A hopeful look at events to come in 2021

This kaleidoscope of color greeted attendees approaching the #x201c;Hancher Illuminated#x201d; display Oct. 15 at Hanche
This kaleidoscope of color greeted attendees approaching the “Hancher Illuminated” display Oct. 15 at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City. Always a beacon of light, even in these dark times, let’s hope live performances can return to this showcase of world-class artistry in 2021. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

The perfect vision we had for 2020 came crashing down around us, putting so many facets of our lives on pause. So where I normally would be choosing my Top 10 events for the new year, here’s a list of the events in the works that I hope will still happen — or the ones I hope will be resurrected, once COVID-19 vaccines and protocols make it safe to gather in numbers again.

Orchestra Iowa

At the top of my list is Brucemorchestra, Orchestra Iowa’s season kickoff that before 2020, hadn’t missed a beat since 2008. That’s when it opened the orchestra’s first season on the move, after floodwaters forced the ensemble out of its home inside the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Now a much-anticipated social event, the concert draws as many as 4,000 people, from young families to orchestra patrons, who blanket the lawn at Brucemore mansion in September.

Let’s hope they can pack their picnics and head there again this year. Brucemore’s landscape, devastated by the Aug. 10 derecho, will look different, but I’m betting the spirit will be ramped up a few notches onstage and on the lawn.

Watch for updates at


And speaking of Cedar Rapids’ historic Brucemore estate, I can’t wait for more outdoor arts performances there, in the Courtyard and on the Peggy Boyle Whitworth Amphitheater stage, home to the Classics at Brucemore. Several outdoor events were held in the Courtyard after the derecho, with pandemic protocols in place. And while the events couldn’t seat as many people as in years past, a special delight was the hypnotic horror story “St. Nicholas,” which Theatre Cedar Rapids staged there in October.

Look for event details at

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

The pandemic nearly blew out the candles on the museum’s 125th birthday celebration, but the doors are still open and breathtaking artwork still is in all the galleries. It’s hard to top the centerpiece exhibition, “Across the Atlantic: American Impressionism through the French Lens.” which brought a stellar collection of works by Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt and other renowned artists to Cedar Rapids from Feb. 1 to Aug. 30, but I’m looking forward to a pair of Grant Wood exhibitions in the coming year.

“Seriously Funny: American Gothic Parodies,” is slated to tickle our fancies from Jan. 16 to May 2. Among the famous faces gracing Wood’s iconic 1930 dour-faced figures are Bill and Hillary Clinton, Leonardo and Mona Lisa, and RuPaul as the male and female figures. What’s not to love about that? Museum officials and I all think Wood would approve.

Overlapping that show is “Grant Wood Revealed: Rarely Seen Works by an American Master,” on view from Feb. 13 to May 16. “American Gothic” may be considered the second most recognizable painting behind the “Mona Lisa,” but the Anamosa native who also lived, worked and taught in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City for much of his life, dabbled in many styles and media, including metalwork.


For details, go to


So many wonderful events happened at the start of 2020 in this Iowa City showplace, but so many more were canceled. It’s no secret I love theater and music, so the two offerings I’d love to see rescheduled for 2021-22 are “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” which I’ve never seen, and the Boston Pops concert featuring the six decades of music by John Williams. Perhaps the greatest film composer of all time, the five-time Oscar and 22-time Grammy winner gave us the instantly recognizable scores for “Star Wars,” “Schindler’s List,” “Harry Potter,” “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park” and the Indiana Jones action adventures.

But really, I just want to see something — anything — inside Eastern Iowa’s premiere showplace of world-class artistry. For updates, go to

Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre

Its various venues are dark, but the opera theater has been reaching out online with its 2nd Thursday Series of performances, which began in September and will continue in 2021. The upcoming schedule includes:

• Jan. 14, an encore presentation of “Salome,” the group’s 2010 contemporary setting of the Strauss opera, staged at Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls and filmed by Iowa PBS.

• Feb. 11: World premiere of “Operatini,” a series of songs on the theme of Zoom meeting anxieties, by Nancy Hill Cobb and Melinda Boyd, featuring mezzo soprano Suzanne Hendrix-Case.

• March 11: “The Enchanted Forest,” a children’s opera featuring CROpera Young Artists and Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre.

• April 8: Lecture/Discussion, “The Last Gasp: Opera and Epidemics,” featuring professor Karen Wachsmuth and emeritus professor Christopher Squire, from the University of Iowa, discussing the musical and scientific aspects of disease as portrayed in opera.

Past and upcoming series installments can be viewed at or

Theatre Cedar Rapids

With no return to live in sight, the theater is continuing its virtual offerings with a concert and groundbreaking play.

Powerhouse vocalists Janelle Lauer and Lynne Rothrock will share the spotlight in “Divas 2021,” online from Jan. 22 to 30.


Then on Feb. 5 and 6, “Out of Bounds,” by Jennifer Fawcett with Working Group Theatre, will explore the world of cyberbullying among young people.

A collaboration between Working Group Theatre, Hancher and partner departments from the University of Iowa, the play grew out of a yearlong study of cyberbullying in schools and its effects on students, their families and environments.

I reviewed this show on May 1, 2014, at Riverside Theatre in Iowa City, deeming it “a searing look inside the life of a victim and the adults who try to help, are desperate to help or choose to brush it off. Occasional gasps from the audience punctuated the opening night performance. ... Fawcett’s script is crisp, powerful and crushingly real.”

To watch both shows, go to

Riverside Theatre

This professional troupe based in Iowa City gave up its Gilbert Street stage when the pandemic shut its doors, then created inventive, stunning virtual programming with monologues and fully staged solo shows online.

In the new year, perhaps as early as the spring, Riverside will be returning to live, in-person shows in various locations — and has a new permanent space in the works. Watch for details at

Fingers crossed that its venerable Shakespeare series can return to the Festival Stage in Iowa City’s Lower City Park.

Alliant Energy PowerHouse

Before packing away all the trappings of this holiday season, scroll ahead to next Christmas, when Mannheim Steamroller will power its way to the downtown Cedar Rapids recently renamed Alliant Energy PowerHouse arena. The concert is set for 8 p.m. Dec. 17. Before that, Blue Oyster Cult will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 and country stars Justin Moore and Tracy Lawrence will light up the arena at 7 p.m. Sept. 25.

For details, go to powerhouse.

Paramount Theatre

Two of the rescheduled 2020 events sure to lift spirits in completely different ways are the fleet feet of the Riverdance “New 25th Anniversary Show,” now slated for 7:30 p.m. May 27, and a live Q&A with the stars of “Napoleon Dynamite,” set for 7:30 p.m. Sept 26, with a screening of the film, as well as a discussion with Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez and Jon Gries. Gah.

For details on these shows and others at the downtown Cedar Rapids venue, go to

McGrath Amphitheatre

Rebranded as The Roundup, one of the most delicious events in Cedar Rapids is returning to the riverfront June 24 to 26, bringing a bevy of retro sounds to the stage and rockin’ barbecue in the food stands.


Audiences can groove to the sounds of Pure Prairie League, Orleans, Surf Zombies, Men without Hats and A Flock of Seagulls, while chowing down on award-winning chicken, ribs and more. 

Red Cedar Chamber Music

Carey Bostian and Miera Kim have been delighting audiences with small indoor and outdoor gatherings during the pandemic, as well as virtual concerts livestreaming from their Iowa City home, joined by their sons, emerging artists Adrian and Oliver Bostian — with an occasional feline cameo appearance.

While their “Brinton Reprise” concert has been postponed until May 2022, they do have two concerts planned for the spring.

“A Family Affair” in May will feature award-winning 16-year-old violinist Katya Moeller of Coralville, performing with them on the Schubert Quintet.

In June, the ensemble will perform a concerto grosso program from their front porch. Bostian said it will feature three sets of violin soloists, a couple of violists and perhaps two cellos. “We have no idea what this program is called, but Michael Kimber will likely compose a new concerto grosso for the occasion,” he noted.

Watch for that name and more, at

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