Chanhassen Dinner Theatre summer concert

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres reopened for the first time in months the week of July 13 to offer a socially-distanced summer concert series in the main theatre.

In the age of facemasks and social distancing, nothing screams “good old days” like big auditoriums and live concerts.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has found a way to safely crack open its door to live music through its summer concert series. By operating at one-third capacity in its main theatre, which can normally seat up to 600, about 140 guests can buy tickets to relish in the nostalgia of old music while perusing an extensive wine list and dinner menu.

Normally, the dinner theatre’s summer concert series is held in the venue’s Fireside Room, which is smaller and seats guests in rows. In March, the theatre canceled its shows due to COVID-19. Plays and musicals are still off the table due to the proximity the actors must be in relation to each other, vice president of the dinner theatre Tamara Kangas Erickson, said.

But concerts can be done.

With socially-distanced musicians and tables scattered across a sprawling auditorium, the small, spread-out crowd in a large venue feels intimate, Erickson said.

“We’re making sure our staff is always wearing masks. It feels like a very safe environment and the customers who have come have responded it’s a very safe environment,” Erickson said. “I think even in our lobbies, the social distancing feels great.”

This summer’s concert series is a variety of top talent in Minnesota, Erickson said, and they’re all tribute shows. Some of the most popular include the Fleetwood Mac tribute Aug. 27-29 and the Eagles tribute Sept. 16-19. Also on the schedule for this summer are tributes to artists like Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder. A concert called MTV Unplugged will even pay tribute to songs from the 1990s.

Tickets are available most weekends and on some week nights through the fall.

“It’s really a wide variety, from 70s and 80s rock to soul music,” Erickson said. “So it really spans the best artists from the last decades, and really great talent.”

When buying a ticket to the show, guests have the option of attending the show only ($40) or adding on dinner ($55). If you opt for dinner, Erickson said she recommends the Chicken Chanhassen or the steak.

“Some of our top acts are coming down the pipe. And we’re adding events each week based on how we see things going in the state,” Erickson said. But for now, those acts will just include music.

“Acting and singing and dancing on stage is probably not in the cards for a while.”

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.

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