A mid-Michigan institution since 1929, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra performs for more than 20,000 visitors every year. Music director and conductor Timothy Muffitt currently leads its roster of professional musicians in concerts that explore a variety of musical styles, including classical masterworks, a pops and chamber series, and brassy big-band engagements.
The youthful romanticism of Juliet. The raging jealousies of Othello. Richard III's outsized villainy. All are found in the pages of Shakespeare's works, and all are brought to vibrant new life at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, the official Shakespeare festival of the state. With characters so rich, it's not surprising that the company exclusively staged the Bard's works for 19 years. But, recognizing that Shakespeare's reach extended far beyond the end of his own quill, the Festival now showcases one piece from an additional playwright each season. But whether the curtain opens on a comedy or a tragedy, a dramatic history or a tender romance, the organization aims to move audiences with timeless stories.
Recognized by Billboard as one of the top 25 touring artists of the 2000s, Trans-Siberian Orchestra explodes onto the stage with a juggernaut of progressive rock and metal infused with symphonic instrumentation and themes. Surrounded by a spectacle of lasers and pyrotechnics, the band's 2012 tour covers the entirety of its millennial concept album Beethoven's Last Night, a rock opera set on the eve of the composer's death as he battles wits with the devil for control of his soul, his 10th Symphony, and his collection of vintage ear trumpets. The show opens with the methodical triplets of Moonlight Sonata played on a lonesome piano, swelling and slowing before the thunderous arrival of drums and electric guitar. Plumes of flames blast from the stage as the group careens into the evening's centerpiece, "Requiem," a hard-rock interpretation of the Fifth Symphony, grounded by light-bending ax solos and tumbling violins punctuated by a heavenly backing choir.
Founded in 1991 by acclaimed actor and playwright Jeff Daniels, The Purple Rose Theatre Company enriches its community with original and classic productions that range from light-hearted comedies to poignant dramas. Resident artists elicit laughs during Escanaba in da Moonlight, a revival of Daniels's deer-camp comedy about a group of hunters competing for the first shot at a buck and the most creative camouflage pattern. Starting January 19, A Stone Carver introduces us to a retired stonemason named Agostino who resists being evicted from his home in the face of planned highway construction, even at the risk of alienating his only son. Converted from a 1900s-era auto garage, The Purple Rose Theatre Company distributes sight lines evenly throughout its 168-seat auditorium and grumbling Model T ghosts throughout its marbled 1930s-style lobby.
Blackhawk boasts a history as flavorful as its food, starting in 1830 when Colonel Isaac Barnes built a crude cabin that would later develop into a multilevel trading post, then into an event hall, and finally into the current bar and grill. The historic restaurant, which was rebuilt in the 1970s after a devastating fire, continues to draw crowds with heaps of old-fashioned hospitality, as well as a monumental menu of fire-grilled pizzas ($9.95–$13.95), pastas ($6.95–$9.95), burgers ($6.95–$9.95), steaks ($12.95-$17.95), salads ($6.95–$8.95), and more. The Wet Burrito ($8.95) forms the saucy spine of Blackhawk's Latin American menu with mounds of meat smothered in colby jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and black olives. The pan-fried walleye ($14.95) is a house specialty, pairing perfectly with frosty suds from the bar.
PJ's and Gracie's join forces on a nightly basis to saturate Southeastern Michigan with rotating genres of live and recorded music. Travel between the establishments without paying double cover, enjoying Gracie's eclectic mix of acts and PJ's spacious dance floor. Depending on the night, you may swing to a big band, sway to a rock group, or juggle the rave ball to the sounds of a DJ. Check the website for upcoming ear enticers. With your bucket of beers, you can raise a glass to a gleeful guitar solo or toast to a toe-tapping tympani roll. Scoop up this side deal for a cover-charge-less jaunt through two of Ann Arbor's most aurally aware bars.