Let us all welcome the Dog Days of Summer, when the seasonal refrain of "Mom, I'm b-o-o-o-red!" resounds from homes blessed with children of a certain age. Depending on when you read this, there's somewhere between seven and eight hundred hours left before junior goes back to school. Here are four shows that'll help keep you and your spawn entertained during the back-to-school homestretch.
Anne of Green Gables (July 11-August 12)
Provision Theater, 1001 W. Roosevelt
$15 adults, $10 children 12 and younger
Decades before Little Orphan Annie captured the imaginations of children across the country, the adventures of another ginger-haired, parentless moppet named Anne was on top of Young Adult reading lists. With her 1908 novel, "Anne of Green Gables," Lucy Maud Montgomery introduced freckle-faced adventurer Anne Shirley. For my money, Anne Shirley's story packs way more punch than the saga of Little Orphan Annie. The latter traipses about Manhattan and gets adopted by a gazillionaire. The former is sent to work on a farm, and placed with a family that doesn't want her. Director Timothy Gregory's adaptation of Montgomery's book celebrates one of the earliest examples of girlpower, as orphan Anne figures out where she belongs, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Photos Courtesy of Heron PR
The Little Mermaid (July 3 - August 16)
Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave (Navy Pier)
Tickets start at $22
There's a whole new world under the sea at Chicago Shakespeare. Fish and fabulousity merge in the aqueous adventures of Ariel, an oceanic princess who falls in love with a landlubber prince. The creative team is swimming in talent: Director Rachael Rockwell helms the watery wonderworld, while music director Robert Duchak conducts a score awash with catchy ear worms ("Kiss the Girl," "Under the Sea").
If you want to really make a splash, sign up for the kid-friendly Family Gala, slated from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 18. All six floors of Chicago Shakespeare's magnificent Navy Pier facility will be given over to the party, where kids can create nautically-themed arts and craft projects, meet Princess Ariel, enjoy an ample lunch and - of course - see the show. Proceeds from ticket sales go toward funding the theater's Access Shakespeare programs, which allows performances to be accessible to audience members with mobility, hearing or vision difficulties. Tickets for the party are $85, $45 children under 12. Group discounts are available.
Photo by Michael Brosilow
Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks: Shakespeare's Greatest Hits (July 17 - August 16)
Various Chicago parks
If you think Shakespeare is basically algebra on stage, you've got another thing coming. You and your kids just might be shocked - shocked I tell you! - by how much you actually know about the Bard, and how much he's infiltrated everyday 21st century vernacular. With Shakespeare's Greatest Hits, you'll meet witches, lovers, teens with raging hormones and fools as wise as Solomon. This mashup of "Romeo and Juliet," "Macbeth" and "As You Like It" (among others) is as accessible as a Top 40 pop song, and packed with intelligence, wit and intensely memorable characters. Fear not the eloquent Elizabethan - there's a reason he's still the world's most produced playwright some 399 years after he put down his feather pen. His words will be roving from Rogers Park to the far South Side this summer. Check ChicagoShakes.com for dates and times.
Photo by Chuck Osgood
If you've never seen the Barrel of Monkeys' inspired brand of giddy shenanigans, you really do need to remedy that. The company takes stories and poems penned by Chicago grade-schoolers and brings them to life on stage in sketches that span the width and breadth of the emotional spectrum. The sketches can be hilarious, sad, suspenseful, angry and inspiring - sometimes all at once. The Monkeys' free summer shows are part of the Chicago Park District's "Night Out in the Parks" initiative, which is hosting more than 1,000 free, arts events at 250 parks over the course of the summer. If you love to laugh, you don't want to miss "That's Weird, Grandma." And if you don't, I feel really bad for you.
Photo by Evan Hanover