Chicago Theater – Our Top Recommendations

 

Category

The Arts

Destination

Chicago

Share

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.

Chicago 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.

Writer’s Theatre

 

Writer’s Theatre

 

Writer’s Theatre

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.

Goodman Theatre

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. In 2016, they opened the new 1700 Theater and  Front Bar off the lobby. This 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. They make a great old fashioned!

In 2021, they opened an expanded into a 50,000 sq. ft. building next door which includes the Ensemble Theater and Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center, also known as The Loft. There is also a wine bar and sidewalk lounge.

Front Bar at the Steppenwolf

 

Ensemble Theater at the Steppenwolf

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! They are in process of remodeling a warehouse building for its new home.

TimeLine Theatre Company

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.

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.

Court Theatre

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. They have a special section in the Navy Pier garage for theater patrons.

 

Shakespeare portrait by Ed Paschke at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

 

Two Pints from Dublin’s Abbey

On St. Patrick’s Day 2019, I had a great experience when I saw the play Two Pints from Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in the bar. With 50 people in the audience it was about two guys drinking in a bar in Ireland. So fun!!

Two Pints from Dublin’s Abbey

The theater just opened a great new performance space called The Yard. I just went to my first performance and the space is really outstanding.

The Yard

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. Dinner is available before curtain time, by reservation. They recently moved north to a new facility at 721 Howard St. in Evanston.

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

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 now perform at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts at 1016 N. Dearborn.You might also like their new series, Porchlight Revisits, which presents lost or forgotten productions for two nights only and their New Faces Sing Broadway, offered several times a year. I have been to several productions and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. I also just went to my first performance outdoor in a Chicago park which is part of the summer series, Broadway in your Backyard. It was excellent!

Porchlight Music Theatre

 

Broadway in your Backyard – Porchlight Music Theatre

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.

Victory Gardens Theater

Up the street from Victory Gardens is the Apollo Theater. It was built in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1978. Located at 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., the Apollo has 440 seats and a lobby featuring art exhibits and a full bar. I recently went back again a performance after several years, and loved the experience. There are a number of bars, restaurants and coffee shops nearby for you to enjoy before or after a performance.

Apollo Theater

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

The CIBC Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre and the James M. Nederlander 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.

Hadestown 2022 at the CIBC Theatre

 

Moulin Rouge 2022 James M. Nederlander Theatre

Athenaeum Theatre:  Located south of the Music Box and Mercury Theatre, the Athenaeum is an historic theater, and for  over 100 years and is Chicago’s oldest continually running off-loop theater. With a large main stage and three smaller studio theaters, it is home to a number of theater companies, dance companies, comedians and concerts. Make sure to check out their website for the current schedule. I went recently to an excellent contemporary opera presented by the Lyric Opera. Street parking is available but they also have two nearby lots they share with a neighborhood church. 2936 N. Southport.

Athenaeum Theatre

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.

Lyric Opera of Chicago

The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents a Broadway musical at the end of their opera season. I loved Jesus Christ Superstar last year and Westside Story in 2019!

West Side Story at the Lyric Opera

For great a great small theater experience check out the schedule for the productions at Stage 773 a performance venue at 1215 W. Belmont. I have seen several productions there. Next door at 1229 W. Belmont is Theater Wit. I just went to my first production that it was excellent. Make sure to check out their current schedule.

Theater Wit