Since 1922, this grand, celebrated venue has enchanted audiences and performers alike. This year’s celebratory season shines brighter than ever.
The Dixon Historic Theatre is staging its 100-year milestone with plenty of celebratory flare.
Since March 1922, it has been a beacon of light providing entertainment for many generations within the Sauk Valley community and beyond. Today, it’s stronger than ever.
Its legacy has grown over the years as a result of the determination and commitment of loyal supporters and the City of Dixon.
The Dixon Historic Theatre has remained open for a century, but it was boosted in October 2019 when the Historic Dixon Theatre Group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, took over its ownership and operation under the leadership of Tim Boles, CEO. Their vision has kept the stage lit brightly.
“We experienced a one-year interruption due to the pandemic and held a kickoff season in 2021,” says Scott Fattizzi, theater manager. “But now, we’re very excited for our upcoming second full season, which’ll open with “Menopause the Musical,” a big and popular baby boomer hit, on Sept. 28-29.”
The entertainment schedule is packed with 19 acts that’ll perform through May. On tap are exciting Broadway shows, tribute bands, a stand-up comedian, an illusionist, a country music performer, a popular touring circus and several beloved children’s shows.
The exciting schedule of performances delivers The National Tour of Forever Young, Oct. 7; Abba Mania, Oct. 16; Paul Childers, Oct. 22; Yesterday (Beatles Tribute), Nov. 5; “Annie Jr.,” Nov. 18; “Cinderella,” Dec. 9; and The Prophecy Show (music of TSO), Dec. 30.
In 2023, you’ll find Still Collins, Jan 28; Dragons and Mythical Beasts, Feb. 11; New Shanghai Circus, Feb. 24; Doug Allen Nash, March 11; Yakov Smirnoff, March 24; Head East, April 7; The Adventures of Tortoise and Hare Next Generation, April 23; The Machine, April 28; Under the Street Lamp, May 13; and season closer illusionist Mike Super, May 27.
Find out more about the upcoming season’s ticket information at dixontheatre.com.
“Tickets for this upcoming season are available on The Dixon Historical Theatre website,” says Fattizzi. “As with any entertainment schedule, individual show tickets are on sale. However, we have carefully put together three season ticket plans, including premium, family and concert packages.”
In its long, rich history, The Dixon Historic Theatre has brought top-notch entertainment to the community. Early on, the Rorer Family owned and operated the theater for nearly 30 years. It was, and still is, a grand place with understated elegance. It has gone through ownership changes over the years, operating as a movie house until 1984, when it closed. But in 1985, it once again became a performing arts showcase.
When the Dixon Theatre was built 100 years ago, it cost $200,000, the equivalent of nearly $3 million today. It was designed in an Italian Renaissance style by local architect William J. McAlpine, who was also responsible for the Lee County Courthouse, the Old Post Office and the Dixon National Bank, among other landmarks. It’s constructed with terrazzo and marble tile floors throughout the lobby. The crowning glory of the interior is a large dome in the center of the ceiling with a sky treatment, which retains beautiful acoustics.
At the time of its construction, there was a large stage, an orchestra pit (now covered but accessible from the basement), and a 1924 organ which accompanied the early silent films shown at the theater. Locals also enjoyed vaudeville acts, plays, operas and ballet. Various celebrities graced the stage, too, including comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer and dancer Bob Hope.
One notable event that was held at The Dixon was the premier of “International Squadron,” starring Ronald Reagan, who lived in Dixon from ages 9 to 22.
“History tells us that Ronald Reagan insisted that the movie premier here. The stars of Hollywood came to town with him for the event,” says Fattizzi. “Ronald Reagan ushered here when he was in high school.”
Through the years, audiences enjoyed world-famous entertainment in their backyard.
“It’s been fun because they are so appreciative of all of the offerings we have for them,” Fattizzi says. “Our audiences always respond so positively and are happy to have Broadway tours, music and other performers close to home without having to drive to Chicago or other destinations.”
Fattizzi is thrilled to be with The Dixon Historical Theatre, too. He’s been performing since he was 12 years old and has been involved in a variety of theatrical experiences.
“I’ve been acting and on TV and also worked on the technical and management sides,” he says. “When the opportunity came for us to come to this beautiful theater, my wife, Janice, and I took a leap of faith and moved here from Kentucky where we were living at the time.”
Both of the Fattizzis are deeply involved in many aspects of the theater. Janice oversees the Children’s Theatre Group and serves as the children’s director. It’s here where children ranging from 5 to 18 years old can learn about the art of acting, theater etiquette and production. About 24 kids are involved in the biweekly rehearsals.
Recently, the young performers starred in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof Jr.” They were thrilled when veteran Broadway actor Jimmy Ferraro watched them rehearse and offered his expertise. Ferraro performed more than 3,000 times in the role of Tevye on Broadway’s “Fiddler On The Roof.”
“The experience of our young cast members meeting Ferraro is one they will never forget,” says Fattizzi.
A key component to the theater’s success is the valued support from the City of Dixon, donors and volunteers.
“Our volunteers assist our patrons at all of the shows,” says Fattizzi. “We have a great pool of about 45 people, and they do everything they can to keep all of our performances an exceptional experience for our guests. Our donors help us to ensure we’re able to continue bringing top-quality entertainment to Dixon. We value our partnership with the City of Dixon, too. Their support for us is tremendous.”
To keep this historical theater as the true gem it is, it has undergone some necessary renovations.
“We’ve added new carpeting plus a new theater system and stage deck to get it up to current theatrical standards,” notes Fattizzi. “We’ve re-painted the brick on the outside to bring back the splendor of the past. People have noticed the difference.”