Byline: Lisa Bertagnoli

You had to be there. Really.
One chilly night last fall, the Goodman Theatre in downtown Chicago was the scene of the most talked-about social event in years: the inaugural gala and ball for the Goodman’s new theater building, a project 12 years in the making.
The $1,000-per-plate event attracted 856 of Chicago’s movers and shakers, as well as established and up-and-coming socialites. “There’s a lot of money in this room,” commented one sequin-clad matron, taking in the crowd as guests settled into their seats for a performance by Bernadette Peters.The event raised more than $1 million for the theater.
Among the attendees were Mayor Richard M. Daley and his wife, Maggie; John Bryan and Richard L. Thomas, honorary chairs; James Annable and Carol Prins, gala co-chairs; Robert Falls, Goodman artistic director; Roche Schulfer, executive director; Lewis Manilow and Irving J. Markin, the building campaign co-chairs.
Also present: Albert Ivar Goodman, scion of the founding Goodman family and namesake of the 850-seat main theater; Sondra Healy, Goodman board chairman, and Peter C.B. Bynoe, the theater planning chair.
The evening, sponsored by Bank One, began in the theater building with cocktails and remarks by Falls and Bank One Chairman and chief executive officer Jamie Dimon, who recently relocated to Chicago from New York. “Chicago is like New York — without the New Yorkers,” he joked.
The performance by Peters, complete with Broadway show tunes and between-song patter, fittingly christened the new stage, said Carol Prins. “You saw the actress side of her,” said Prins.
After the show, guests paraded to an 18,000-square-foot tent, decorated in a palette of soft reds and oranges. The tent boasted 10,000 roses, hand-opened and arranged in bunches of 75 in Italian crystal vases. Sunset-colored Thai silk covered the tables, and places were set with gold-flecked chargers.
Uptempo music by MASS Ensemble, a Chicago-based group of musicians who played suspended from the tent’s poles, entertained guests as they made their way to their seats. The Doug Lawrence orchestra provided music for dinner and dancing, which lasted until well after midnight.
“I thought it was perfection, if I say so myself,” said Prins of the gala, which took more than a year to plan. “The other wonderful part was that no one was selling anything — there was no raffle or auction,” she added. “There was nothing to do but have a great time.”
The new Goodman Theatre, a $46 million project, is at 170 North Dearborn on the site of the former Garrick and Woods theaters and Harris and Selwyn theaters. It is meant to anchor what the city hopes will soon be a bustling theater district.
Upcoming productions at the Goodman include “House” and “Garden” by Alan Ayckbourn, running until March 4; James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner,” opening March 16, and “Drowning Crow,” by Regina Taylor, opening April 27. For ticket information call 312-443-3800.