Located only an hour from Portland (with no traffic), many big acts that come through Portland never make it to Salem. Yet the city has a thriving local performing arts scene. There are two community theaters, both with auditions open to locals. Two historic theaters bring national acts, from music to comedy to magic. Finally, Willamette University and Chemeketa Community College have productions throughout the year featuring their performing arts departments. Here is your guide to where to watch live music and theatre in Salem.

live music and theatre Salem
The Elsinore Theater. Photo credit: Melissa Mansour

Elsinore Theater

170 High Street SE, Salem

The Elsinore Theater opened in May 1926 as a silent movie and vaudeville theater. The Wurlitzer organ, still in use today, provided the music for the films. The Elsinore pulled in people from throughout the Willamette Valley and became a staple of the vaudeville circuit on the West Coast. When sound came to the movies in 1929, the Elsinore converted to the new style and operated as a first-run movie theater into the 1950s. In the 1940s, a local Salem chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club, called “Zollie’s Gang,” hosted Saturday matinees with cartoon shorts and songs. By the 1980s, the Elsinore was in decline and slated for demolition. A group of locals formed to save the theater and successfully raised the money to renovate the historic theater. By 1994, it had been fully restored and placed on the National Historic Register. Since then, the Elsinore has welcomed local and national acts to its stage and is already planning its 100th anniversary celebration in 2026.

The Elsinore has a highly varied schedule. It hosts live music, theater, and dance throughout the year. It’s on the comedy circuit, with nationally-known comedians performing. Musical acts range from national bands like Ben Folds to the Little River Band to more local favorites like China Forbes. Tribute bands, from “Red Not Chili Peppers” to “Epic Queen,” consistently stop at the venue. Local dance groups also use the theater for their performances, giving area kids the experience of dancing on an actual stage.

live music and theatre Salem
The pipe organ at the Elsinore Theater.

The Grand Theater

191 High Street NE, Salem

The Grand Theater was built in 1900 as an Oddfellows Lodge and was later converted into a theater. The theater hosts everything from Belly dancing competitions to musical speed dating, in addition to more traditional performances like magic shows and local theater. The Grand is also available for rentals, from the theater space on down to conference rooms.

live music and theatre Salem
Salem’s Grand Theater, formerly an Oddfellows Lodge. Photo credit: Joe Mabel

Pentacle Theatre

Box Office: 197 Liberty Street SE, Salem
Theater: 324 52nd Avenue NW, Salem

Founded 70 years ago, Pentacle Theatre is a mainstay of the Salem theater scene. Producing musicals and straight plays, the amateur theater puts on eight shows yearly. With both classic and newer works, there would be something of interest for any theatergoer. Community members can try out for the productions, usually a few months before they are performed.

Keizer Homegrown Theatre

Keizer Heritage Center
980 Chemawa Road NE, Keizer

Keizer Homegrown Theatre is the other community theater in the Salem area. Performing three productions yearly, a couple are written specifically for the Homegrown Theatre. The Homegrown Theatre welcomes auditions from members of the community, but they run their casting call over one weekend for the entire production. People who want to be involved in the technical part are also welcome to volunteer, from lighting and sets to sound design. Located in the Keizer Heritage Center along with the library and historical museum, it’s a smaller, more intimate theater than most of the others on this list.

Willamette University

900 State Street, Salem

The Willamette Theatre Department and Music Department perform throughout the school year, and the theaters also host guest artists of various kinds, often for concerts. The theatre department puts on both musicals and straight plays with student performers. Even though the performers are still in school, the quality of the offerings is very high, and community members are encouraged to attend.

live music and theatre Salem
The Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center at Willamette University. Photo credit: M.O. Stevens

Chemeketa Auditorium

Chemeketa Community College
4000 Lancaster Drive NE, Building 6, Salem

The Chemeketa Auditorium at Chemeketa Community College hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from college music ensembles to the Bubble Man doing tricks with bubbles for kids. The auditorium is also the site of local dance recitals from different studios.

No matter what kind of performing arts event you want to attend, Salem will have something that will appeal to you and your family. It’s also a great place to get involved in performing, whether you want to act, dance or play music.

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