From Disney World to Dollywood, entertaining theater can be found throughout the U.S. But some cities and regions are especially known as theater hotspots. Whether your students are interested in magic, comedy or show tunes, this sampling of theater destinations will provide some valuable itinerary ideas:
Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World features Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, a lavish, 25-minute Broadway-style musical. Animatronic animal characters star in shows like Country Bear’s Jamboree and The Enchanted Tiki Room at the Magic Kingdom. Downtown Disney is home to Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba production in a theater that seats over 1,500. The only Cirque du Soleil resident show in Florida offers an out-of-this-world experience.
If Disney is not on your to-do list, Universal Orlando Resort has shows for visitors of all ages. Examples are the comical Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue at Universal Studios and the stunt-filled Eighth Voyage of Sindbad at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. For night-time entertainment, consider The Blue Man Group at Universal’s Sharp AQUOS Theatre.
Outside of the theme parks, Arabian Nights is Orlando’s No. 1 dinner attraction. A magic genie narrates a show filled with thrilling music and stunts performed on horseback. The show takes place in the Palace of Horses, the world’s largest indoor equestrian arena for a permanent show. If your group is looking for a truly interactive experience, Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show involves guests in solving a murder mystery. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity during hors d’oeuvres, formulate questions with your table over dinner and interrogate detectives to get to the bottom of this whodunit.
The Windy City is a hotspot for entertainment, and theater is no exception. From improv shows to Broadway classics, Chicago has plenty to offer. Spots such as Second City and ComedySportz pay tribute to Chicago’s reputation for improvisational comedy. Second City just debuted a new performance space with restaurant seating.
If your group wants a taste of the old Mafia days of Al Capone, get tickets to Tommy Gun’s Garage, a long-running, interactive dinner show located in a “speakeasy” that features music and dancing from the Roaring Twenties.
See popular Broadway classics such as Cats or Les Miserables, plus current Broadway hits, on the stages of the Oriental, Cadillac Palace, Bank of America and Auditorium theaters in Chicago’s Loop, plus current Broadway hits. Chicago is also home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Blue Man Group continues to pack in crowds at the Briar Street Theatre on the North Side.
Los Angeles, California
Referred to as “Creative Capital of the World,” it is no wonder that Los Angeles has a booming theater scene. Broadway hits like Anything Goes, Chicago and Jersey Boys can be seen on one of L.A.’s many stages.
For a magic spectacular, Intimate Illusions will deliver. Watch magician Ivan Amodei mystify the audience using tricks of magic and illusion. Visit the Kodak Theatre to see Cirque du Soleil’s Iris: A Journey through the World of Cinema.
The Los Angeles Music Center ranks in the top three largest performing arts centers in the nation. Comprised of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theater, Mark Taper Forum and Walt Disney Concert Hall, the center is always bustling. For dinner and a show, take part in the Dinner Detective, America’s largest murder mystery comedy dinner show.
Branson, the “Live Music Show Capital of the World,” boasts more than 50 theaters. From country to rock ’n’ roll, Branson has something for everyone. For side-splitting laughter, get tickets to the Jim Stafford Show, 3 Redneck Tenors or Baldknobbers Jamboree Show. Baldknobbers has been running for over 50 years and performs country’s golden oldies to today’s top hits. Presleys’ Country Jubilee Show is another show to put on the group’s “don’t miss” list. Credited as Branson’s first country music theater, the show blends bluegrass, gospel and comedy for a fun-filled time.
For a spiritual theater experience, be sure to visit Sight and Sound Theater, which has been called the “Christian Broadway.” Sight and Sound presents jaw-dropping set designs, incredible special effects and inspiring music selections on its 300-foot wraparound stage. Joseph plays from April 14-Dec. 29, 2012.
Showing at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, Legends in Concert is a live tribute show bringing legends such as Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley back to the stage. Acrobats of China and The Legend of Kung Fu are two unexpected gems in the Branson area. Acrobats of China, put on by the New Shanghai Circus, showcases performers defying the limits of balance, contortion and magic. The Legend of Kung Fu was featured as the opening for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and continues to awe audiences with its heart-warming story and mystical movement.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
This vacationland in the Smoky Mountains has Southern charm and shows galore. Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features live entertainment from gospel to classic rock. After your group has exhausted the coasters and shops at the park, sit back and relax for one of the many shows including Country Crossroads and Dreamlands Drive-In. Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner attractions combines a meal and a show filled with music, drama and equestrian stunts.
Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud is a dinner show that will provide “feud’n, feast’n family fun.” In the show, the Hatfields and McCoys are family rivals but somehow end up at the same barn dance. Enjoy a traditional Southern meal while laughing and signing along with the performers. For the early bird groups, the award-winning Country Breakfast Jamboree featuring the Blackwoods is filled with comedy, patriotic tributes and inspirational music
At Comedy Barn Theater the shows are focused on family-friendly comedy with performers that can even do magic and breathe fire. Smoky Mountain Opry is a newly renovated theater that stages music from the 1940s to today. Also popular is the Smith Family Dinner Theater, which presents a wholesome variety show with country, gospel and other music.