The Palace Theatre opened at the corner of Randolph and LaSalle Streets in
Chicago on October 4, 1926. Designed by legendary theatre architects the Rapp
Brothers, the theatre originally opened as the flagship of vaudeville’s legendary
Orpheum Circuit, and among the stars believed to have played the Palace in its
early years are Jimmy Durante, Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Jack Benny and Bob Hope.
The theatre’s interior featured a splendor previously unseen in Chicago — a
breathtaking vision inspired by the palaces of Fontainebleau and Versailles. The
theatre’s distinctive characteristics included a lobby richly appointed in huge
decorative mirrors and breche violet and white marble, which swept majestically
through a succession of lobbies and foyers; great wall surfaces enhanced with gold
leaf and wood decorations; and 2,500 plush, roomy seats.
Despite the popularity of such acts, audiences in the late 1920s and early 1930s
had begun to lose interest in vaudeville, and in 1931 the theatre was converted
into a movie palace, initially presenting films with live stage shows, and then
eventually showing only movies. When movie audiences began staying at home
to watch television in the 1950s, the theatre managers, hoping to attract larger
audiences, booked occasional Broadway shows into the theatre, such as
GENTLEMAN PREFER BLONDES starring Carol Channing. During the late 1950s,
the Palace was fitted with special equipment to show films in Cinerama. During
the mid-1970s, the management of the Bismarck Hotel transformed the auditorium
into a banquet hall by removing the seats on the orchestra level and bringing the
floor flush with the stage. In 1984, the theatre, now renamed the Bismarck Theatre,
was converted into a rock venue. Sporadically used during the 1990s, the venue was completely restored and renovated during 1999, and reopened as the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
The restored theatre was reopened during the fall of 1999, with the premiere of
Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA. Since then, the Cadillac Palace has been the home
to several pre-Broadway hits including THE PRODUCERS – THE NEW MEL BROOKS MUSICAL and MAMMA MIA!, long-run engagements of Disney’s THE LION
KING and Oprah Winfrey presents THE COLOR PURPLE, plus the national tour
premieres of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh present MARY POPPINS and
Dreamworks’ SHREK THE MUSICAL. This year, the Cadillac Palace Theatre
hosts, among many others, ANNIE and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA.