UPTOWN — Kiss Kiss Cabaret isn't just bringing its once-a-week act to Uptown. The producers behind the hit burlesque show said they are opening a "retro-themed adult entertainment venue," called the Uptown Underground in the fall.
Uptown Underground will be located in a 7,000-square-foot basement-level space at the Uptown Broadway Building, 4707 N. Broadway.
Kiss Kiss Cabaret producers Jenn A. Kincaid and Chris O. Biddle said the "speakeasy-style space" will have a full bar, a 150-seat main stage and a 50- to 60-seat cabaret stage inside the terra cotta-coated 1920s building.
The building is the former site of the popular Equator Nightclub and is rumored to be a former Al Capone speakeasy.
The venue will be open, eventually, seven nights a week, offering patrons burlesque, comedy, music, dance performances and variety shows in the spirit of vaudeville, Kincaid said. Kiss Kiss Cabaret will perform on Fridays and Saturdays, while hosting other acts throughout the week.
They want to present, Kincaid said, “a very old, historical form of entertainment in a new way.”
“What we really wanted to focus on was vaudeville and cabaret as a main stage event,” Kincaid said.
Vaudeville was a form of variety entertainment last popular in the country in the 1920s. A vaudeville show might feature anything from singers, musicians and dancers to acrobats, puppets and comedians.
Uptown is home to a building that was a big part of Chicago’s vaudeville scene. The Wilson Avenue Theater was one of Uptown's first big venues when it opened in 1909, showing two vaudeville shows a night. Developer Jay Michael's real estate firm Flats Chicago bought the building, most recently a former bank, with plans to transform it into an arts and entertainment venue featuring a restaurant or bar.
Kincaid and Biddle's plans, like Michaels', are attempts at capitalizing on officials’ push to improve Uptown’s arts and entertainment scene.
“I specifically went after Uptown because of the arts initiative they have going on there. I really like what [Ald. James] Cappleman is doing,” Kincaid said.”I believe that Uptown has historically been a very art-centric neighborhood, and I think it still needs to be.”
Biddle said that when he and Kincaid founded Kiss Kiss Cabaret three years ago, the plan, was always for him and Kincaid to “have our own theater space.”
He praised Cappleman for connecting him and Kincaid with Thaddeus Wong, owner of the Uptown Broadway Building, co-owner of real estate firm @properties and a partner in the Uptown Underground Venture.
Wong "had a venue he wanted to put a theater company in, and we were an entity looking for a space to move into,” Biddle said. “This space and this partnership completely exceeds our expectations, anything we ever dreamed we could have for ourselves.”
But right now, “it’s a raw space,” Kincaid said.
“It needs to be completely built out,” she said. “At this stage we’re assuming that the buildout will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $220,000.”
She said a fundraising campaign will launch Feb. 1 because “we are going to need some extra assistance.”
The Kiss Kiss Cabaret producers said they are planning a six-week soft opening in the fall before an official grand opening celebration that will feature “big name talent,” and build momentum for special Halloween- and holiday-themed shows in subsequent months.
The duo has been “quietly courting,” a few other theater companies around town who are still locked in leases at their current locations, said Biddle, who didn’t want to go public about who he is pursuing quite yet.
He did say the Belmont Burlesque Revue has a deal with Uptown Underground to perform at the space as a resident troupe and that he is in talks with the Chicago Cabaret Professionals about having the company produce shows.
Kincaid and Biddle will also produce shows featuring comedian Adam Burke, Biddle said.