The Loop is a good place to look if you are trying to find some good Chicago theaters, thanks in large part to the revitalized Loop Theatre District. Among the renowned downtown Chicago theaters here is the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, also known as the Chicago Oriental Theater. You might also hear this theater referred to simply as the Ford Center. The Oriental Theater in Chicago mostly offers Broadway-style productions, so if you're a fan of such performances, you'll want to check the schedule out on your next Chicago vacation. You can find the Ford Center Chicago theater at 4 West Randolph Street. Its marquee sign, which reads "Oriental," is hard to miss, and like the building's interior, the sign's design was inspired by the architecture of India.
The Oriental Theater in Chicago opened in 1926, and its early days saw it serving as both a movie palace and a host for vaudeville acts. Various concerts and other live performances were known to take place here as well in the early days; for instance, Duke Ellington and his orchestra often played here. Other famous stars who performed at the Ford Center Chicago theater in its earlier days include Al Jolson, The Three Stooges, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and George Burns, among others. In other words, this place has a lot of history to it, as does the city of Chicago itself. There are 3,250 seats at the Chicago Oriental Theater, and you can bet they go fast when big name acts are in town. From 2005 to 2009, for example, the production of Wicked was a huge hit and became the city's most popular stage production of all time.
Today, the Ford Center Chicago Theater is owned by the Nederlander Organization, which is one of the country's largest and most highly experienced live music and theater operators. The Nederlander Organization runs the theater with the help of Broadway in Chicago, which is an organization that has a lot to do with the revitalized Loop Theatre District. In addition to putting on shows at the Oriental Theater in Chicago, both the Nederlander Organization and Broadway in Chicago also present shows at the Bank of America Theatre and the Cadillac Palace Theatre, both of which can also be found in the Loop. It's an exciting time for the performing arts in Chicago, and places like the Ford Center/Oriental Theater have a lot to do with that. So grab some show tickets in Chicago the next time you're in town, whether you're on your own or looking for things to do with kids, and treat yourself to a performance that should prove to be among the highlights of your trip.
Image: Dylan Stark