzzi is a perfect way to end your day of sightseeing in the Windy City.

“Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure”:

When: Through May 24
Where: Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Tickets: $10-$38 at 872-222-9555 or chicagochildrenstheatre.org