Must-See Theater and Music in Minnesota This Spring
Must-See Theater and Music in Minnesota This Spring
By Amy Rea
Minnesota has an incredibly strong performing arts community. Venues range from venerable institutions to community-oriented startups and summer stock theaters.
At just about any time of the year, people can find noteworthy performances, including touring Broadway shows, locally written and produced dramas, concerts from regional and international musicians, modern and traditional dance routines, and standup routines from rising and reputable comedians.
Here's an overview of essential live settings throughout the state, along with some key programming in the current and upcoming arts season.
The Guthrie Theater
A world-class theater that’s well-known across the country, the Guthrie is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary. It was originally part of the Walker Art Center complex but moved into its own building on the Mississippi River in 2006. Its dramatic Jean Nouvel design is worth visiting for its widescreen views of the river and Stone Arch Bridge, along with multiple theaters that allow the company latitude to stage a wide range of works, from classics to comedies to experimental theater.
Hamlet (April 8-May 23), considered by many to be Shakespeare’s ultimate masterpiece.
Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (May 13-July 2), which finds master detective Hercule Poirot on the case for an onboard murder.
Into the Woods (June 17-Aug. 13), legendary composer Stephen Sondheim’s revisionist exploration of classic fairy tales.
Hennepin Theatre Trust
The Trust is comprised of three historic venues: the Orpheum, State, Pantages and Dudley Riggs theaters. Together, they showcase touring Broadway troupes, a wide range of musical acts, and side-splitting comedy shows.
Coming Up at the Orpheum Theatre:
- Hamilton (April 4-May 6), the groundbreaking musical focused on the previously ignored founding father, Alexander Hamilton.
- Seal Presented by Live Nation (May 19), a 30th-anniversary celebration of the storied British singer.
- Tootsie (June 20-25), the musical version of the beloved Dustin Hoffman movie comedy.
Coming Up at the State Theatre:
- John Mellencamp: Live and In Person (April 6-8), the classic rock singer arrives for a three-night series of concerts.
- Heather McMahan: The Comeback Tour (April 14), the return of comedian and podcaster Heather McMahon.
Coming Up at the Pantages Theatre:
- The Monkees Celebrated by Mickey Dolenz (April 29), part of a national tour tied to the Headquarters box set.
- Samantha Bee: Your Favorite Woman (May 12), a new live show from the longtime Daily Show correspondent and former host of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
Coming up at Dudley Riggs Theatre:
- Smelling Elon’s Musk (now through May 20), sketch comedy exploring what happens when you let Tesla take the wheel.
Orchestra Hall is home to the internationally renowned Minnesota Orchestra, which performs classical and contemporary pieces, often with such genre-jumping guest stars as Minneapolis’s own Dessa and the St. Cloud-based indie band Cloud Cult.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Concert (April 21-23), the wildly popular Star Wars film with its soundtrack performed live by the Minnesota Orchestra.
- VocalEssence: Singing the World Awake (May 12), an evening focused on global music with the renowned choral group VocalEssence.
- A Night in the Tropics (June 3), in which the Minnesota Orchestra highlights music from Brazil, Cuba, Hawaii, and more.
- James Ehnes and Beethoven’s Seventh (June 16), the orchestra’s official season finale with noted conductor Sir Andrew Davies.
- Juneteenth: Celebration of Freedom (June 23), a program of celebration and remembrance highlighting three centuries of African-American composers.
The Cowles Center
The Cowles Center focuses on dance in its myriad forms — everything from classical to international to modern.
- Black Label Movement’s Wreck (April 15-16, 21-23), an original dance and musical composition dramatizing how people trapped in a sinking ship respond to their plight.
- The MIXTAPE Collective Presents MIXTAPE 6: Cypherspace (May 6-7), a futuristic performance examining the possibilities of the next millennium.
This beautiful, historic building on the University of Minnesota’s East Bank promotes all manner of live performances, from dance to comedy to music.
- Pilobolus: BIG FIVE-OH! (April 15), celebrating the 50th anniversary of the company dance company.
- GTCYS Symphony Celebrating Dean Billmeyer (April 18), spotlighting the work of long-time U of MN organist and professor of music, Dean Billmeyer, in collaboration with the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies.
- The State Ballet of Georgia (April 26), led by a former prima ballerina with the Bolshoi, Royal, and American Ballet and including two works by George Balanchine.
Theatre in the Round
Minneapolis’ longest-running theater has the unique attribute of having a stage in the middle of its main room surrounded by viewers. It is also one of the state’s oldest community theaters, with a season that’s split between classic and contemporary plays.
- True West (April 21-May 14), a darkly comedic family drama by Sam Shepard.
- Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood (June 9-July 2), a "brightly colored, lighthearted take on the legend" according to the San Diego Union-Tribune (most appropriate for ages 8 and older).
St. Paul’s jewel of a performance space is beautifully located across from Rice Park and the St. Paul Hotel. It is home to the Minnesota Opera and hosts Broadway tours, concerts and dance performances.
- Sang Yoon Kim Plays Crusell’s Second Clarinet Concerto (April 14), two performances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
- Don Giovanni (May 6-21), the Mozart masterpiece staged by the Minnesota Opera.
- Lightwire Theater’s The Adventures of Tortoise and Hare: The Next Gen (June 3), two performances of a family-friendly sequel to the Aesop fable including music, smart phones, and video games.
- The ReMINDers (June 3, two performances), a duo blending soulful sounds with roots music and insightful lyrics.
Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
This beautiful convention center houses ballrooms and a concert hall that showcases the local symphony and touring Minnesota Ballet.
- Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra Masterworks VI (April 15), including music by Hans Rott, Edward Elgar, and Anton Bruckner.
- Foreigner: The Greatest Hits Tour (May 9), featuring many of the well-known band’s biggest hits, including "Cold As Ice" and "Feels Like the First Time."
- Hippo Campus with Miloe and papa mbye (June 24), the Minnesota-based indie music darlings perform at Bayfront Festival Park.
Mayo Civic Center
The home of the Rochester Civic Theatre Company has both performance and exhibit spaces within its 120,000-square-foot space, a major stop for touring musicians and live events in Southern Minnesota.
- The Whosoever Tour with Rend Collective (April 1), a Christian folk band from Northern Island.
- Joe Gatto’s Night of Comedy (April 23), a showcase of the comedian known for the TV shows Impractical Jokers and The Misery Index.
- Dino Ranch Live (June 11), a live-action version of the popular Disney Junior show.
Paul Bunyan Playhouse
Housed in the historic Chief Theater in Bemidji, the Paul Bunyan Playhouse is the oldest professional summer stock theater in Minnesota and offers a wide variety of productions each summer.
- Shout! The Mod Musical (June 2-4, 7-10), a music and dance revue centered on hits from the '60s.
- The Play That Goes Wrong (June 16-18, 21-24), a 1920s comedy/mystery that’s described as part Monty Python, part Sherlock Holmes.