Power Transfer at the Chicago Theatre

The long-awaited managerial restructuring at the Chicago Theatre appears imminent. Earlier this week pro bono city consultant Tom Rosenberg said he was close to obtaining all the necessary signatures from the theater’s present owners and operators, Chicago Theatre Restoration Associates, to smooth the way for the transfer of power to a new team of five unpaid and as-yet-unnamed business executives. Should the remaining signatures still be missing as of today, Rosenberg is prepared to seek a court-appointed receiver to control the theater’s interests.

One of the new group’s first tasks would be to decide who to hire to manage and book the theater. Speculation continues to focus on Jam Productions as a leading contender for the job, though Jam honcho Jerry Mickelson claims he has not heard from the city recently about the job or his company’s likelihood of landing it. Another candidate mentioned by some sources is the New York-based Nederlander Organization, which currently owns and operates the 2,000-seat Shubert Theatre. Nederlander has admitted difficulty in profitably operating the Shubert, and the 3,800-seat Chicago Theatre–which has more main-floor seats than the Shubert, no second balcony, and a more desirable location–could be a more lucrative venue for the big musicals that are Nederlander’s bread and butter. But Rosenberg says an offer made by Nederlander last year to manage the Chicago Theatre was unacceptable. “It wasn’t even in the ballpark,” he says. A key factor in deciding on new management, notes Rosenberg, will be who has the best ideas about how to keep the theater booked.

Return of the Arie Crown

With all the most desirable downtown theaters filled with big musicals for the foreseeable future, the less popular Arie Crown Theatre at McCormick Place is being put back into operation as a venue for shows unable to find a home elsewhere. Three musicals already are scheduled to go into the giant 4,200-seat house during the first half of 1994: 42nd Street, Evita, and The Sound of Music, the last starring Marie Osmond. All are currently slated to run for only a week. Since the Chicago and Auditorium theaters achieved prominence as attractive venues for large-scale musicals some six years ago the Arie Crown has dropped out of the picture as a home for live theater, though concert and specialty acts have continued to play the house with some frequency. Demanding theatergoers and critics have long claimed that the cavernous theater is an inhospitable environment; former Reader critic Lenny Kleinfeld once remarked that a person could stand in the Arie Crown and see the curvature of the earth. But Jam Productions, which is slated to present all three of the above-mentioned musicals, is thinking positive. “I think it’s a good place for shows that appeal to a mass audience,” says Jam’s Steve Traxler.

On another front, a rumored move of Tribune Charities’ highly profitable production of The Nutcracker from the Arie Crown to another venue in 1994 appears unlikely. A Tribune Charities source said that the organization is two or three weeks away from signing a five-year contract with Arie Crown management. “This is the biggest money-maker the Arie Crown has,” says Nutcracker producer Archie Lang, who adds that the production is too big to fit any other venue in town.

Science Exhibits: The Next Generation

The Museum of Science and Industry’s exhibit “Star Trek: Federation Science” and the Adler Planetarium’s sky show “Orion Rendezvous: A Star Trek Voyage of Discovery” are the latest example of a phenomenon that is sure to become more and more common: cultural institutions joining forces and sharing resources to mount large, audience-grabbing events. Explains Adler spokeswoman Karol Cooper: “We looked at this as a great way to capitalize on the interest in Star Trek and provide some science education in the process.” The Adler, in particular, could benefit from its Star Trek connection: present planetarium management is intent on shaking the stuffy image that afflicts many science museums. The Museum of Science and Industry has already been working to liven up its reputation with such attractions as the Omnimax film Rolling Stones: At the Max. The Star Trek extravaganza marks the first time the two institutions have worked together; it was first presented at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, which has a planetarium and museum exhibition space at one site. Both the MSI and the Adler had to clear all advertising and promotion plans with Paramount Pictures, the Hollywood studio that controls Star Trek licensing rights. The two museums are splitting advertising costs right down the middle, according to Cooper.

Grave Obsession

With Halloween only a week away, the Trojkat Gallery at 1164 N. Milwaukee is getting ready to unveil “To Die For,” a collection of photographs taken by photojournalist Michael Nejman during visits to memorable cemeteries throughout the world over the past ten years. Most people associate cemeteries only with death and the deceased, but Nejman actually enjoys them for other reasons. “Whenever I want to get away from crowds,” he explains, “I go to a cemetery because it’s so peaceful.” But not always. When he visited the grave of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison in Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery on Halloween two years ago, he found about 60 people “partying their brains out.” “Clearly a situation of celebrating his life as opposed to mourning his death,” says Nejman. He has photographed the final resting places of many celebrities, including Jimi Hendrix, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and literary giants Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde, and he’s even compiled his own list of the world’s top ten cemeteries. Heading the list is the Cemetery of the Capuchin Fathers in Rome. There, in the basement of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, the preserved skulls and bones of some 4,000 Capuchin friars are incorporated into altars, chandeliers, and ornamental wall displays. “To Die For” opens October 29 with a reception from 6 to 10.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J. Alexander Newberry.