CHICAGO -- Garth Drabinsky, C.E.O. of Livent Inc, announced Mar. 2 that the old Oriental Theatre, one of the jewels in the North Loop theater complex, will reopen this fall with Ragtime and a new name: "The Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre." Formerly a vaudeville house and Balaban and Katz movie palace, the grand old Oriental had fallen into disrepair since the late 1970s. Currently in the midst of a Livent-sponsored restoration, the Ford/Oriental is scheduled to reopen Oct. 27 with a second staging of Ragtime by Chicago's own Frank Galati.
Drabinsky made the announcement Mar. 2 at the Oriental, and Playbill On-Line was there. With eight months to go until the first preview, the theater has much renovation still to undergo, financed in part by a $17 million grant from the City of Chicago.
Its most interesting aspect is the annexation of an adjoining landmark building, whose carefully excavated innards will supply an additional depth of 30 feet to the Ford's capacious 118-foot wide stage.