Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hidden Treasures

If we lived in Chicago for the rest of our lives, I am sure we would not discover all of the city’s hidden treasures. But yesterday we found another one – the Mercury Theater. We attended a wonderful musical there, called “The Christmas Schooner”, for Ron’s birthday.

The building that houses the Mercury Theater opened in 1912, as a silent film nickelodeon called the Blaine Theater. With the advent of “talkies”, the Blaine moved to a larger space down the street, and eventually became the Music Box Theater, which is still in operation today. The original Blaine lived many lives for the remainder of the 20th century, and housed numerous retail operations and even a carpet-cleaning business. Thankfully, a veteran Chicago theater producer purchased, renovated, and re-opened the theater as the Mercury in 1996. It has been operating as an active live theater since then.

Little of the original Blaine Theater still exists, although they salvaged several stunning plaster pilaster busts (pictured) that now flank the house, which has 292 seats. The seats themselves were recovered and refurbished from a 1933-era Boston movie house. The interior walls are a warm, exposed brick.

This wonderful “hidden” treasure is within walking distance of our condo.

“The Christmas Schooner” is a beautifully produced and performed show that had us completely engaged for two hours. A mini live orchestra provided the musical backdrop. The costumes for the actors, portraying subjects from the 1890’s, were spot on and visually effective.

Creative staging allowed the action to transition credibly from the captain’s living room to the deck of his ship. The ship’s anchor was raised and the sails hoisted, and we believed. We laughed and we cried – glued to the storyline and the professional performances. I’m sure we will recall the experience for years to come.

What a delight to stumble across this hidden neighborhood treasure!

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