MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One of the few businesses left to comeback from the pandemic shutdown is live theater and concerts, but Gov. Tim Walz’s latest rollback announcements give these performance spaces the confidence of opening with a full house this year.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, we’re on the right path,” said Mark Nerenhausen, the President and CEO of Hennepin Theater Trust, which operates The Orpheum, Stage and Pantages Theaters. That light at the end of the tunnel is the light coming back on the marquees along 9th & Hennepin Ave by fall.

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“Frozen” is the first show to return to the Orpheum on Oct. 7.

Hennepin Theater Trust wish they could open earlier, but have to stick to the national tour dates that were set before restriction rollbacks, “but what it does do is give us the confidence that the schedule that we do have is likely to hold this time,” said Nerenhausen.

Nerenhausen says a hiring surge will come along with their three theaters reopening this year.

“Well over 400 people are employed over the course of the year,” said Nerenhausen.

While The Orpheum, Stage and Pantages Theaters can’t make too many changes to their planned show schedule, it’s the local theaters that have a lot more flexibility. The Chanhassen Dinner Theater hopes to bring back their first musical production, “The Music Man” to the main stage with a full house, the day after the mask mandate lifts on July 1.

While the theater has been hosting concerts at half capacity since last summer, large scale musical productions on the main stage will bring back 80% of their revenue. On opening night of “The Music Man,” the theater experience will almost be completely back to normal.

“The one thing we are going to maintain for the first month or so is not having people sit at shared tables,” said Joel Rainville, the Director Sales and Marketing at Chanhassen Dinner Theater.

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Chanhassen Dinner Theater will also be hiring more staff, including bartenders, dish washers, service assistants, some box office staff and servers.

Theatergoers can’t wait to fill those empty seats.

“Oh I am so excited, it’s a tradition, we take the grandkids and my daughters in law, we just love it, every minute of it,” said Joan Slattery, of Excelsior.

The Guthrie does not have a schedule of shows returning to the stage yet, but they are starting to hire back staff right now, with several openings already posted.

The Armory says they are confident in bringing back shows sometime this summer.

Tickets for “The Music Man” at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater are already available to buy here.

Country artist, Justin Moore, will be the first concert on schedule at the State Theater in late September.

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Clic here for tickets for future shows by Hennepin Theater Trust.

Marielle Mohs