Chicago's Top Theater, Dance & Music Events 2009

By Jenny Berg & Amalie Drury July 7, 2009, 3:39 PM EDT

1. Steppenwolf Theatre Gala
Some 650 guests attended the 2009 gala for Chicago’s famed theater. The high-profile evening—which has drawn guests such as Mayor Richard Daley and company member John Malkovich—took place April 18 and included a performance of The Tempest. The gala raised roughly $1.3 million.

2. Lyric Opera’s Opening Night Gala Benefit and Opera Ball
In 2008, this event raised $500,000. Around 3,500 guests attended a performance of French opera Manon; afterward, 700 headed to the Hilton Chicago, where costumed brass musicians heralded each arrival and soprano Natalie Dessay joined guests on the dance floor. This year’s gala will take place September 26.

3. Chicago Symphony Orchestra Opening Night Gala
Star soprano Renée Fleming will perform at the 2009 Chicago Symphony Orchestra gala on October 3, which is expected to raise more than $850,000. After the Symphony Center concert, dinner and dancing will take place at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. Event organizers expect 2,400 guests at the concert and 630 at the ensuing festivities.

4. Ravinia Festival Gala
In 2008, this gala drew 1,000 guests and raised $1.2 million for the oldest summer music festival in North America. The 2009 event will take place July 18. With a “Bicentennial Ball” theme, the evening will feature the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.”

5. Joffrey Ballet Spring Gala
The Joffrey Ballet’s 2009 spring gala on April 24 drew around 1,000 guests and raised $1.3 million. The event began at the Auditorium Theatre, where Joffrey dancers presented the premiere of Carousel (A Dance). Dinner and dancing at the Chicago Hilton followed.

6. Goodman Theatre’s String of Pearls Gala
Mandy Patinkin headlined the Goodman Theatre’s 2009 gala, which took place on May 30 at the Fairmont Chicago. The benefit drew 700 guests and raised $1 million for the theater, Chicago’s oldest nonprofit organization.

7. Fantasy of the Opera Gala
Stars of the Lyric Opera let their hair down at this winter benefit, which allows them to belt out Broadway classics in a cabaret-style performance. This year’s 25th anniversary event, themed “Be Dazzled,” took place February 6 and drew 640 guests.

8. Redmoon Theater’s Spectacle Lunatique
From models in cabbage-filled tubs to appetizers served out of suitcases, the Redmoon Theater’s Spectacle Lunatique draws media buzz for wacky and imaginative tropes. This year’s event drew 650 guests to Redmoon Central on March 13.

9. Wonka Ball
This annual event benefits the About Face Theatre, a company of gay, lesbian, and transgender youth. The 2009 incarnation, with a “Peep Show” theme, took place in May and drew 650 guests. The event’s splashy decor and flamboyantly dressed guests land it on local society pages each year.

10. Hubbard Street Dance Company’s Spotlight Ball
Some 700 guests attended the ball on June 5. The event featured a contemporary dance performance at the Harris Theater, followed by dinner and dancing at the Fairmont Chicago.

11. Gglassquerade
Co-founded by Friends actor David Schwimmer, the Lookingglass Theatre Company turned 21 this year. On April 3, the company celebrated its anniversary with a birthday-party-themed benefit for 330. The event took place at the Ritz-Carlton and featured a balloon drop and casino gaming.

12. Showtime Gala
An onstage dinner at the Auditorium Theatre marked the League of Chicago Theatres’ 2008 gala. This year, the happening—which provides a prime networking opportunity for members of the local theater community—took place May 18 and drew 300 guests.

13. Chicago Opera Theater Gala
Chicago Opera Theater—a company known for featuring young talent—hosted its 2009 gala at the Spertus Institute. The March 7 event honored general director Brian Dickie in his 10th season and drew 300 guests.

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