Auditorium Theater: Celebrating Our Jewel Box



By Judy Carmack Bross



At 129 years old on December 9, the gloriously golden Auditorium Theatre still gleams, gains packed audiences and recently raised over $355,000 for its continued restoration and preservation for theater programming.  The gala began with a cocktail reception in the Empire Room and dinner in the Red Lacquer Room of the Palmer House Hilton, another beloved Chicago landmark. Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, lasting landmarks themselves for “My Eyes Adored You” and so many golden hits, took the guests back to the Auditorium Theatre for a sensational show.


The Auditorium Theatre by James Steinkamp.

The Red Lacquer Room.

Auditorium Theatre board member and Chair Emeritus Mel Katten was honored with the third annual Adler and Sullivan Award for his longtime commitment to the Auditorium Theatre and to the cultural landscape of Chicago. The gala was co-chaired by Lou and Jill Raizin and Lew Collens and Lee Ayers. The Anthony R. and Mary Ann Pasquinelli Foundation sponsored the event.


Jenna Koretz, Mel Katten, and Max Katten Popkin.

Jill Raizin, Lou Raizin, John Svoboda, Mel Katten, Rachel Freund, and Lew Collens.

Lou Raizin, Jill Raizin, Renee Katten, and Mel Katten.

Lew Collens and Lee Ayers.

The architectural firm of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan designed the national historic landmark. A young Frank Lloyd Wright served as a draughtsman for the building. Wright later called the Auditorium “The greatest room for music and opera in the world, bar none.”


The Auditorium Theater in 1967.

President Benjamin Harrison and his Vice President Levi Morton, Chicago Mayor DeWitt Clinton Cregier along with many other politicians and society leaders were present opening night on December 9, 1889 when the opera singer Adelina Patti performed. 


Sketch from opening night in 1889.

In early years, the theater hosted the Ziegfield Follies, the Metropolitan Opera, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the composers Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev and Richard Strauss.

The theater is known for its beautiful gold leaf arches, perfect acoustics and excellent sightlines.


Madeline Meussling, Kathleen Blakemore, and Mary Ann Meussling.

Table centerpiece at the gala.

For more information about the Auditorium Theatre, go to:

Photos by Robert Carl