Herb and Carol Bloomberg founded Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (or the Chan, as it’s known to performers) with a humble vision: “to bring a little bit of Broadway to the Midwest.” The farm town of Chanhassen was hardly Manhattan back in 1968, but it gained one of the best aspects of the borough with the grand opening of a 90,000 square foot dinner theatre.
The Bloombergs had a good idea. Today the Chan is the largest theater of its kind in the country, not to mention Minnesota’s largest privately-owned restaurant. They have served nearly 13 million guests since Herb and Carol cut the ribbon.
The Chan attracts some fairly major talent from across the world, but Minnesota City, Minnesota would birth one of their greatest singers. Pamela Helmer McNeill, who has toured with Rick Astley, collaborated with Yanni, opened for Etta James, and performed for the Queen of England herself calls the Chan her home theatre. And she gets a little sentimental during Christmastime, because it is when she first decided to become a songstress.
“I was only three years old, dressed up as an angel and singing on stage at my family’s church on Christmas Eve,” reminisced Pamela. “When the performance was over I looked across the audience and saw all those faces beaming with happiness. I knew right then what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I spent the next years learning how to sing, and began practicing on my grandmother’s old Hammond organ before my feet could reach the pedals.
“Christmas is still especially important to me. It’s such a heartwarming time that I have to resist the urge to start putting up my tree in September. That’s why I’m so proud to be a part of the Rock & Roll Xmas Spectacular. The other seven performers and I are like a little band of misfits, taking classic rock songs and putting Christmas lyrics to them – or vice versa. You’d be surprised how well “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” blends with Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way,” and only we could fuse AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” It’s not your grandma’s Christmas show!
“This will be our 17th year performing the Rock & Roll Xmas Spectacular. We’re kicking it off December 1st through the 5th, taking a little break to do some Christmas shopping, and then coming back for an encore December 8th through 12th.
“My group is only a small part of the Chan’s Christmas spirit. This December we’re also presenting The Music Man, A Kat Perkins Christmas, Celtic Holiday Hooley, Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret, An Andy & Bing Christmas (which is very much your grandma’s Christmas show), and many others. I meet so many guests who tell me they just hadn’t gotten into the Christmas spirit until they came to the Chan. It means so much to me, to be able to do that.
“How lucky are we, to have the biggest dinner theatre in America in our backyard? Not only can people come to see a Broadway quality show, but also support so many musicians, actors, and comedians living right here in our community. But I’d feel terrible if I left out the kitchen and waitstaff. Their ability to plate and serve hundreds of gourmet dinners all at once really puts the kind of orchestration I do to shame. Thanks to them we’re able to create the perfect evening of entertainment for everyone – families with little kids and great-grandparents, company gatherings, and couples on dates. The Chan can be very romantic, and I should know. I met my husband here!”
Please visit chanhassendt.com to learn more about the Chan’s upcoming shows, including Rumours & Dreams – The Music of Fleetwood Mac which will return this January as part of the CDT Concert Series. Pamela’s mastery of the Nicks tremolo is truly remarkable. You may also visit pamelamcneill.com to discover moer about Pamela. Be on the lookout for her seventh studio album, which drops next year!