Chicago's Top Theater, Dance & Music Events 2008

July 7, 2008, 10:00 AM EDT

Benefitting the Lyric Opera House, the 2008 Fantasy of the Opera gala featured a Morocco theme.

Photo: Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago

1. Ravinia Festival Gala
In 2007 Placido Domingo and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra headlined the gala, which drew 1,260 attendees and raised $1.7 million for the Ravinia Festival and its school programs. Presented by the women’s board and held at the festival grounds, the event offers V.I.P. and general admission packages. V.I.P.s are invited to preconcert cocktails, receive priority seating at the show, and are invited to a postconcert dinner. This year’s event takes place July 19.

2. Steppenwolf Theatre Gala
Bringing in around $1.4 million for the Steppenwolf Theatre annually, this gala features cocktails, dinner, dancing, and a performance by Steppenwolf ensemble members. One of evening’s signature happenings is the Star With the Stars live auction, in which guests can bid on experiences with ensemble members (like a backstage tour with John Malkovich). Planned by the theater’s director of special events, Judith Kaufman, the 2008 gala took place on May 3.

3. Joffrey Ballet Spring Gala
Held on May 9, this year’s fund-raiser, planned by the Joffrey Ballet’s women’s board manager Elizabeth Feste, began with a performance at the Auditorium Theater. Cocktails, dinner, and dancing to Lynne Jordan and the Shivers followed at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. The event raised roughly $1.3 million for the ballet.

4. Goodman Theater’s String of Pearls Gala
Presented by the Goodman Theater, this annually overtakes several areas of the Fairmont Hotel, allotting separate rooms to cocktails, a featured performance, dinner, and dancing. At the 2008 event on May 17, Bebe Neuwirth joined a list of past performers that includes Megan Mullally, Kristin Chenoweth, and Diahann Carroll. The 2007 event drew nearly 700 guests and raised $850,000 for the Goodman and its education programs.

5. Fantasy of the Opera Gala
Referred to by its organizers as “the hottest party in the coldest month,” this black-tie event attracts roughly 600 guests each year. The evening involves a silent auction, appetizer stations from a dozen or so local restaurants, dinner, and dancing. For a performance that takes place inside the auditorium, Lyric Opera singers are asked to select their own non-opera songs to perform; the selections range from show tunes to jazz. The Morocco-themed 2008 event, designed by Heffernan Morgan, took place on February 8 and raised $569,000 for the Lyric Opera House.

6. GGlassquerade

Held in the grand ballroom of the Peninsula Hotel, this black-tie gala benefits the Lookingglass Theatre and its educational programs. With a theme of “Around the World,” the May 9 event was planned by the theater’s director of development, Jenny Bienemann, and hosted by Lookingglass ensemble members David Schwimmer and Joey Slotnick. Mayor Richard Daley was the recipient of the first-ever Lookingglass award for Civic Engagement, and the evening drew 340 guests and raked in more than $600,000 for the theater.

7. Chicago Symphony Orchestra Opening Night Gala

In 2007, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra kicked off its 117th season with the Festa Italiana gala, which featured a concert led by famed conductor Riccardo Muti. After the performance, a trolley transported guests to a tent in Millennium Park, where cocktails, an Italian dinner, and dancing took place. For a smaller donation, guests could purchase concert-only tickets, which included a smaller postconcert celebration at the Symphony Center. The 2008 event will be held on September 20 and feature guest artist Lang Lang.

8. Hubbard Street Dance’s Spotlight Ball

This year’s ball, held on April 4, celebrated Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s 30th anniversary. Planned by the company’s manager of special events, Paula Petrini Lynch, the gala began with a special dance at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. Postshow, guests moved to the Sheraton Hotel and Towers for cocktails, dinner, dancing, and a presentation. After midnight, a special Limelight after-party took place outside the Sheraton’s ballroom. Ticket sales, auction items, and raffle revenue contributed to the $600,000 raised for the company.

9. Chicago Opera Theater Gala

The grand ballroom of downtown’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel provides the venue for this annual event, which is planned by the theater’s director of development, Marla Krupman, and comprises cocktails, dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions, and a performance. Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó headlined the April 30 event, which drew 285 guests and raised $260,000 for COT’s spring season and education outreach programs.

10. Redmoon Theater’s Spectacle Lunatique

On March 7, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s warehouse played host to the Redmoon Theater’s 2008 Spectacle Lunatique event, which raised more than $200,000 for the theater. Planned by Vanessa Stalling, the theater’s artistic associate, the event featured modern artwork displays, costume-clad roving Redmoon actors, cocktails, a buffet, a live DJ, and an appearance from Project Runway alum Stephen Rosengard.

11. Madhatter’s Ball

Presented by Lookingglass Theatre’s junior board (in conjunction with Rockit Ranch Productions), this annual fund-raising event took place this year on May 10 at River North nightspot the Underground. Hosted every year by Lookingglass ensemble members David Schwimmer and Joey Slotnick, along with Underground owner Billy Dec, the event features drinks, music, and  hors d’oeuvres, as well as a sequence of performances.

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