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Where to find unbeatable live theater experiences

From Broadway shows in historic theatres to lively musicals performed under the open sky, the opportunities for live theater are almost endless.

Stage at American Players Theater
American Players Theater (Credit: Travel Wisconsin)

From Broadway shows in historic theatres to lively plays and musicals performed under the open sky, the opportunities for live theater are almost endless in Mississippi River Country. Here are a few of the best live theater experiences you can find in these 10 states.

Broadway shows in Chicago

You don’t have to go to New York to see a Broadway show—Chicago’s theaters bring Broadway to you. Broadway in Chicago is a theatrical production company that programs touring Broadway productions at five theaters in the city: CIBC Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Auditorium Theatre, and the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. (Those first three theaters are in Chicago’s famed Theatre District, which is also home to the legendary Goodman Theatre.) Recent and upcoming shows at Chicago’s Broadway theaters have included Hamilton, My Fair Lady, Moulin Rouge, Jesus Christ Superstar and more.

American Players Theater

Want an idyllic setting for your next theatrical experience? Head to Spring Green, Wisconsin (about an hour west of the state capital of Madison) to find American Players Theater, a 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater that offers a schedule of nine or so plays every year from June to November. APT’s works generally focus on classics like Shakespere and other classic Western playwrights like Chekhov and Moliere. The theater sits on a 100-acre (40 hectare) parcel of wooded land near the Wisconsin River, just across the highway from legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin studio.

The Muny

Formally the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre—just call it “The Muny” like locals do, though—this 11,000-seat outdoor amphitheater in St. Louis, Missouri’s Forest Park typically presents seven Broadway-style musicals during its summer season, which runs from June through August. The Muny is America’s largest (in terms of capacity) and oldest outdoor musical theater, having celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. The Muny also offers nearly 1,500 free tickets to every performance of their summer season, available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hennepin Avenue

The historic theaters on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota–the Orpheum, State and Pantages–are all part of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, a nonprofit organization that brings Broadway shows and other top-tier entertainment to the Twin Cities. (Fun fact: Hennepin Avenue is known as “Theater Row” because it was once home to as many as 30 music halls and playhouses.) The Orpheum, State and Pantages were all completed in the 1910s and 1920s and have all been restored to their original style while being updated for modern audiences. Hennepin’s theatres have welcomed Broadway shows, concerts, comedy headliners and more—check out their schedule when you’re in town.