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Cadillac Palace Theatre

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art ()


The Cadillac Palace Theatre is a testament to the elegance and grandeur of old theaters and movie palaces. The interior, which was inspired by the Palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau, is filled with red carpeting, gilded walls, and six glittering chandeliers. The theatre first opened its doors in in 1926 as the home theater for a vaudeville group called the Orpheum Circuit. However, by the 1930s, vaudeville fell out of fashion and the theater transformed itself into a movie palace, then back into a performance stage by the 1950s, and serving as a concert venue and banquet hall during the 1970s. The Cadillac Palace Theatre was restored in 1999 and continues to offer Broadway style theatrical performances.

Cadillac Palace Theatre exterior
Cadillac Palace Theatre interior


The theatre first opened its doors in in 1926 as the home theater for a vaudeville group called the Orpheum Circuit.  It was one of many two-a-day houses around the country, known as such because it showed two vaudeville performances a day. Many famous stars of the era, such as Jimmy Durante, Mae West, Jack Benny, Sophie Tucker and Bob Hope graced the theater's stage. In the 1930s, vaudeville fell out of fashion and the theater transformed itself into a movie palace.1 

Before movies became a staple in many theatre houses, The 1920s might be considered the era of the theater. Indeed, between 1927 and 1928 alone, 264 Broadway productions opened in New York. Throughout the country, the booming interwar economic climate offered U.S. residents an opportunity to spend money on leisurely items, including the theater. But, the productions themselves, including in Chicago, reflected a society that had changed dramatically as a result of World War I. Many plays reflected a society that was more unsure about the future than it had been during the height of the Industrial Revolution, prior to the war, including those in the middle and upper classes. Nonetheless, the theater boom also represented a U.S. culture that experienced an economic boom that resulted in a prolific consumption culture.2 

In the 1950s, as television became increasingly popular, the theater began showing live stage shows and musicals. These shows brought big names to the stage again, like Carol Channing when she came to the Palace to star in the Broadway show "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." The theater saw many changes through the next few decades. The name was changed to the Bismark Theater in the 1970s and it was turned into a banquet hall that hosted rock concerts. It was restored in 1999 and its name changed to the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The musical "Aida" had its premiere at the newly named theater the night it reopened. The theater now shows Broadway style productions in its two thousand plus seat auditorium.3    


1 "Theatre History: Cadillac Palace Theatre" Broadway in Chicago. Accessed June 15, 2016. "Theatre History." Cadillac Palace Theatre. Accessed June 15, 2016.

2 Ronald Harold Wainscott, The Emergence of the Modern American Theater, 1914-1929 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 1-4.

3 "Theatre History: Cadillac Palace Theatre" Broadway in Chicago.

151 W Randolph St
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Phone Number
(312) 384-1502
Call for theatre tours and showtimes.
  • Architecture and Historical Buildings
  • Cultural History
  • Music and Entertainment History
  • Urban History
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This location was created on 2016-06-15 by Jennifer McCollom .   It was last updated on 2018-12-13 by Kalen Martin-Gross .

This entry has been viewed 1998 times within the past year


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