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  Shockheaded Peter at Athenaeum Theatre

Shockheaded Peter

Athenaeum Theatre
2936 N. Southport Chicago

A sinister but incompetent master of ceremonies leads the audience through the tale of a childless couple that has their fondest wish granted in the most delightfully dreadful way imaginable, accompanied by vignettes in which the hilariously horrible fates that befall naughty children everywhere are brought to darkly comedic life.

Presented by Black Button Eyes Productions

Thru - Sep 16, 2017

Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 7:30pm
Sundays: 2:00pm

Price: $32

Show Type: Musical

Box Office: 773-935-6875

Running Time: 1hr, 5mins; no intermission

Athenaeum Theatre Seating Chart

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  Shockheaded Peter Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...In such a strange, collagelike work, the audience really has to be led by the hand through the yarn and kept on the right path. That never really happens here. Although consistently ingenious and fun - and that is no faint praise - the staging often is difficult to follow, partly because the stakes of the core dramatic story aren't high nor real enough and partly because the piece falls into the seductive trap of pulling all of the toys out of the box at once and asking the viewer to play with them all at the same time."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...All that said, Black Button Eyes Productions’ brilliantly realized “Shockheaded Peter” is a sensational work of theater, dance, music, cabaret, puppetry and circus that bursts with exquisite design and bravura performances by a 12-person cast. And as sick and twisted as it is, its depiction of domestic horror is so imaginative — and its score by the British cult band The Tiger Lillies is so seductive in its Brechtian, proto-punk style — that you cannot look away. The first Chicago production of the work since 2001 (when it received an imported British production on the Athenaeum Theatre’s mainstage), it is quite a (warped) gem."
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Hedy Weiss

Daily Herald - Highly Recommended

"...Adapted from Heinrich Hoffmann's 1845 collection of children's verses "Der Struwwelpeter," "Shockheaded Peter" was created by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott with a buoyantly discordant, calliope-infused score by the British trio The Tiger Lillies. Sly, menacing and occasionally lovely, the score recalls Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht, with a hint of John Kander and Fred Ebb's "Cabaret." It lends a macabre beauty -- deftly channeled by Rutherford and his talented cast -- to the show, which consists of vignettes depicting children whose cruelty, disobedience or inattention proves fatal in ghastly ways."
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Barbara Vitello

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...This 1998 musical adaptation by many hands only makes things worse for Hoffman's miscreants: where the original text leaves at least a few of them sadder but wiser, they all get turned into worm food here, the better to amuse us callous sophisticates. The strategy backfires, though, by creating an ultimately tedious rhythm of horror, and Ed Rutherford's 70-minute staging for Black Button Eyes fails to break that rhythm despite some strong performances and visual creativity. In the end, Rutherford's production works better as a showcase than a black comedy, especially when it comes to cast members Caitlin Jackson, Genevieve Lerner, Pavi Proczko, and Anthony Whitaker."
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Tony Adler

Edge - Recommended

"...In pursuit of their company mission to produce "works in which the magical and surreal invade reality," Black Button Eyes could scarcely have hit on a more appropriate piece than "Shockheaded Peter," a gleefully grim adaptation of a nineteenth-century German children's book with music and lyrics by the Tiger Lillies. Billed as the "Chicago storefront premiere" of a show that has some narrative and structural issues, the production is creepily, garishly beautiful."
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Christine Malcom

Time Out Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...But heart of the problem is that Shockheaded Peter has no heart. And I don't mean that it's overly cruel, but rather that it's just kind of pointless. The musical even addresses this in its closing moments, with the MC spitting out a weak line about wanting people to see "the darkness that lies underneath the floorboards." Which, sure, but in the original book, each nursery rhyme contains a strong, if macabre, moral lesson. Behind the cruelty, there is at least a purpose. Here, there's no purpose, only shock. It's not enough."
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Alex Huntsberger

Theatre By Numbers - Recommended

"...Webb's playful narcissism and booming voice, would have completely stolen the show, if it weren't for the ensembles' skill at clowning. Studio 2 at the Athenaeum Theatre might have burst if they added more of the contortion, stilt work, and puppetry that made the show. Without the work of contortionist Genevieve Lerner and the stilt walking Ellen DeSitter Shockheaded Peter would have been a lesser production. As a whole, the ensemble fully committed to the physical comedy of Shockheaded Peter, with enough vibrancy and life that there was rarely a dull space on stage."
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Rachel Simon

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...The tango-style songs combine with cunning storylines to yield a dreadful harvest of gallows humor. 172 years later, it’s still dismaying how one man’s bitterly sincere scare tactics have now congealed into self-mockery and toothless terrors. But the inclusion of a certain orange wig into these fearsome festivities shows that the Bogeyman is far from an anachronistic abstraction. The jokes remain on us."
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Lawrence Bommer

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Holding this show together is the terrific music from Anderson's three person band with the help from various actors playing instruments. Shockheaded Peter is a engrossingshow that launches audiences into the world of Grand Guignol theatre so completely that we stay on the edge of our seats waiting for the next scary event. This is storytelling at its creative best. The blend of music, comedy, horror with shocking costumes and cautionary children's moral lessions becomes a satisfying theatrical event. Shockheaded Peter is Ed Rutherford's finest work to date. This is the first "must see" show of the new season!"
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Tom Williams

NewCity Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Black Button Eyes Productions presents an extravagant rendition of Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott's "Shockheaded Peter," which frames Hoffmann's fables within a narrative of parental narcissism and neglect. "Sometimes we have to be cruel...for recreational purposes," drawls the preening MC (Kevin Webb)-and indeed any propensity to wickedness your id may be harboring is enacted by a multi-talented ensemble of gleeful sadists who sing, play instruments, contort, cavort, stilt walk and scream as easily as they kill off each naughty tot."
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Irene Hsiao

Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...This play, with its tinkling music box-like score, combines proverbs, pantomime, puppetry and appropriately theatrical pyrotechnics to create the freakishly fantastic world of Heinrich Hoffmann's cautionary tales. Certainly we've come a long way in parenting since 1845, when moms and dads threatened their children with the Boogey Man if they misbehaved and didn't tow the line. But this funereally funny musical play, stuffed to its bloody brim with eccentric characters, over-the-top performances and black humor, is just what we need right now to take us away from the horrors of the real world, and to chill the soul and raise a few goosebumps on a hot summer evening."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Musical Theatre - Highly Recommended

"...Strong acting from the entire ensemble helps solidify Director Ed Rutherford’s vision, most notably from Kat Evans and Kevin Webb. Evans is a truly gifted ensemble actress, able to seamlessly transition from singing cat to fidgety boy to watery siren in a matter of minutes. Each role carries no trace of the previous character, but rather a whole-hearted assimilation into the starkly different characters."
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Jane Recker

Third Coast Review - Somewhat Recommended

"...Ed Rutherford's direction doesn't help to clarify the material, either. The inefficiency in which the Athenaeum's space is utilized leads to a cramped and crowded feeling that aren't in service to the play. At many times, the large ensemble of actors has no place to go onstage, partially as a result of a live band's permanent presence upstage center. Rutherford is able to stage the smaller musical numbers a bit better, with "Bully Boys" and "Flying Robert" standing out amongst the rest in their execution and creativity."
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Brent Eickhoff

Picture This Post - Recommended

"...Black Button Eyes Productions' mission to bring Chicago premiers and seldom-seen works containing elements of fantasy, in which the magical and surreal invade reality is upheld in this production. If you are a fan of things like A Nightmare Before Christmas or Edward Scissorhands this is the show for you."
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Stephanie Dykes

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   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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