Chicago Venue Guide: Bank of America Theatre
Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre, soon to be home of the highly anticipated, The Book of Mormon, is one of the premier venues in Chicago’s Theatre District. With a capacity of 2016 and adorned with gilded ceilings, ornate carvings and restored original mosaics, the atmosphere within the theatre itself and the lobbies and common areas will take you to another time and place. And this is before the show even starts.Bank of America Theatre
18 W. Monroe (at State)
The lowest level is called the Orchestra Level and seats 798 people. Seats here generally cost the most. This is also the only level that doesn’t have stairs between rows (it’s more of a ramp) and is therefore recommended for anyone who has difficulty walking. Most people consider the first few rows closest to the stage to be “too close” although the front row offers the most legroom of any of the rows.
The next elevated level is the Dress Circle which is a small, intimate level that is fully covered by the Mezzanine level above it. Seating only 295 patrons and the front row is the same distance from the stage as row V in the orchestra. This is the only elevated level without an elevator…you must use stairs to get to the Dress Circle level.
Above the Dress Circle is the Mezzanine Level which offers a fantastic view of the stage. The Mezzanine level has 506 seats. There is an elevator that you can take to this level but you must climb stairs to your row once you are on this level. The front row of the Mezzanine is the same distance from the stage as Orchestra Row L or 11th row from the stage, a perfect viewing distance.
The top level is the Balcony Level and again there’s elevator service to this level, but stairs to each row once you arrive. Row 1 in the Balcony is the same distance from the stage as Mezzanine Row C. The first and second balcony combined have 394 seats.
Seat numbers on the left side are odd numbers (1-3-5-7-9) and on the right side they are even numbers (2-4-6-8). The center section is 3-digit consecutive numbers. All 3-digit numbers correspond to the level the seats are on. For instance, all 3-digit seat numbers on the Orchestra level are 100’s, in the Dress Circle they are 200’s, in the Mezzanine they are 300’s and in the Balcony, they are 400’s. In every section, the lower the seat number, the closer the seat is to the center of the theatre.
There is always a chance the parking gods will get you street parking downtown, but it probably won’t happen. Therefore, you’ll want to park in a garage close to the theatre, and that would be the InterPark at 17 E. Adams.
Click HERE for directions and a map.
Although it’s ridiculously expensive to park downtown, at least they give theatre goers a miniscule break with a validated parking stub. At this time, it’s $21 for a car. Here’s how the parking works: You get your parking stub at entry and after you park, you go to the lobby and get your parking stub validated. When you come back after the show, you again go to the lobby and put your stub in the machine and then pay with cash or a credit card. You’ll get a paid stub that you can use when you drive through the gate upon leaving the garage.
You can also prepay online and get a barcoded “ticket” to use at both entry into and exit from the garage. You MUST buy pre-paid parking for the show you will attend as there is a specific time frame for the specific day for each parking “ticket” you buy online. This is also $21. You can park your car in the garage no more than 2 hours prior and 6 hours after the performance.
Get your prepaid parking HERE.
Suite Service is an available option for almost all Bank of America Theatre performances. Located on the Mezzanine Level, the Suite offers a roomy place to hang out before the performance and at intermission, with complimentary light appetizers and a full private bar. Forget long lines for the restrooms, there are private restroom facilities in the suite, as well as a coat check and a place to stash your packages. Your suite attendants will watch your belongings while you enjoy the show. Suite Service added with your ticket purchase enhances your experience at the theatre tremendously.
Sitting just west of State Street on Monroe, the physical structure of Bank of America Theatre dates back to 1906 when it first opened as the Majestic Theatre. The Majestic was Chicago’s first venue that cost over a million dollars to build and at the time, was the tallest building in the city. The Majestic was a hotspot on the vaudeville circuit then later played host to celebrities like Harry Houdini until it shuttered it’s doors in 1932 during the Great Depression.
When it reopened in 1945 under new ownership, the now revamped and renamed Samuel Shubert Theatre was right on time for an ultra-patriotic era in American history. Coming at the heels of World War II, the uplifting, feel-good musicals such as Carousel, South Pacific and Guys and Dolls brought the crowds in droves.
In 1991, the 20-story Majestic Building (still the name of the theatre and the space above it) was sold to the Nederlander Organization but the theatre went dark for the next 15 years until a major renovation took place in 2005-2006. The $14 million renovation not only returned the theatre to its original jewel-like opulence, but also created the Hampton Inn above it. Naming rights went to the LaSalle Bank when it re-emerged as a major downtown theatre.
Click HERE to view pictures of the completed renovation by the architect firm, Booth Hansen.
With building infrastructure completely overhauled, lobby space doubled, bathroom facilities tripled, and architectural elements uncovered after decades of being hidden, the only thing that couldn’t be expanded was the actual stage. Unlike other downtown theatre renovation projects, there was no neighboring building to cannibalize for a stage expansion. This created a very unique situation for the the new LaSalle Bank Theatre because it could be host pre-Broadway productions in a theatre with stage dimensions very close to most Broadway theatres in New York.