While many of our great local arts organizations did their best to keep the creativity alive over the past two years with virtual performances and other imaginative non-traditional programming, we all know there is nothing better than the real thing. Here’s hoping the stage is finally set for in-person performances and full-scale exhibitions you can experience in the flesh this fall.
If a theme is emerging for this season’s come-back performing arts offerings around the region, it’s old favorites and fan feel-goods. People are ready to remember what made them fall in love with live performances and arts events in the first place, and those beloved singalongs and go-to blockbusters are just the ticket.
Virginia Musical Theatre (VMT), for example, will have you belting along to ABBA’s hits as they open their 30th anniversary season with the consummate crowd pleaser Mamma Mia! The musical was slated to go on at the Sandler Center in the spring of 2020 before COVID came knocking, just as the cast was about to arrive for rehearsals, remembers executive director Mark Hudgins. The 2021 cast will feature Kera O’Bryon, who returns to VMT in the role of Donna Sheridan along with some other familiar faces for fans.
Hudgins says he is excited but cautious about coming back, as he and other members of the performing arts community are keenly aware that the pandemic may still be a factor for performances and public gatherings.
“I am pleased and relieved that the majority of the people we are talking to, as far as our audience is concerned, can’t wait to come back,” Hudgins says. VMT has even made the lyrics from Mamma Mia!, “My, my, just how much I’ve missed you,” a running theme for that comeback. “We have missed our audiences so much,” Hudgins notes.
And we, the audience, have missed the magic on the stage. Without further ado, here are our Coastal Virginia Magazine picks for the season’s don’t-miss fine arts events, including Mamma Mia! and much more.
Through Oct. 3, 2021: Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful
at Chrysler Museum of Art
Explore Alma Thomas’ life and artistic journey with approximately 100 works, including rarely seen theatrical designs and abstract paintings. Thomas was the first African American woman to have a solo show at the famed Whitney Museum. Chrysler.org
Oct. 8-10, 2021: Mamma Mia!
performed by Virginia Musical Theatre at Sandler Center for Performing Arts
Get ready to unleash your inner Dancing Queen. Virginia Musical Theatre makes a colorful return to the Sandler Center stage with the perennially popular jukebox musical based on the music of Swedish pop super group ABBA. VMTheatre.org
at Barry Art Museum
Norfolk’s 43rd Street will close down for this three-day pop-up, large-scale touring installation by British artist Luke Jerram. Be inspired by a 23-foot internally lit sculpture of the moon with detailed imagery of the lunar surface. BarryArtMuseum.ODU.edu
Oct. 17-Nov. 7, 2021: Dear Jack, Dear Louise
performed by Virginia Stage Company at Wells Theatre
The stage will once again be set for a live audience at the historic Wells Theatre with Tony Award-winning Ken Ludwig’s funny, heartwarming tale based on his parents’ courtship, two strangers who meet by letter during World War II. VaStage.org
Nov. 5-7, 2021: La Bohème
performed by Virginia Opera at Harrison Opera House
Fall in love again with Virginia’s Opera’s fresh take on Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece.
A fan favorite, this first indoor production since COVID will welcome opera lovers back not only to Norfolk but to Fairfax (Nov. 13–14) and Richmond (Nov. 19 and 21). VAOpera.org
Nov. 12-14, 2021: Fall Studio Concert Series
performed by Todd Rosenlieb Dance and Virginia Ballet Theatre at Benjack Studio Theatre at TRDance Center
Todd Rosenlieb Dance and Virginia Ballet Theatre are on the move again, bringing back their professional companies for a performance of their annual Studio Concert Series. Enjoy unique works in the styles of Martha Graham, Eric Hawkins and more. TRDance.org
Nov. 12-Dec. 12, 2021: Hello, Dolly!
at Little Theatre of Virginia Beach
Feel-good fan faves are the name of the return-to-the-stage game this season, and you can’t get much more classic Broadway than Hello, Dolly! “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and get ready to laugh and sing along with merry matchmaker Dolly Gallagher-Levi. LTVB.com
Nov. 12, 2021-March 6, 2022: Made in VA
Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art has long celebrated regional artists with its annual New Waves exhibition. Along with a recently unveiled rebrand for the museum itself, they are now expanding on that commitment by showcasing talent from around the Commonwealth.VirginiaMoca.org
Nov. 13, 2021: Della Mae
at Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts
This Grammy-nominated Nashville-based, all-female string band’s original style and eclectic musical vision has taken them to 30 countries “spreading peace and understanding through music.” Don’t miss them live on stage in Suffolk. SuffolkCenter.org
performed by Virginia Symphony Orchestra
December 2, 2021: Ferguson Center for the Arts
December 3, 2021: Chrysler Hall
December 5, 2021: Sandler Center
Help celebrate the arrival of Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s new music director Eric Jacobsen as he joins Grammy-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis for an evening of musical celebration that will include Program includes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. VirginiaSymphony.org
Dec. 17-19, 2021: The Nutcracker
performed by Ballet Virginia at Sandler Center for the Performing Arts
The holidays just weren’t the holidays without this ballet classic featuring Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. Join Clara, her Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Mouse King for Ballet Virginia’s staging of this magical Christmas staple. BalletVirginia.org