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Jan 04, 2018 Arts, Culture & History

Interior of a theatre room

With 200-plus theaters in town, Chicago shines as the Midwest’s Great White Way, led by Broadway In Chicago’s annual lineup of the country’s hottest touring productions.

To ensure a successful night on the town from ticket purchase to after-show drinks, follow our tips for scoring deals on admission and dining, plus hum along to our playlist of tunes from upcoming productions.

Listen to a sampling of this season’s Broadway in Chicago shows at

Hamilton PrivateBank Theatre Ongoing

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical tells the tale of a scrappy orphan who became the nation’s first Treasury secretary and whose life ended after an infamous duel.

On a recent evening, a crowd of theater fans overwhelms the entrance of the 111-year-old PrivateBank Theatre in Chicago’s Loop, funneling into semiorganized lines to enter a performance of the hottest show in town: Hamilton. Patrons find their seats and immediately whip out their cell phones to Instagram shots of their Playbills with the show’s sparse, industrial set as background. Strolling through the aisles, a concessionaire 

hawks Revolution Pyes (apple and cherry hand-pies created by Eli’s Cheesecake for the show). As the house lights dim, the audience shrieks and cheers in anticipation, and the record-smashing hip-hop musical about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton kicks into gear.  

These scenes have played out eight times a week since last fall, when Chicago was the first city outside of New York to host Hamilton. That’s largely thanks to Broadway In Chicago, which owns four venues—including the 1,800-seat PrivateBank Theatre. These theaters host touring Broadway productions and even pre-Broadway engagements for success stories like The Producers, Monty Python’s Spamalot and Kinky Boots. Decades earlier, crowds packed the houses for performances by Jack Benny and Bob Hope at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, unforgettable nights at the Oriental Theatre with the likes of Judy Garland and Duke Ellington, and the spectacle of Harry Houdini performing his magic acts inside The PrivateBank Theatre (known then as the Majestic Theatre).

Many changes have taken place since Broadway’s self-dubbed Golden Age, two being looser dress codes and tickets going for a few more nickels. But one thing hasn’t: the rush of anticipation before a curtain rises and an escape from the outside world begins.

Wicked Oriental Theatre December 6–January 21

 Follow the evolution of witches Elphaba and Glinda in this creative riff on The Wizard of Oz that’s become a Broadway mainstay.

Les Misérables Cadillac Palace Theatre October 11–29

A refreshed version of the classic with new scenery and staging but the same

Escape to Margaritaville Oriental Theatre Opening November 9

The pre-Broadway engagement of a new show starring favorite Jimmy Buffett tunes and original songs.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Cadillac Palace Theatre December 5–January 28

How a Brooklyn girl became a music legend. Crowd-pleasing numbers include “One Fine Day” and “I Feel the Earth Move.”

The exterior of a large building

Tickets to success

Get a showstopper of a deal with these special offers.

$25 on the 25th “Like” Broadway In Chicago on Facebook and click the “$25 on the 25th” tab for access to $25 tickets for select shows. The promotion starts at midnight on the 25th day of each month—and tickets go quickly.

Hamilton for a Hamilton Producers set aside 44 tickets (two rows of seats) for each show and sell them via a digital lottery for $10 a pop. Enter on the day of each performance at

Hot Tix Score half-price seats a day or two before showtime via or in person at one of multiple downtown locations, including 72 E. Randolph St. and 108 N. State St. 

Keys to the City Guests at The Peninsula Chicago hotel can purchase tickets to shows from the concierge and receive exclusive access to house seats and a complimentary VIP intermission.

Interior of a restaurant

Dine Like a Star

Show your Broadway In Chicago ticket for a deal at these restaurants around the theater district.

 ►Catch 35 Seafood and Premium Steaks Free valet parking awaits theatergoers who enjoy surf dishes such as swordfish or turf favorites like filet mignon with veal demiglacé.

Giordano’s The Jackson Boulevard location of Chicago’s popular deep-dish pizza joint takes $5 off orders of $25 or more.

Italian Village No ticket required but still a sweet deal: Order from the prix-fixe theater menu at this Tuscan-theme restaurant to enjoy a filling three-course dinner for $25.95. You can’t go wrong with the choice of cannoli or rum cake for dessert.

Latinicity Receive free dessert with the purchase of a small-plate entree at Pata Negra, a sit-down restaurant within the food hall modeled after Latin America’s outdoor markets.

Lockwood Restaurant and Bar Get 20 percent off dinner or a post-show cocktail among the palatial surroundings of the Palmer House Hilton hotel.

Mity Nice Bar and Grill Free dessert follows twists on American comfort food such as the pot roast filet mignon with onion strings.

Petterino’s Servers gladly doggie bag any leftovers of the classic Italian dishes and hold until after the show. Ask your server about current pre-theater specials.

The exterior of a fancy building

More Great Illinois Theaters

Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center Chicago Celebrating diversity since its 1976 founding by actress and playwright Jackie Taylor, the theater presents musical tributes to African-American artists in Uptown Chicago.

Briar Street Theatre Chicago For 20 years, this former horse stable has hosted one of the wildest parties in town: Blue Man Group. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, but if you want an extra thrill, sit in the poncho-zone seats in front.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater Chicago Debuting a new state-of-the-art space for its 2017–18 season, this Navy Pier theater features the Bard’s classics as well as contemporary shows.

Coronado Performing Arts Center Rockford This 90-year-old former movie house now stars touring Broadway shows and some of the hottest musical acts.

► Goodman Theatre Chicago Productions at two North Loop theaters range from modern adaptations of classic dramas to experimental comedies. 

Historic Genesee Theatre Waukegan Grab beer or wine at the concession stand and kick back for a film on one of the largest screens in Lake County in this 1927 Spanish Renaissance-style theater.

► The Little Theatre on the Square Sullivan Since opening 60 years ago, the small-town venue an hour southwest of Champaign has staged nearly 1,000 productions and welcomed the likes of Alan Alda and Mickey Rooney to its stage.

Lookingglass Theatre company Chicago The 2011 Tony Award winner for Outstanding Regional Theatre (located inside the Water Tower Water Works building on Michigan Avenue) earns its reputation by delivering creative twists on classics such as Moby Dick.

Lyric Opera of Chicago Chicago While the productions and the 3,500-seat theater in the Loop are lavish, one of the world’s top opera companies keeps its shows accessible by projecting translations onto a screen and hosting free pre-show talks.

Raue Center for the Arts Crystal Lake With 750 seats in its main auditorium, this is the perfect place to catch performers in an intimate setting (recent gigs: Amy Grant and Garrison Keillor). Comedy acts perform in the lounge-style Lucy’s Cafe.

Rialto square Theatre Joliet Take tours (offered most Tuesdays) of the 91-year-old “Jewel of Joliet” for a peek at Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture. A special treat: See signatures of past performers in the green room.

Rosemont Theatre Rosemont Thanks to a seating capacity of 4,400, the Rosemont attracts larger-scale productions and big comedy acts, such as Jay Leno and Jeff Foxworthy.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company Chicago From its beginnings in a church basement in the 1970s to its Tony Award-winning production of August: Osage County, the not-for-profit company in Lincoln Park has staged shows that explore complex human themes.

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