2017 Summer Arts Guide

Tony Bennett entertains at Davies Symphony Hall in 2010. Photo: : Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle / Polaris


Summertime! The living may be easy, but the arts scene is active as ever, going for the burn. Theater performances, music concerts, festivals, opera, a circus we all love, comedy, jazz, special guests (Tony Bennett!) and more all are on tap now through the end of August. Get tickets today and enjoy these warm-weather months. 


The Whitaker Music Festival, an annual free outdoor concert series held at the Missouri Botanical Garden, takes place at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday now through Aug. 2. Artists perform blues, jazz, rock and more, with lawn seating at the Cohen Amphitheater. (Bring chairs or a blanket.) Call 314-577-5100 or see Signature Events at missouribotanicalgarden.org.


The circus is back in town! By now, Circus Flora has set up the Big Top (yes, it’s air-conditioned) in Grand Center and evening and matinee performances will take place June 1-25. This year’s show is “Time Flies,” featuring aerial performances, horseback riding acts, jugglers and assorted clowns. Tickets range from $10 to $50. Call 314-534-1111 or see circusflora.org. 

On June 1, roots-rock songwriter Paul Thorn celebrates the 20th anniversary of the release of his debut album, “Hammer and Nail” with a performance at The Sheldon at 3648 Washington Blvd. Thorn’s music is a mix of Southern rock, Americana, blues and country. Tickets cost $25-$30. Call 314-533-9900 or see thesheldon.org.

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Throw off the heat at William Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” this year’s production from Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. Free performances are held nightly (except Tuesdays) at 8 p.m. from June 2-25 at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. (That’s just off Fine Arts Drive on the east side of Art Hill.) Pack a picnic and go early for the Green Show, which features jugglers, musicians and clowns. For more information, go to sfstl.com.

The Webster Arts Fair, June 2-4, features not only more than 100 artists with works for sale, but also live music, food, drink and plenty of arts-related activities for kids. Located on the grounds of Eden Theological Seminary, at Bompart and Lockwood avenues in Webster Groves, the fair offers free admission and plenty of nearby parking. For more information, go to webster-arts.org. 

Starting June 3, Summer at the Symphony offers several concerts, including shows with Jane Lynch (she promises one Guatemalan love song) and Broadway’s Rock of Ages Band plus musical tributes to Ella Fitzgerald, Queen, John Lennon and Frank Sinatra. For dates and ticket prices, see informatstlsymphony.org/summer or call 314-534-1700.

You would do this on a vacation — why not go for it in town? The Tour de Museum, which takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 3, combines biking with stops at the St. Louis Art Museum, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, World Chess Hall of Fame and the Contemporary Art Museum. At every stop, take part in a scavenger hunt and enter to win prizes after the ride. Registration is free, but you must sign up at trailnet.org. 

He may have left his heart in San Francisco, but on June 7, Tony Bennett will serenade audiences at the Fox Theatre. So how good is this guy? In a career spanning over 60 years, Bennett has won 19 Grammy Awards, including the prestigious Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He also is a Kennedy Center honoree and a recipient of the United Nation’s Humanitarian and Citizen of the World honors. Tickets cost $41-$176. Call 314-534-1111 or see fabulousfox.com.

Live country, folk, roots and rock music all are part of Twangfest, set for June 7-10 at Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave. Headliners include Black Joe Lewis, Chuck Prophet, Erika Wennerstrom, John Paul White, Robbie Fulks, Parker Millsap and the Flat Five. Tickets cost $15-$175. For details, see twangfest.com.

The premiere of a new performing version of “Grapes of Wrath” is coming to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Based on John Steinbeck’s classic novel and written by Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie, the opera tells the story of the Joad family’s search for a better life in California. Evening performances are June 9, 15 and 25, with matinees on June 17 and 21 at the Loretto-Hilton Center in Webster Groves. For ticket prices, call 314-961-0644 or see opera-stl.org.

Professional musicians and the country’s most talented aspiring musicians will perform June 9-17 at the Innsbrook Institute’s 17th annual Summer Music Festival, held in rural Warren County, which is about an hour from St. Louis. Expect a variety of musical styles, including classical chamber music, opera, jazz, ragtime and blues. For a list of concerts and ticket prices, see innsbrookinstitute.org.

Get your art on June 11 at Laumeier Sculpture Park’s free Family Day. Participants of all ages are invited to create artwork from 2-4 p.m. with a variety of materials, all provided. The park is at 12580 Rott Road. For more information, visit laumeiersculpturepark.org.

If you count Horton (who heard a Who) as a friend, round up the kids and grandkids for “Seussical,” a musical that brings to life that principled elephant and other Dr. Seuss characters. STAGES St. Louis presents the show June 14 through July 2 at the Playhouse at Westport Plaza. Tickets cost $20-$24. Call 636-530-5959 or see stagesstlouis.org.

Get your kicks at the free screening of the film “Show Me 66” at 10:30 a.m. June 20 at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. The movie reveals some of Route 66’s biggest stories and best-kept secrets, and a Q&A follows. The program will be repeated at 8:30 p.m. July 14. See mohistory.org or call 314-746-4599.

Grab your guitar, your violin or even your kazoo and plan to take part in Make Music Day on June 21 at participating venues, which include clubs, restaurants, concert halls, street corners, parks and porches. (We won’t tell if you opt to just listen.) This free music festival originated in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique, and is now celebrated in some 700 cities in 120 countries. For details, see makemusicstl.org.

Men’s fashion has been long overlooked and underappreciated – but no more. “Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015,”  an exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum June 25 through Sept. 17, traces cultural fashion influences in menswear over the centuries. Admission is free for members and $15 for non-members. Free on Fridays. See slam.org.

Curtain up! At Theatre Crawl – something of a smorgasbord of theater — some 22 theater companies will present short performances in different venues in Grand Center. Performances begin at 6:30 pm June 30 and at 1:30 pm July 1. The events are free, but you must register at stlpublicradio.org/theatrecrawl/index.php.


Billed as “America’s Biggest Birthday Party,” Fair St. Louis will take place in Forest Park again (on Lagoon Drive on the east side of the Grand Basin) from July 2-4, with the downtown Fair St. Louis Parade kicking the whole thing off July 1. In addition to dog acrobatic shows and fireworks, this year’s entertainment includes Akon, Sister Hazel, 3 Doors Down and Jake Owen. For a complete schedule, go to fairsaintlouis.org. 

Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everybody – that’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” a rowdy musical with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Watch government officials, all clad in togas, wheeling and dealing at work and at home as they try to protect their secrets and keep ahead of the law. The show is on stage July 5-11 at The Muny. Tickets cost $15-$95. Call 314-534-1111 or see muny.org/2017-season.

Parrotheads unite. Your man, Jimmy Buffett, and his Coral Reefer Band, will be singing about “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” and “Margaritaville,” along with a bazillion other hits when he takes the stage at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 6. For a list of all the shows there and ticket prices, go to hollywoodcasinoamphitheatre.com.

Christine Brewer — international opera star (and resident of southern Illinois) — will star as Lady Billows in Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring” at Union Avenue Opera, with performances July 7, 8, 14 and 15. The opera, sung in English, is a coming-of-age story about a shy young man who makes a break for independence. For ticket prices, call 314-361-2881 or see unionavenueopera.org.

Admission to the featured exhibits at the St. Louis Art Museum is free on Friday nights, so make time to pop in and have a look before you head across the street for a free outdoor movie. Movie nights at Art Hill this summer are July 14, 21, 28, and Aug. 4. Expect creative art activities, live music and food trucks. For a list of films and more information, go to slam.org. 

More movie talk: Films that were written, directed, edited or produced by St. Louis natives (or films with strong local ties) will be shown July 17-21 at the Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, presented by Cinema St. Louis. The films will be screened at the Tivoli Theatre in University City. Tickets range from $10 to $13. For more information, visit cinemastlouis.org.

Steve Martin and Martin Short will share a stage on July 20 at the Fox Theatre with their show “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life.” Expect stand-up comedy, film clips, musical numbers and earnest conversations about being comedians. Steep Canyon Rangers, the Grammy-winning bluegrass band that frequently features Martin, also will perform. Tickets cost $58-$253. Call 314-534-1111 or see fabulousfox.com. 

It’s a tale as old as time – and COCA will present “Beauty and the Beast” July 21-23, with matinee and evening performances. The production features the film’s Academy Award-winning score and an auditioned ensemble of COCA students. The show goes on at Founders’ Theater at COCA, 524 Trinity Ave. in University City. Tickets cost $14-$18. Call 314-725-6555 or see cocastl.org/.

Working 9 to 5 is one thing; seeing the hilarious show of the same name at STAGES St. Louis is something completely different. “9 to 5 The Musical,” based on the 1980 film and with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, will play July 21 through Aug. 20 at the Robert G. Reim Theatre in Kirkwood. For ticket prices or more information, call 636-530-5959 or see stagesstlouis.org. 

On July 22, “Dancing With the Stars” brings a live show with “the best ballroom dancers in the business” to the Peabody Opera House, 1400 Market Street. “Hot Summer Nights” features “sizzling group numbers, steamy duets and over-the-top original pieces.” Tickets range from $36.50-$76.50. Call 800-745-3000 or see peabodyoperahouse.com.

Musical theater aficionados never miss a chance to see the groundbreaking show “A Chorus Line,” and your next opportunity is July 29 through Aug. 4 at The Muny. The show sings (literally) the praises of those performers who dance behind the star and we are reminded that everyone has a story. Go early to grab a free seat or, for tickets ($15-$95), call 314-361-1900 or visit muny.org.


The People’s Key will perform Aug. 4-5 at Jazz at the Bistro, 3536 Washington Blvd., bringing a sound that combines “the happy swinging feel of the Kansas City jazz scene with the hard, soulful groove of St. Louis funk, soul, and R&B.” Hear tunes by modern artists too, from Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to Jay-Z and Bruno Mars. Call 314-571-6000 or see jazzstl.org. 

The newsboy strike of 1899 in New York City gave publisher Joseph Pulitzer a run for his money, and the musical “Newsies” – a hit on Broadway in 2012 — tells how it all went down. This rollicking story, with music by Alan Menken, is on stage Aug. 7-13 at The Muny. Tickets cost $15-$95. Call 314-361-1900 or visit muny.org.

Comedian Jim Jefferies brings his show “The Unusual Punishment Tour” to the Peabody Opera House on Aug. 11 as part of a national tour. The tour comes hot on the heels of Jefferies’ fifth standup comedy special “Freedumb,” which premiers July 1 on Netflix. Tickets cost $36.50- $46.50. Call 800-745-3000 or see peabodyoperahouse.com. 

On Aug. 12, the St. Louis Yangtze River Performing Arts Ensemble presents an evening of music and dance in a tribute to Chinese culture at the Touhill Center for Performing Arts, located on the campus of the University of Missouri at St. Louis. For ticket prices or reservations call 314-266-9809 or see touhill.org.

Maybe you saw Idina Menzel as Elphaba on Broadway in “Wicked,” or maybe you first met her while watching “Glee” and then recognized her voice as Elsa in the movie “Frozen.” Menzel does it all, and Aug. 15 she’ll showcase the full range of her vocal talent on stage at the Fox Theatre. Tickets cost $45-$150. Call 314-534-1111 or see fabulousfox.com.

The St. Louis Fringe Festival runs Aug. 17-26 and features an array of original material in all genres of the arts — theater, music, dance, burlesque and more – throughout Grand Center. Details were still developing at press time but check at stlouisfringe.com for more information and tickets prices.

The clever children in Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel,” based on the familiar fairy tale, once again outsmart the witch in this production at Union Avenue Opera. What’s different? The opera will be sung in German. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Aug. 18, 19, 25 and 26. Call 314-361-2881 or see unionavenueopera.org/

Actor Val Kilmer does a one-man show about Mark Twain, and on Aug. 20, he will introduce the film screening of “Citizen Twain” and take questions afterward at The Sheldon. The show, which includes Twain’s thoughts on Congress, has played to sold-out houses in Los Angeles. Tickets cost $30-$75.  Call 314-533-9900 or see thesheldon.org.

Enjoy music and dance performances by ethnic artists, world music favorites and traditional acoustic music and song at the International Institute’s annual Festival of Nations. All this – and 40 food booths and plenty of shopping opportunities too! The free festival takes place starting at 10 a.m. on Aug. 26 and 27 in Tower Grove Park. See festivalofnationsstl.org/