LIVING THE HISTORY — 125 YEARS OF THE AUDITORIUM THEATRE

When: Dec. 9 at 6 p.m.
Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress
Tickets: $35-$125 (performance only)
Info: (800) 982-2787; http://www.ticketmaster.com/auditorium

Note: Discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more are available by calling (312) 341-2357. Student rush tickets will be available for $12.50 with valid student ID.
Gala Celebration Tickets (including performance) are available for tables of 10 at the $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000 levels. Individual tickets start at $500. For gala tickets and information, contact Amanda Martinez Byrne at (312) 341-3825 or abyrne@auditoriumtheatre.org.

You can still hear exclamations of delight from people who enter the Auditorium Theatre for the first time and scan the room with the golden glow, the grand ceiling and the gorgeous proscenium.

The landmark work by architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler is celebrating its 125th anniversary this season, with a slew of performances by local, national and international artists planned. But a big one-night-only party on Dec. 9 also will be part of the festivities — a gala event dubbed “Living the History – 125 Years of the Auditorium Theatre.”

Featured during the evening will be tributes to the diverse entertainment that has been, and continues to be presented at the theater, from symphonic music, opera and dance, to Broadway musicals and rock music. Among the performers will be John Mahoney (who will serve as host), Patti LuPone, Berwyn-bred songwriter Jim Peterik and friends, as well as artists of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Joffrey Ballet, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Apollo Chorus.

First Lady Michelle Obama is serving as Honorary Chair, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Amy Rule as Honorary co-chairs for the anniversary season. The program will be immediately followed by a Gala Celebration dinner at the Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe.

“The 125th Gala celebration will showcase the diversity and scope of talent that has graced the historic landmark stage since it opened in 1889,” said Auditorium Theatre executive director Brett Batterson in a prepared statement. “We estimate that over 20 million audience members have attended the theater in its 125 year history, and the memories created for those patrons have helped to make the Auditorium the iconic destination it is for all Chicagoans. The grandeur of Sullivan and Adler’s pioneering design put Chicago on the world map, and paved the way for the city to host the 1893 World’s Fair. We are honored to be able to celebrate this important landmark‘s birthday, and promise a celebration worthy of this grand theater’s legacy.”

Broadway legend Patti LuPone — whose great-grand aunt Adelina Patti sang on the very same stage at the original grand opening — will sing. The Apollo Chorus, who also performed at the 1889 opening, will perform “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Misérables”, the Broadway megahit that has been performed numerous times at the Auditorium. Chicago’s premiere cultural institutions, including members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and singers Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi and Eric Owens from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, will perform. So will dancers from the Joffrey Ballet, which has made its home at the Auditorium for the past 16 years. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a regular at the Auditorium, will present a special performance by two Chicago area natives, Sarah Daley and Vernard Gilmore.

Recognizing the rock shows that have filled (and continue to fill) the theater’s 3,875 seats will be an “All-Star Band” to include such Chicago musicians as Jim Peterik (of Ides of March and Survivor fame) on guitar and vocals, Barbara Unger-Wertico on keyboard, Richard Patterson (who played with Miles Davis and Michael MacDonald) on bass and Paul Wertico (Pat Metheny Group) on drums.

The program also will include a special salute to the veterans who were accommodated at the Auditorium during World War II. And the Auditorium is currently seeking those living veterans and volunteer workers who were at the Auditorium during that period in order to collect their memories for the salute. Call (312) 341-2365 to be in touch with theater personnel if you, or someone you know, was at the Auditorium during that time.

The evening will be directed by Rachel Rockwell (the force behind the recent “Brigadoon” production a the Goodman Theatre, and many shows at the Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace and the Paramount Theatre in Aurora).

Immediately following the performance, Gala celebration guests will be shuttled to the Palmer House Hilton where they will be welcomed by Rich Daniels and The City Lights Orchestra, before being treated to dinner and “more anniversary surprises.”