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.
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.
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.
Last visit 8/9/09, if you have a chance to see "Arabian Nights" before it leaves on August 30, 2009, it is a very entertaining show
We've been to the Lookingglass twice, it's located in the Pumping Station on Michigan Avenue. Upon entering the building you can get a glimpse of the actual pump room that provides water to many Chicago residents.
I got our tickets online at Hot Tix on Friday for the Sunday show, you can also check at their outlets at 72 E. Randolph or 163 E. Pearson which is in the same building as the theater.
The theater is very small, 200-250 people, so there are really not any bad seats in the house. We had tickets in row AA on our 2nd visit, they were in the balcony if you can call it that, there was only one row of seats up there on three sides of the theater.
Dinner options nearby:
Lookingglass partners with several restaurants, not all of them are close enough to walk but many of them are, check here for more details.
Bistro 110, 110 E. Pearson and NoMi in the Park Hyatt, 800 N. Michigan, are right across the street. Several options on Rush Street including Carmine's, Rosebud on Rush, Giordano's.
If you drive to the theater, they offer 4 hour discounted parking at the Olympia Centre self park at 161 E. Chicago Avenue.
Dress Code: Most people, on a hot day in Sunday afternoon in Chicago, were wearing casual clothes
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
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 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 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.
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.
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 :(
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.
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
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.
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.
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