Chicago

Broadway performances have long been synonymous with New York. But did you know that Chicago also hosts some of the most popular Broadway shows — and is home to some of the most unique theaters in the world?

Perhaps you’ve heard of a local improv troupe called “The Second City?” Located in the heart of the Old Town, Second City is known for its A-list alumni, which includes Dan Aykroyd, Ed Asner, Tina Fey, Mike Meyers, Gilda Radner and John Candy. Before they were stars, they honed their chops in Chicago, so who knows which up-and-coming talent you could catch here before they go on to make it big.

But there’s more to the local theater scene than our most famous exports. Whether you’re a fan of classic musicals or modern melodramas, big productions like Hamilton or grassroots mom and pop-style theater, there is a show for you in Chicago. To help you find the right one, I’m here to dispel some of the most common misconceptions about live theater here in the Windy City.

Urban Myth No. 1

Theater in Chicago is too pricey for the average consumer to enjoy.

False! When it comes to price range and location, there are so many options. Yes, there are several big-name theaters downtown — the ones with big-ticket shows like Hamilton, Kinky Boots or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These productions can set you back upwards of $150–200 a ticket. However, the number of smaller up-and-coming theatre groups far surpasses the number of these city heavyweights. From the near-north side neighborhoods like Lakeview, Rogers Park and Edgewater to the hipster neighborhoods like Wicker Park, Portage Park and Logan Square, there are more than 30 theaters to choose from. Even better, their shows are offered at a more modest price point between $10–25 per ticket, and some are even free.

 Urban Myth No. 2

The larger the theater, the better the shows and acts.

False! I do admit, there is something to be said about getting fancied up for a night at the theater surrounded by 500+ fellow Broadway-goers. But there is something even more magical and memorable about a storefront show or a theater in the round. Just because it’s a more intimate affair doesn’t mean that the show is any less entertaining. In fact, sometimes having a smaller audience helps the imagination flow, creating a truly magical moment of getting lost in the story unfolding before you.

One of my favorite and more unique experiences is Theater on the Lake, and the excellent restaurant attached to the venue. For an all-in-one date night, grab a bite at the Lakefront Restaurant (open year-round), then head on over to the theater and catch a live play, poetry reading or acoustic performance. This space is open year-round, but be sure to check the schedule before making your dinner reservations because they only host seven to eight shows a season.

Urban Myth No. 3

Chicago’s historic theaters only show Broadway plays.

False! This is an urban myth that I believed for many years – but to my delight, I learned that places like the historic Chicago Theater and Oriental Thereat host both classic Broadway shows and some of this biggest names in stand-up comedy, and pop and rock music. They also host backstage tours on select dates.

Chicago’s Lyric Opera

Now we’ve cleared up those misconceptions, it’s time to book your tickets. You can’t go wrong with a show at one of these top-notch Chicago venues:

And these “Chicago storefront theaters” are not to be missed:

 

Kelly