Tony DeSantis

Last updated
Anthony DeSantis
Born(1914-01-05)January 5, 1914
Died (aged 93)
OccupationTheater Producer
Spouse(s)Lucille Cuzeli DeSantis
ChildrenDeborah DeSantis and Diane DeSantis Van Lente

Anthony DeSantis, KStJ [1] (January 5, 1914 - June 6, 2007) was an American entrepreneur and theater owner in Chicago, Illinois. He is most well known for the foundation of the area's Drury Lane theatres. During DeSantis' lifetime, his empire included six separate theaters. [2]


Life and career

DeSantis was born in Gary, Indiana, and began his career in show business as a trumpet player in Chicago. In 1935, he was nearly killed in an explosion at the Glidden paint factory where he was working. In 1940, he purchased a club on Michigan Avenue before moving out of Chicago to nearby Evergreen Park, where he opened the Martinique Restaurant, which was highly acclaimed. [3] He began producing plays in 1949 in a tent adjacent to the restaurant to attract customers. [4] The enterprise was successful, prompting him to build his first theatre.

Drury Lane Theaters

The DeSantis theatres were named after the historic Theatre Royal Drury Lane, built in London in the 17th century. His five suburban Chicago locations all provided affordable dinner theatre that was appropriate for families. DeSantis claimed that alcohol sales were profitable; if you broke even when operating a theatre, you were successful. [4]

Despite the occasional setback, his Drury Lane Theater empire grew steadily and DeSantis became a wealthy man. He was opposed to Chicago mafia involvement in Chicago show business and in 1958 was involved in an FBI sting against the Chicago mob. This led to a retaliatory explosion in his Martinique nightclub in 1962. [2] In reflecting on his life in 2005, DeSantis said:

"I suppose I could sit on a bench and drink martinis with a starlet on each arm. Nah. I work hard because I am just trying to keep alive." [2]

Honors and awards

In 1971, DeSantis was made an associate Officer of the Venerable Order of Saint John. [6] This was followed in 1980 by a promotion to the rank of associate knight in the same Order. [1] DeSantis was a very generous supporter of Roman Catholic charities in Chicago. Tony DeSantis died on 6 June 2007 at age 93 and his funeral mass was said at Holy Name Cathedral on 18 June 2007. [2]

Post Tony

Tony's grandson, Kyle DeSantis, took over as President of Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook Terrace and Water Tower Place following Tony's death. [3] In 2010, Drury Lane Water Tower Place was taken over by Broadway in Chicago. Significant increases to production budgets has allowed Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook Terrace to modernize the look of the stage, enhance scenic design, add more players to the orchestra pit, secure better costuming, and cast with, as Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune said, “a real eye to excellence,” drawing from both “the very talented, vibrant Chicago theater community” and “a national casting pool.” [7] In 2013, the facility unveiled phase I of its multimillion-dollar renovation, including the 27,000 square foot Grand Ballroom, the Main Lobby and Cocktail Lounge, and the French and English Rooms. Phase 2 will include the renovation of the Courtyard Restaurant and the Theatre Bar. [8]

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  1. 1 2 "No. 48456". The London Gazette . 18 December 1980. pp. 17522–17523.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Jones, Chris: Entrepreneur built Drury Lane empire; hobnobbed with stars
  3. 1 2 New York Times, June 9, 2007 - Anthony De Santis, 93, Theater Owner, Dies
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Abarbanel, Jonathan: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2008-07-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) PerformINK stories: April 29, 2004- Tony DeSantis and His New Drury Lane Theatre
  5. Munson, Nancy: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, June 19, 2003-Wal-Mart to Replace Dinner Theater in Evergreen Park, IL
  6. "No. 45466". The London Gazette . 7 September 1971. pp. 9668–9669.
  7. Cooperman, Jayne: Travel Squire, 2010 - The Music of Something Beginning The Regeneration of Chicago's Drury Lane Theatre
  8. Tomell, Renee: Plan It Life, May 6, 2013 - Makeover reimagines Drury Lane in time for Mother's Day; 'Oliver!' on stage