The Auditorium Theatre Gala Review – Historic Memories Come Alive

As my husband and I drove through the late afternoon traffic on the cold rainy/snowy night heading for the Auditorium Theatre’s spectacular celebration, we were afraid it would begin without us. Very fortunately, we made it-just.  This was a grand evening when the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University celebrated its milestone 125th Birthday.  It was December 9, 2014, exactly 125 years to the day that the National Historic Landmark Theatre opened in 1889.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared December 9, 2014 to be AUDITORIUM THEATRE DAY IN CHICAGO and encouraged residents to acknowledge the indelible contributions of this great institution.


Stepping into the lobby (happily), my husband and I were swept into the excitement as we joined other patrons dressed to the nines in gowns and tuxes.  Champaign and almonds were offered.  We had just enough time to enjoy a glass of Champaign before taking our seats.  There was excitement in the air and camaraderie.


Richard and Raymond were seated, as we took our seats in front of them, they greeted us.  As we chatted they said they had walked over and felt compelled to come this evening to be a part of the city and its celebration.  Also seated behind us were a father and his approximately five-year old daughter who, he explained, wanted to be a ballet dancer.


As the lights dimmed, we were treated to the “surround sound” of the The Apollo Chorus as their members filled the aisles singing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserable, performed many times at the Auditorium.  Chicago actor John Mahoney as master of ceremonies began the story of the Auditorium Theatre.


Following a welcome by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the story of the Auditorium Theatre began as John Mahoney told how Ferdinand Peck, a Chicago businessman and heir to a family fortune, conceived the idea for a grand theater and multi-purpose building.  The building was designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, and was the nation’s first mixed-use building, combining a theater, hotel and offices under one roof, in addition to being the largest building in the country at the time and the tallest in the area. Learn more .


As large photos depicted an earlier era, current groups represented many of the performances that made the theater famous.  Chicago culture began here and it was home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera before they had their own homes.


The evening was rich with music and dance.  The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass played with a background photo of the CSO on stage in earlier years.  The Lyric Opera of Chicago, too, began at the Auditorium and it was represented by Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi and Eric Owens who sang songs from Lyric’s current production of “Porgy and Bess”. 


The Auditorium is a wonderful venue for dance and it is the current home of the Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance TheaterChristine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein from the Joffrey were amazing as was Vernard Gilmore form Alvin Ailey. "All-star Chicago Rock Band" featuring Jim Peterik represented the rock and roll of an earlier day.  Gospel also had a beautiful representation.



There was one part that just blew me away.  This was the story of Patti LuPone.  Her great-grand aunt Adelina Patti was a featured singer the night of the original grand opening.  Patti LuPone was wonderful and sang several songs that delighted the audience.  My favorite was when she sang with a group without amplification to demonstrate the wonderful acoustic qualities of this incredible national historic landmark.


It is likely that if the Auditorium Theatre had not been built when it was, Chicago would not be the city it is.  It is because of the Auditorium Theatre that the World’s Fair came to Chicago and without that Chicago would be a different city.


The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University continues their 125th Anniversary celebration through the 2014 - 15 Season. For more infomation on the 125th Anniversary Season see the Auditorium Theatre website


Photos by Leon Keer (L.K) or courtesy of the Auditorium Theatre



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