At the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., a human skull sits in a place of honor. When the legendary Chicago improv guru Del Close died in 1999, he willed his cranium to the Goodman for use as a prop - Close had poor Yorick specifically in mind. Seated on a red velvet cushion in a plastic box, Close's skull resides in the office of Robert Falls, the Goodman's artistic director.
Look up in the cramped lobby of the Shubert Theatre, 22. W. Monroe St., and you'll see ceiling tiles. But underneath those tiles resides a gorgeous period ceiling. When the theater is restored later this year, the original lobby will re-emerge. Also, the Shubert (formerly the Majestic) Theatre housed the first public pay phone in Chicago. And once upon a time, the Majestic Building, where the theater is housed, was the tallest building in the city with 20 floors.
The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., features a miniature replica of the Arc de Triomphe sculpted above its gaudy main marquee. And the staircase in the grand lobby was fashioned after the one found at the Paris Opera.
Legend has it that Judy Garland owes her name to the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. In 1932, during the World's Fair, a Chicago reporter referred to Garland's act, the Gumm Sisters, as the Glumm sisters. That was enough for the legendary singer-actress to change her name - right before going onstage at the Oriental. And at this theater, by the way, the gaudy decor features images of more than 50 exotic animals.
There are two gorgeous brass chandeliers in the lobby at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., that until recently were obscured with white paint. This was deliberate - the intent was to prevent them from being melted down and used as part of the World War II effort. The Cadillac Palace, by the way, housed the world premieres of both the current smash Broadway musical, "The Producers" and, many years prior, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," starring Carol Channing