Chicago’s Broadway: History & Entertainment
Downtown Chicago holds some of the best theaters in the nation, and the season is heating up with the new year. Read on to see some of the most anticipated shows coming to the Theater District, and get a peek at the history behind the velvet curtains.
Oriental Theatre (Ford Center for the Performing Arts)
24 W Randolph St
Built in 1926 on the site of the fire-ravaged Iroquois/Colonial Theater, the Oriental has survived the decades by constantly evolving with the needs of the entertainment market. Designed by the Rapp brothers, It was originally built as a movie palace, later hosting vaudeville shows. It did well until the ‘70s, when it began to struggle, finally shutting its doors in 1981.
In the late ‘90s, a Canadian firm bought the theater and pledged to restore its Indian-influenced architecture with the financial help of the City of Chicago and Ford Motor Company. Additions and restructuring brought the theater to its present glory, and it now resides in the hands of the Nederlander Organization, as a part of Broadway in Chicago.
Get Tickets For…
Alton Brown Live brings Food Network chef Alton Brown to the Windy City with his “Edible Inevitable” show, mixing culinary theatrics and science with Brown’s own quirky brand of stand-up comedy. The show is heading around the country, but you can catch it at the Oriental on February 8th.
If you miss Alton Brown, you can catch Heartbeat of Homeat the Oriental starting March 4th. Heartbeatis a combination Irish-Latin-Afro-Cuban dance and music show featuring elaborate costumes and impressive footwork.
430 S Michigan Ave
The Auditorium Theater is one of the Loop’s oldest, dating back to 1886. Involved in the design was Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, with the help of a young Frank Lloyd Wright as draftsman. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Peck, with the financial assistance of Chicago businessmen including George Pullman. Peck had an elaborate plan for a theater to rival the best in the world, and included an office and hotel in the plans. President Grover Cleveland laid the cornerstone, though the theater did not have the bright future many had planned for.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed in the theater until 1904, and while performances were held, the theater closed during the Depression. It was used by the city as a servicemen’s center during WWII, and only decades later regained popularity as a rock venue in the ‘70s. Roosevelt University is the current owner and operator of the Auditorium Theater, and has been restored.
Get Tickets For…
The Joffrey Ballet Contemporary Choreographers have performances from February 12th to the 23rd, showcasing dances that incorporate classic, modern, urban, and tribal influences to create a vigorous and exciting show ($31-152).
You can also catch Alvin Ailey American Dance theater between February 28th and March 9th, known as America’s Cultural Ambassador to the World. The show includes a variety of performances, including one set to Duke Ellington’s music ($32-92).
Bank of America Theatre
18 W Monroe
This theater has gone by a few names over the years, but it started life in 1906 as the Majestic Theater, holding multiple vaudeville shows a day during the week. In the ’20s, big acts including Harry Houdini graced the stage. It’s changed hands a few times, and even closed during the Depression, but now is part of Broadway in Chicago.
Inside, Bank of America Theatre has been restored to its former glory, including original mosaic floors and scientifically-matched paint colors. The interior was designed to be extremely elegant, and that beauty remains today.Get Tickets For…
Chicago – The Musical comes to the theater on February 25th. The popular Jazz-age tale of fame, fortune, and all the singing and dancing that comes with it has one multiple awards—don’t miss it this year! ($53-721).
Rock of Ages hits the stage on March 11th to tell the story of two lovebirds navigating LA’s Sunset Strip in the age of hairspray, arena shows, and rock anthems ($37-405).
Cadillac Palace Theatre
151 W Randolph St
The Cadillac Palace Theater is another Broadway in Chicago venture, but it was built in 1926 under the New Palace Theater title. Originally designed by the Rapp brothers, the Cadillac Palace has also been known as the Bismarck Theatre, a rock venue. It gained its current name when Cadillac purchased the rights in 1999. .
Perhaps no better name could come to the theater, as both the theater and the carmaker evoke luxury and elegance. The theater was inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France, and includes elaborate touches like velvet, marble, and goldleaf. It was restored in the early 2000s.
Get Tickets For…
The Phantom of the Opera comes to Chicago from January 9th until March 2nd and needs no introduction. This tour features a “reimagined production” including new set designs and staging. You can still expect the lavish costumes and haunting soundtrack that made this show a hit.($61-393).
Come March 18th-March 30th, you can catch the classic Biblical saga Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which also comes from Phantom leader Andrew Lloyd Webber.($58-368).