A guide to the various performing arts venues in Uptown Charlotte.
When one thinks of the Carolinas, one more than likely will flash images of Bibles, Barbeque and Billy-Bobs; however Charlotte, North Carolina has a lot to offer in the way of performing arts. The hub of theatre is Uptown Charlotte, also called Center City.
Most notable is the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, (or NCBPAC). The non-profit organization houses six theatres for patrons to enjoy every thing from Broadway musicals to Ballet, Opera and Symphony to concerts and comedians to small unheard-of avant-garde plays.
Belk Theater – 130 North Tryon Street
The largest venue in the family is the Belk Theater, often mistakenly called “The Blumenthal.” This space is comprised of four levels and holds 2,100 seats. It is mostly used for larger performances such as the national tours of Broadway Musicals (recently Dreamgirls and Mary Poppins), nationally-known comedians (i.e. Lily Tomlin, David Sedaris) and lectures (Fareed Zakaria).
It is also used for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Opera Carolina and the North Carolina Dance Theatre. This would be the venue where you would catch The Phantom of The Opera, Carmen, or Handel’s Messiah.
Knight Theater – 430 South Tryon Street
The next largest would be the new Knight Theater, which officially opened in January 2010. The very first appearance there was a music performance by Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, in September 2009! This theatre has an orchestra level (entire floor is considered “orchestra”), and a raised tier with the first four rows being the Grand Tier, and the last eight rows being called the Mezzanine.
The theatre holds 1,200 people. Musical performances here have included Jewel, Mary Chapin Carpenter and specialty nights such as the Monterey Jazz Festival and another jazz spectacular called New Orleans Nights. The Knight Theater is a part of the new modern Wells Fargo Cultural Campus, which also homes the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African- American Arts & Culture and the Mint Museum of Modern Art.
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra also presents their KnightSounds productions there. KnightSounds is a program with earlier performance times and a pre-show reception. The performance time on KnightSounds is generally shorter than a normal Symphony production. North Carolina Dance Theatre presents the bulk of their performances here, saving The Nutcracker for the larger Belk Theater.
McGlohon Theatre – 345 North College Street
The McGlohon Theatre is a 700-seat capacity theatre in yet another arts / culture center called Spirit Square, located two blocks north of the Belk Theater. Performances in the McGlohon, which happens to be a converted First Baptist Church (services are still held there on Sundays, by Elevation Church) are mainly concerts and comedians.
Previous shows there have been musicians Joan Armatrading, The Church and Richard Marx and comedians John Reep and Ben Bailey. The McGlohon is also a popular spot for the regular SlamCharlotte Poetry Slam, which is there every third Friday of the month.
Booth Playhouse – 130 North Tryon Street (2nd Floor in Founders Hall)
A fantastic smaller theatre, the Booth Playhouse has only 434 seats. It is located in the same building as the Belk Theater. This venue has Orchestra and Gallery (balcony) seating. Shows you can find here are smaller comedies, plays and comedians. Even Tom Wopat has performed here as a musician. The theatre greets you with a gorgeous open, glass entrance and an attractive lobby. Elevators are present to bring guests, or those with accessibility needs to the Gallery level.
Stage Door Theater and Duke Energy Theatre
The Stage Door Theater and Duke Energy Theatre are fun, cozy theatres that host small shows. The Queen City Theatre Company and OnQ Productions present their shows at the Duke Energy Theatre. QCTC produces your more avant-garde, off-the-beaten-track plays and comedies. Recent favorites have been Sordid Lives and Spooky Dog and the Teenage Gang Mysteries, an obvious spoof of the Scooby Doo cartoon. OnQ Productions bring you the best of African-American themed theatre.
Theatre Charlotte is located on Queens Road and is not part of the Blumenthal. This is community theatre at it’s best, bringing more known shows to a small stage. Their clientele consists of your 50s and 60s age range, but for certain shows does bring in a broader range of ages. Recent successes have been Steel Magnolias and The Dixie Swim Club.
Time Warner Cable Arena
Home of the Charlotte Bobcats and the Charlotte Checkers, this huge arena presents Charlotte with the biggest concert names such as Bon Jovi, Lady GaGa, Michael Buble, Metallica and Carrie Underwood. The Time Warner Cable Arena is the closest you can get to public transportation also as the public transit is right across Trade Street from the venue. This is the venue for those acts making a stop between DC and Atlanta.
Ovens Auditorium – 2700 East Independence Boulevard
This is an older venue that has been revamped in recent years. it is held for shows too big for the Belk Theater, as the Ovens holds 2,400 seats. Recent Broadway shows have been Wicked and 9 to 5; and near future shows include White Christmas and Billy Elliot. Ovens Auditorium also has your comedians and musicians – Ron “Tater Salad” White and Melissa Etheridge most recently. The space is made up of three levels. The orchestra, which has 31 rows; and the raised level is split into two sections – the Mezzanine of ten rows, and the Balcony which has elevn rows. Each level has five different sections listed here: Far Left, Center Left, Center, Center Right and Far Right. Even views from the extreme sides are fine.
So there you have it, if a Carolina Panthers game or the NASCAR Hall of Fame visit are not for you, you have plenty of options in the Arts District. Many Blumenthal Performing Arts Center shows offer a student rush price, by purchasing an hour or two before show time. All Blumenthal venues are convenient to public transit as well.
Websites to help you on your way