There’s a new light shining brightly over Chicago’s downtown theater district.
The marquee for the James M. Nederlander Theatre was officially illuminated Friday evening, replacing that of the Oriental Theatre at 24 W. Randolph, which held court on the stretch of Loop real estate between State and Dearborn for 93 years.
The theater is named for the late entertainment impresario who passed away in 2016. Over the course of more than 70 years, James Nederlander produced more than 100 of the most beloved Broadway musicals including “Annie,” “Applause,” “La Cage aux Folles” and “Sweet Charity.”
“He brought his shows to the finest theaters in Chicago including the Blackstone, the Studebaker, the Shubert and the Michael Todd, and in creating Broadway In Chicago, changed the landscape of Chicago theater, making this great city one of the most successful commercial homes for Broadway outside of New York,” Broadway in Chicago president Lou Raizin said in a statement last November. “Renaming the theater gives us a way to say thank you and to acknowledge the extraordinary difference he made for Chicago in his lifetime.”
The Nederlander organization currently operates nine theaters on Broadway as well as a handful in Los Angeles and London. In Chicago, it lays claim to four theaters, operated by Broadway in Chicago: the Cadillac Palace Theatre, CIBC Theatre, The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and the newly crowned eponymous venue.
Earlier this week, the letters spelling “Oriental” were replaced by those spelling out “Nederlander,” something which caught many Chicagoans by surprise even though the name change was announced last year. Some in the city found the word “oriental” offensive, and were glad to see it removed.
The marquee unveiling coincides with the opening of the national touring production of “Dear Evan Hansen,” which opens Feb. 13.