Stunning Theatres in Chicago – The Top 5 Places to see a Show

Updated On: March 08, 2023

Theatres in Chicago - Chicago Theatre
Theatres in Chicago - Chicago Theatre
The Chicago Theatre is an iconic building in the city.

There are over 250 theatres in Chicago throughout the theatre district. From the country’s best comedy scene to outstanding opera performances, the Windy City has no shortage of excellent shows to see.

However, it can be difficult to sort through all your options and decide which theatres in Chicago are worth a visit. To help you narrow your choices and perfect your Windy City itinerary, we’ve listed our top 5 theatres in Chicago.

Top 5 Theatres in Chicago

1: Chicago Theatre

The Chicago Theatre was built in 1921 and is an iconic part of the city. Along with Broadway shows, the theatre hosts concerts, sporting events, magic shows, and more. In 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and was deemed an iconic Chicago Landmark in 1983.

The Chicago Theatre’s distinct marquee is frequently seen in TV and movies and is considered an emblem of the city. Although the marquee was redone in 1994, it still captures the stunning beauty of the original. The original marquee can be seen today at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

The building of the Chicago Theatre takes up nearly an entire city block and stands 7 storeys tall. Inside the theatre, design inspiration was taken from the French Baroque art style. Murals and chandeliers decorate the theatre and bring a sense of elegance to the space.

Today, the Chicago Theatre puts on a number of different shows throughout the year. These performances range from kids’ events to educational lectures and live music performances. Comedy shows are also popular at the Chicago Theatre, with big names such as Tina Fey & Amy Poehler performing at the venue.

Theatres in Chicago - Nederlander Theatre
This theatre is named after the founder of Broadway in Chicago.

2: James M. Nederlander Theatre

Originally known as the Oriental Theatre, the James M. Nederlander Theatre opened its doors in 1926. Like the Chicago Theatre, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.  The theatre is named after James M. Nederlander, the founder of Broadway in Chicago.

Although this location is one of the most popular theatres in Chicago, it was not always that way. In fact, its popularity dropped so severely in the late 1960s that the theatre closed its doors in 1971. 

The theatre was reopened in the 1990s and helped to revitalise Chicago’s theatre district. Today, the theatre can hold over 2,500 people, and part of the building has been converted into a hotel.

The James M. Nederlander Theatre is most known for performing Broadway’s Wicked, the most popular production in Chicago history. The original show ran from the Summer of 2005 to January 2009, but due to its success, it is now a regular show at the theatre.

3: Auditorium Theatre

The Auditorium Theatre is one of the oldest theatres in Chicago. Opened in 1889, the theatre started by hosting performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Grand Opera Company.

Theatres in Chicago - Auditorium Theatre
The Auditorium Theatre is one of the oldest theatres in Chicago

The Auditorium Theatre opened just 14 years after the Great Chicago Fire destroyed much of the city. The owners of the theatre hoped that by bringing entertainment back to Chicago, they could help improve the city’s reputation and boost the morale of its citizens. 

In 1941, the Auditorium Theatre closed its doors due to financial problems. The following year, the Chicago government took control of the building and turned it into a World War II servicemen’s centre. The building housed over 2 million soldiers until 1945.

Over two decades later, in 1967, the Auditorium Theatre reopened. Today, over 200 performances are hosted annually at the theatre. These shows include educational programmes, music, theatre, dance, and more. In fact, the space was used in 2015 and 2016 to hist the NFL Draft.

4: Biograph Theatre

Located in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood of Chicago, the Biograph Theatre has a unique history. The theatre opened in 1914 and was originally used as a cinema. The building was registered as a Chicago Landmark in 2001.

Although there are many great shows and performances held at the Biograph Theatre, they are not what makes it one of the most iconic theatres in Chicago. Instead, the theatre gained local and national recognition because it is where John Dillinger, a Great Depression-era gangster, was shot and killed by FBI agents in 1934.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Biograph Theatre was popular for its midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a live musical horror comedy that still has a large cult following. This show continues to be produced and performed in Chicago today, with attendees encouraged to dress up as characters and interact with actors during the performance.

Theatres in Chicago - bio
This theatre is known for showing the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

With its true crime history and interactive performances, the Biograph Theatre is one of the most iconic theatres in Chicago.

5: Civic Opera House

The Civic Opera House opened in 1929 inside the Civic Opera Building, an office tower that extends 45 storeys above the Chicago streets. The main performance theatre at the Civic Opera House has a capacity of over 3,500 people, making it the 2nd largest opera house in North America.

The theatre is decorated in the Art Deco style and includes intricate walls and ceilings. In the late 1990s, the theatre underwent a huge renovation. The seating area was modernised with new upholstery, the carpets were replaced, and the Art Deco golden details were redrawn and redone.

Today, the Civic Opera House welcomes guests to opera performances, musicals, plays, and events. One of the most popular productions at the theatre is West Side Story, a musical based on the 1957 film. There are also two on-site restaurants for patrons to enjoy during their visit, which provide fine dining experiences and refreshing cocktails.

Theatres in Chicago - CTD
There are over 250 theatres in Chicago.

The Theatres in Chicago put on Amazing Shows

Chicago’s theatre district has limitless options for theatres to visit and shows to see. Whether you are looking for a family night out or a romantic date night, you’re sure to find the perfect show for the occasion in the Windy City.

Next time you’re walking down the streets of Chicago, check out the theatre marquees, and you’re bound to find a show that interests you.

If you’re planning to visit Chicago, check out our list of fun things to do on your trip.

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