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The show must go on: Theaters and performance venues elevate Region entertainment

The show must go on: Theaters and performance venues elevate Region entertainment


Fans of live theatrical performances of various types can find plenty of offerings in Northwest Indiana.

The Region is a hotbed of entertainment featuring community theater spaces, large concert venues, professional theaters, intimate performance rooms and numerous locations for plays, concerts and other productions.

"The community theater effort is a very healthy one in Northwest Indiana," said Mark Spencer, director of West Side Theatre Guild in Gary. Spencer, who's also the director of fine arts for Gary Community Schools, said there's definitely a large contingency of theater groups and performance spaces in the Region.

"The community in Northwest Indiana is very appreciative of the arts," Spencer said, adding that upcoming offerings at Gary's West Side Theatre Guild will showcase diverse productions.

"We're happy to revive for the final time, 'The Wiz,' in May at West Side Theatre Guild," he said, adding the theater's new season of upcoming summer and fall productions will be announced at the end of May. The 24th season will include plays, productions involving community members as well as concerts and more.

Spencer said Northwest Indiana theatergoers and concert attendees are extremely supportive of cultural activities and experiences. People gravitate to the theater for a variety of reasons, Spencer said.

Productions offer not only great entertainment value but also, many shows open up a path for discussion, he said. "They allow people to have conversations. Theater is a wonderful avenue for bringing communities together," he said.

"There are plenty of places to go to see live performances," agreed Erika Dahl, director of communications for South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.

Whether Region residents are looking for shows featuring a famous musical act, a Broadway-style production, a comedy show or drama, even stand-up comedy and cabaret shows, there's something in the area for all tastes.

Venues such as Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso present everything from large-scale musicals to concerts while big-name acts make their way to theaters such as The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Stardust Event Center at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, and Silver Creek Event Center at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Michigan. Noted regional theater productions star on stage at Munster's Theatre at the Center.

Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra also continues to bring engaging diverse shows to audiences and now performs at three different venues. Throughout the season, the orchestra will play at Monbeck Auditorium at Highland High School; The Auditorium at Living Hope Church in Merrillville; and The Auditorium at Valparaiso High School.

Variety the hallmark of NWI arts offerings

Last year, the city of Hammond also offered another opportunity for live performance fans with its presentation of shows at The Pavilion at Wolf Lake. Besides the concerts presented during the annual Festival of the Lakes at The Pavilion, there were a selection of shows on last summer's roster. Concerts included Gucci Mane, T.I. and the Steve Miller Band. There are future plans for other big shows.

Theaters such as Towle Theater in Hammond, Beatniks on Conkey in Hammond,  Chicago Street Theatre in Valparaiso, and Ross Music Theatre in Hobart among others, also continue to offer a full roster of interesting productions throughout the year.

Dahl said many Northwest Indiana cities and towns also have various outdoor venues including band shells and other stages to present productions. During the summer, music fans will find cover bands and other musicians stepping up to the microphones at outdoor gazebos and park district band shells.

According to Richard Friedman, general manager of Munster's Theatre at the Center, interest in theatrical productions isn't waning in the area. In fact, people are even taking more of an interest in what's available at local theaters.

"Our subscriptions are selling much better than before," Friedman said. He said last year's subscription sales were at 4,700 while this year's are at 4,900 so far.

"We want to present a mix of shows," Friedman said about the current season. At the theater, Linda Fortunato acts as artistic director and works with Friedman and others to plan the season.

"Million Dollar Quartet" runs through March 31 at Theatre at the Center while there are a variety of other shows coming up including tribute concerts, comedy acts, bigger-scale musicals with lots of song and dance numbers such as "Dames at Sea," and this year's holiday production, which will be "White Christmas."

Friedman said it's been interesting for theater personnel to plan this current season. "We feel if we keep (choosing) shows we love, other people will love them too," he said.

In addition to the longer-running musicals the theater produces, Friedman said there are seven comedy nights and special events such as a magic show, blues music acts, children's theater productions and the Artists Lounge series that features tributes to popular singers such as Aretha Franklin and The Carpenters.

"And we're adding a little star power with Ed Asner," Friedman said, adding Asner will bring his show, "A Man & His Prostate," to the theater in August.

Friedman said with the high social media interest these days, and other ways that people don't connect with others in a live entertainment setting, the more theatrical opportunities there are out there the better.

"When there's an opportunity to be a part of an audience, that's an experience that people need," Friedman said.

He added there's definitely an upswing in interest in theatrical performances in the area and Theatre at the Center personnel are confident their audiences will continue to grow.

In addition to the diverse opportunities at Region venues, local theater fans have the chance to enjoy a plethora of entertainment in Chicago and its suburbs.

Everything from large-scale award-winning plays and shows brought to fans by Broadway in Chicago and the city's many downtown theaters, to big-name musical acts and other performance companies bringing shows to places such as the United Center, The Auditorium Theatre, Allstate Arena, City Winery, Old Town School of Folk Music, Lyric Opera and more are available.

Peruse the following list of theaters and performance venues in the Region.

List of theaters and performance spaces in Northwest Indiana:

• Beatniks on Conkey, 418 Conkey St., Hammond, 219-852-0848 or

• Canterbury Theatre, 807 Franklin St., Michigan City, 219-874-4269 or

• Chicago Street Theatre, 154 W. Chicago St., Valparaiso, 219-464-1636 or

• Dunes Summer Theater, 288 Shady Oak Drive, Michigan City, 219-879-7509 or

• Footlight Players, 1705 Franklin St., Michigan City, 219-874r

• 4th Street Theatre, 125 N. 4th St., Chesterton, 219-926-7875 or

• Front Porch Music, 219-464-4700 or

• Genesius Guild at First United Methodist Church, 6635 Hohman Ave., Hammond, 219-932-5915

• Gary Shakespeare Co., 3401 Broadway, Gary, 219-938-4565

• Gary West Side Theatre, 900 Gerry St., Gary, 219-977-2198

• Hammond Civic Center, 5825 Sohl Ave., Hammond, 219-853-6378

• LaPorte Little Theatre Club, 218 A. St. LaPorte, 219-362-5113 or

• L'arc en Ciel Theatre Group, 13109 S. Wicker Ave., Cedar Lake, 219-226-4640 or

• Marian Theatre Guild, 119th Street and Lincoln Avenue, Whiting, 219-473-7555

• Memorial Opera House, 104 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso, or

• Munster Theatre Co. at the Auditorium at Munster High School, 8808 Columbia Ave, Munster,

• Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra performance venues: Monbeck Auditorium at Highland High School, 9135 Erie St., Highland; The Auditorium at Living Hope Church, 9000 Taft St., Merrillville; The Auditorium at Valparaiso High School, 2727 N. Campbell St., Valparaiso, NISO - 219-836-0525 or

• The Pavilion, 2324 Calumet Ave., Hammond,

• Ross Music Theatre/M & M Productions, 227 Center St., Hobart, 219-947-4922 or

• Silver Creek Event Center at Four Winds Casino, 11111 Wilson Road, New Buffalo, Michigan,

• Spotlight Theatre Guild/PNW Theatre Co. at Purdue University Northwest, 2200 169th St., Hammond, 219-989-2072

• Stardust Event Center at Blue Chip Casino, 777 Blue Chip Drive, Michigan City,

• Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, , 219-836-3255,

• Theatre Northwest at Indiana University Northwest, 3660 Grant St., Gary,  219-980-6808,

• Towle Theater, 5205 Hohman Ave., Hammond, 219-937-8780 or

• Valparaiso University Center for the Arts, 1709 Chapel Drive, Valparaiso,

• The Venue, 777 Casino Center Drive, at Horseshoe Casino, Hammond,

A sample of shows coming to the Region:

The Venue at Horseshoe Casino, Hammond:

The 14th annual Chi-Town Blues Fest, March 23

Boys II Men, March 29

Brian McKnight and Stokley, April 19

Morris Day & The Time and Sheila E, April 20

Steve Martin and Martin Short, May 25

RBRM: 4 the Love of It Tour, June 1

Theatre at the Center:

"Million Dollar Quartet," continuing through March 31

"Dames at Sea", May 2 to June 2

"Over The Tavern," July 11 to Aug. 11

"The Pajama Game," Sept. 12 to Oct. 13

"White Christmas," Nov. 14 to Dec. 22

Lean on Me: The Brotherhood of Rock and Roll starring Michael Ingersoll and Christopher Kale Jones, April 6

Switchback Americana, June 9

Aretha Franklin: Queen of Soul, June 15

Master Magician: Dennis Watkins, June 23

"We've Only Just Begun," Aug. 24

"A Man & His Prostate," Aug. 25

Silver Creek Event Center at Four Winds Casino:

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, March 30

Larry the Cable Guy, April 5

Howie Mandel, April 13

Tyler Henry - The Hollywood Medium, May 11

The Beach Boys, Aug. 2

Stardust Event Center at Blue Chip Casino

 Deacon Blues, April 5

Memorial Opera House

"La Cage Aux Folles," April 26 to May 12

"Mamma Mia," July 12 to July 28

"The Mouse Trap," Sept. 27 to Oct. 13

"Miracle on 34th Street," Nov. 29 to Dec. 15

Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra:

"The Keys to France," April 5

"One Small Step: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing," May 17


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Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.

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