MN Original

With fifty years of operation, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (CDT) is a treasure of the Minnesota theater scene and has become a home to many theater professionals. From Props Master Laura Wilhelm to Director Michael Brindisi, discover how the CDT family creates their productions. Below, CDT Public Relations Director Kris Howland, shares fun facts about the theater through time.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ 50th Anniversary Fun Facts
By Kris Howland

Good News, 1998. Tony Vierling & Amy Adams. Photo Credit: Mike Paul
  • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is the nation’s largest professional dinner theatre company. It’s one of a handful of professional status dinner theaters still in existence.
  • In its 50 years, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has entertained more than 12.5 million guests.
  • In addition, over that time period, CDT has staged a total of 237 productions on its multiple stages.
  • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is the largest privately owned single-unit restaurant in the State of Minnesota.
  • The kitchen and its staff are equipped to serve 1,200 diners a four-course meal within a two-hour span.
  • Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is one of the only table-serviced dinner theatres in the country. Most dinner theaters utilize buffet-style food service because it’s quicker and easier. But CDT’s founders preferred a more personalized style of table service to go along with their philosophy of treating the guest as if they’re in a genuine home, a tradition that’s spanned 50 years.
  • CDT’s most popular entrée offering is its “Chicken Chanhassen,” a roasted, boneless stuffed chicken breast. Since 1968, there have been three variations of that recipe. The first one had an orange glaze, the second a mushroom sauce, and the third and most popular was served starting in 1974. It’s topped with golden Hollandaise and, apart from one exception, has not changed since. When it was briefly removed from the menu, a great public outcry ensued, and, within a few short weeks, it was quickly reinstated and will stay on the menu forevermore.
  • Known for being a popular destination for celebrating life’s special occasions, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres serves more bottled wines than any other restaurant in the State of Minnesota.
  • Since Chanhassen Dinner Theatres opening in 1968, our kitchen has served:
    1. 25 million fresh baked rolls
    2. 2,265,000 grilled to perfection, sirloin steaks
    3. 400,000 pounds of roasted prime rib of beef
    4. 4,250,000 stuffed chicken breasts
    5. 500,000 pints of fresh strawberries
    6. Just shy of 50,000,000 cups of coffee or enough to fill more than FIVE Olympic-sized swimming pools
  • CDT’s dishwashing crew runs 100,000 pieces of china, glass and flatware through its commercial dishwashing systems every single week.

LONGEST RUNNING PLAY

I Do! I Do!, 1971: David Anders & Susan Goeppinger. Photo Credit: Mike Paul

I Do! I Do! (1971), directed by Gary Gisselman: 1,170 weeks 
Chanhassen actors David Anders and Susan Goeppinger opened in I DO! I DO! on February 18, 1971 for what was to have been a limited run of approximately six weeks. No one would have dreamed the musical would earn record-breaking success. In a case of life mirroring art, Anders and Goeppinger were married after their 500th performance. But all good things must come to an end, so the production closed on June 20, 1993 after playing to 688,900 guests in 7,645 performances during that time period.

SECOND LONGEST RUNNING PLAY
Forever Plaid (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002), directed by Michael Brindisi: 217 weeks
This is a weird one, but Forever Plaid ran for almost four years, taking two months off each year to accommodate a holiday revue. It first ran in the Fireside and, in 2001, shifted down to the Downstairs Playhouse. During those runs, there were several different cast combinations as people would come and go.

Annie, 1983: Andrea Bebel & Riley. Photo Credit: Betty Levin

THIRD LONGEST RUNNING PLAY
Annie (1983), directed by Gary Gisselman: 56 weeks

FOLLOWING CLOSE BEHIND
State Fair (1997), directed by Michael Brindisi: 53 weeks
Crazy For You (1996), directed by Michael Brindisi: 53 weeks
42nd Street (1995), directed by Michael Brindisi: 53 weeks
Fiddler on the Roof (1971), directed by Gary Gisselman: 52 weeks
Phantom (1994), directed by Michael Brindisi: 52 weeks
Shirley Valentine (1992), directed by Michael Brindisi: 48 week

SHORTEST RUNNING PLAY
Arsenic and Old Lace (1968), directed by Gary Gisselman: 13 performances

Guys & Dolls, 1989: Michelle Barber, Delrae Knutson. Photo Credit Jim Foell

MOST FREQUENTLY PRODUCED
Fiddler on the Roof: 5
Music Man: 4
Camelot: 4
Oklahoma!: 4
Joseph: 4
My Fair Lady:3
Sound of Music: 3
Hello, Dolly!: 3
Guys & Dolls: 3
West Side Story: 3
The Fantasticks: 3 (once on the Main Stage, once in the Fireside, once in the Playhouse)

The Sound of Music, 1981: (Standing) Jennifer Blagen, Jody Brieske, David F. Miller, John Peitzman Heather Hecht (Sitting) Laura Ellen Karpeles, Shelley Chall, Tamara Kangas (Erickson). Photo Credit: Betty LeVin
Grease, 2017: Ben Bakken, Ruthanne Heyward, Jessica Fredrickson, Shinah Brashears, Andrew Hey, Therese Walth, Evan Tyler Wilson, Caroline Innerbichler, Aleks Knezevich, Alan Bach. Photo Credit: Dan Norman

HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF ATTENDANCE
Grease, 97% (2006)
Grease, 93% (2017)

LOWEST PERCENTAGE OF ATTENDANCE
The Three Cuckolds, 18% (1971)
Xanadu, 33% (2012)

To learn more about the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, visit www.chanhassendt.com.

Sister Act, 2015: Regina Marie Williams. Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Special Thanks: Tommy Benson, Nick Haug, Kris Howland, Brennen Thomas
Additional Media: Act One, Too, Betty Engle Levin, Mike Paul, Zach Peterson Productions
Minnesota Music: Bill Banfield, Communist Daughter, John Mark Nelson
Production Team: Joe Demko, Ezra Gold, Terry Gray, Mark Hentges, Slade Kemmet, Minju Kim, Jim Kron, Matt Mead, Ashleigh V. Rowe, Brittany Shrimpton
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This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.