Must-See Theater and Music in Minnesota This Summer
By Amy Rea
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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. The 2022-2023 seasons wraps up in August 2023, with the 2023-2024 beginning in September.
Into the Woods (June 17-August 13), legendary composer Stephen Sondheim’s revisionist exploration of classic fairy tales.
Shane (July 15-August 27), based on the classic Jack Schaefer Western novel that was later made into a movie starring Alan Ladd. The Guthrie commissioned the script from playwright Karen Zacarias, who reimagined the classic Western plot and tropes with Latino and Cuban characters.
The Importance of Being Earnest (September 9-October 15), Oscar Wilde’s classic farce in which two gentlemen create fictitious people that help them avoid annoying social obligations.
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:
Jagged Little Pill (August 8-13), the award-winning musical based on Alanis Morrisette’s now-classic 1990s album.
Beetlejuice (September 19-24), the musical version of the much-beloved Michael Keaton classic movie about the ghost with the most.
Coming Up at the State Theatre:
Kansas: Another Fork in the Road 50th Anniversary Tour (July 14), the classic rock band returns to celebrate its 50th year with performances of fan favorites like “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry on Wayward Son.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race – Werq the World Tour 2023 (August 1), billed as the world’s largest drag production and featuring various finalists from RuPaul’s Drag Race season 15. (Ages 18 and older)
Bluey’s Big Play (September 2-3), which brings the Emmy Award-winning children’s TV series into real life.
Coming Up at the Pantages Theatre:
Pod Meets World: The Kids Wanna Jump! Tour (July 20) brings the hugely popular trio from the podcast “Pod Meets World” onto a live stage to poke fun at themselves from their days of Boy Meets World.
Golden Girls—The Laughs Continue (August 2-6), finds Miami’s most hilarious residents up to all kinds of hijinks.
Nicole Byer (September 16), the comedian, actress, and host of the Netflix series Nailed it!
Coming up at Dudley Riggs Theatre:
It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Stupidity (now through August 5), a revue roasting the ways Minnesotans try to manage the all-too-short summer season combined with the never-ending road construction season.
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.
Stravinsky’s Firebird (July 21-22), a reimagining of the classic Stravinsky ballet, The Firebird, combined with a newly choreographed piece presented by BRKFST Dance Company based on composer Daniel Bernard Roumain’s Dancers, Dreamers and Presidents, written in honor of a dance between Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres in 2007.
Dessa with the Minnesota Orchestra (August 3-5), in which singer/songwriter Dessa returns for an ever-popular reunion with the Minnesota Orchestra.
Sondergard Conducts Strauss and Mozart (September 21-23). New Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Thomas Sondergard revisit a spectacular previous collaboration on the music of Richard Strauss while adding Mozart’s Oboe Concerto.
The Cowles Center
The Cowles Center focuses on dance in its myriad forms — everything from classical to international to modern.
Sampradaya (July 1), Cowles Center’s final production of its 2022-23 season, focuses on the South Indian dance form Bharatanatyam, combining signature choreographic works with live music.
This beautiful, historic building on the University of Minnesota’s East Bank promotes all manner of live performances, from dance to comedy to music.
Wayne Marshall OBE, Organist (July 7) brings the acclaimed British conductor and organist to Minnesota where attendees can discover why he was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 2021.
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. The third-quarter months are quieter for the theater as it pauses before beginning its robust late-fall season.
Ordway Inside out: Finding Her Beat (July 15), a celebration of the superstars of Taiko drumming, performed in Rice Park.
Ordway Inside Out: The Song Poet (August 11), a collaboration between the Minnesota Opera and Theater Mu.
THE FITZGERALD THEATER
St. Paul’s historic gem near the MPR headquarters hosts a myriad of events each year.
Shawn Phillips (July 7). Legendary singer/songwriter Shawn Phillips brings his ever-evolving musical persona to the Fitzgerald.
Bored Teachers We Can’t Make This Stuff Up! Comedy Tour (August 11). These teacher-comedians have been viewed hundreds of millions of times on the internet, and now they bring the comedy to St. Paul live.
Justin Willman Magic for Humans in Person Tour (September 22). The star and creator of the Netflix series "Magic for Humans" combines mind-blowing magic with gut-busting hilarity.
Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
This beautiful convention center houses ballrooms and a concert hall that showcases the local symphony and touring Minnesota Ballet.
Trampled by Turtles with Jenny Lewis (July 8). The beloved Minnesota bluegrass band teams with indie powerhouse Jenny Lewis for an evening of varied and beautiful music.
Jurassic Park in Concert (August 19). The Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra will perform the Jurassic Park soundtrack live while the movie plays for viewers.
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.
Lorrie Morgan (July 7), one of the leading ladies of the Grand Ole Opry, brings her powerhouse vocals and songwriting talents to Rochester.
Sex n’ the City: A (Super Unauthorized) Musical Parody (August 11) brings Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte back into focus—and as the subject of satire.
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.
Godspell 2012 Revised Version (June 30-July 5) is the popular pop-rock musical retelling of the gospels related to Christ.
Greater Tuna (July 14-22), a hilarious send-up of small-town morals and mores set in Texas’ third-smallest town.
Elf the Musical (July 26-August 5), the musical stage version of the beloved Will Farrell holiday movie about Buddy, who learns he’s a human who was raised as an elf.
Amy Rea is the author of several Minnesota guidebooks and writes about Minnesota food for Heavy Table. She grew up in northern Minnesota and now makes her home in the Twin Cities.
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