Just 40 miles from downtown Chicago in Aurora, Illinois, the Paramount Theatre is the perfect place for bus tour groups to enjoy top-notch, Broadway quality musical theater, away from the congestion and hassles of the big city. This 1,888-seat art deco venue has transformed the musical theater entertainment scene in Chicago in just six short years. Its four-show Broadway Series, launched in 2010, has grown from 550 subscribers in that first year to upwards of 30,000 for the upcoming season.
Attracting high caliber, talented artists, from first-rate Equity actors and directors to creative designers and technicians, Paramount’s shows are staged with elaborate sets, gorgeous costumes and a 20-piece professional orchestra. The high quality and professionalism of the productions have captured the attention of the influential Chicago theatrical community.
In 2016, Paramount dominated the Jeff awards – Chicago’s equivalent of the Tonys – with 14 nominations, beating out both the Goodman and Steppenwolf, and literally redefining the award committee’s eligibility requirements of Equity theaters being located within 20 miles of State and Madison streets in Chicago.
This season’s Broadway Series kicks off with Million Dollar Quartet, the Tony-Award winning musical about an impromptu Memphis jam session in 1956 involving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Performances dates are September 3 through October 29, 2017. Next up is Elf, based on 2003 hit Christmas film, running from November 22, 2017 to January 7, 2018, followed by Cabaret, from February 27 to March 18. This Tony-Award winning musical is set in decadent 1930s Berlin and focuses on Kit Kat Klub singer Sally Bowles and her romance with two men. The series wraps up with Once, a touching, modern-day musical about an Irish street musician, his immigrant fan and their eventful week in Dublin as they write, rehearse and record songs from which their beautiful love story unfolds.
In addition to its popular Broadway series, Paramount’s seasonal line-up is made up of nationally known musical and comedic touring performers, international acts, regional performers and local theatrical troupes. Recent shows include Ricky Lee Jones, Riverdance and The Golden Dragon Acrobats. Group discounts for Paramount’s Broadway Series, as well as non-Broadway shows, are offered, and a variety of bus parking options for the theater are available; ask for details when reserving tickets.
Originally tagged as the Venetian, the 86-year-old Paramount was designed as a movie palace with a Venice theme by Chicago theater architects Rapp & Rapp. Purchased by Paramount Studios and renamed prior to its 1931 opening, the lavish venue also hosted vaudeville acts and circus performances. After falling into disrepair, the historic building was rescued in the 1970s and restored to its initial glory, replete with eight silk hand painted murals, fluted columns, gilt relief and hand painted ceilings, along with many other elegant, carefully reproduced or restored appointments. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
With advance notice, bus groups can arrange for tours of the historic theater for an extra fee. The Aurora area is home to a large number of other historic sites and structures that are on the National Register and available for tours, such as Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist architectural masterpiece, the Farnsworth House, and the Sandwich Opera house, built in 1878.
Located at 23 E. Galena Boulevard, along the Fox River in the heart of downtown Aurora, the Paramount is within walking distance of a wide selection of restaurants, offering up everything from pizza and pub fare to ethnic cuisine and fine dining options. Tour groups can also indulge in a bit of gaming at Aurora’s Hollywood Casino, or enjoy award-winning craft beers, house roasted coffee and elevated pub fare at Two Brothers Roundhouse, which in 2017 will unveil Two Brothers Artisan Spirits, a distillery at the location.
The Aurora area boasts a variety of bus-friendly activities and attractions. Tour groups can shop at Chicago Premium Outlets, the largest outdoor outlet destination in the Midwest, to find great buys on brands like Nike, Hugo Boss, Coach, Crabtree & Evelyn, Vera Bradley, Skechers, Lancôme, Movado, Lindt, Godiva and more. Groups will also find a variety of quaint boutiques, unique museum stores, antique shops and specialty stores in Aurora and surrounding communities.
The Aurora area is also home to Phillips Park Zoo, the Schingoethe Center of Aurora University showcasing Native American Art, the William Tanner House Museum, the Aurora Regional Fire Museum and several other museums and galleries.
A must-see for tour groups visiting Aurora is Fermilab, just about eight miles away in Batavia. The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) has been known for its research and experimentation on particle acceleration and molecular physics since 1967. Active research is still conducted here, but parts of the facility and its 6,800 acres are open to the public. The grounds include nature trails, bike paths, fishing ponds and a herd of prairie bison. Also on campus is Wilson Hall, where tour passengers can browse through exhibits of art, science discoveries and more. Completed in 1974, Wilson Hall is a modernist architectural wonder on the Illinois prairie, with a soaring 17-story atrium.
The staff at Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is ready to assist tour planners with affordable accommodations, convenient parking, group-friendly dining options and sample itineraries. For more information, visit online at tourinaurora.com; for planning assistance, phone Pete Garlock, director of sales, at (630) 256-3194 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.