Theater fans flock to Minneapolis as venues open after long COVID-19 shutdown

The lights were shining again at the Orpheum Theatre on Thursday, as the venue hosted its first show in more than a year and a half, "Frozen."

After a long shutdown due to the pandemic, two theaters in Minneapolis once again opened doors for shows, bringing droves of fans into downtown Minneapolis for the start of shows on Thursday.

"We're excited. We've had these tickets for a long time," said Brianna Kemboy, who was out with her family.

Hennepin Avenue is more than a thousand miles away from the bright lights of Broadway, but the curtain is rising on live theater again in downtown Minneapolis.

"I am just as curious as everyone else really," said Jake Longworth, who was at the Orpheum on Thursday.

After going dark 18 months ago because of the pandemic, the Orpheum Theatre is hosting a traveling production of "Frozen." Theatergoers had to have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test and wear masks, but the line to get in seemed to move smoothly.

"It should be fine," said Longworth. "We've all been vaccinated and we've got masks so it's taking some proper safety precautions and you've got to at least try to return to normal life at some point."

On the other side of downtown, it was opening night at the Guthrie Theater too.

"It's something we have been waiting for, for a long, long time," said Guthrie Theater Managing Director James Haskins.

A $7 million grant from the shuttered venue operators program helped the theater stay afloat for the last year and a half and reopen its doors for the premiere of "What the Constitution Means to Me."

"It's an exciting time. It’s an emotional time. I think tonight's going to be an extraordinary evening for everyone who is there," said Haskins.

Farmers Kitchen and Bar opened across the street a few weeks ago. Employees hope theatergoers have an appetite for more than just the return of live performances on the Guthrie stage.

"It's going to be great," said Kris Coach with Farmers Kitchen and Bar. "It's really going to drive some business for us and we've got to squeeze out some of those last beautiful days on the patio."