The 11 best Chicago theaters in the Loop
Written by Alison Lynwood

The 11 best Chicago theaters in the Loop

From opulent former movie palaces to a proverbial church basement, Chicago theater in the Loop is packed with performance spaces

Chicago loves to take the spotlight. Live performances of plays, music, and other fantastic artforms are a backbone of what makes the Windy City a beacon of culture in the midwest. Many of Chicago’s neighborhoods are home to multiple theaters, but only the Loop has the officially designated Chicago Theater District—so declared in 2000 by then Mayor Richard M. Daley to mark the Goodman Theatre’s move from the Art Institute to Dearborn Street and the unification of several of the downtown houses that host touring musical theater productions under the Broadway in Chicago banner. The more theaters that move to the loop, the more new ones seem to keep popping up. These theaters and more make the Loop an inarguable destination for live performance and family-friendly theater. Browse the best downtown theaters and reserve a ticket to see a show today.

1. Chicago Theatre

The Loop’s 5,000-seat Chicago Theatre was the opulent French baroque-style flagship of the Balaban and Katz movie-palace chain when it opened in 1921. It’s still a beautiful venue (you’ve probably seen the famous illuminated “Chicago” marquee even if you’re from out of town) that’s surprisingly cozy for its large size. It has also hosted some phenomenal shows: We’ve caught everyone from Mariah Carey to our favorite podcasters here, and we’ve never been disappointed.

2. Goodman Theatre

A standard-bearer among the nation’s regional theaters and the downtown grand pooh-bah of Chicago’s professional scene, the Goodman is helmed by Tony-winning director Robert Falls. Falls’s hallmark productions of American classics (Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey) are indicative of the Goodman’s mainly deluxe-but-traditional fare. Yet a commitment to ethnically diverse programming sets it apart from its contemporaries. There’s also a doozy of A Christmas Carol every winter.

3. James M. Nederlander Theatre

The gorgeous, Rococo Oriental, like the Cadillac Palace down the street, was designed by the Rapp Brothers in the 1920s. It fell into disrepair by the ’80s before being restored as part of the second Mayor Daley's initiative for a downtown theater district and reopening in 1998. The venue was locked up not too long ago with a four-year run of Wicked, but it’s now back in the regular rotation for Broadway in Chicago’s touring shows.

4. Cadillac Palace Theatre

The 1926 Palace Theatre was originally the Chicago home of vaudeville’s Orpheum Circuit. The 2,500-seat venue also spent time as a movie house, a hotel banquet hall and a rock venue before being refurbished and restored in 1999 as one of Broadway in Chicago’s lead theaters for tours and tryouts.

Written by

Alison Lynwood

Alison Lynwood

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