Chicago Theater – Our Top Recommendations

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Chicago is a theater town with many actors choosing to stay here and work rather than moving to New York or other cities. There are purportedly close to 200 small theater companies in the area. The Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass and Victory Gardens have all received the Tony Award for Best Regional Theater.

Make a beeline for the Writer’s Theatre, in Glencoe, on the North Shore. Terry Teachout, of the Wall Street Journal, says that this is one of the best regional theaters in the country. Their productions are really outstanding!!!  Their new theater designed by architect Jeanne Gang  is really stunning.  The Metra train can get you there easily from the Chicago Loop and it is a block walk to the theater. Guildhall restaurant, at nearby 694 Vernon, is a great spot for a pre-theater or post-theater meal.

Goodman Theatre: A Tony Award Winning Regional Theater with great productions. Founded in 1922, it has been at its current location since December 2000. There are two theaters, the Owen and Ivan, named after the Goodman Brothers. The Owen is the main stage and the Ivan the smaller of the two with often newer plays. 170 N. Dearborn.

Steppenwolf Theatre: Try to see a performance at this Tony Award winning regional theater, located at 1650 N. Halsted in Lincoln Park. Recently it sent “August: Osage County” to New York which went on to win the Tony for best play. Its current ensemble are active in movies and theater around the country. Their new Front Bar off the lobby is a great place for coffee during the day or cocktail before or after a performance. They also serve breakfast items and small plates, salads, pizza and sandwiches for lunch or dinner.

TimeLine Theatre: Located at 615 Wellington, just west of Broadway, this is a theater company that continually gets great reviews for its productions that present stories inspired by history. The quality of the plays is really outstanding!

American Theater Company: Located off of Lincoln, at 1909 W. Byron, this is a local theater company that does great work. We highly recommend their wonderful productions, both musicals and dramas.

Chopin Theater: A small theater, at 1543 W. Division St., which offers plays by several small theater companies. The productions by The House Theatre have received positive reviews. But don’t miss a production by The Hypocrites of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” or “The Pirates of Penzance” which are creative, fun and wacky and performed in the downstairs space by young performers that move and sing through the small space amongst the audience. Pirates was described as a non-stop beach party in one review. Other productions have been described as zany, clever and quirky.

Court Theatre: Head south to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago for excellent productions. It has been a Chicago institution for almost 60 years.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater: Despite being on the very touristy Navy Pier, this is an excellent theater company that not only produces the best of Shakespeare but features  musicals and other dramas from Sondheim to those from other countries like Ireland, Italy and South Africa. Their productions of “Follies” and “Sunday in the Park with George” were outstanding. 800 E. Grand Ave. Discounted parking is available.

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre: For fans of cabaret and musicals, head to the No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park where in this small, intimate space you will see some amazing productions. The recent productions of “Light in the Piazza” and “Aspects of Love” were outstanding. 6970 N. Glenwood. Dinner is available before curtain time, by reservation.

A Red Orchid Theatre: A small theater in Old Town, this is a quality company with ensemble members including Michael Shannon. 1531 N. Wells.

For musical fans, head to Porchlight Music Theatre which has had a focus on musical theater since 1996. They perform at Stage 773 at 1225 W. Belmont. You might also like their new series, Porchlight Revisits, which presents lost or forgotten  productions for one night only.

Lookinglass Theatre: This is a great Chicago-based theater company located in the old Water Tower Pumping Station directly across from Water Tower Place. If you see a play on the schedule directed by Mary Zimmerman, don’t miss it. 821 N. Michigan.

Victory Gardens Theater: A Lincoln Park theater company whose home is the historic Biograph Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln. It is a Tony Award winning Regional Theater.

The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place features plays and musicals through Broadway in Chicago. It is at 175 E. Chestnut.

The Private Bank Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre and Oriental Theatre are the venues of Broadway in Chicago which provide pre-Broadway and post-Broadway plays and musicals. Many productions start in Chicago before heading to the Great White Way.

For discount tickets stop by Hot Tix at 72 E. Randolph or 163 E. Pearson or shop on line for discounted tickets to Broadway in Chicago productions and other theater offerings in the smaller off-Loop theaters.

Silk Road RisingRoute 66 Theatre Company and Lifeline are other great options.

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