We caught the opening night of the anti-holiday one elf play Santaland Diaries at the Theatre Building this weekend, David Sedaris' tale of working as an elf at Macy's in New York. Time Out Chicago just ran an article about Sedaris hating the play that made him famous, he claimed it didn't work as a stage production. But obviously a lot of people disagree with him, the article also stated that it was the "second-most-performed holiday show in the nation." I thought it was a very funny production and Mitchell Fain made a wonderful elf.
The show was full for opening night, we got our tickets 1/2 price at Hot Tix online, you can avoid the Ticketmaster charges by going to one of their outlets at 72 E. Randolph near Macy's on State or 163 E. Pearson near Water Tower Place. The theater is small and at least for this production, seating was general admission with no reserved seats. The late arrivals had to sit on the side of the stage so if you don't want to have everyone staring at you for the whole performance, come early. This show runs through January 3, 2009.
Their website lists a bunch of places to eat, none of which grabbed me, so we found a Mexican place to eat at which was just satisfactory. Next time I'll do my homework and find something better.
We found metered street parking within a few blocks on Belmont, if you drive and park, make sure to check the signs for resident only parking
Dress Code: Lots of people in jeans and tennis shoes, very casual theater
Chicago has great theater, but some of the shows are on the expensive side. What to do? Well, there's an organization called "Hottix" that sells tickets for a variety of productions that, for one reason or another, still have empty seats. For example, you'll usually find more tix available on Thurs evening or Sun afternoon than Saturday night. You can save up to 50% on tickets.
Some shows here are ones that have not gotten good reviews, but there are shows that have great reviews, but still some unsold seats. The disadvantage is you have to buy these tickets the day before the show, or the day of. So, read the reviews: I happen to like the reviews at www.chicagoreader.com
Hottix has 3 physical locations (closed Mondays):
72 E. Randolph (in the Chicago Cultural Center)
163 E. Pearson (at Michigan Ave., in the Water Works Visitor Center)
9501 N. Skokie Blvd. in north suburban Skokie (near Old Orchard Shopping Center)
and online at www.hottix.org (for a few shows, you can't buy the tickets online...you have to go
to one of the physical locations).
If you buy the tickets in person, they will give you the physical tickets. If you buy them online, the tickets will be held at the theater box office (in that case, get there a little earlier to claim them)
Use the money you save to have a nice meal.
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. It's 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.
I've seen a handful of plays at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, all have been of high quality and enjoyable.
There are 2 different theater spaces, the main stage for the major performances such as Hamlet or MacBeth and the smaller upstairs space for other offerings. Some of the productions are family friendly, like the current production of Seussical The Musical which is running through August 20, 2006.
If you park at Navy Pier, be sure and get your parking ticket validated by the theater for a 40% discount, the restaurant validation only deducts $2 from the whopping $20 parking fee.
There are some dining options on Navy Pier but they are not, in my opinion, the best that Chicago has to offer. Dining elsewhere in Chicago and then going to Navy Pier is your best option but if you want to eat at Navy Pier you can choose from a food court, several tourist oriented restaurants like Joe's Be Bop Cafe or Bubba Gump's or Riva's which I hear has good food but is a little overpriced.
Dress Code: Theater patrons in Chicago are fairly casual, you'll see anything from shorts to suits depending on where they were earlier in the day.
Blue Man Group show. It was excellent! I enjoyed it a lot! I'm not really a "show" person but this one I had such a great time at. I would definitely reccommend it if you have the funds to pay for a somewhat pricy ticket.
Dress Code: If you sit in the poncho seats, dont wear anything very nice. I'm sure you can figure out what the ponchos are.
The Cadillac Palace Theater is one of several old theaters in Chicago used for Broadway shows, either heading in or heading out. It is run by the same group that schedules for the Oriental & Schubert Theaters also. The Hotel Allegro shares the building with the theater as do the restaurant 312 Chicago and the bar Encore. It doesn't take much to guess who paid for the renovation ;)
Recent shows have included The Producers, Peter Pan, Les Miserables and The Lion King.
The Goodman Theatre moved from it's home behind the Art Institute to this location on Dearborn just south of the Chicago River, adding to the theatrical options in the Loop. The productions are less commerical and more adventurous than the other theaters in the North Loop area.
Dress Code: I saw just about everything, but artsy dress seemed to predominate.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company is an internationally renown regional ensemble theater. Founded in 1974 by Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise (in a basement in Highland Park), the company has been producing a full season of plays annually since 1976. The 34 ensemble members have ventured beyond their Chicago homestage into film, television and onto other stages while maintaining their deep-rooted connections to Steppenwolf. No other American theater ensemble has survived as long and thrived as much as the Steppenwolf company of artists.
Starting with its 1982 revival of Sam Shepard's "True West," the company has transferred several shows to New York, including the Tony Award-winning adaptation of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men." Steppenwolf has earned a reputation for quality, risk-taking and integrity. In addition to presenting American theater (and the occasional film-star vanity show or British import), Steppenwolf also develops new work and exposes its audiences to new artists.
Famous Steppenwolf alumni include: Joan Allen, Gary Cole, Laurie Metcalf,
Dress Code: Currently on stage at Steppenwolf (as of July 2005), are:
John Malhoney (the dad in Fraser) will be appearing next season in The Unmentionables in the Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre.
John Malkovich (as in Being John Malkovich) just finished up a run in Lost Land.
Martha Plimpton will appear in the ensemble cast of Love Song in the 2005-2006 season.
The theater scene in Chicago is alive and well. In addition to the Goodman in its new building, as well as the historic Auditorium Theatre and the many excellent small theater companies in Old Town and environs, there are several renovated historic theaters that bring in broadway musicals and other more popular attractions.
For a quality night of theatre, try the Royal George Theatre Center. It is one of the city's more important traditional medium sized theatres. The layout is wonderful with the seats well-spaced in a room that is not too large, and, in my opinion, there is not a bad seat in the house.
Three stages of quality entertainment dominate this great theatre complex. There's the traditional Broadway-sized mainstage, a very comfortable cabaret stage and a compact upstairs Great room, which is a studio space called Gallery Theatre.
The large mainstage productions rotate frequently. The cabaret room is known for its long-run comedies or musicals such as FOREVER PLAID. The Great Room has hosted "Flanagan's Wake," an interactive Irish comedy for a long time.
All the spaces are comfortable, and all have excellent sight lines and acoustics.
I have seen: Steel Magnolia, Lost in Yonkers, and Bleacher Bums at the Broadway-sized mainstage.
I have seen (twice) at the cabaret space the long-running "Forever Plaid."
I have not yet seen a production in the upstairs Great Room.
The theatre is professionally maintained and staffed; it has great seats, super sight lines, and a fabulous sound system. For an excellent night of entertainment, the Royal George Theatre Center has what you enjoy, even cocktails.
There is limited street parking in this area. Valet and garage parking is available, for a fee, of course.
Box Office hours:
Monday through Saurday: 10:00 AM-8:30 PM
Sunday 12:00PM-7:00 PM
The Box Office is also open through intermission when there is a performance.
American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Cash, and Checks are accepted.
Dress Code: I always wear a fancy pantsuit or a dress, and Allan wears a nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt and sometimes a jacket.
This venue features a classical theatre upstairs, and a club/concert stage downstairs.
Pictured is the exterior (from a park across the street), and the Cracow Klezmer Band (from their performance in September, 2002, while visiting to participate in Chicago's "World Music Festival").
The Chopin also serves the Polish-American enclave living up along nearby Milwaukee Avenue by bringing them rich cultural diversity - e.g.: 'Punk Rock' music ;-)
Dress Code: Casual/evening attire, but leopard skin (faux, bien sûr) a definite plus ;-) Also note the non-abundance of parking spaces nearby :(
Steppenwolf Theatre and Goodman Theatre
Try to see one of the plays offered by either of this company (or both). There are HOT TIX ticket outlets in water tower and state street that offers half price discount (but in the end it is not really half-price because you have to add a service charge). A cheaper alternative if you are a student is to to buy rush tickets. Rush tickets are available (usually) two hours before curtain time at the box office, and these are really cheap. If you are not in desperate need to watch a play and you have a student I.D. then go for it. Goodman's student rush tickets go as low as $12 and Steppenwolf's tickets are half price.
Dress Code: Casual