Even if you’ve never seen a show at the Chicago Theatre, chances are you know what it looks like. The theater’s six story vertical “C-H-I-C-A-G-O” sign is a veritable emblem for the city, along with its sparkling marquee. The building opened in 1921 as an ornate movie palace. Today, it is owned by Madison Square Garden, Inc., to hold some of the best stage places, comedy, magic shows, speeches, sporting events, and pop concerts. The interiors are equally impressive with an elegant lobby, majestic staircase, and breathtaking auditorium with murals on the ceiling and above the stage.
Chicago Theatre Facilities
The Chicago Theatre was called “the Wonder Theatre of the World” when it opened in 1925. That maxim still holds true today, with its lavish French Baroque style. The brainchild of leading architects Cornelius and George Rapp, the theater features a miniature replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris above its State Street marquee. The off-white terra cotta arch stretches six stories high and is sixty feet wide. Inside the arch is a stained glass panel window bearing the coat-of-arms of the original owners, theBalaban and Katz movie palace chain.
Its grand lobby is five stories high and modeled after the Royal Chapel at Versailles. It’s surrounded by gallery promenades at the balcony and mezzanine level. To get to the Great Balcony, ascend the grand staircase patterned after the Paris Opera House.
Balaban and Katz spared no expense in the theater, either. The 3,600 seat auditorium is seven stories high and features a 29-rang Wurlitzer theater pipe organ. In 1986, Chicago Theatre Restoration Associates set to restore the theater to its former glory. Crystal chandeliers, lavish bronze light fixtures, Steuben glass shades, and 10 ceiling murals in the auditorium still remain.
The multi-million dollar restoration was celebrated with a 1986 gala performance by Frank Sinatra. Since, it has hosted an array of the best and brightest talent. The beauty and ornate design remains as impressive today as it was nearly a century ago.
Of course, many modern conveniences have been added. The theater is friendly to families and those with disabilities. The theater is wheelchair accessible and has accommodations for those patrons with limited mobility or hearing impairments. Additionally, families can enjoy changing facilities in the men’s and women’s restrooms, booster seats, and strollers and car seats.
Chicago Theatre Programs
Programming today is run by Madison Square Garden, Inc., which owns the Chicago Theatre currently. It hosts an array of stage plays, comedy, concerts, speeches, magic shows and sporting events. Over the years, the world’s biggest stars have graced the stage. Allman Brothers Band, Blues Traveler, Ellen DeGeneres, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, David Letterman, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, and Robin Williams have all taken the stage here, among many others.
Programming covers a diverse array of family entertainment and pop culture phenomena. Enjoy touring acts like Peppa Pig Live!; Jim Gaffigan, Penn & Teller, Jerry Seinfeld and other leading comedians; Madonna; Hozier; The Adventure Zone; and more. The holiday season sees an array of seasonal performances like the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Christmas Rocks! Tour.
Getting to the Chicago Theatre
Drive to 175 N. State Street, and use the ParkWhiz app to find the best garage to park in during your performance. You can also take the L train to Lake, Washington, or State/Lake stations. Additionally, CTA busses 6, 10, 29, 36, 62, and 146 will all stop nearby the theater. Or, take the Metra South Shore Lane to Millennium Station.