MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Stage theaters throughout the Twin Cities are slowly starting to make their return since closing back in March.

It’s one industry that has struggled to find ways to safely re-open in a pandemic.

The Chanhassen Dinner Theatre found a way to open their doors again by opening up their pub restaurant and outdoor patio with live bands performing for the customers. They also have their concert series in full swing, with local live bands performing on the main stage, where musical productions are normally held.

In addition, Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret is offering shows at 25% capacity every Friday and Saturday night.

“Behind me is the set of ‘The Music Man,’ but currently we’re using this room for our concert series,” said Michael Brindisi, president and artistic director of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.

A full house has taken on a whole new meaning since Gov. Tim Walz’s state order only allows theaters to be open at 25% capacity. The main stage theatre sits 600 people. In order for the theatre to break even from a big musical production, the theater needs to be at least 80% full. It would be too costly to put on the musical productions, so they’ve chosen to put on less expensive live performances with the live bands.

“It is still a loss, but it’s less of a loss because we have revenue coming in from,” Brindisi said.

He put in a new air filtration system in the theater and spaced out all the dining tables to safely accommodate audiences.

“it’s more than every other table, they’re really pretty spread out,” he said.

The audiences applaud the efforts.

“Oh I feel very safe, wonderful distancing with everyone, so it’s great,” Eden Prairie resident John Divolos said.

“It feels completely safe, we don’t feel like we’re at any risk at all,” said Richelle Phillips, audience member at the Eagles Tribute Band concert series.

Without big ticket sales for a year, the theatre has taken a financial hit and had to furlough several employees, but Brindisi refuses to take a final bow.

“No, we don’t even talk about it, it’s not in the cards, we will be back,” said Brindisi, who hopes to return to a regular season of shows by early next year.

Lab Theater in Minneapolis’ North Loop is another theater that reopened just this week with distance seating.

At last word, the larger theaters like The Ordway, The Guthrie, and The Orpheum remain closed for the rest of the year.

Click here for a full schedule of the CDT Concert Series.

For a full schedule of the shows at Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret, click here.

And click here for a full schedule of shows at the Lab Theater.

Marielle Mohs