Chicago Theatre: Showtime on State

The Chicago Theatre

The Chicago Theatre

What is the one thing that everyone remember from the intro to the 1980’s comedy Perfect Strangers?  I mean, besides the scene where Larry and Balki are battling the wind and a revolving door.  The Chicago Theatre.  Everyone who is anyone knows this bright, shimmering, neon-studded venue from the intro to the iconic TV show as we see cousin Larry and Balki stepping out of the red line all tuxedoed up.  Bob Fosse, however, made his name not just with dance and theater but with the smash-hit musical, Chicago, that conjures up images of this great theater.

The Chicago Theater is as much a piece of the Windy City as the Willis Tower, Buckingham Fountain, Wrigley Field, and the portliest football fans this side of Green Bay.  Built in 1921, this landmark theater is a neo-classical piece of architecture that has been the venue for some of Chicago’s biggest and longest running shows.

My first visit to the legendary venue was to spend an afternoon with comedy legend and director Mel Brooks.  He was hosting a one-man show where he would be recounting all his greatest moments from both his life and his film career.  Being such a fan of the legendary borschbelt funnyman and his movies, I had to come and be a part of the madness.  From the minute I stepped underneath the hundreds of lightbulbs under the marquee, I entered a most opulent place with handcarved walls and columns that made the theatre look almost palace-like.  In fact, the ceilings were decked out with many paintings of angels and cherubs that it reminded me of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Ok, maybe not that extravagant.  Still, it was one of the loveliest venues I had ever been in.

Welcome to the Chicago Theater!

Welcome to the Chicago Theater!

From the minute I took my seat, I was in awe of the interior of this exquisite venue.  It was so beautiful with the gold trimmings, the cherubs paintings, the chandeliers, and the red seats that just made this place feel like it was lost in time.  I came wearing a suit jacket and polo shirt but I felt a bit underdressed for such a venue; I should have worn a tuxedo with white gloves and a top hat like someone out of the 1930’s.  Actually, considering the headliner of this event, I was underdressed.  Since it was all about Mel Brooks, I spotted fans dressed as characters from his movies, most notably, Spaceballs.  I think I counted a few dozen or so people dressed as Barf, John Candy’s character.  If I only someone came as Dot Matrix and Yoghurt, I would have chimed in with Lone Starr’s lines.

Take your seat inside the Chicago Theater!

Take your seat inside the Chicago Theater!

The show began, interestingly enough, not with the man himself but with a full-on presentation of his 1974 masterpiece, Blazing Saddles.  A rather odd thing to give the audience as it was not the movies (I saw a DVD menu screen flash for a split second on the screen on stage!).  Still, the audience was far from disappointed as I watched everyone laugh themselves silly and mouth almost every word.  Frankly, I would have preferred High Anxiety in that I find it funnier and that Mel Brooks sings his butt off.  I may be going out on a limb here, but my heart beats whenever he starts singing in that scene where he woos Madeline Kahn’s character.

Ladies and Gentlemen...Mr. Mel Brooks!

Ladies and Gentlemen…Mr. Mel Brooks!

By the time Mel took the stage, he went to straight into his life story.  He was like the cool, wise grandfather that I always wished we had growing up.  The kind who had the most interesting stories and was never shy about cursing or going into such graphic detail.  An old man with a dirty mind?  Go on.  He talked about how he almost convinced John Wayne to be a part of Blazing Saddles, that is until Wayne saw how filthy the script was and feared his fanbase would revolt against the Duke.  He went into his wartime service, the Catskills comics, growing up in Brooklyn, moving to Hollywood, working on backlots, run-ins with celebrities over the years, an embarrassing encounter with legendary game show host Bill Cullen, and waxing nostalgic about his lovely co-star, the hilarious Madeline Kahn.  I wished he had done a rendition of his musical number from High Anxiety, but it was far from disappointing.  In fact, I’d say for a man his age, he looked great.  I’d say he had a Bob Barker/Betty White thing going on where he was in his early nineties and still enjoys work and looks amazing.  Frankly, I hope I am that virile and interesting by the time I am that old.

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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