Live theater is larger than life, bursting with emotion and sprinkled with humor. Five great theater shows that will touch your heart are set to entertain in Minnesota this fall. Each compelling performance is available locally now, only after surviving the test of audience choice and critic acclaim.

“Hello Dolly”
Chanhassen Dinner Theatre
501 W. 78th St.
Chanhassen, MN 55317
(952) 934-1525

Dates: Opens Sept. 5, 2014

Best musical and long-time record-holder for Tony Awards, “Hello Dolly” never fails to connect with the audience and bring them to the edge of their seats. Powerful showmanship of Matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi and magical music by the cast has seen three revivals on Broadway and seven Academy Awards as a movie. And now, we welcome its return to Chanhassen’s stage after a 22-year hiatus. Dinner and drinks only add to the festive feeling as Dolly attempts to make a match for a grumpy Horace Vandergelder. The plot, as we may recall, has a little twist at the end.

Rochester Civic Theatre
20 Civic Center Drive S.E.
Rochester, MN 55904
(507) 282-8481

Dates: Sept. 12 to Oct. 5, 2014

Not only is “Rent” one of the longer running recent shows on Broadway, but this Tony Award winner re-made musical theater. Much like “La Bohème,” “Rent” spotlights the struggle of poor young artists, but in New York City instead of Paris. Just as Puccini’s Mimi was a seamstress with tuberculosis, so is Jonathan Larson’s Mimi Márquez an erotic dancer with HIV. And her boyfriend Roger is HIV positive. In contrast, the storyline fast-forwards us to actual New York City locations and recent events. And the songs were written to catch the attention of the MTV generation. Modern Mimi’s song, “Light My Candle,” is every bit as moving as Puccini’s. “Seasons of Love,” “Rent,” “Over the Moon” and “One Song Glory” make for an emotionally compelling evening.

(credit: CRAIG LASSIG/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: CRAIG LASSIG/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Heidi Chronicles”
Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55415
(612) 377-2224

Dates: Sept. 13 to Oct. 26, 2014

Wendy Wasserstein’s penetrating masterwork is an examination of woman’s role in society that is both clever and moving. We laugh non-stop as Heidi Holland insightfully deals with her inner turmoil as a successful art historian in the ’80s after being molded by ’60s radicalism and ’70s feminism. Minnesota baby boomers may recall their own experiences in the ’60s as Heidi meets her paramour at a Eugene McCarthy rally. Moreover, this 1989 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama reminds us of our own struggle to make sense of life and to achieve happiness. Quite a stroke of good fortune for local theater patrons is Director Leigh Silverman. Silverman’s Guthrie debut is coming after Silverman was nominated for a Tony Award just this year for her direction of the Broadway musical “Violet.” She was the youngest woman to have directed a Broadway show only eight years ago.

Related: Best Minnesota Theater Productions Of 2013

The Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. (credit: George Heinrich)

The Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. (credit: George Heinrich)

“Dirty Dancing”
Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(800) 982-2787

Dates: Oct. 7-19, 2014

Frances “Baby” Houseman was swept away by the summer camp dance instructor, and so were we in 1987. “Dirty Dancing” was a box office hit and its final song, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” blew the top off the charts in November of that year. “Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage” recreates all of the same breathtaking dance and passionate music with the added presence of live stage. This winning formula explains why a stage version debuted at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, Australia has swept up millions in Great Britain and Europe and is now being seen in the United States.

Related: Best Spring 2014 Theater Productions In Minnesota

“Nice Work If You Can Get It”
Ordway Theatre
345 Washington St.
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 224-4222

Dates: Oct. 14-19, 2014

There was a time when life was good, Broadway was magic, costumes glittered, dance was hot and George and Ira Gershwin wrote classics that will live forever. Some of the most cherished and renown ballads are “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,””Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Fascinating Rhythm.” Relive the era with the lighthearted tale of an unlikely couple as a wealthy playboy courts a rough-and-tumble lady bootlegger. See the show just off Broadway on tour this year, with larger-than-life ensemble characters, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, a three-time Tony Award winner.

Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at