Entertaining audiences for more than 70 years, this Delavan theater remains a destination for top-notch tribute bands. New amenities make it even more likely you’ll want to visit, too.
Those who are familiar with the Lake Geneva area know it’s dotted with incredible restaurants, boutique hotels and breathtaking vistas. There’s no shortage of things to do in this southern Wisconsin town, and a trip to the historic Belfry Music Theatre ranks high on that list. According to TripAdvisor, the popular travel and entertainment website, the Belfry Music Theatre is the No. 1 thing to do in nearby Delavan. Patrons gush about their experience in the reviews, writing that performers “rocked the house” and the venue is “phenomenal,” “electric” and “a must-see.”
Set near the intersection of Highways 50 and 67 in Delavan, the Belfry has a long and storied history. It was built in 1888 and used initially as a Mormon church. By 1934, the congregation had disbanded, and a local theater group known as The Belfry Players leased the facility to use as a performance space. The Belfry Theatre, as it was then called, became Wisconsin’s first summer stock theater.
In 1942, the group established the Belfry Players Scholarship, which drew the attention of talented musicians and actors looking for a place to hone their skills and make an impression. For the next 20 years, the theater thrived. According to The Belfry Music Theatre’s current executive director, applications for this scholarship were open “to any young man who believed he could go above and beyond with his skills.”
During the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, the program attracted talented performers who would later become some of America’s biggest celebrities. A 20-something Paul Newman worked and performed at The Belfry in the mid-1940s. Improv actor Del Close won the scholarship in 1953. Gary Burghoff, whose family moved to Delavan when he was a sophomore in high school, performed as Bobby in “The Boy Friend” in 1961. A few years later, Chicago native and newly minted college graduate Harrison Ford spent his summer singing onstage in musicals.
The Belfry prospered until the late 1960s, when it fell on hard times and went dark. The facility opened and closed a few more times as ownership changed hands, and then it finally was acquired by a supporter who’s still keeping the legend alive.
The historic Belfry venue, which started as a tiny 35-seat theater, has grown into a state-of-the-art, 240-seat facility. After it was purchased in 2013, the building underwent a major renovation, which included lighting upgrades and the installation of a custom-designed sound system that rivals high-end venues. When the stage finally reopened in 2015, the first show – a John Denver Tribute – sold out, even though renovations weren’t yet complete and the audience had to sit on plastic lawn chairs.
The spring 2023 season, which runs from early February to late May, brings a dazzling array of tribute bands to the stage. The Belfry’s executive director, who asked not to be named, says performers have so much fun that the venue is in high demand. “The level of people we’re getting keeps going up,” he says. “Our performers love the high-end sound system.”
A kickoff paying homage to “The Day the Music Died” is followed in March by The Lovettes, as they return for Leaders of The Pack, a celebration of iconic female singers from the 1960s. They sing hits from The Supremes, Dusty Springfield, the Andrews Sisters and more.
The rest of the spring lineup features sensational performances from highly acclaimed cover artists. Award-winning crooner Matt Dusk sings Frank Sinatra hits on March 4, while Boys in the Band pay tribute to famed country group Alabama on March 31.
In April, fans of The Everly Brothers can hear Sean Altman and Jack Skuller perform classic hits such as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie” and others. The duo also pay homage to Simon and Garfunkel on April 22 with tunes like “The Sound of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
The spring 2023 season ends on a high note with Jenene Caramielo’s tribute to Celine Dion on May 5-6, Majesty’s take on rock band Queen May 10-13, and Chicago Rewired’s revival of multi-genre group Chicago May 26-28.
The Belfry is run by a passionate crew augmented by about 60 volunteers who know the value of having a top-notch theater in the community. Dedicated volunteers donate their time, ushering people to their seats and acting as crossing guards for patrons who use free parking at the Mercyhealth hospital located just across the street.
While concertgoers can certainly buy standard tickets, The Belfry Music Theatre also offers memberships with exclusive benefits. Some of those benefits include waived ticket fees, complimentary access to livestream performances, free seat upgrades (when available) and a VIP dinner invite.
The Belfry’s executive director is particularly proud of the Buy With Confidence program. “It’s a hallmark of what we do,” he says. “Life happens. If you ever buy a ticket and can’t make it to the show, you’ll get a patron credit you can use toward another show, no questions asked.”
The Belfry Music Theatre is conveniently located next door to one of Lake Geneva’s newest luxury boutique hotels, The Belfry House. The hotel features luxury rooms and suites complete with fireplaces and heated bathroom floors. The top tier of theater membership includes a complimentary one-night stay. Members and non-members alike can book tickets online at belfryhouse.com.
If your idea of a great night out includes dinner with your show, you’re in luck because Opus, an upscale French restaurant, is located inside the hotel. The five or seven-course tasting menu changes each week, so check dineopus.com for current offerings.
The lineup for this summer’s entertainment is under wraps, but it’s expected to become public in March. Most shows feature cover bands, although lately the schedule has also expanded to include original acts. All details and ticket options are available on the Belfry’s website, belfrymusictheatre.com.
Patrons flock to the venue for its friendly staff, intimate setting and world-class talent.
“The seats are phenomenally comfortable, the theater is immaculately clean, and there’s even free parking,” the executive director says.
Fans love that they can order a glass of wine, sit back and enjoy the best of rock ‘n’ roll, country and Broadway, even if the original bands are no longer around. Over the years, The Belfry Music Theatre has become a treasured piece of Delavan’s cultural history and a lively, family-friendly destination for music lovers of all ages.