When it comes to Elvis Presley and Willy Wonka, Chicagoans may be seeing double since the pop icons are simultaneously appearing on stage and screen this November and December, respectively. Other movies are also overlapping with live events throughout the Thanksgiving and winter holidays.
Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me” co-written by Sandra Harmon has been transported to the big screen via Sofia Coppola’s stylishly dark biopic Priscilla (2023). The A24 film follows the questionable courtship and consequent marriage between the impressionable and isolated Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) and the King of Rock-n-Roll (Jacob Elordi).
Meanwhile, live performances of Terry Spencer Hesser’s dramedy Christmas With Elvis (Nov. 24, 2023-Jan. 7, 2024) can be seen at Chicago’s Chopin Theatre. Under the direction of Dexter Bullard, Jeff Award-nominee Brenda Barrie plays Trudy, a lonely and bitter divorcee who learns, on Christmas Eve, that her ex is getting remarried. But before she spirals into a “Blue Christmas” (1957), the ghost of Elvis Presley (Victor Holstein) comes to her.
“I was originally inspired to write this play when years ago, a friend of mine who was going through a divorce during the holidays expressed her disdain for the music of Elvis Presley,” explains Hesser.” That is, until she got divorced. Then, she said she connected with Elvis’s music on a level she never expected. Her comment inspired the character of Trudy played this time by the magnificent Brenda Barrie. The story is very funny, but also touches on the less jolly emotions the holidays stir up that don’t get talked about enough.” For tickets ($60+), click here.
In Aurora, Jeff Award-winner Trent Stork directs the professional regional premiere of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (through Jan. 14, 2024) at Paramount Theatre. The play about sweet candy and sour kids is based on the classic 1964 book of the same name by Roald Dahl and Mel Stuart’s iconic adaptation Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) starring Gene Wilder.
On stage, Stephen Schellhardt plays Willy Wonka and Meena Sood and Charlie Long (in rotating performances) portray Charlie Bucket. The cast also includes Augustus Gloop (David Blakeman), Veruca Salt (Devon Hayakawa), Mike Teavee (August Forman), Violet Beauregarde (Tiffany T. Taylor), Grandpa Joe (Gene Weygandt) and Mrs. Bucket (Jaye Ladymore).
Although Tim Burton’s remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) incorporates flashbacks of Willy Wonka as a child, Paul King’s Wonka (2023) spends its nearly 2-hour runtime depicting the titular chocolatier (Timothée Chalamet) at the start of his career. The cinematic prequel (which opens Dec. 15) features Sally Hawkins as Wonka’s mother and Hugh Grant as an Oompa-Loompa.
Music Box Theatre continues its Thanksgiving tradition with The Sound of Music Sing-A-Long (Nov. 24-26, Dec. 2-3). Based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” (1949), The Sound of Music (1965) centers around a singing nun (Julie Andrews) turned governess turned wife to Captain Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) who escaped the Nazis with her husband and his seven children in 1938. Not only was the movie the highest-grossing film of all time from 1966 to 1971, it picked up five Oscars including wins for Best Picture and Best Director (Robert Wise). Ever beloved, the musical continues to draw fans — especially during Chicago’s interactive screenings which feature onscreen lyrics, a pre-show costume contest, and goody bags. Click here for tickets.
In response to rise in antisemitism, Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life (2023) will be shown on Dec. 6 at Temple Sholom of Chicago per Facing History & Ourselves and The Cook County Commissioner’s Office, in partnership with Not In Our Town. The award-winning documentary focuses on the survivors, families of the victims, and civic leaders after the 2018 synagogue terrorist attack in Pittsburgh. Following the screening, Facing History Chicago Executive Director Maureen Loughnane, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Filmmaker Patrice O’Neill will discuss the film and ways to counter antisemitism and racism. For more information, visit RepairingTheWorldFilm.org.
Thanks to the Auditorium Philms Concert Series, Chicagoans can watch a popular movie of the past with its accompanying music performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic at the Auditorium Theatre. The 2024 series includes screenings of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (Feb. 17) with score by Vangelis; Tim Burton’s Batman 1989 (April 13) with score by Danny Elfman; and Richard Curtis’s Love Actually (Dec. 7) with score by Craig Armstrong.
“This is a natural extension of our strong partnership with the historic Auditorium Theatre,” notes Chicago Philharmonic Executive Director Terell Johnson. “We believe partnerships like this are the future of our industry. Together, we can create truly magical experiences for thousands of audience members, many of whom will be completely new to live symphonic music.”
Auditorium Theatre CEO Rich Regan adds, “We hope both film lovers and those who enjoy lush orchestral arrangements will give this series two thumbs up!”