Published May 15, 2018
Across the Midwest, sophisticated cities and charming small towns present a treasure trove of entertainment. From Broadway productions to community theater, live bands to solo singer-songwriter performances, the Midwest caters to every preference. Big-city venues, historic opera houses, outdoor amphitheaters and festivals host a variety of shows.
From Wisconsin to Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri, you’ll find a full calendar of possibilities that can spice up any group itinerary.
In Kansas City, theater is well represented with more than 65 performing arts venues. Jazz heritage comes alive in the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District. Summer brings Broadway shows to outdoor Starlight Theatre and the annual Heart of America Shakespeare Festival to Southmoreland Park. Kansas City is the second home of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Rising dramatically in the downtown skyline, the $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts contains two performance halls, one featuring a Casavant Frères pipe organ with 5,548 pipes. The building’s glass roof cascades into a 65-foot-high by 320-foot-wide glass wall that affords expansive views of the Crossroads Art District.
Branson has more theater seats than New York City’s Broadway district. At Sight and Sound Theatre, the biblical drama “Samson” comes to life with special effects and live animals, onstage and in the aisles. The Showboat Branson Belle cruises Table Rock Lake and features three-course lunches and dinners while passengers watch a new variety show accompanied by a live band. On Branson stages, national touring acts this year include Trace Adkins; Herman’s Hermits, starring Peter Noone; Charley Pride; Vicki Lawrence and Mama; and many more.
The annual Milwaukee Film Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall from October 18 to November 1 and garners attention as one of the top Midwest film festivals, with more attendees than Sundance. East of downtown, the 1927 Oriental Theatre is under renovation and will reopen in late summer showcasing its East Indian decor. Foreign and independent films will be shown day and night on three screens. Downtown in a renovated warehouse, 88 Nine Radio Milwaukee shares space with local Stone Creek Coffee and hosts acts on Thursday nights.
In Madison, the Overture Center for the Arts houses 10 resident companies and seven performance spaces and has a full calendar of national and international touring artists and Broadway performers. Originally built as a baseball stadium and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Breese Stevens Field schedules a popular outdoor concert series.
In Wisconsin Dells, the Palace Theater that produces family-style Broadway musicals, Disney classics and concerts accompanied by gourmet, table-service dining. And the Rick Wilcox Magic Show has been bringing Vegas-style illusions to audiences in a 550-seat theater for almost 20 years.
“Groups can motorcoach from Madison to Milwaukee and the Dells, which makes a nice trip in southern Wisconsin, since they’re all less than two hours apart,” said Kristina LeVan, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.