2023 was a Willie good year for arts and entertainment in the area – InForum

FARGO — This past year featured lots of fun, thought-provoking events and developments on the local arts and entertainment front. In the spirit of year-end lists, here’s a look at 10 stories that helped shape such a vibrant scene.

May 22 & 23
Bluestem Amphitheater


Willie Nelson points at the crowd during a sold out performance on Monday, May 22, 2023, at the Bluestem Amphitheater in Moorhead.

Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Yes, there were certainly bigger shows this year, but few will be remembered as fondly as seeing Willie Nelson play either of his two intimate, sold-out sets at Bluestem. The 90-year-old American treasure played about 20 songs in 70 minutes and only got better as the night went on.

He played songs throughout his celebrated career,

from his take on “Crazy,” which Patsy Cline made into a hit, to his duet with Snoop Dogg, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” but the highlight was pairing his signature finger-picking and raspy, nasally vocals for a moving, “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.”


Great Plains NP Holdings, part of Kilbourne Group, got an initial OK for Renaissance Zone tax credits on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, for its part of a six-story building that will include housing, the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre, commercial space and a parking ramp. The project on the 600 block of Fargo’s NP Avenue is illustrated looking from north to south in this rendering.

Contributed / Kilbourne Group

It’s been a wild couple of years for the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre. After its original home in Fargo’s Island Park was deemed unsafe in 2019, the organization found a new home in Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center. Now the company is looking forward to

a new permanent home as part of a redevelopment of the 600 Block of NP Avenue

, Fargo. FMCT’s new $10 million facility will take up 30,000 square feet of the new construction and includes teaching spaces. Construction is set to begin in March of 2024.

Curt Olds.jpeg

Curt Olds has been named the new general director of the Fargo-Moorhead Opera.


It was a year of transitions for many arts groups as leaders came and left. After a long search, Theatre B found its new executive director in Colt Neidhardt, whose tenure got off to a great start with the hilarious “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche!” The Fargo-Moorhead Opera welcomed new general director Curt Olds, who made a splash announcing he wants to incorporate musicals into the company’s lineup. Erin Shapiro moved from Hawaii to Fargo to take over as the director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum. The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra saw its new leader come and go in the span of months, so Mindy Heitkamp has returned as interim executive director.

July 21 – 29
Bluestem Amphitheatre


Drake Aasen (left) Madison Gette and Tyler Hoverson perform “Good Morning” in Trollwood’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain”.

Adam Watts / Contributed

Trollwood Performing Arts School’s mainstage musical is a highlight of summer for many, but lately productions have been beset by COVID, worker shortages and weather. The latter was the case when a storm badly damaged the set of

“Singin’ in the Rain”

in July. The opening was pushed back a week, but the show was worth the wait as a familiar and entertaining old-time song-and-dance number about, well, putting on a show.

Aug. 19


P!nk performs during her Summer Carnival Tour stop at the Fargodome on Saturday, August 19, 2023.

David Samson/The Forum

P!nk hasn’t had a major solo hit in years, but proved that her star shines brighter in person than on any chart.

The singer thrilled a full house at the Fargodome

in August with her usual high-flying acrobatics, dance numbers and her powerhouse voice. The singer is just as well loved for her messages of openness and inclusiveness, which stuck with the mostly female crowd featuring many mothers and daughters. She also delivered a realtime lesson in respect and humility when she called her seamstress onstage between songs to sew up a broken zipper on her leotard. She praised the wardrobe assistant and told her son’s favorite knock-knock jokes, then sat at the piano to play Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.”

Aug. 10
Fargo Theatre

Bear Grease locker.jpg

The cast of “Bear Grease” brings its twist on the musical to the Fargo Theatre.


Twists on the musical “Grease” are nothing new, but an Indigenous take on the musical was a fun spin for those that caught a touring production of

“Bear Grease” at the Fargo Theatre.

The tour, based out of Canada, refers to the show as “the First Nation sensation” as it shows Indigenous actors playing Danny, Sandy and their friends. Some men wore their hair in braids, women wore ribbon skirts and mixed parodies like “Boarding School Dropout” with traditional singing, dancing and drumming. Creator Crystle Lightning has similar musical adaptations in mind, like “Bear Spray” and “Rez Side Story” and fans hope she brings those back to the Fargo Theatre.

June 13 – 15
Hansen Theatre, MSUM


From left, Craig Ellingson, Kathy Hanson, Angie Schulz and David Triptow star in Straw Hat Players’ “The Prom”.

Dennis Krull / Contributed

Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Straw Hat Players showed more is merrier this summer. The program’s season ended with members of ActUp and Wheelhouse Productions producing

“The Prom.”

The musical looks at four down on their luck adult actors who decide to help a lesbian blocked from bringing her girlfriend to her prom. The result was a touching and hilarious take with a great message about inclusion and humility.


Kendra and Krista Slaubaugh, a sister duo known as Tigirlily Gold, perform their original country music and some popular song covers on the Froggy Freestage at the Red River Valley Fair on Saturday, July 8, 2023, in West Fargo.

Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

It was a big year for sisters Kendra Olson and Krista Slaubaugh,

better known as the country duo Tigirlily Gold

. The Hazen, North Dakota, natives, now living in Nashville, released their biggest single yet, “Shoot Tequila,” in January. The sisters made their Grand Ole Opry debut in May, performed the national anthem at two NFL games, appeared on the “Today” show and had a song featured in a Christmas Hallmark movie. The act leaves itself in a good position to have an even bigger 2024.

July 9
Red River Valley Fair


Jelly Roll performs at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo on Sunday, July 9, 2023.

David Samson/The Forum

When the Red River Valley Fair announced last January that

Jelly Roll would headline one of the nights

in 2023, he wasn’t a household name. By the time he played seven months later, that changed. The rapper-turned-country singer packed nearly 20,000 fans in to hear him sing hits like “Save Me” and “Son of a Sinner.” A few weeks later he headlined the North Dakota State Fair in Minot and in September he was announced as one of the headliners at WE Fest in 2024.

Sept. 23 & 24
Festival Concert Hall, NDSU


Rachel Barton Pine performs with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra at Festival Concert Hall on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023.

David Samson/The Forum

The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra started off its season with a bang in September thanks to violinist

Rachel Barton Pine

. The celebrated guest artist wowed the crowd with a performance of Pablo de Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy” and Sylvia Bodorova’s “Concerto of the Flowers.” Her performance was so moving she had to hold her hand up to put down a standing ovation mid-performance. She topped it off with an wonderful encore performance of”Asturias” by Isaac Albéniz to further showcase her technical mastery of the violin.

John Lamb

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.

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