One of the actors we worked with was starring at the Steppenwolf Theater, so we took time out one evening to see a production there. It's a prestigious theater, formed by great actors, such as a personal favourite of mine Gary Sinise. He continues to act there, supported by a whole spectrum of America's best acting talent, such as John Malkovich and Laurie Metcalf. Its location is also stunning, with incredible views of the Chicago skyline from the bar on its upper floors. It's worth a visit just for that.
We went to see Harald Pinter's Betrayed, a dark English comedy which reverses the normal order of the narrative to create a story that leaves you curious to learn about events that have already occurred, rather than ones about to. The performances were so fantastic, and I didn't even realise that the actors were really American, their English accents were that convincing. If you are in the least bit interested in the performing arts, you'll be doing yourself a disservice by not dropping into the Steppenwolf while you are in Chicago.
Dress Code: Relaxed.
To see what is currently playing, check the Broadway in Chicago website listed below.
The Oriental Theater was built in 1926 as a movie palace, like the nearby Palace theater it has been renovated into a theater for Broadway type productions and reopened October, 1998.
The theater seats 2,200, we currently have a subscription package that gave us awesome seats (row F at the Oriental in the center). For single shows we usually get main floor orchestra tickets by purchasing well in advance at full price. But in late 2011 we got half price tickets through Hottix for main floor orchestra left row U for "Rock of Ages". Hottix normally doesn't have tickets for the Oriental but I'm guessing the economy is making it hard to fill the seats at the top ticket prices. Going directly to the box office avoids Ticketmaster charges and you can get input on which seats are best. For "Mamma Mia", we opted for the 2nd row balcony seats which seem to be better than main floor once you get past row O as that's where the balcony starts and you have a less obstructed view as you are looking down, not over someone's head.
Close dining options before the show:
a) Petterino's-steak, fish, pasta, chicken- a block away on Randolph
b) Fulton's on the River-seafood-3-4 blocks away on the Chicago River at 315 N. LaSalle
c) Atwood Cafe-a little further away, American contemporary
d) Greektown restaurants are just a short cab ride away
e) many River North restaurants are just a 10-15 minute walk
f) Garrett's popcorn has a location right next door, they have a little sign saying that the theater will not allow their popcorn inside but we smuggled in a small bag the last time we went because we knew they'd be closed when the show was over. Just don't eat it while the show is on!
Parking-look for the signs that say theater special on the blocks around the theater or the Broadway in Chicago website has a link to spothero.com which I've never used but the rates look very reasonable for Chicago. We park at the Sterling self park on Kinzie at LaSalle, $12 with the evening flat rate and only a 10 minute walk. Plus no waiting for all the other people who have parked to get out.
Dress Code: Theatre patrons in Chicago dress in anything ranging from blue jeans to suits and dresses. I imagine it gets a little dressier on the weekends.
To see what is currently playing, check the Broadway in Chicago website
The Palace Theater was originally opened as a vaudeville theater in 1926, later uses include a movie house, a banquet hall and a rock venue. It was beautifully restored in 1999 as a theater for Broadway type shows. Many of them come to Chicago to test the waters before they head off to Broadway and many are touring productions.
We usually get main floor orchestra tickets by purchasing well in advance at full price, tickets do come up at Hottix at half price for some shows usually starting Tuesday of that week, the last couple of times we did that we got loge row C and main floor row T, it is clear that they don't release their best seats as there are plenty of empty seats in front of you for most shows. Goldstar is another website that sometimes has discounted tickets, sometimes well in advance, but you don't know where you are sitting until you collect your tickets. But when my sister in law got tickets through Goldstar for the same performance we used Hottix for, she ended up in row N and us in row T, however, she ordered a couple of weeks in advance and we got them the day before.
If you can't get good orchestra (main floor) seats, the loge has a very nice view overlooking the stage, the equivalent of being about 11 rows back on the main floor but without having someone's head blocking your view in row A. The balcony seats are behind the loge seats. The dress circle seats are lower than the loge or balcony but the ones in the center are over row V, the ones on the side are closer but you are all the way on the side. Click for the seating chart
You can order tickets on Ticketmaster but if you want to avoid the huge Ticketmaster fees, you can also purchase directly at the box office.
Close dining options before the show:
a) 312 Chicago-Italian, right next door to the theater.
b) Petterino's-steak, fish, pasta, chicken- 3 or 4 blocks away on Randolph
c) Fulton's on the River-seafood-3-4 blocks away on the Chicago River at 315 N. LaSalle
d) Atwood Cafe-a little further away, American contemporary
e) Italian Village-a little further away, 3 Italian restaurants ranging from casual to a little more expensive
f) Randolph Street dining corridor is a short cab ride
g) Greektown restaurants are just a short cab ride away
Parking-look for the signs that say theater special on the blocks around the theater. We avoided the parking lot on the corner of Randolph & Wells because I figured it would have a line to validate the tickets after the show(I was right) and parked one block further on Franklin just north of Randolph for $10 flat fee after 4pm.
Dress Code: Theatre patrons in Chicago dress in anything ranging from blue jeans to suits and dresses. I imagine it gets a little dressier on the weekends.
Before the Oriental and Palace theaters were renovated, this was one of the major theaters where the longer running productions were booked. It was opened as the Majestic in 1906 as a vaudeville theater, closed during the depression and reopened as a theater in 1945. At some point it was renamed the Shubert Theater, then renamed the LaSalle Bank Theater and then Bank of America Theater when that bank took over LaSalle Bank.
Currently playing through September, 2013 is Book of Mormon which has received rave reviews from the critics and is the hottest ticket to hit town in a long time. The run has been extended twice and will likely be a long running play, just like Wicked. Explicit language makes it unsuitable for younger children and if you find "South Park" offensive, you might want to stay home.
From the Chicago Tribune "According to the producers, the Chicago production will follow the Broadway model, with $25 tickets released each day. The procedure is as follows: those who want tickets go to the box office any time after it opens that day and fill out a card, which is provided. One can request either one or two tickets. Two hours before curtain, a random drawing is made. Cards are "checked for duplication" prior to the drawing". I believe the seats are usually in the first couple of rows.
Places to eat before a show include:
Atwood Cafe, Russian Tea Time, Italian Village, Rosebud Theater District
Dress Code: Theater patrons wear anything from jeans to suits and dresses, wear what you are comfortable in
The Auditorium Theater, designed by architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, is known for its architectural integrity and perfect acoustics. I've been to this theater a couple of times to see "The Nutcracker" performed by the Joffrey Ballet at Christmas time, most recently in December 2012. We got our tickets on Goldstar at 1/2 price, because I booked the tickets in two transactions we sat on the main floor in row M for half and then switched and sat in the balcony in row E. While we were still able to see in the balcony, the main floor seats were so much better for a show with beautiful costuming and row M was perfect, not too far, not too close. The balcony is pretty far back, but it's on a slope so you have perfect sightlines unlike the main floor where you can be behind someone tall and have it make a difference.
Dress Code: We saw people dressed in everything from jeans to long gowns, especially for shows like the Nutcracker you will see young girls in pretty dresses. Our show was on a Wednesday, I'm guessing the weekend crowds and opening night crowds are better dressed.
Broadway Playhouse (formerly Drury Lane Water Tower) opened in 2005, the space was reconfigured and reopened in September 2010. The theater is located just behind Water Tower Place, a half block off Michigan Avenue, right in the heart of the tourist zone. It's a small venue, 549 seats, so there really aren't any bad seats in the theater except for the last couple of seats in the last few rows which have a little obstruction.
The last show we saw here was "Potter Potter", a parody of the Harry Potter series. We got tickets from Hot Tix online and the Hottix seats were in the last two rows which weren't really good for an interactive show like this although since we didn't have kids with us it didn't really matter. Hottix also has a location near the theater located in the Pumping Station, 163 E. Pearson, across the street from Water Tower Place or on Randolph Street near the Cultural Center
If you want to eat before or after the show, there are probably 100 restaurants within 1/2 mile including Bar Toma and Cheescake Factory less than a block away. For a quick bite, located inside Water Tower Place is Foodlife and M Burger. A couple of blocks away on Rush Street, there's Carmine's, Rosebud on Rush, Giordano's, Lou Malnati's, Gibson's, Hugo's Frog Bar.
Dress Code: Chicago theater patrons tend to wear anything from jeans to suits and dresses but the crowd we saw was skewed more towards casual clothes.
The Royal George Theater is in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, there are several theater spaces that comprise the Royal George.
Our most recent visit was in November 2011 to see The Doyle & Debbie Show which is on an open run in the Cabaret Theater, it's a funny spoof of country music, I thought it was hysterical so you definitely don't need to be a country music fan to get the humor. The Cabaret Theater is a very small venue, 196 seats, so there isn't really a bad seat in the house. I was able to get 1/2 price tickets online at Hottix a few days before the performance for a Sunday matinee.
In December 2008, we went to see Don't Dress For Dinner at the Main Stage of the Royal George, an entertaining farce set in France starring several actors you might recognize from the movies or TV. The Main Stage is bigger than the cabaret but all of the main floor seats have good visibility, the balcony seats are all further back than the main floor seats. I got tickets a couple of days before on Hottix and was able to order them online.
We didn't have time to eat before the show but I've seen high marks for BOKA at 1729 N. Halsted or Dawali Kitchen at 1625 N. Halsted or Sono Wood Fired 1582 N. Clybourn.
We are usually able to get a spot on the street, there is still unmetered parking left on Halsted or the theater has valet parking available.
Dress Code: I saw everything from jeans to smart casual, this is a small neighborhood theater so too dressy and you'd probably feel a bit overdressed
This is the 2nd time we've been to this small theater located in Rogers Park, one of the most northernmost neighborhoods in Chicago. The theater is very small so there aren't any bad seats, we had seats in row H which was the last row in the theater. The production we saw last night, Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, was very good, the parts were all cast well, I wasn't familiar with the plot so each twist and turn was a surprise (although now that I've read a synopsis of the book I find that the play isn't precisely faithful to the book).
While I don't want to overstate the danger, but Rogers Park has higher crime statistics than most of the surrounding neighborhoods and just a couple of weeks ago we had someone fleeing a couple of guys trying to beat him up attempt to get in our car while driving just up the street. There were a fair amount of people loitering around as we walked from our parking spot to the theater that quickened my pace a little. If you are coming by el, there's a red line station right on Morse about 1/2 block from the theater and there were plenty of people around, just be street smart about it.
Street parking is metered along Morse and we couldn't find any on the side streets. They do have a parking lot and shuttle about 6 blocks away, click here for more details.
After looking at their wall of previous productions, I'm sorry that it's not a more conveniently located theater for us as I think I would have enjoyed quite a few of them, mostly adaptations of classic novels like Wuthering Heights and The Moonstone.
Dress Code: very casual theater, you must wear clothes of course but nothing special necessary
an amazing building called "the Wonder Theatre of the World" when it opened on October 26, 1921.
Dress Code: No dress code but NO backpacks or other large bags allowed into the auditorium. All such items must be checked. Smaller purses are allowed into the auditorium. Coats and bags can be checked for $1 per item.
We've been to the Chicago Theater a few times, most recently in March 2011 when we got last minute tickets to see Sarah McLachlan. The show was sold out and we were going to buy tickets from Stub Hub or one of the other legitimate ticket brokers (they all appear to have the same stock), my husband called them and the tickets he wanted were sold but he suggested logging onto Ticketmaster after noon to see if they released any more tickets. Sure enough there were two seats in row EE in the center, perfect seats. This tactic probably doesn't always work but it's worth a shot if you've already waited until the day of the show to buy tickets.
You can see the seating chart here, for our show which didn't have an orchestra there were 4 or 5 rows in front where the pit is and then starts the double letters AA-PP and then the single letters. The mezzanine is a 2 row section that sits over the very back of the main floor seating, the balcony seats are closer, they start around row NN on the main floor although with the curvature of the rows some on the sides are closer than the ones in the middle.
The theater itself is a beautifully restored theater in Chicago's theater district. It was originally opened in 1921 and used for movies and live entertainment. It was closed in 1985, restored and then reopened in 1986. It's a more refined venue to see musical acts, most people tend to sit during the shows as there are assigned seats and the acts cater more to an older crowd.
We parked across the river at the Sterling Self Park on Kinzie which is $8 on the weekend evenings and takes about 10 minutes to get to, there's a parking garage closer to the theater if you don't want to walk.
Lots and lots of places to eat within a 10 or 15 minute walk, we ate at Rockit on Hubbard, Atwood Cafe, Petterino's are close but usually booked unless you plan ahead. There are several steakhouses within a 5 minute walk-Morton's, Smith & Wollensky, Chicago Cut.
Dress Code: For most shows there is no particular dress code besides having to wear some.
2nd visit 1/27/11
One of the more entertaining things we've done this year is go to a taping of the NPR (National Public Radio) show "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me" which tapes on Thursday nights at the Chase Auditorium, you can hear the show you watched the following Saturday on NPR. Peter Sagal hosts the weekly hour long quiz show with a rotating panel of guests, some of whom you might find familar faces such as comedian Paula Poundstone, Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeney, Mo Rocca from the "Daily Show" and Tom Bodett who is perhaps best known for saying "We'll leave the light on for you". There's also a call in guest, we had George Romero, the zombie movie director the 1st time and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. the 2nd time. I find the show funny when I listen to it on the radio, I laughed almost non stop at the tapings.
I got the tickets for half price from Goldstar, normally tickets are $24.75, we got them for $12.37 + a $4.50 service fee. They don't tape every Thursday night, sometimes they are out of town, but they primarily tape in Chicago. Seating is general admission, the doors open at 7pm, taping is at 7:30pm, we got there about 7:00pm and the line was already really long so get there early if you want a great seat. Our seats weren't bad, on the side about 8 rows back.
We didn't have a lot of time for dinner but there are a few nice places to eat if you have time for a real meal. We headed to the Rosebud Theater District (70 W. Madison), they have a free buffet with munchies like buffalo chicken wings, spare ribs and thin crust pizza as long as you purchase two drinks. It's right across the street from Chase Bank so it was convenient too. Other choices nearby are Italian Village, 71 W. Monroe, and Rosebud Prime, 1 S. Dearborn, also right across the street. A few blocks away there's Miller's Pub, 143 S. Wabash, for burgers and ribs.
Parking is tough in this area, street parking is metered and limited by time so we parked in the Grant Park South garage ($18 flat fee for the evening) instead of parking at the garage on Monroe which was slightly closer but $29.
Dress Code: As long as you are wearing clothes, I think they will let you in
We've been to the Court Theater three times now, the latest two visits to see The Mystery of Irma Vep and a reworking of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors
The theater is very small so there are no bad seats, we've purchased 1/2 price tickets through Hot Tix for all three visits.
There is free garage parking just north of the theater but both times we found free street parking just south of the theater.
If you're looking for dinner in the area, a great casual Lebanese place is Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen at 1206 E. 53rd Street, or for Caribbean influenced food you can try Calypso at 5211 South Harper Avenue or slightly further away, for a very nice meal at the culinary school in the South Shore Cultural Center, try Parrot Cage.
Dress Code: The Court is a small neighborhood theater near the University of Chicago, patrons dress very casually including jeans and tennis shoes.
Last visit April 24, 2010 to see Lookingglass Theater's production of "Hephaestus A Greek Mythology Circus Tale" playing through May 23, 2010. Highly recommend this production!
I've now been in both of the theaters here, the Albert and the Owen, the Albert is the bigger theater where they show "A Christmas Carol" every year. When we saw "Animal Crackers" at the Albert we had seats in the middle of row DD in the balcony, I prefer to be a bit closer than that but you could still see the actors expressions and the sound quality is very good throughout the theater. A plus in the balcony is that it is "stadium seating" so that you are raised up over the person in front of you, the main floor seems to be flat.
The Owen is the smaller 377 person theater with a ring of main floor seats, a row of Mezzanine seats and another row of balcony seats higher up. We had seats in the mezzanine, for "Hephaestus" it was an interesting place to sit as much of the show is aerial. The Goodman's website says it's general admission but it wasn't for this show.
Most of the plays staged here tend to be more serious works by playwrights like Eugene O'Neill, I tend to prefer plays that make me laugh or big Broadway style shows, which explains why I don't go here often. There are often big name performers that perform here, "Animal Crackers" had Joey Slotnick who has had lots of supporting roles on TV, Brian Dennehy also shows up quite a bit.
Close dining options before the show:
a) Petterino's-steak, fish, pasta, chicken- right next door on Randolph
b) Fulton's on the River-seafood-just across the Chicago River at 315 N. LaSalle
c) Atwood Cafe-3-4 blocks away, American contemporary
We find free street parking or park in the $8 Sterling self park at LaSalle and Kinzie, for closer parking the Goodman has a deal at this lot.
Dress Code: You'll see a wide range of dress for Chicago theater patrons, most people show up in business casual, you don't see the fancier dresses at the smaller theaters that you sometimes do at the Broadway type shows
The Lakeshore Theater is a comedy venue in the Lakeview neighborhood. I got my tickets from Goldstar.com at 1/2 price which gave us general admission seats, the website says the 1st 5 rows are the VIP section for people who pay an additional $5 but it seemed like a lot more than the 1st 5 rows were reserved and we ended up about 15-20 rows back, it's not a large theater so there really aren't any bad seats. We got there about 1/2 hour early and the theater was already mostly full, they have a full bar but there is no drink requirement like some other comedy clubs in Chicago. I did see a couple of waitresses walking around but they must have been for the more expensive seats.
I did see on Yelp that there were a lot of free tickets given out for various shows, just how one gets them is not something I know.
Parking in this neighborhood is a little tough, it's either resident sticker zoned or 2 hour meter but only until 9 pm which worked for us. The one garage we pulled into was $21 (I think they were charging us an additional $5 because we have a pickup truck).
We didn't have time to have dinner but if we had I would have tried to get into the small and currently very hot restaurant Chilam Balam at 3023 N. Broadway or HB Restaurant at 3404 N. Halsted. We did peek into Falafill but decided to head up to Andersonville to Turkish Bakery instead. If you are looking for a lighter meal there's a Chipotle a couple of doors down and if you're looking for dessert after the show, there's a gelato place called Paciugo at 3241 N. Broadway.
Dress Code: No dress code except requiring that you have some clothes on unless you are one of the performers in "Puppetry of the Pen*s" in which case nudity is mandatory
I would describe this as a Grand Old theatre. A magnificent lobby, grand staircase and plush interior take you back to the theatre's heyday. These days there are a variety of different performances at the theatre. Coming soon will be a run of the Cirque De Soleil company.
If you are looking for something to do in the evening, consider taking in a performance at this beautiful theater.
There are also tours given of the theater during the day. Call ahead to check the times available.