Samantha Hankey as Hansel and Heidi Stober as Gretel. (Cory Weaver)

Fairy tales do come true, but sometimes they arrive on the stage in the most fantastical way. “Hansel and Gretel” at the Lyric Opera House proves to be an altogether richly imaginative dramatic, musical and visual treat.

(Left to right) Gilbert Domally (Clifford Bradshaw) and Erica Stephan (Sally Bowles) in “Cabaret” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Liz Lauren)

Read the headlines these days, and the sharply sardonic edge of “Cabaret" feels more chillingly ironic and on target than ever.

A take on “Moby Dick” opened the Chicago International Puppet Festival. (Credit: Christopher Raynaud deLage)

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, which runs through Jan. 29, will unquestionably change your conception on how puppets can be used in staged productions.

Frank Maugeri addresses the possibility of going to space in his latest production, “The Icicle Picnic: Journey for the Sun.” (Liviu Pasare)

Given the current state of planet Earth, the concept of heading to outer space might not seem altogether out of the question. And leave it to Frank Maugeri to address the possibility of doing just that in his latest production, “The Icicle Picnic: Journey for the Sun.”

Conductor Marin Alsop leads the CSO and soloist Awadagin Pratt in the Orchestra’s first performance of CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Jessie Montgomery’s Rounds for Piano and String Orchestra. January 6, 2023. (Todd Rosenberg)

Female composers of centuries past might well have been smiling from afar Friday evening as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Marin Alsop, performed a program of three works by immensely gifted contemporary female composers.

Organist Cameron Carpenter performed Poulenc’s “Concerto in G Minor for Organ, Strings, and Timpani,” and Saint-Saëns’s “Organ Symphony” with the CSO on Dec. 15. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Something intriguing happens when an organ is added to the usual assemblage of symphony orchestra instruments. It’s almost as if an opera singer with a notably distinctive voice has been added to the usual “cast.” 

The Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Pure, grand-scale magic. That is the only way to describe the Joffrey Ballet’s glorious production of “The Nutcracker,” which breaks the mold of the traditional version by being set against the grandeur of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair.

Violinist Mark O’Connor, bassist Xavier Foley and violinist Maggie O’Connor perform an encore at the CSO MusicNOW concert on Nov. 21, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The exhilarating program featured five works by two composers — bassist Xavier Foley and violinist Mark O’Connor. All were superbly performed by various combinations of the composers, plus musicians drawn from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and guest violinist Maggie O’Connor.

A CSO co-commission, Lera Auerbach’s cello concerto, “Diary of a Madman” receives its U.S. premiere in a performance on Nov. 17, 2022, by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Gautier Capuçon as soloist and guest conductor Manfred Honeck. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Of course the performance of the concert’s three works, led with great elan and specificity by guest conductor Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony, was superb. It was carried off with the kind of brilliance that only the musicians of the CSO can do.

The Berlin Philharmoniker at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall performed Mahler’s “Symphony No. 7” on Nov. 16, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Every one of the theater’s more than 2,500 seats had been snapped up for this one-night-only performance of Gustav Mahler’s wildly innovative, emotionally stunning “Symphony No. 7.” The piece is a monumental 85-minute work of great sonic magic and innovation. 

The Joffrey Ballet performs the world premiere of the newly-commissioned “Platée” with choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa set to Rameau’s Suite from Platée performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with conductor Harry Bicket. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

It was an evening of sheer, unadulterated delight as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra joined forces with the Joffrey Ballet on Thursday for a pair of world premieres.

Taylor Ramos, left, and Emani Drake in “Vespers.” (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

In addition to the bravura performances of its dancers, the exuberant works of a number of different choreographers and the excellent group of musicians that gathered for its grand finale, the company attracted an impressively vast, immensely enthusiastic audience.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan performs “13 Tongues.” (Credit: Liu Chen-hsiang)

Should any further proof be needed that 2022 has lived up to its designation as “The Year of Chicago Dance,” the performances throughout the month of October alone — whether by resident companies or international visitors — serve as evidence the title is fully deserved.

Anne E. Thompson, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Mary Beth Fisher in Rebecca Gilman’s “Swing State.” (Photo by Liz Lauren, provided)

Hedy Weiss joins “Chicago Tonight” to preview a new program from Joffrey Ballet, Goodman Theater’s production of “Swing Stat” and to recap the Joseph Jefferson Awards. 

From left: Enrique Mazzola, Renee Fleming and Rod Gilfry. (Photo by Robert Kusel)

A love affair between two artists who share a gift for letter-writing. And then a wonderfully devised celebration of Broadway classics. Talk about a study in contrasts. You could not have found a more ideal example of just such a pairing of personalities and styles than the unusual concert performed last week on the Lyric Opera stage by the golden-voiced soprano Renee Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfry, both of whom can shift easily between opera and musical theater.

Anne E. Thompson, Kirsten Fitzgerald and Mary Beth Fisher in Rebecca Gilman’s “Swing State.” (Photo by Liz Lauren, provided)

"Swing State" is the 10th play by Rebecca Gilman to be staged at the Goodman Theatre in the past 25 years, and one of the last plays to be directed there by her long-time champion, Robert Falls, who is now working his way through his final season as the Goodman's artistic director.