If you haven't thought of live performance as a Chicago thing, think again. We're no second city where the arts are concerned and our performance art scene is one of the finest in the country. You can get an eclectic mix of different types of productions. There are independent small theaters, large and nationally renowned venues, and every point in between.
There are theaters that specialize in original productions and others that showcase Tony Award winners. You can find small venues for a budget-friendly night out. Whether you're looked for Shakespeare (literally, we have the Chicago Shakespeare Theater) or a new hit musical, there's something going on year-round. You can find small productions outside, and large sweeping auditoriums for a dressed-up evening out.
No matter what type of production or what your budget is, there's a theater in the Chicago land area that's sure to please. If you’re thinking about gifts for a special someone, the gift of experience is always a fantastic idea. Treat a friend with a virtual GiftYa card that they can use for their next evening out to a live performance.
When compiling our list of the top theaters in the Chicagoland area, we wanted to include a little something for everyone. Theaters have had a rough time during the last few years, for obvious reasons. Many of these companies have developed offerings online if you can't get out to the theater in person.
There are four theaters associated with Broadway in Chicago. This is part of the lush and fabulous theater district in the heart of downtown. It's heart-swelling to walk through this area, with the lights and all the glory of the marquees. You can find the productions you've heard about here. Things like Wicked and Hamilton have appeared on these stages and you can expect the same amazing award-winning experience to carry on with these offerings.
This theater first opened as the Majestic Theater in 1906. It's a beautiful old theater that was renovated in 2005. The stage has seen some amazing performances throughout its long history. Harry Houdini graced this stage.
This is a classic old theater with a wonderful view of the stage. The lobby is beautiful with plenty of amenities and friendly staff. Productions are world-class and there's always something new here, so check their ticket booth to see what's coming up. This is a fantastic theatre for a night out downtown.
The Cadillac Palace Theatre is lush with antique design, beautiful chandeliers, and a fantastic ambiance. This is a truly epic theatre to bring your right back into a time when an evening out was a noteworthy affair. It's opulent. A fantastic place for a date or evening out with family.
There are good views of the stage and the acoustics are fantastic. Musicals here have great sound quality. Productions are an experience that you won't forget here. The entire building is wonderful, from the entryway, through the lobby, and straight up to the stage.
You may have heard of this theatre under its original name - The Oriental Theatre. This is a truly beautiful old building that once housed vaudeville acts. Over the years its hosted musical acts and movies, as well as musical theatre. The sound quality is excellent in this auditorium.
They paid great attention to the original art and design in their restoration and the theatre itself is a treat. Designed for opulence, there is something beautiful to look at in every square inch of this space. You'll feel like you're visiting an art museum in between fantastic performances on stage.
The Broadway Playhouse is in the heart of the Magnificent Mile in Water Tower Place. The venue is small but mighty. Productions are high quality but the stage is right there. So you get a fully intimate experience that makes you feel part of the production.
This is worth a trip and there are plenty of areas to eat and things to see in that part of the city after the show.
First Folio Theatre is a not-for-profit theatre company at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook, about 20 minutes outside of Chicago. The location itself is gorgeous. Originally the summer home of one of Chicago's wealthiest residents, the estate was named after his wife, May. They conduct tours of the estate itself.
The theatre company has several productions throughout the year. They have an indoor theatre which is quite lovely but the building is not air-conditioned. So the indoor productions run from the fall through the spring. In the summer, they traditionally have an outdoor Shakespeare production, which is amazing. They are currently rebuilding the outside stage, but this is a fantastic event in the summer if you can make it to one of their outdoor shows. Ticket prices are affordable and guests are encouraged to bring whatever they'd like. Their own lawn chairs, blankets, food, and drink. You can also rent chairs at the venue.
One of the founders of Steppenwolf is Gary Sinise, also one of Chicago's favorite sons. Through the years, Steppenwolf has hosted some of the most amazing performances. They have world-class performers and a great variety of different types of plays. The staff and actors are often very accommodating and the entire environment is wonderful
You can see an amazing production here. Their tickets are affordable and it's a great place to experience live performance. Steppenwolf is well known throughout the acting world and you'll find many of the performers are at the top of their craft.
The Goodman Theatre is arguably one of the most well-known venues in the city. It's the oldest not-for-profit theatre in Chicago and it has a reputation for brilliance in theatre performance, both here and abroad.
One great thing about the Goodman is the experience. All of the seating is great. You get an unobstructed view at a smaller theatre but with an often well-known cast. There are a variety of offerings in their annual schedule. A wonderful venue for a highly anticipated show and can also give you something unexpected in a smaller production.
The Chicago Theatre is a landmark for many reasons. Notably, it's the first "movie palace" and it was the model for all of the great old movie houses that dotted the country. It was built as a movie house but is equipped with a full stage. Today, it's known for lovely performances for audiences of all ages.
You probably recognize the sign out front because it's one of the most iconic images of Chicago. The inside of the theatre is just as grand. It's a great experience in a wonderful location.
The Auditorium Theatre is run by Roosevelt University. It's a National History Landmark and is known for its acoustics. The Auditorium hosts a wide range of performances. From the Joffrey Ballet to rock shows, the stage has seen some of the most amazing talent throughout its history.
The architecture of the building is also something of note. The original architects were Adler and Sullivan and their amazing contributions were wholly honored through renovations to maintain the integrity of the amazing space.
Porchlight Music Theatre bills itself as American Theatre, Chicago Style. And that's a great description. Their productions are world-renowned and they bring the best of Chicago's talent to the stage, which is no small thing. We have some amazing homegrown talent here.
They are known for reimagining classic productions with a modern take. They have performed 15 Chicago Premiers, 5 World Premiers, and 70 mainstage productions. That's quite a feat for a theatre that's only in its 26th season. You can find a diverse cast and amazing talent at any of their performance. Porchlight has also been an innovator with virtual performance as the times have pivoted. Look for them to keep lighting the way to keep performance alive in any environment.
The Briar Street Theatre is known for one thing - The Blue Man Group. If you haven't seen this, you really need to. There's a reason this performance has run so long in a city so full of great productions.
You won't find the gold and glitter of Broadway in Chicago here. The Briar Street Theatre has its own weird little vibe that matches the irreverence of The Blue Man Group itself. It's a great venue for a little something different. If you're looking for a night of percussion and some laughs, this is a good place to get it. The venue is small enough that you can easily see the stage. Sound quality is amazing.