The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats.
####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
Standing before a mural of the nighttime Charlotte skyline with "The Comedy Zone" imposed over a massive moon, nationally touring comics present finely honed humor. Within the NC Music Factory's sprawling entertainment complex, The Comedy Zone keeps punch lines rolling with its regularly stuffed calendar of established and up-and-coming jokesters. From table seats, visitors can wet their whistles with a bounty of domestic and imported beers, bottles of wine, four-straw margaritas, and savory cocktails and feast upon a menu of classic pub fare. Monthly open-mic nights test rookies' mettle, and armchair comics can sign up for classes where industry professionals ramp up joke-writing skills, obliterate stage fright, and share the secret noise that makes hecklers cry.
Originally opened in 1927, the Genesee Theatre slowly deteriorated over the course of the century until its closing in 1989. But starting in 2001, a $23 million cash infusion from the city allowed 120 volunteers to restore the theater to its Gilded Age splendor. Its elegant trappings include authentic wall fabrics, an exact replica of the original marquee, and a 2,200-pound chandelier that gently spotlights the grand lobby and every audience member passing underneath to show how everyone is a star if you really think about it.
The King of Rock and Roll never relinquishes his throne as four of the country’s top Elvis impersonators team together for Elvis Lives, a multimedia musical tribute to one of music’s premier icons. Endorsed by Elvis Presley Enterprises, which holds the copyright on blue suede shoes, Elvis Lives stars a quartet of bona fide dead ringers, all of whom are winners of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and pay homage to four memorable eras of the pompadour-sporting legend’s career. Fans can swoon and shout as they catch a glimpse of tadpole Elvis and his centrifugal pelvis, movie-era Elvis, leather-jacket “comeback” Elvis, and shimmering, sequined-jumpsuit “Vegas” Elvis. The lavishly-produced show quantum leaps across a memorable career with classic songs sung spot-on, delighting fans and warming the heart of the real Elvis as he watches from the rafters.
The performers of Charlotte Comedy Theater know how to make audiences laugh, and they have the accolades to prove it?they were voted 2012's best improv- or sketch-comedy group by readers of Charlotte magazine. That talent could be due to the influence of their founder, Keli Semelsberger, who studied with noted comedians in Chicago before bringing the exhilaration of living in the moment to Charlotte stages. Or it could be simply because their off-the-cuff, completely unscripted shows?which include both long- and short-form improv?are just plain funny.
Many of those quick-witted players honed their craft in Charlotte Comedy Theater's own training center, which hosts classes for aspiring improvisors of all skill levels. Outside of their theater's four actual walls and largely metaphorical fourth wall, company members also lead team-building programs designed to build trust in groups through entertaining exercises and thrilling excursions into nature.