After months of dark theaters, Broadway in Chicago bouncing back

Chicago News

CHICAGO — Theaters in Chicago have been dark since the start of the Covid pandemic, but one by one, they’re turning their lights back on. 

“Rent” reopened to a sold out crowd a couple weeks ago.

And Tuesday, people packed Broadway Playhouse for the first time in 18 months for “What the Constitution Means to Me.”

It is the first show to open on the Mag Mile since the pandemic.

 Masked up with vax cards in hand, theater-goers were eager to see a show again, in person.  

“I know actors really drive off the energy that they’re given, so I think it will be really big for them to perform in front of people again,” Lia Zwickert said. “So I’m sure they’re very excited.” 

The audience greeted actors as they first stepped on stage with a round of applause. 

“It’s a breath of fresh air in so many ways,” President of Broadway of Chicago Lou Raizin said. “And it’s also this sense of normalcy, getting back to some degree of normalcy.” 

Broadway in Chicago went from 1,000 employees down to just 14 over the course of a year. 

But as theaters start to turn their lights on again, hundreds of people are back at work.  

“The difficult part is that this is a business, like all others, that never expected to close,” Raizin said. “So we’re restarting a machine that has never been closed before and that’s an experience all in itself.” 

All Chicago theaters are now touchless with upgraded ventilation systems that cycle the air every four minutes. 

The reopening has had a domino effect in the downtown district.  

Kimberly Bares is the President and CEO of Magnificent Mile Association.

“The trends are very positive,” she said. “We’re seeing increased in hotel stays. We’re seeing increased in our pedestrian count. So that gives us some optimism.”

“Paradise Square” makes its pre-Broadway premiere next week.  

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