Chicago's Top Theater, Dance & Music Events 2010

By Jenny Berg April 12, 2010, 9:50 AM EDT

Joffrey Ballet Spring Gala

Photo: Herbert Migdoll

1. Lyric Opera’s Opening Night Gala Benefit and Opera Ball
The company kicked off its 55th season in September 2009 by presenting Tosca to an audience of 3,500. Afterward, some 600 guests headed to the Hilton Chicago for an opulent dinner-dance with a trumpet-scored processional into the ballroom.

2. Chicago Symphony Orchestra Opening Night Gala
Last year, organizers added a charitable component by partnering with the Glass Slipper Project, so guests could feel doubly good about attending the symphony’s fund-raiser. Soprano Renée Fleming performed for 2,400 classical music buffs; some 650 guests attended an ensuing dinner-dance. The event raised $1.1 million.

3. Steppenwolf Theatre Gala
In 2009, Chicago’s internationally known theater company raised nearly $1 million at its gala, where company members Michael Shannon and Martha Plimpton were among the 550 guests. This year’s gala is scheduled for May 8.

4. Joffrey Ballet Spring Gala
Scheduled for April 23, the ballet’s 2010 gala will draw around 1,000 guests and raise $1.3 million. After company members and student dancers perform at the Auditorium Theater, patrons will head to Union Station, a new venue for the post-performance dinner-dance.

5. Ravinia Festival Gala
In 2009, some 800 guests turned out to support the popular music festival at its annual gala, which raised more than $1 million. Broadway stars Audra McDonald and Patti LuPone will perform works from Stephen Sondheim on July 31.

6. Redmoon Theater’s Spectacle Lunatique
This wildly imaginative, one-of-a-kind event is packed with surrealist performance art. The 2010 benefit took place at Redmoon Central on March 12 and featured some of the spectacles that the troupe unveiled at last year’s White House Halloween party, for which President Obama personally commissioned a performance.

7. Goodman Theatre Gala
This drama company’s spring gala includes a cabaret-style performance from a major Broadway star. The benefit typically draws 700 guests and raises more than $1 million. Grammy winner Heather Headley will sing at this year’s event, at the Fairmont Chicago on May 22.

8. Fantasy of the Opera Gala
This midwinter benefit presents a cheeky side of the Lyric Opera. In February, a cabaret-style performance by company members showcased Broadway classics and Johnny Cash hits, and Kehoe Designs’ decor underscored a Valentine’s Day theme. The event’s typical 600-guest attendance held steady this year.

9. About Face Theatre’s Wonka Ball
A troupe of gay, lesbian, and transgender youth puts on this fund-raiser, which stays fresh by changing venues and attractions. Past highlights have included a V.I.P. cocktail reception held within Calihan Catering’s kitchen and a Madonna impersonator. This year’s benefit is scheduled for June 3.

10. Hubbard Street Dance Company’s Spotlight Ball
Scheduled to hit the Hilton Chicago on May 5, this benefit has been moved to a weeknight to enhance corporate involvement. A new streamlined format will keep the formerly two-venue event in a single location this year. Some 700 guests are expected.

11. Lookingglass Theatre Company’s Gglassquerade
At last year’s gala, a 21st birthday theme played out in a balloon drop, acrobatic performances, and a birthday-cake buffet. The sold-out event raised $550,000 for the theater company. The 2010 benefit is scheduled for April 10, and reps from Northern Trust, Clark Enterprises, and Jones Lange LaSalle will co-chair.

12. League of Chicago Theatres Gala
Known as a prime networking opportunity for members of the local theater community, this event includes live entertainment—last year, the Chicago cast of Legally Blonde the Musical performed. The 2010 gala will take place at the Palmer House Hilton on May 24 and honor corporate supporter Prince Charitable Trusts.

13. Chicago Opera Theater Gala

Known for championing young and emerging singers, the theater hosted its gala on March 13. At a new venue, the Mid-America Club, the 300-guest affair included a performance by soprano Danielle de Niese.

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