A Dose of Christmas Cheer at Raue Center

The holiday season is in full swing, and so is a heartwarming lineup at Raue Center for the Arts, in Crystal Lake. Sharing entertainment for all ages, Raue Center promises more than one way to enjoy a little Christmas cheer.

“The holidays are always magical,” says Tim Paul, Raue Center board president. “The entire town is decked out to welcome Santa at the Brink Street Commons, and voices are cheerful in our beautifully decorated theater.”

The fun begins Dec. 7, when Puddles Pity Party returns with a show that’s not exactly Christmas-themed, but which plays heartstrings all the same. Known as “the sad clown with the golden voice,” Puddles mixes humorous absurdities with awkward, tender moments.

The following week, actress Jane Lynch returns with her “A Swingin’ Little Christmas” tour for evening performances on Dec. 13 and 14. The Emmy and Golden Globe winner performs swingin’ arrangements of Christmas classics and original tunes, with help from friends Kate Flannery (Meredith, in “The Office”), Tim Davis and the Tony Guerrero Quintet.

The sounds of the season continue on a somber note the very next night, Dec. 15, as Voices in Harmony leads the community in a sing-along performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” This classic music tells the story of the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.

Another longstanding Raue tradition comes Dec. 17 as the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra drops by for a lively holiday pops concert, complete with orchestral scores, holiday favorites and a few new tunes thrown in for fun.

For all of the traditions that make the season special, Raue Center is embracing new ones as its Sage Studio presents “A Christmas Carol: A Holiday Pantomime,” on Dec. 21-22 and Dec. 27-28. At about an hour long, the show is designed specially for families and children.

“The pantomime is a big tradition in the U.K., and it’s a heavily audience participation-based version of the show that’s great for families,” says Amanda Flahive, program manager for Raue Center’s Sage Studio and a member of Raue’s Williams Street Repertory professional theater company. “So, there are audience sing-along moments, and there are moments when the characters talk directly to the audience – and the audience is expected to answer.”

“Christmas Carol” draws together professional actors and 55 youngsters who’ve been honing their performance skills through Sage Studio and the Sage on Stage program. With 25 to 30 classes held throughout the year, Sage Studio puts children age 7 to 18 in the classroom with working professionals, who cover everything from acting and voice to directing and backstage work. The program brought six youngsters onstage with recent productions of “The Addams Family” and “Disney’s Freaky Friday.” Sage alumni have performed at Second City and Lincolnshire’s Marriott Theatre.

“We’re super-proud to be that jumping-off point for kids,” says Flahive.

Raue Center relies upon donations from individuals and charitable organizations alike, especially when it comes to programs like Sage Studio and Sage on Stage. As 2019 comes to a close, Raue Center is challenging its donors to raise $25,000 to keep the arts alive. The Willow Springs Foundation has offered to match the first $10,000; all donations to Raue Center are tax-deductible.

“It takes a lot of resources to provide this experience, and there is so much data out there about how good live performance is for the development of children,” says Flahive. “It’s an incredibly important thing.”

As December comes to a close and brings us into a new year, Raue Center’s annual New Year’s Eve bash returns with two entertaining shows. Starting at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31, Steve Cochran’s New Year’s Eve Comedy Show brings the WGN morning radio host and his friends together for a few good laughs.

Return to Raue Center at 7 p.m. for a trip to the past with American English, a well-regarded Beatles tribute band. They’ll be closing out 2019 with performances of the Fab Four’s “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Let it Be” albums.

The new year rings in plenty more entertainment at Raue Center, bringing a diverse array of performing artists, tribute bands, comedians and live theater – in addition to community engagement events such as WSRep Reading Series and select evenings with local musicians and writers at Raue Center Cafe.

“We’re so proud to be able to provide this opportunity, but we can’t do that without the generosity of our patrons,” says Flahive. ❚

Raue Center for the Arts is located at 26 N. Williams St., in downtown Crystal Lake. Purchase tickets or donate at (815) 356-9212 or rauecenter.org.