The Steppenwolf Theatre Company has humble beginnings; a group of friends started practicing their craft in a spare room, and it grew from there to eventually a National Medal of Arts, nine Tony Awards and a large number of Joseph Jefferson commendations. Notable names in the group include John Mahoney of Frasier fame, John Malkovich (Con Air, Burn After Reading), amongst many others. One thing you can be sure of is that the Steppenwolf will never pander to its audience; the storylines are not handed to you gently but rather one is slapped in the face with them. It may not always be comfortable, but it will certainly leave you thinking about what you just experienced.
The Goodman Theatre has the distinction of having hosted a number of productions that have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Every play performed here has something special about it; who says the cast members have to be on stage? They could just as well be sitting in front of, behind or beside you. It is this extra layer of unpredictability that makes these productions memorable. For the past three decades, the Theatre has staged A Christmas Carol and each time it has managed to do something new and inventive with it. You may think you’ve seen and know a play, but you can’t properly say that until you’ve experienced it at the Goodman.
The Looking Glass Theatre was amongst the very few downtown structures that remained standing to tell the tale of the Great Chicago Fire. The stage is constantly changing; in one performance, the layout may be conventional, whereas in another you may be seated around the action. In another, you may even be looking up at events as they happen above you. Make a bee line here if you want to see theatre in a way you never have before. David Schwimmer, of Friends fame, co-founded the Theatre, which deservedly won the 2011 Best Regional Theatre Tony Award. The venue itself is almost as much an experience as the productions themselves; it is situated at the Water Tower Water Works building, so one accesses the box office via the water filtration plant.
The Chicago Theatre is synonymous with images of Chicago, as its six storeys are always shown in every cityscape. The huge letters spelling C-H-I-C-A-G-O have a way of catching the eye. Neil Young, Aretha Franklin, and Jerry Seinfeld have all performed here, to name just a tiny number of the star names it can boast. One cannot really say that they have been to Chicago unless they have been here. Before you even book your flight, make sure your visit coincides with a show that is on here; the events calendar is a must-see before you decide your itinerary.
The Joffrey Ballet is ballet like you may not have expected. Yes, it does the traditional productions that one expects from a Ballet company, but it also includes less expected additions such as acid rock. Meanwhile, the Hubbard Street Dance Company mixes eclectic styles that would appear, initially, to be incompatible such as jazz and ballet. In less capable hands, it may all go so horribly wrong, but not so with these skilled artistes. The Harris Theatre for Music and Dance is another innovative organisation that is pushing the boundaries, mixing Baroque, Serbian and soul, to name just a few of the many styles it has available at its disposal.