Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre

24 West Randolph Street,
Chicago, IL 60601

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Showing 126 - 150 of 175 comments

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 8, 2006 at 12:20 am

Brian is correct. The Iroquois building was torn down.

Imagine how weird it would have been to see a show at Hyde & Beman’s knowing that a disaster took place within the building. Very weird, remodeling or not.

Broan on May 7, 2006 at 11:41 pm

No, it isn’t. There is nothing of the Iroquois. The Iroquois, after the fire, was remodeled into Hyde and Beman’s Music Hall and shortly thereafter became the Colonial Theater, which it remained until the Oriental was built. The Iroquois was not nearly as big as the Oriental.

vinaknight on May 7, 2006 at 10:58 pm

The internal skeleton of the Oriental is the original Iroquois. Nothing from the facade is from the Iroquois. There was no structural damage from the fire. It was all cosmetic. Which makes the loss of all of those lives even more tragic. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 claimed much less loss of life than the Iroquois disaster.

Broan on April 21, 2006 at 12:15 pm

I never noticed this before, but the Oriental’s vertical sign is in the background of the Norman Rockwell painting The Clock Mender.

Also, the Oriental was acquired by M&R in about 1967.

Broan on April 14, 2006 at 1:54 pm

Here are a few more photos of the exterior:

William on March 29, 2006 at 11:35 pm

The Oriental Theatre opened on May 8th. 1926.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 29, 2006 at 9:53 pm

I thought this caption on an Oriental Theatre photo found on the Internet today says it all:

“There was so much bling inside the theatre I didn’t know what to photograph next.”

Broan on March 1, 2006 at 2:01 am

The original stage was said to be very innovative; an opening day article in the Tribune says, “A new feature in theater construction is introduced in the revolving stage, which allows one act to be in progress while two others are in preparation behind the scenes, the stage itself moving up, down, or sideways under motor power directed by a controller.” Incidentally, the restoration did not actually retain the original colors, opting instead for a more subdued version; however, the bright, jewel-like colors were consistently touted as one of the more interesting features of the theater upon its original opening.

CHICTH74 on February 23, 2006 at 12:25 am

Thank You, now i understand now it makes sence.
I wish that all of the theatres that were in this area were sitll there. Good thing that we still have the Orential and the palace.
Thank You for your time.

Broan on February 22, 2006 at 8:08 pm

Also, photos of most of these from the THSA archives can be seen at the Corner Bakery location on the site

Broan on February 22, 2006 at 8:08 pm

The Randolph was directly next to the Iroquois. For many years later, it was the site of the Old Heidelberg German restaurant. About 10 years ago, the property was redeveloped and the site is presently an Argo Tea. It had been the Noble Fool Theater for a couple years. The Apollo was the theater directly next to the Garrick. The site was redeveloped in the 1950s into a Greyhound Depot, which, along with the Garrick site, is now part of the Chicago Title and Trust center. The RKO Grand was on the site of Daley Plaza.

CHICTH74 on February 22, 2006 at 7:52 pm

Thank You For the information, can you tell me if their were any other theatres by the Garrick on the sight of the Goodman complex.
I know that the Woods was on the corner and the harris/selwyn are in the back and that the Garrick was on Randolph was their another theatre i think the adress is somtihing like 74 w Randolph? Also,the Randolph is their a Boarders book store on the spot now? Thank You for your time.

Broan on February 22, 2006 at 12:42 pm

Before the Heidelberg, there was a theatre called Randolph, besides that, there were the Apollo, RKO Grand, and the Palace.

CHICTH74 on February 22, 2006 at 4:16 am

Can any one tell me what other theatres were around the Orental other then the Chicago Theatre the ones the i recall are : State/Lake
Roosevelt, The UA, Woods,Loop,Selwlyn,Harris,Garrick. Are their any others that i am forgetting? Thank You for your time on this question.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 21, 2006 at 2:41 am

Story passed down through the family about opening night is that they were asked to come up on stage and take a bow. They refused, causing a minor controversy. The story goes that they were unahappy with the design. This rings true, as Rapps tend to do two things: overachieve and suffer from inferiority.

The fire mentioned above is the source for some of the negative comments I have heard about the restoration. The upper lobby in question was not restored (only cleaned up). It could be argued that it doesn’t fit.

I was given a tour of the Oriental (and a hard hat) while the restoration work was in progress. We went up on scaffolds and walked above the auditorium, from the rear of the balcony to the stage opening. I was shown spots on the ceiling where original construction workers wrote their initials.

CHICTH74 on February 20, 2006 at 3:11 pm

Thank you for the information that sounds like what i was told.
I used to be part of the FOH staff during “Ragtime” and that was one of the examples that we used in the brefing of the staff before the show.Great job finding the articles to share please keep them comming.

CHICTH74 on February 20, 2006 at 4:27 am

All that i have to say is WOW! great find and thank you for putting it up for us to see. It is hard to envision that happing but it did.
I recall something also about there being a fire in the balc. do you know if the gangs did it or was it just someone not doing their job?
The way that i was told was that their was some one not putting out a cigerett the correct way, and the ash started a big blaze in the balc. that destroyed the upper floors and did some damage to the seating area (the smoke and the water i mean) can you or any one help shed some light on this for me . thank you.

Fredrickr on February 19, 2006 at 12:00 am

Let me update a couple of things, in the photo of the Masonic Temple Building and the Delaware Building, posted on 11/13/03 by Brian Krefft, the Delaware Building origianlly extended one window bay to the east. The Iroquois theater was then next to the Delaware. The Delaware lost that window bay when the Masonic Temple was built. Second, when the Oriental Theater was renovated in the 1990’s the stagehouse was expanded into the old Oliver Typewriter Building, which was behind the Oriental Theater and just to the north of the Delaware Building. Most of the Oliver Typewriter building was destroyed, the cast-iron facade was retained. Lastly, the chandliers that are currently in the lobby of the Oriental originally hung in front of the organ screens in the auditorium. During the Oriental’s renovation, I was working very near to the theater and used to sneak into the building during my lunch hour. (And usually got caught and ‘asked’ to leave.)

CHICTH74 on February 18, 2006 at 4:55 pm

Bryan Krefft: That is a very good pic of the Orential thay did something like that for “Ragtime” also i think that thay are going to do that for any long running show.

CHICTH74 on February 17, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Bryan Krefft:Thank you for the information i did not know what happened to them. I was part of the FOH crew that took over when livevent reopened the Oriental i was there when thay were in the middle of it i was there for the first run of “Ragtime”,the uniforms that were worn the “first time Out” did not look like thay do now and thay did not look like the “Arabian Night`s” inspired back when it was opened for the first time. The uniforms that we used oddley enuf looked something like the uniforms that the UA personell wore. There were some better upgrades like the doors to the aisles are now controled by remote control when the show starts if the usher is busy and can not get to the door a controll room operator can close them.Not to mention the very useful intercom system.Thank You for your time and information.

Broan on February 17, 2006 at 3:20 pm

CHI74: A 1996 article in the Tribune about a certain architectural salvage firm in Chicago, Ziggurat (I don’t think they exist anymore) mentions that they had the elephant chairs. They exist, somewhere. I’m surprised they weren’t acquired by the Oriental, since the restoration was occuring then. Maybe they were removed DURING the restoration? That would seem odd, but considering the timeframe…

Broan on February 17, 2006 at 2:12 pm

tivoli: You are looking for the Oakland Square Theatre

73impala on February 17, 2006 at 1:14 pm

Does anyone have any info on the former theatre at 3947 S.Drexel in Chicago?I know it was associated with the El Rukn street gang in the 80’s and it is no longer there but thats all I know about it.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on February 13, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Per BW’s comment above, it would have been, well, interesting to see how they might have pulled off that “Shopping Mall/Theatre-In-The-Round” scheme. Per my posts under the Roosevelt Theatre, the Oriental/Ford Center and the Cadillac Palace and the Goodman were all in a zone designated to be re-developed, i.e. “obliterated.” The Goodman uses the facades of the Harris/Selwyn a.k.a. Michael Todd/Cinestage a.k.a. Dearborn Cinemas and the Oriental and Cadillac Palace are restorations.

It is good that the North Loop Redevelopment Plan did not go thru. The City of Chicago has discovered that there is room for the performing arts in this area. Theatre is alive and well in these former cinemas and many of the patrons eat at nearby restaurants or stop for a drink afterwards. This would not happen if the proposed office buildings had gone in and it shows the economic benefits of having a busy theatre district.

Before these theatres (and the Chicago Theatre) were restored, most Broadway Plays went to the Arie Crown Theatre, located in McCormick Place. The Arie Crown had the worst acoustics and sightlines of any theatre (this is not an exaggeration—true theatre lovers hated the place) and offered no economic benefit because afterwards, people usually got in their cars and went home.

Broan on February 13, 2006 at 11:58 am

The Oriental closed in December, 1980 following a rise in gang violence. The final operators were Kohlberg Theaters, decendants of which continue to operate the Cascade Drive-In. The theater was originally to have been converted to a two-story shopping mall with 5 stories of the original theater above as a theater-in-the-round.