Manual Cinema's LEONARDO! A WONDERFUL SHOW ABOUT A TERRIBLE MONSTER is Coming to Chicago Children's Theatre

Hundreds of illustrated puppets, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, hilarious actors on live cameras, and a live music soundtrack bring the popular children’s books to life.

By: Aug. 03, 2022
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Manual Cinema's LEONARDO! A WONDERFUL SHOW ABOUT A TERRIBLE MONSTER is Coming to Chicago Children's Theatre

Direct from New York City and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival comes the Chicago premiere of Manual Cinema's super fun new all-ages show, Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster, September 10-October 16, 2022 at Chicago Children's Theatre.

Hundreds of illustrated puppets, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, hilarious actors on live cameras, and a live music soundtrack bring the popular children's books by Mo Willems to life in a new Manual Cinema show the whole family will enjoy.

Leonardo is a terrible monster. He tries so hard to be scary, but he just...isn't. Then Leonardo finds Sam, the most scaredy-cat kid in the world. Will Leonardo finally get to scare the tuna salad out of someone? Or will it be the start of an unlikely friendship?

The plot thickens when Leonardo and Sam meet Kerry and Frankenthaler, an even scaredier-cat and her monster friend. Kerry and Sam need to make a big decision: will they just be scaredy cats or can they become friends?

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster returns for its hometown debut after summer runs in Edinburgh and at New York's New Victory Theater. There, the New York Times raved Leonardo! is "more like seeing a movie than attending a play...just one of this interactive production's charms," using "paper cutouts, fuzzy puppets, an energetic cast and funny songs to tell a story that is seamlessly projected onto a huge screen hanging over the stage."

Leonardo! is directed by Sarah Fornace, co-director of Manual Cinema, the Chicago-based, internationally-acclaimed multimedia artist collective known for their mind-bending fusion of shadow puppetry, video projection, DIY cinema, green screen techniques, original music, and immersive sound.

In 2017, CCT was thrilled to present the world premiere of Manual Cinema's The Magic City as the inaugural production in its now "forever home" at Monroe and Racine in Chicago's West Loop. In 2018, Manual Cinema was named Chicago Tribune "Chicago Theater Artists of the Year." Their national profile jumped again in 2021 thanks to their shadow puppet animation sequences in the critically acclaimed horror film Candyman, produced by Jordan Peele.

But Leonardo? He's not scary.

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster is ideal for ages 5 and up. The show will delight audiences whether or not they have read the books, but there are plenty of easter eggs to delight fans of Mo Willems.

Performances are September 10-October 16, 2022, Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Single tickets are $25-$36, fees not included. Mark your calendar, because these shows will sell out.

Or, guarantee your seats, save money and see three great plays - Manual Cinema's Leonardo!, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show - by purchasing a two- or three--show subscription to CT's 2022-23 season, starting at just $37.

Subscriptions and single tickets are on sale now at Email or call (312) 374-8835 to learn more about discounted rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups.

Chicago Children's Theatre is a "no shushing" theater. It is centrally located at 100 S. Racine Ave., at Monroe, in Chicago's West Loop, in the former 12th District Chicago Police Station, now home to the city's largest professional theater devoted to children and young families.

Chicago Children's Theatre is minutes from I-90 and I-290, as well as downtown and Ashland Avenue. Free, onsite parking is available on the south side of the building. Free street parking can be found nearby on weekends, or try the Impark parking lot, 1301 W. Madison St.

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About ATerrible Monster is created by Manual Cinema, and is inspired by the books "Leonardo, The Terrible Monster" and "Sam, The Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World" by Mo Willems. The production is directed by Sarah Fornace, from an adaptation by Sarah Fornace and Drew Dir, with music, lyrics and sound design by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter.

The cast features Leah Casey (Kerry, puppeteer), Lily Emerson (narrator, character voices, guitar and vocals), Julia Miller (Sam, puppeteer) and Lindsey Noel Whiting (Leonardo, Puppeteer).

The creative team includes Drew Dir, 2D paper puppet and prop design; Lizi Breit, hand and rod puppet design; Mieka Van der Ploeg, costume and wig design; Trey Brazeal with Nick Chamernik, lighting design; Megan Alrutz, dramaturgy; Maydi Díaz, stage manager and board operator; and Mike Usrey, technical director

Manual Cinema is an Emmy award winning performance collective, design studio, and film/ video production company founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality. The company was awarded an Emmy Award in 2017 for "The Forger," a video created for The New York Times and named Chicago Theater Artists of the Year in 2018 by the Chicago Tribune. In 2020 Manual Cinema celebrated their ten year anniversary and had their South American premiere at the Santiago a Mil festival. Their shadow puppet animations were featured in the 2021 film remake of Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw Productions.

Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with, or brought its work to Chicago Children's Theatre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), BAM (NYC), Arts Emerson, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Kennedy Center (DC), Under the Radar Festival (NYC), La Monnaie-DeMunt (Brussels), The Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands), The Kimmel Center (Philadelphia) The O, Miami Poetry Festival, The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), Davies Symphony Hall (SF), The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Saudi Arabia), The Ace Hotel Theater (LA), The Hakaway International Arts Festival (Cairo), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and elsewhere around the world. They have collaborated with StoryCorps (NYC), Erratica (London), The Belgian Royal Opera (Brussels), Hubbard Street Dance (Chicago), Pop-Up Magazine (SF), Nu Deco Ensemble (Miami), New York Times best-selling author Reif Larsen (NYC), three time Grammy Award-winning eighth blackbird (Chicago), NPR's Invisibilia, Topic Magazine, Grammy Award winning Esperanza Spalding and The New York Times. Learn more at

Mo Willems is an author, illustrator, animator, playwright, and the inaugural Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, where he collaborates in creating fun new stuff involving classical music, opera, comedy concerts, dance, painting, and digital works with the National Symphony Orchestra, Ben Folds, Yo-Yo Ma, and others. Willems is best known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books, which have been awarded three Caldecott Honors ("Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!," "Knuffle Bunny," "Knuffle Bunny Too"), two Theodor Geisel Medals, and five Geisel Honors ("The Elephant & Piggie" series). Willems's art has been exhibited around the world, including major solo retrospectives at the High Museum (Atlanta) and the New-York Historical Society (NYC). Over the last decade, Willems has become the most produced playwright of Theater for Young Audiences in America, having written or co-written four musicals based on his books. He began his career as a writer and animator on PBS' Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards (writing). Other television work includes two series on Cartoon Network: Sheep in the Big City (creator + head writer) and Codename: Kids Next Door (head writer). Willems is creating new TV projects for HBOMax, where his live action comedy special Don't Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! currently streams. His papers reside at Yale University's Beinecke Library. For more, visit

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About ATerrible Monster was commissioned by The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts with additional support from Chicago Children's Theater and Utah Presents.

Later this fall, Chicago Children's Theatre's popular holiday show, The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party, returns for its seventh season, November 19-December 24, 2022. A seasonal rite of passage for Chicago toddlers, this mesmerizing, interactive trunk and puppet show brings four adorable Beatrix Potter stories to life, followed by a festive holiday spread of juice, cookies and chocolate milk.

Next spring, CCT will present The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show by Jonathan Rockefeller, creator of Disney's Winnie the Pooh. Kids love this bright, bold spectacle production with 75 larger-than-life puppets that bring four Eric Carle favorites - "The Very Busy Spider," "10 Rubber Ducks," "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" - from the page to the stage. The Chicago Tribune called it "incredible work...Eric Carle's books are brought beautifully to life." Chicago Parent wrote "be wowed by the live action colorful world." Jerrell L. Henderson directs. Performances are April 10-June 4, 2023.

For more, visit