'A Mad Hatter Affair' in Palatine sends guests through the looking glass for immersive dining experience

Ready to go through the looking glass?

Tucked away in a nondescript strip mall in Palatine, Chicago Theatrical Productions has transformed The Cosmopolitan event space at 1170 E. Dundee Road into Wonderland for “A Mad Hatter Affair,” an interactive, theatrical dining event that runs until March 3.

“We wanted to make a really immersive experience where guests can be part of the Wonderland world,” said creative director Shoni Comrov.

The 90-minute experience takes you into the world of Lewis Carroll's classic book via the integration of theater, dining and art design.

The space features a dining area and stage surrounded by scenes inspired by the story of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. Forest scenes, an oversized chess board and flamingo croquet give guests plenty of photo ops. A full bar illuminated by a glowing “It was all a dream” sign serves specialty cocktails with names like Through the Looking Glass and Smoking Hookah Caterpillar.

When guests arrive they can stop at the bar for drinks and interact with the space and take photos and meet some of the cast of characters, which includes the rabbit, the Cheshire cat, the King and Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.

“The audience is Alice,” Comrov said.

When it's time to not be late for that very important date, guests are ushered to their seats for the 40-minute show and dinner.

“It's very interactive,” Comrov said. “They pick people from the audience. We do a mock trial where someone loses their head. We do an un-birthday song, and it changes with the actors.”

Because there are so many shows — the current schedule includes two shows on Friday and three each on Saturday and Sunday — some of the actors will change during the run of the production. The different actors each bring something different to the show, so it will change during the course of the run.

This is the maiden event for Chicago Theatrical Productions, which held their first dinner Nov. 17.

Comrov's partner rented the space for a new events business. Knowing that it takes time to book events out, Comrov came up with the idea for “A Mad Hatter Affair” to fill the time until spring events.

“Honestly my theater background is just that I love musicals and shows, but with this I'm more into the food,” she said. “I wanted to create a whole immersive theatrical dining experience. And I've always loved Wonderland.”

She teamed up with a group of artists to transform the space and hired a group of actors, many of whom are regulars at Six Flags' Fright Fest.

She said seeing people's reaction to their experience on the first night was “amazing.”

“I was like, wow, this actually worked,” she said. “It was really, really cool.”

Comrov originally wanted the experience to be a high tea, but the feedback from the first few productions wasn't great.

“People thought the portions were too small,” she said. “So the chef created the three-course menu we have now, and it will probably change as we go.”

The menu includes a round of appetizers including soups, salads, cheeseburger sliders and hummus and pita bread that are brought out for each party to share. Guests then choose an entree from a list that includes chicken Marsala, fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti with marinara sauce. A dessert plate with an assortment of mini desserts, including petite pastries, chocolate truffles, fruit tarts and other sweet treats, finishes off the meal. Water and tea are served with the meal, and a full bar has drinks for purchase including the themed cocktails, beer, wine and soda.

All the shows are all-ages, though the earlier shows are geared toward families, Comrov said. General admission tickets are $55 for adults and $45 for kids 16 and younger. VIP tickets, which get you in earlier and guarantee front-row seats, are $10 more.

A calendar with available seatings can be found at

“The people who have come have had a great time,” Comrov said. “It makes me so happy because I just want to create really cool places for people to come and have a magical experience.”

Chicago Theatrical Productions is presenting "A Mad Hatter Affair," a theatrical, immersive, three-course dining experience at The Cosmopolitan in Palatine. Courtesy of Chicago Theatrical Productions
  Front-row tables surround a stage and runway for Chicago Theatrical Productions' presentation of "A Mad Hatter Affair" at The Cosmopolitan in Palatine. Rick West/
  An oversized chess board is among the many Wonderland sights you'll find at "A Mad Hatter Affair." Rick West/
  You can play flamingo croquet at "A Mad Hatter Affair" in Palatine. Rick West/
"A Mad Hatter Affair" in Palatine immerses guests in all things "Alice in Wonderland." Courtesy of Chicago Theatrical Productions
  The bar at The Cosmopolitan in Palatine has been transformed in to a Wonderland based on the Lewis Carroll book. Rick West/
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