Broadway in Chicago is a theatrical production company hosting performances in a number of Chicago downtown theaters: Bank of America Theatre, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Auditorium Theatre, and Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. Chicago is a bustling city with tons of entertainment and things to do, day and night; among the most popular of these pastimes is live theater, represented most prominently by the productions at these venues.
Restored to their finest condition, the theaters in which Broadway in Chicago operates were originally constructed in the early half of the 20th century and even in the late half of the 19th; three of those theaters, Bank of America Theatre, the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, and Cadillac Palace Theatre, are managed by Broadway in Chicago, and two, Auditorium Theatre and Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, are employed through alliances with the organizations that operate the theaters.
Formerly named the Majestic Theatre when it opened in 1906, Bank of America Theatre has hosted a variety of big hit names and plays in Chicago, including Harry Houdini and Lily Langtry before its shutdown during the Great Depression. South Pacific and Guys and Dolls were performed after its reopening in 1945, and its run of performances have continued to the present day.
Designed with the Far East in mind, featuring a massive array of Asian art and relics, complete with turbaned ushers, the Oriental Theatre opened as a moving picture palace in 1926, with popular first-run movies and live theatrical performances within the same venue. Such timeless acts as Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Jean Harlow, Duke Ellington, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and Judy Garland have graced the live stages of the Oriental Theatre. After many years of success, the theater became rundown and was nearly a ruin when it was added to the Federal National Registry of Historic Places in 1978. Two decades later, the theater was restored to its original glory, renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, and featured “Ragtime” as its debut performance.
Inspired by the plush palaces of France, Fontainebleau and Versailles, the Palace Theatre was laid out in splendor of marble and mirrors, a majesty never before witnessed in Chicago when it opened in 1926. The Palace Theatre remained operational up to the present day, being renamed and converted to suit a variety of programs, from movies to concerts, until it was finally restored to its original purpose of live theater and renamed the Cadillac Palace Theatre in 1999.
With touring Broadway productions hosted at each of the aforementioned venues, Broadway in Chicago has had a major economic impact on the city that extends beyond a simple revenue, including over 7,000 jobs and a $635 million dollars per year boost on the conglomeration of business throughout the city, from restaurants to hotels to tourist revenue. More than 80% of out of town visitors in Chicago are reported to be in town for one or more of the performances featured by Broadway in Chicago. Some of the most notable plays in Chicago include The Addams Family, Mamma Mia!, Aida, Wicked, Disney’s The Lion King, and Jersey Boys.
Top image: Elizabeth Fraiberg Photography