It’s possible to live in Charlotte for decades without attending a concert or a play. (Possible, though a terrible idea.) But if you’re going to call yourself a Charlottean, you’ve gotta know where everyone else is going when actors act, rockers rock, dancers dance and symphonic strings do their thing.
Memorize this alphabetical guide to 15 performance venues every Charlottean ought to recognize, and you’ll be prepared to lead a tour yourself.
Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte (650 E. Stonewall St., www.atcharlotte.org): The region’s only full-time professional theater for adults commissions plays, does world premieres (including Diana Grisanti’s “The Patron Saint of Losing Sleep” this September) and offers a series of dramas and offbeat musicals in its 199-seat venue. ATC is one of only two theater companies in town that doesn’t share its building; Theatre Charlotte, now in its 88th year and producing community theater at 501 Queens Road, is the other.
Belk Theater/Booth Playhouse (130 N. Tryon St., www.blumenthalarts.org): Belk, the larger of these Blumenthal Performing Arts venues, seats 2,100 and is home to national tours of musicals in the Broadway Lights series and performances by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Opera Carolina. Booth, the city’s largest playhouse at 436 seats, hosts the annual satirical revue “Charlotte Squawks” and tours too big to go into the cabaret-style Stage Door Theater at Fifth and College streets (a frequent home for jazz) or the intimate Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square.
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The Fillmore and Uptown Amphitheatre (1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., www.livenation.com): These indoor/outdoor NC Music Factory venues stage large club tours of all genres and midsized outdoor spring and summer concerts. National acts go to the Fillmore for intimate club gigs: Foo Fighters performed a record-breaking four-hour show there during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Uptown Amphitheatre is a smaller version of PNC Music Pavilion, with tightly packed uncovered seats and lawn seating; it gives fans a more intimate experience and lets acts on the way up (or down) sell out a sizable venue.
Halton Theater (1206 Elizabeth Ave., tix.cpcc.edu): Central Piedmont Community College’s acoustically splendid, 1,020-seat locale hosts the venerable Charlotte Concerts series of classical and jazz performances but mostly houses CPCC Summer Theatre, which has produced musicals for more than 40 years. CPCC has a smaller spot across the street, Pease Auditorium, for dramas and comedies.
ImaginOn (300 E. Seventh St., www.ctcharlotte.org or www.cmlibrary.org): The wittily designed building – don’t miss the whimsical art out front – houses the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s largest collection of children’s materials and the professional Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, the county’s biggest and busiest production company. Plays target youths from babyhood through high school, though adults can find something to like in these innovative productions, and the library’s many free themed film series offer gems year-round.
Knight Theater (430 S. Tryon St., www.blumenthalarts.org): The 1,200-seat auditorium, one of six venues run by Blumenthal Performing Arts, shares a plaza with Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Mint Museum’s uptown location and several upscale restaurants. The sound is impeccable and the seats are comfy. Live performances might include Steve Martin, Chris Isaak, Esperanza Spalding, dance and stage productions that don’t need the bigger Belk Theater, comedians and the recurring Tosco Music Party.
McBride-Bonnefoux Center for Dance (701 N. Tryon St., www.charlotteballet.org): Charlotte Ballet has offices here, rehearses here, offers classes and – when it’s not performing at Belk Theater or Knight Theater – offers its most intriguing program in a 200-seat theater. Innovative Works, an annual collection of short pieces, highlights Charlotte-based choreographers working with new concepts or technologies.
McGlohon Theater (345 N. College St., www.blumenthalarts.org): This 730-seat theater at Spirit Square, once the sanctuary of First Baptist Church – it has stained glass windows and a Byzantine dome – offers some of the best sound and atmosphere in town. Special performances have included Steve Earle’s tear-jerking encore in 2008, the opening night of Seth Avett’s 2014 tour, Adam Ant’s 2013 comeback and the quarterly Swing Jazz Series by Duke University’s John Brown.
Ovens Auditorium (2700 E. Independence Blvd., www.ovensauditorium.com): At 60, this neighbor to Charlotte’s original coliseum (now Bojangles’ Arena), is the go-to spot for tours that aren’t big enough for amphitheaters but still draw well. It has welcomed Weird Al, R. Kelly, Sarah McLachlan, Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle; huge musicals on tour (“Wicked”) sometimes settle in for long runs, though acoustics can be problematic.
PNC Music Pavilion (707 Pavilion Blvd., www.pncpavilioncharlotte.com): Outdoor amphitheaters on the outskirts of metropolitan areas became popular in the ’90s. This one, nestled in University City near Lowe’s Motor Speedway, seats almost 20,000 and hosts large summer tours; it offers discounted lawn seats and pricier spots under the shed. A Country Megaticket covers lawn tickets to most country concerts and goes on sale before summer kicks in. PNC is also home to WEND 106.5’s End of Summer Weenie Roast in September.
Time Warner Cable Arena (333 E. Trade St., www.timewarnercablearena.com): Between pro basketball games, the home of the Charlotte Hornets hosts everything from monster trucks and horse shows to ice skating and bull riding. It can seat up to 17,000 concertgoers; Madonna, Paul McCartney, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Michael Bublé, Metallica and the Rolling Stones have played there. Spring for seats on the lower level if you can: The nosebleed seats are steep vertically, if not pricewise.
UpStage NoDa (3306-C N. Davidson St., www.upstagenoda.com): In three years, this funky upstairs spot has become the most active venue under 100 seats in the county. Spoken word, comedy, magic and especially theater fill the joint, which offers food and a full bar. Troupes such as Appalachian Creative Theatre, Three Bone Theatre, Citizens of the Universe and many more find a home here, with tickets usually $15. Special mention goes to its spiritual cousin, the tiny Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius.
Visulite Theatre (1615 Elizabeth Ave., www.visulite.com) – Among Charlotte’s smaller venues, this renovated movie house offers ambiance, three tiers (including bar seating), stage level stools, a pit and convenient parking. Ornate décor frames the stage, providing a perfect backdrop for Instagrammed concert photos. At 400-plus capacity, Visulite books up-and-coming acts, mid-level veterans, jam, funk and reggae bands and popular local acts.
Lawrence Toppman covers movies, theater, classical music and dance for the Observer.
Courtney Devores covers music for the Observer on a freelance basis.