I was quite theatrical when I visited Chicago in July. I don’t mean I was dramatic; I only mean I visited two NTA-member theaters.
We saw “Hamilton” at CIBC Theatre, one of four managed by longtime NTA-member Broadway in Chicago. I gushed about that show after seeing it in New York (and it was every beat as good in Chicago) so now let me gush a bit about the CIBC Theatre: It’s the venue version of a four-layer red velvet cake—scrumptious. We luxuriated in the theater’s grand style and comfy seats. “I’ve even got legroom!” one tall son of mine said.Others are impressed, too. When I told the hotel clerk where we were going, she said, “You’ll love it. It’s, like, every seat is close, and it’s really intimate.”
Our seats were pretty darn close, so I wanted to size up the rest of the house. I stood with my back against the stage, looked up to the third balcony and focused on a lady on the back row. “That looks like Laura McFadden (an NTA HQ colleague),” I thought. That’s how intimate the seating is.
Broadway in Chicago Group Sales connects tour operators with seats at shows that either arrive direct from Broadway or are world premieres destined for the Great White Way.
With four theaters in her portfolio, Gemma Mulvihill, executive director of sales, can come up with the right show at the right rate for any group of 15 or more.
“The best prices are commonly found on weeknights,” she says, “but each show is different, so it’s always good to check with me for help in booking tickets.”
I also checked in on The Second City, not for one of the theater’s famed sketch comedy shows, but for a walking tour of the surrounding Old Town neighborhood, which included a history lesson (and inside scoop) about the company’s pipeline to fame. The Second City stage has produced a remarkable number of “Saturday Night Live” cast members, from John Belushi and Bill Murray to Tina Fey and Cecily Strong.
But the show’s the thing, and Second City offers several types. “When talking to an operator about shows, I like to learn some basic demographics of the group: age range, where they’re from, the kind of group and the occasion for the trip,” says Heather Scholl, group sales and events manager.
Scholl adds that most shows are considered to be R-rated, but the theater does offer a PG-13 set on Saturday afternoons and can cook up a special performance for extra-large groups desiring a “clean” show.
Top photo: Chicago's CIBC Theatre