The Great Fire Chicago of 1871 inspire a play at Lookingglass Theatre

“The Great Fire” is the newest production at The Lookinglass Theatre in the Waterworks Building on Michigan Avenue. If you don’t know, these buildings are just a few of the buildings that were not destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The fire started buying on October 8th, 1871 destroying 4 square miles of Chicago, burning the neighborhoods now known as the Loop, River North, Streeterville, & the Near North. The fire burned the site where the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago – Downtown now stands.

To commemorate the 140th anniversary of that tragedy, Lookinglass member John Musian has reworked his 1999 play. Expecting pure tragedy, I was quite surprised at the many humorous numbers interspersed in the story. That is not to say that this is a lighthearted comedy, at it’s heart the show still tells the story of the fire that claimed hundreds of lives of the young city of Chicago. You will learn the fate of two families: the family of a rich & highly influential judge & poor immigrant family. Needless the say, the fire does not discriminate.  You will learn that the phrase “fiery red-head” will take on a whole new meaning as you see a young redhead as the personification of the fire. She torments her victims with dance, fighting & choking them with smoke. This abstract way to show the fire gives some interest in the story even showing a very interesting “death waltz.”

I would highly recommend this show to history buffs (I learned a few new facts about the fire). The show is even more enjoyable if you are familiar with either the fire of Chicago history. I would say kids as young as 10 would also understand and enjoy the show. Running about an hour & 30 minutes with no intermission, you will be surprised how quickly the show is paced. Through November 20th, you can buy tickets at the Lookingglass Theatre.

Just a 15 minute walk from the hotel, the Water Works & Water Tower are a Chicago landmark are work a look. The Chicago’s Visitor Information Center is even located in the Pump House along with the theatre & the still in use pump, pumping in the city’s drinking water.  The tower is the 2nd oldest waterpower in the US. From a time when public buildings were built not just for their use, but as an icon for civic pride.

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