Nederlander Theatre (Chicago)
The James M. Nederlander Theatre is a theater located at 24 West Randolph Street in the Loop area of downtown Chicago, Illinois. The venue opened in 1926 as the Oriental Theatre, a deluxe movie palace and vaudeville venue. Today the Nederlander presents live Broadway theater and is operated by Broadway In Chicago. It currently seats 2,253. In 1978, the theater house and its office building were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as New Masonic Building and Oriental Theater. The office building is now a hotel. In 2019, the theater was re-named for impresario, James M. Nederlander, of the Nederlander Organization.
|Former names||The Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre; Oriental Theatre|
|Address||24 West Randolph Street|
|Public transit||State/Lake station, Lake station|
|Owner||Broadway In Chicago|
|Architect||Rapp and Rapp|
New Masonic Building and Oriental Theater
|Location||24 W Randolph Street, Chicago, Illinois|
|Architectural style||Late Gothic Revival, Art Deco|
|NRHP reference #||78003401|
|Added to NRHP||September 26, 1978|
The James M. Nederlander Theatre opened in 1926 as one of many ornate movie palaces built in Chicago during the 1920s by the firm Rapp and Rapp. The Nederlander continued to be a vital part of Chicago's theater district into the 1960s, but patronage declined in the 1970s. Late in the decade, the theater survived by showing exploitation films. It closed in 1981 and its lobby was refitted as a retail TV and radio store, while the theater remained vacant for more than a decade.
The Nederlander Theatre was originally the Oriental Theatre. However, the first theater venue on the site opened November 27, 1903, as the Iroquois Theatre, which burned in the deadliest theatre fire in U.S. history. After the fire's recorded death toll reached over double the death toll of The Great Chicago Fire, city officials closed all theatres in the city for inspection. Following the incident, the city enacted news laws that addressed aisle-way and exit standards, scenery fireproofing, and occupancy limits.
The newly renamed James M. Nederlander Theatre is one of several houses now operating in Chicago's revitalized Loop Theater District. According to Richard Christiansen of the Chicago Tribune, the reopening of the Oriental-Ford Center for the Arts, now James M. Nederlander, spurred the restoration of other theaters in The Loop.
The district is also home to the Cadillac Palace Theatre, CIBC Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, and the Chicago Theatre. Randolph Street was traditionally the center of downtown Chicago's entertainment district until the 1970s when the area began to decline. The now demolished United Artists Theatre, Woods Theatre, Garrick Theater (originally constructed as the Schiller Theater and Building), State-Lake Theatre, Erlanger and Roosevelt Theatre were located near the intersection of Randolph and State Streets.
On November 13, 2018, Broadway In Chicago announced that the theatre would be renamed to honor James M. Nederlander, founder of Broadway In Chicago, Broadway theatre owner and producer, and champion of Chicago’s Downtown Theatre District, who died in 2016. The venue unveiled its newly renovated marquee, vertical blade sign and signage as the James M. Nederlander Theatre on February 8, 2019.
The architects of the Nederlander Theatre were George L. and Cornelius W. Rapp, who also designed the Palace and Chicago Theatres. The Nederlander Theatre features decor inspired by the architecture of India. The city's dominant theater chain, Balaban and Katz (a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures) operated the 3,250-seat venue.
On January 10, 1996, Canadian theatrical company Livent announced it acquired the property and would renovate the structure with an anticipated completion date of 1998. The city of Chicago pledged $13.5 million toward the restoration and Ford Motor Company entered into a sponsorship agreement with Livent for a reported $1 million annual fee.
During the restoration, architect Daniel P. Coffey created a design plan that would increase the theater's backstage area by gutting the adjacent Oliver Building while preserving one-third of its original steel structure, as well as the building's Dearborn façade and a portion of its alley façade.
In 2015, a developer purchased the adjacent 22-story office building with the intent of converting the space into 230 apartments. However, the plan quickly changed to a 198-room hotel. The hotel opened in October 2017.
The venue presented both movies and vaudeville acts during its early years, but by the 1930s it became predominantly a movie house, though live performances and concerts continued. Duke Ellington and his orchestra made frequent appearances at the Nederlander.
In October 1934, 12-year-old Frances Gumm and her sisters performed at the theater but received laughs when George Jessel would introduce them as The Gumm Sisters. At his urging, they changed their name to The Garland Sisters after his friend, Robert Garland, critic for The New York Times. Frances Garland would later change her first name, to become Judy Garland.
Many other stars also performed at the Nederlander including: Fanny Brice, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Cab Calloway, Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, Alice Faye, Stepin Fetchit, Ella Fitzgerald, Ana Gasteyer, Jean Harlow, Billie Holiday, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, The Marx Brothers, Frank Sinatra, The Three Stooges, Sophie Tucker, Sarah Vaughan and Henny Youngman.
The theater re-opened in 1998 with the Chicago premiere of the musical Ragtime. From June 2005 through January 2009, the theater housed a sit-down production of Wicked, making it the most popular stage production in Chicago history. Wicked exceeded expectations, according to producer David Stone: "To be honest, we thought it would run eighteen months, then we'd spend a year in Los Angeles and six months in San Francisco."
The venue hosted the pre-Broadway run of The Addams Family, starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth from November 13, 2009 through January 10, 2010, and a production of the 2009 Tony Award winner for Best Musical Billy Elliot starring Cesar Corrales as Billy from March 18 to November 28, 2010. The theatre also hosted the pre-Broadway runs of On Your Feet! June 2 through July 15, 2015 and SpongeBob SquarePants from June 7 to July 10, 2016.
In March 2019, James L. Nederlander announced that a musical based on the songs of Britney Spears Once Upon a One More Time would premiere at the venue October 29 and run until December 1 when it will move to New York. In January, the Michael Jackson Estate and Columbia Live Stage had announced that Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, a bio-musical of Michael Jackson would play during that period, but they instead opted to premiere in New York City.
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- Jones, Kenneth (November 12, 2007). "Nederlander Organization Buys Live Nation's Share of Chicago Tour Market". Playbill. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- Gallun, Alby (December 2, 2015). "Hotel coming to Oriental Theatre building". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Oxman, Steven (January 22, 2007). "Touring shows stay in the loop: Broadway in Chicago boost economy". Variety. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
- Jones, Kenneth (October 30, 2008). "Addams Family Will Sing in Chicago in Fall 2009, Prior to Broadway". Playbill.
- Gans, Andrew (April 11, 2010). "Billy Elliot Opens in Chicago April 11". Playbill. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
- Gioia, Michael (July 5, 2015). "Gloria Estefan's On Your Feet! Packs Up Its Chicago Shoes; Broadway Is Next!". Playbill.
- Viagas, Robert (June 20, 2016). "The Verdict: See How Chicago Critics Reviewed Broadway-Bound SpongeBob Musical". Playbill. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
- Frierberg, Ruthie (March 27, 2018). "Stephanie J. Block Will Play Cher in the Upcoming Cher Show". Playbill. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
- Leight, Elias (September 27, 2017). "'The Cher Show' Debuts on Broadway in Fall 2018". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
- Evans, Greg (March 12, 2019). "Broadway-Bound Britney Spears Musical Fills Chicago Theater Vacancy Left By Canceled Michael Jackson Show". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
- McPhee, Ryan (February 14, 2019). "Michael Jackson Musical Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough Cancels Chicago Premiere, Will Open on Broadway in 2020". Playbill. Retrieved 12 March 2019.