Unofficially, Detroit has the second largest theater district in the country to New York City. But officially, we don’t care either way.
Detroit’s theaters are architecturally incredible with the best original and Broadway plays in the country. Do yourself a favor and make it a point to go to big name shows and a few local shows too. You won’t regret it. Check out upcoming shows on our Detroit events calendar.
Detroit’s big theaters are where you can check out touring Broadway plays and the biggest names in dance. One of the most famous theaters in the city, and maybe in the country, is The Fox Theatre. Aside from its famous marquee (take a picture, it’s tradition), The Fox Theatre hosts big concerts, Broadway plays and musicals, comedians and more. Built in 1928, the Fox has hosted Sesame Street Live, Kanye West and Elf the Musical. The Detroit Opera House can be found right by Comerica Park, conveniently on Broadway Street. More Broadway plays stop here, including Wicked, Phantom of the Opera and Aladdin, and the Opera House is well known for their Detroit Symphony Orchestra performances. The Fisher Theatre, located in the New Center neighborhood, sees the most Broadway action. Productions of the Book of Mormon, Rent, Hamilton and Waitress have been and will be at the Fisher. And right near the Opera House is Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, which prides itself on being one of the most accessible, inclusive and culturally diverse performing arts institutions in the country. Come here for jazz concerts and big name plays, like Jersey Boys.
Although all of our big theaters would be enough for most cities, it isn’t enough for Detroit. Next up is our vast collection of smaller theaters that pack just as big of a punch. The 60+ year old Detroit Repertory Theatre is still run by its original founders, and has been devoted to diversity in casting the whole time. Plus, the theater has one of the best theater lobbies in Michigan (and a full bar). Matrix Theatre in Mexicantown hosts professional productions, work by teen companies, community playwrights and more. Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre is a professional theater with performers who are graduate students earning their M.F.A. degrees. If you make your way to Hamtramck (which is a city within the city of Detroit) Planet Ant Theatre offers improv shows and plays, and was founded by Keegan Michael Key. City Theatre is located inside of Hockeytown Café near all of the arenas. They often show locally-written plays, including a play written by Mitch Albom.
Theaters in Metro Detroit
Detroit’s love of theater has trickled out into the suburbs over time. With so many great theater companies in the Wayne, Oakland and Macomb districts, you’re sure to find a great play or musical to watch no matter where you are in. In Northville, check out the Marquis Theatre, Genitti’s Hole-in-the-Wall and Tipping Point Theatre. The Marquis stages adaptions of fairy tales and other children’s shows. And Genitti’s is an experience not to be missed. Try out one of their murder-mystery dinner theaters, and eat every course of their famous 8 course Italian family dinner. To round out the Northville area, Tipping Point Theatre makes every guest feel like family. In the Downriver town Trenton, the Open Book Theatre Company has moved on from its back-of-a-thrift-store roots into having its own space to perform. And not far away is the Trenton Village Theatre, which regularly shows performances from the Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center (DYPAC). Although not technically in metro Detroit, you can’t discuss Detroit theater without discussing The Purple Rose Theatre. Started by actor Jeff Daniels in his hometown of Chelsea, Michigan, The Purple Rose has become a cultural destination. Many local playwrights have premiered their shows at this theater, including Mitch Albom and Jeff Daniels himself. PuppetART used to be a downtown Detroit staple, but now you can find this puppet-play theater in Southfield, Michigan. In the Ferndale cluster of theaters, you’ll need to check Ringwald Theatre, Go Comedy! Improv Theater and Puzzle Piece Theatre/Slipstream Theatre Initiative off your list. The Ringwald presents gay-themed plays, spoofs of old movies and no-nonsense productions of acclaimed modern works. And they offer shows on Monday nights. Go Comedy! Is a hotbed of sketch comedy and improv. And Puzzle Piece Theatre and Slipstream Theatre Initiative share a building in Ferndale, and also share a love of putting a daring approach on classic plays. They also provide plenty of plays during the week. Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester provides Broadway quality theater productions for their audience. The Aaron DeRoy Theatre consistently offers intriguing fare from the Jewish Ensemble Theatre. In Waterford, Two Muses Theatre and Monster Box Theatre share a space that has a coffee shop in the lobby. Macomb Center for the Performing Arts offers concerts for those out in the Macomb area, but frequently shows ballet and plays, too.
2. Broadway Shows in Detroit & More
To see what plays, musicals and dances Detroit currently has on the books, check out our Detroit Events Calendar. You may find a few other events you like, too.
3. Detroit Theater Architecture & Design
One of the best parts of watching live shows in Detroit is taking in the beautiful, historic architecture in our theaters. One of the most famous is the Fox Theatre, and there’s more to it than its famous marquee. Built in 1928 by C. Howard Crane, the art-deco Fox Theatre is a mix of Egyptian, Far Eastern and Indian designs. It was originally called “the most magnificent Temple of Amusement in the World”. After several decades in business, the theater needed to be updated. The Ilitch family restored the Fox back to it’s original, unique and grand design in 1987, and in 1989 the theater was designated as a National Historic Landmark. Next up is New Center’s Fisher Theatre in the Fisher Building, designed in the Mayan Revival-style architecture by Albert Kahn and Joseph Nathaniel French. Opened in 1928, the building housing the theater was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The current location of the Detroit Opera House is the former site of the Capitol Theater, opened in 1922.
The building was designed by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane in the style of grand European opera houses. And nearby is the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, a theater built in 1928 and funded by the widow of John Dodge of the Dodge Motor Company. Mrs. Dodge, along with her architect William Kapp, had a dream of building a theater in Detroit that rivaled those in London. The theater is built in an art-deco style, and the façade is decorated with Pewabic tiles, which is a company native to Detroit. The theater’s original interior was designed in a Spanish Renaissance style, and is on the Michigan Register of Historic Places.