Standing in the Wings traces the rebirth of Minneapolis's Hennepin Theatre District, as told by the impresario who saved the Orpheum, State and Pantages Theatres on Hennepin Avenue, spearheaded their restoration, and booked the Broadway and live shows which have sustained them for more than forty years.
Share Fred Krohn's personal recollections on the amazing shows and legendary artists he has worked with, and which have led to the resurgence of downtown Minneapolis- shows like A Chorus Line, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the World Premiere of The Lion King, and artists as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Tina Turner, Elton John, U2, Billy Joel, Gordon Lightfoot, and many others.
And discover the amazing tales of City intrigue detailing how each of the three theatres was saved from the wrecking ball, restored to its former glory, and brought to life with an impressive array of live shows.
Fred Krohn is a key figure in the transformation of Minneapolis’ Hennepin Avenue from a blighted and unsafe area to a vibrant Theatre District. He has been active in the concert promotion, Broadway, and theatre management businesses in Minneapolis since the 1970s.
In 1978, with Bob Dylan and Bob’s brother, David Zimmerman, he upgraded and reopened the Orpheum Theatre with a successful run of A Chorus Line, revealing the potential for first-run Broadway on Hennepin Avenue.
In 1992, Krohn spearheaded the successful effort to save and completely restore Hennepin Avenue’s State Theatre, and booked a multi-week sellout run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond. The success of that run and Krohn’s other promotions at the State led the City of Minneapolis to finance the complete restoration of the Orpheum Theatre and award the management of both theatres to Krohn’s company, Historic Theatre Group. Krohn reopened the Orpheum in 1993 with one of the first engagements of the Cameron Macintosh blockbuster Miss Saigon.
In 1997, Krohn led the negotiations with DISNEY to host the world premiere of The Lion King, which went on to be the most successful Broadway show in history. He also attracted other U.S. and world premieres to the Orpheum, including Julie Andrews in Victor, Victoria and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
In 2002, Krohn worked with Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Tom Hoch to persuade the City of Minneapolis to save and refurbish Hennepin Avenue’s 1000-seat Pantages Theatre, completing the Hennepin Theatre District. Since then, Krohn has presented hundreds of Broadway shows and concerts at the Orpheum, State and Pantages Theatres. He retired in 2018.
In January 1972, just as my musical and recording career was breaking in the United States, I performed at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota, for a new and unproven promoter. His name was Fred Krohn. Little did I know then that Fred and I would be working together for the next fifty years.
I could tell from those first shows that Fred sincerely admired and respected the artists he presented. He did everything he could to make sure their gigs were successful. He had a law degree, but being a live-music promoter seemed to be his chosen career.
Over the years since our first meeting, I have come to know Fred both as a show producer and as a friend. I have followed his quest to save, acquire, and restore the State and Orpheum theatres, and his efforts to operate the Orpheum with my friend, Bob Dylan, and his brother, David Zimmerman. I have seen his reputation grow as he brought hundreds of shows to the people of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and to the rest of the country, culminating in his involvement with the World Premiere of Disney’s THE LION KING at the Orpheum in 1997.
Fred has been one of my most loyal and supportive promoters for over half a century. I’ve performed nearly 100 concerts for him throughout the United States, and I don’t recall a date when Fred was not there in person, making sure that everything I needed for a successful show was taken care of. We’ve had some interesting times.
I salute Fred’s amazing career in live entertainment, and I feel you will find his exploits in establishing the Hennepin Theatre District, and bringing a celebrated list of legendary artists to his three theatres, captivating in Standing in the Wings.