Black Button Eyes Productions Presents SHOCKHEADED PETER Review – Charmingly Nightmarish

Black Button Eyes Productions - SHOCKHEADED PETER
Ellen DeSitter, Kat Evans, Anthony Whitaker, Genevieve Lerner and Caitlin Jackson

Immediately upon beginning the journey up to Studio 2 of the Athenaeum Theatre, audience members are met with spooky baby dolls and other mood-setting, glowing items. The tone of the show you are about to see becomes quite clear even before entering the theatre itself. Black Button Eyes Productions creates a visually striking production of SHOCKHEADED PETER.

Black Button Eyes Productions - SHOCKHEADED PETER
Stephanie Stockstill, Cody Jolly and Kevin Webb

Vignettes With a Ghoulish Theme

A sinister, yet hilarious, emcee guides the audience through the story of a childless couple who want nothing more than a child of their own. When finally gifted a child, he is certainly not what they expect, the titular Shockheaded Peter. They discard him and attempt to move on. Between hints of their downfall, we are treated to vignettes of various naughty children meeting their ultimate, permanent punishments.

Black Button Eyes Productions - SHOCKHEADED PETER
Anthony Whitaker, Kat Evans, Gwen Tulin and Pavi Proczko

Black Button Eyes Productions Brings Attention to Detail

The images seen on stage during this production are visually striking and have clearly been thoroughly planned and executed. The red curtain and black and white flooring bring an eerie feel to the room (think Twin Peaks or Stanley Kubrick). The set contains blood stains and oversized toys that bring a childlike creepiness to the room. There are ghastly projections and macabre puppets to bring this haunting evening to life.

Black Button Eyes Productions - SHOCKHEADED PETER
Genevieve Lerner, Kat Evans and Anthony Whitaker

Talented Actors Illustrate Music

The Tim Burton-esque characters are masterfully portrayed by this ensemble of talented actors. Kevin Webb stands out as the cheeky, nasty MC who leads us through the tales and participates as well. Ellen DeSitter shows incredible range through different roles including a deranged, doll-like narrator, and domineering decapitator on stilts. An otherwise mudane story of a boy who dies from fidgeting is punctuated by the captivating Kat Evans and her infectious enthusiasm.

While most of the songs would be forgettable having simply heard them, the strength of the actors brings them to life and creates imagery that will remain in the collective minds of the audience for quite some time. Songs about children getting their thumbs snipped off or children who die from being blown away during rainstorms are certainly not your normal musical themes. This is certainly not your normal musical. It is more of a song cycle than a narrative musical, but it is worth a viewing if you are a musical fan. The onstage band uses unorthodox instruments and brings these odd songs to life brilliantly.

Black Button Eyes Productions - SHOCKHEADED PETER
Genevieve Lerner, Ellen DeSitter and Josh Kemper

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.

Photos by Cole Simon

Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

Note: An excerpt of this appears in Theater in Chicago.


Top Pick For: Lovers of Tim Burton-esque style
Not recommended for: Those without whimsy


August 11 - September 16, 2017

Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30PM
Sundays at 2:00PM

Black Button Eyes Productions - SHOCKHEADED PETER
(front, l to r) Ellen DeSitter and Genevieve Lerner with (back, l to r) Josh Kemper, Kevin Webb, Anthony Whitaker and Gwen Tulin


Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago


$32 Regular Price
$17 Students

Online at
By phone at 773-935-6875
In person at the Athenaeum Theatre Box Office

Note: recommended for ages 13+

Black Button Eyes Productions - SHOCKHEADED PETER
Genevieve Lerner, Caitlin Jackson and Kevin Webb
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