February 23, 2024

All the North’s a Stage

A Summer of Live! Productions
By Joseph Beyer | May 28, 2022

From the early glam days of the Cherry County Players to the traveling tours from Broadway, our northern Michigan home has always been a rich and friendly place for the arts. With an almost dizzying array of musicals, plays, opera, and dance available to inspire you this summer, you won’t have to look far to discover something special.

Whether you love thought-provoking dramas or the laid-back escapism and connection with audiences that only the performing arts can provide, all you need for a great outing is to keep a couple blankets and camp chairs in the back of the car (and to book seats early if the events are ticketed).

Pro-Tips: Monitor outdoor events on Facebook for the latest info on weather impact, always bring your own reusable water bottles, and help organizers out by leaving no trace behind you. Explore and try something new! Our vibe up here is casual and cool during the summer, where you can head from the docks to the opera with sand still in your shoes.

Old Town Playhouse
Known as OTP by fans and locals (and celebrating their monumental 62nd season), this community nonprofit in downtown Traverse City hosts the last performances of the hit musical Chicago June 2-4 and 9-11. oldtownplayhouse.com

City Opera House
Fans of The Temptations can travel with other locals June 11 down to Michigan State University for a performance of the award-winning musical Ain’t Too Proud as part of the organization’s Broadway Bound! experience. Back here downtown, the historic venue will host the play Tuesdays with Morrie—based on the best-selling book celebrating 25 years this summer—for six performances Aug. 10-14. cityoperahouse.org

Parallel 45 Theatre
Returning to the Grand Traverse County Civic Center Park for their 12th season, P45 takes familiar stories and revisits them with new perspectives and ideas. Such will be the case with their outdoor repertory summer season of Cabaret opening June 30, a feminine-driven take on The Crucible opening July 14, and Alice: A Rock Musical opening July 28 created by the company’s youth theater project as inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll. The nonprofit company combines local artists with visiting professionals, and also hosts summer camps and educational programs for kids. parallel45.org

Great Lakes Center for the Arts
The world-class performance venue within sight of the “Big Lake” in Bay Harbor opens their original production of the international hit Godspell June 30 and running through July 2, marking their introduction to not only hosting traveling shows and companies, but also now producing their own. greatlakescfa.org

Interlochen Center for the Arts
Surrounded by nature and returning to live performances for the first time in two years, the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival presents Othello on July 1-2 and 8-9 at the Upton-Morley Pavilion, an enduring story of green-eyed jealousy, betrayal, and prejudice. interlochen.org

Mashup Rock and Roll Musical
Easily the most wonderfully weird of the bunch is “The Mashup” which premieres their Shakesqueer summer musical A Midsummer Night’s California Dream Aug. 4-13 at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center Park Amphitheatre. The nonprofit company’s signature collision-esque-style will combine vintage Cali musical stylings with a reimagined take on a classic comedic romp about the perils of love and the power of transformation. mashuprockandrollmusical.com

Pilobolus: Big Five, Oh! at Great Lakes Center for the Arts
For one performance only on July 23 in Bay Harbor, the rebellious and storied dance company Pilobolus celebrates 50 years with a new touring show of shadow play, connected bodies, and classics from their repertoire. The company has toured in over 65 countries and collaborates internationally with brands and organizations to create performances for film, television, and live events.

Traverse City Dance Project
Now in its 10th season, TCDP hits Michigan roads again with their multi-city “Community Tour” featuring traveling concert experiences with stops in Frankfort (ticketed July 21), Kalkaska (free July 23), Maple City (ticketed July 30), Traverse City’s Historic Barns Park (ticketed August 2), and Bellaire (ticketed Aug 3 with Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology). The nonprofit company combines dance, theater, and music featuring local and visiting artists who strive to elevate the role of dance in our culture. tcdanceproject.org

Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts
Opera fans can unite June 11 for a special live-presentation of Brett Dean in Hamlet when the historic Manistee nonprofit hosts The Met Opera live-streamed in HD in their gorgeous turn of the century theater, built in 1902. ramsdelltheatre.org

Traverse City Opera
The new cool kids on the arts block debuted this past spring to a sold-out crowd at the restored Kirkbride Hall where the acoustics and selections ignited an audience that had waited years for this kind of live event. Organizers have since only teased their summer season announcement, promising new intimate opera events in July and August that will continue to pair accessible professional opera with unique venues across the region. traversecityopera.org

Bay View Music Festival presents Puccini’s La Bohème
Hosted by the Great Lakes Center for the Arts this fully staged production of Puccini’s classic will be performed with chamber orchestra by the conservatory voice program of the Bay View Music Festival. Two performances only on Aug. 2 and 3.


Great Lakes Center for the Arts hosts “Lifted Up in Song,” a selection of family-friendly Broadway favorites performed by the Northern Michigan Chorale on June 11 and 12 in Bay Harbor.

Traverse Symphony Orchestra presents “Masterworks in Miniature,” their free summer storytelling and music experiences for families and children. Bring your own chairs for the perfect seats on June 26 in Leeland for “Musical Theater: West Side Story” at the Old Art Building. traversesymphony.org


Story photo courtesy of City Opera House.


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