Los Angeles, California is a bustling city well known as the world's leading center for the entertainment industry. Apart from the glitz and glam of the TV and film industries, LA also has a thriving performing arts scene, and even has more theatres than anywhere else in the U.S.! From iconic old-Hollywood theatres to newly established music venues, there is never a lack of live shows to choose from in the City of Angels.
Below is your guide to the Performing Arts Scene in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles has a rich history of the performing arts, which is in part due to its abundance of performing art academies. The first official stage venue, The Merced Theatre, in LA opened in 1871 and was supposed to produce Shakespeare and restoration comedy. However, locals were more receptive to minstrel shows and melodrama, and the theatre ended up going bankrupt in 1878. Live stage work was minimal over the next few years until 1884, when a Grand Opera house opened, attracting national and international touring troupes. As the popularity of touring companies increased, so did the building of larger theater spaces. LA quickly began to catch up to the popularity of theatre within New York, and it was common for shows to debut in LA before becoming hits on Broadway. The LA performing arts scene continued to grow overtime and has since become a premier location for live performance.
While there are many venues throughout Los Angeles to view live performances, some are bucket-list worthy and essential to visit while in the city. The following are our recommendations for experiencing the best of the performing arts in Los Angeles.
Until much of the 20th century, Los Angeles was the only major city in the country that did not have a resident opera company. Now, the city is a lively opera capital and the LA Opera is the fourth largest opera company in North America. The LA Opera performs classical and contemporary operas and is a resident company of The Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown LA. Opera enthusiasts will appreciate LA Opera's dedication to preserving the foundations of classical works while incorporating fresh and innovative elements to them. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown LA, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is close to some of LA's most popular attractions. After taking in a show by the LA Opera, walk around the corner and try-out Kendall's Brasserie for a bite to eat. This restaurant is a favorite amongst theatre-goers where classic French dishes with an upscale twist are served.
(photo credit: Travel Caffeine)
For the finest performances in classical, contemporary, world, and jazz music attend a Los Angeles Philharmonic (LA Phil) show. This highly acclaimed orchestra calls The Walt Disney Concert Hall (WDCH) in downtown Los Angeles home. As one of the most sophisticated concert halls in the world and an internationally recognized architectural landmark, the WDCH is more than your average concert venue. The WDCH features a striking curved stainless steel exterior and a hard-wood paneled main auditorium that embodies the unique creative energy of Los Angeles. Although the LA Phil is the resident act of the WDCH, other musicians and musical ensembles, like the Los Angeles Master Chorale perform there as well. The WDCH is located close to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and there is much to see in the downtown area after a show. The Museum of Contemporary Art is only a 5-minute walk away along with The Boardroom, a bar that offers escargot shooters and live jazz for additional musical entertainment.
Hollywood Pantages Theatre
(photo credit: Historical Theatre Photos)
The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is a must-visit venue for fans of musical theatre and is an icon in Los Angeles. Dating back to the 30's, the Pantages showcases an Art Deco facade and has undergone many renovations throughout the years, including a 10-million-dollar restoration upgrade in 2000. It was even the location of the Academy Awards Presentations for ten years and has been featured in many films! The Pantages is considered to be one of the best venues in California for live theatre and also occasionally hosts concerts. It has presented large-scale Broadway productions like the show Wicked, along with Disney's The Lion King, which has run off and on at the theatre for around 15 years. Guests won't want to miss exploring all there is to see surrounding the Pantages Theatre. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is just steps away and The Lost Property Bar, where they specialize in handcrafted cocktails, is the prefect place for a post-theatre drink.
Los Angeles Ballet
Enjoy an afternoon (or evening) at the ballet and take in a performance by The Los Angeles Ballet. Based out of Los Angeles, this classical ballet company tours various venues across LA County. Each season the Los Angeles Ballet typically hosts two classical ballets with an additional Balanchine performance during the Spring. The Dolby Theatre is a venue where the Los Angeles Ballet often performs and is located on Hollywood Boulevard near several restaurants and attractions. If you find yourself at a Dolby Theatre performance, consider stopping for a drink and bite to eat at the nearby LONO Hollywood. As an old-school tiki bar, LONO Hollywood offers a variety of tropical-themed drinks and a menu with flavors inspired by the Far East.
Vibrato Grill Jazz
Sit back, relax, and take in the rhythm of live jazz music at Vibrato Grill Jazz. Tucked away in the hills above Bel-Air, this swanky yet reserved Jazz restaurant is owned by legendary jazz trumpeter and Grammy award winner, Herb Alpert. Vibrato Grill Jazz's calendar always features an impressive line-up of live jazz acts and it's not uncommon to spot a celebrity in the venue. With ice cold martinis and a fresh, seasonally inspired menu, you won't regret spending an evening spent here. Although Vibrato Grill Jazz is not situated in downtown LA, it is a short car ride from Franklin Canyon Park, and would make for a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy after an afternoon spent viewing the canyon.