Stellar names and diverse programs star in concerts and comedic shows at NWI venues

2014-03-16T00:00:00Z 2014-04-17T12:10:06Z Stellar names and diverse programs star in concerts and comedic shows at NWI venuesEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

Music and comedy fans won't have to travel out of the region to be entertained by topnotch talents this season. Just as in years past, Northwest Indiana venues will host a stellar roster of performers who'll represent myriad genres and styles.

"The key to our success from the beginning is that we bring something for everyone," said Charlie Blum, CEO and talent buyer for Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville.

In three decades plus, the theater has presented great names in music and comedy including everyone from Donna Summer and Tony Bennett to Damon Williams, Bill Engvall, Liberace, The Jacksons and Tom Jones.

"If people like country music, urban, rock or comedy, we have it," Blum said.

"And we've become more than just an evening out, we've become a destination," he said. Audiences, Blum said, are given an all-around experience at Star Plaza as there are dining and lodging opportunities on the premises in addition to the shows.

Many artists, Blum said, return annually to the stage in Merrillville. Shows such as the '60s extravaganzas, Elvis tribute artist shows and concerts by the Oak Ridge Boys are always big sellers.

Blum said he strives to keep "his finger on the pulse" of the entertainment scene and audience preferences.

On the roster this season, Star Plaza Theatre is presenting an outstanding program. Upcoming shows include "The Chi-Town Blues Festival" on March 15; "Experience Hendrix," featuring musicians Billy Cox, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brad Whitford, Taji Mahal, Robby Krieger, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson and others, on April 5; and Vince Gill, May 8.

On the classical music scene, Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, based in Munster, has long crafted a season of compelling programming.

Kirk Muspratt, conductor and music director for the orchestra, has already presented several engaging works that began the 2013-2014 season and there's more to come.

"People should be prepared to be amazed once again," Muspratt said, stressing his motto from the past few seasons. The conductor said he's always attuned to making sure the symphony's programming is interesting and appealing to those with varied musical tastes.

Recent shows have included "Tosca in Concert" and the "Halloween Pops" with dueling pianos presented on March 14; a Chorus Concert: "The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass" on April 4 and "Mahler 1" on May 2. Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra also performs an annual summer music festival.

At The Venue at Hammond's Horseshoe Casino, music and comedy fans have been entertained by diverse talents since its opening in 2008.

Horseshoe Casino has delivered a mixed roster through the years,  including Natalie Cole, INXS, Cheech and Chong, Bret Michaels, Donny and Marie, Tony Bennett, New Kids on the Block, Aretha Franklin, Chris Tucker and recently Mike Tyson.

Upcoming shows at The Venue include Boyz II Men and Bobby Brown, March 28, TLC, March 29 and Reba McEntire, May 16.

Valparaiso's Memorial Opera House's stage has featured a plethora of musicians and other acts. Built in 1893, Memorial Opera House is a gem of a venue, offering audiences an intimate entertainment experience in a retro setting.

"The opera house has a lot of history attached to it and it's a great fit for us," said George Carl, group member and manager of Harbor Lights doo-wop vocal group. Harbor Lights regularly plays a spring concert at the opera house.

On the schedule for this season at Memorial Opera House are a Cabaret series, held frequently throughout the year;  Alejandro Escovedo, April 4; Harbor Lights, May 16; Sena Ehrhardt, Oct. 4; and Windiana 2014, Nov. 20.

In addition, other venues feature acts such as Blue Chip Casino's Star Dust Event Center where "Veterans of SNL" will play on March 29. The Hammond Civic Center has recently upped its entertainment opportunities with occasional concerts. Common recently performed there on Feb. 22.

During the summer months, fans will find a number of music and comedic artists making the rounds of the festivals which always present a mix of sounds and talents.

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