Culture Calendar: Top Events in Metro Detroit in May 2023

The host of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET offers a curated list of this month’s art and entertainment. Plus, score details on big events happening this May.
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Movement Festival returns to Hart Plaza Memorial Day weekend. // Photograph courtesy of the Movement Photo Team

Metro Detroit is always so full of events and other fun things to do that it can be tough keeping track of it all. To help you plan your weekend itineraries, we’ve asked Ryan Patrick Hooper, the host of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET to share his top May happenings in the area. Plus, save the dates for comedy shows, film screenings, stage performances, and more.

Music: An ode to Aretha Franklin with a full orchestra

“The story of Aretha Franklin is the story of America in the second half of the twentieth century.” That’s how the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is pitching its upcoming tribute to the Queen of Soul as part of its pops series, bringing the best of Broadway, film, television, and the pop world to the Orchestra Hall stage with the assistance of a full orchestra.

Singers Tamika Lawrence, Coco Smith, and Blaine Krauss are up to the challenge of bringing Aretha Franklin’s biggest hits to life for Detroit audiences, which are sure to pack the house for this one.

Respect: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin opens at Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit, on Friday, May 26, and runs through Sunday, May 28. For more information and tickets, visit dso.org.

Theatre: Six gets ready to sing its way into the hearts of Detroiters

The Broadway in Detroit 2023-24 subscription season is kicking off with some major musical gravity. This powerhouse Broadway production lands in Detroit for the first time, bringing some heavyweight accolades along with it, including the Tony for best original score last year.

Six puts the idea of pop-singing divas into a historical context as the six wives of Henry VIII take the microphone to sing out their heartbreak and try to prove who suffered the most under the hand of the ruthless king.

It’s a concept that Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss premiered back in 2017, when they were still students studying at Cambridge University. Their fresh eyes put together something smart, sassy, and full of historical nuggets to entertain even the most jaded lovers of musicals.

Six opens at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, on Tuesday, May 23, and runs through Sunday, June 11. For tickets, visit broadwayindetroit.com.

Comedy: Funny ladies take center stage in Hamtramck

Detroit’s comedy scene has grown quite a bit over the years, punching well above its weight class with a bevy of local talent and more showcases to see than ever before (and we’re not just talking about legendary staple Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, which is still a go-to for any fans of stand-up comedy).

As in any comedy scene, however, getting diverse voices on stages remains a challenge — it’s still very much a male- dominated medium.

The Detroit Women of Comedy Festival is taking a stab at changing that. It’s a celebration of marginalized voices across a spectrum of genders and from every medium — you’ll see improv, podcasts, and stand-up and have the chance to attend workshops over the two-day festival. Proceeds from the festival help support nonprofits like Ruth Ellis Center, which provides support for queer youth and young adults of color, and the Detroit Creativity Project, which helps put performing arts and improv classes into Detroit Public Schools.

Detroit Women of Comedy Festival happens across two days (May 19-20) at the Planet Ant Theatre, 2320 Caniff St., Hamtramck. For tickets and additional details, visit planetant.com.

On my playlist: A reason to Movement this year at Hart Plaza

The arrival of the Movement music festival will take this spot in my column every May until the Earth and the records stop spinning. It’s a force of nature too massive to ignore — a stunning ode to Detroit’s electronic music history, which is one of the city’s greatest cultural exports (and a massive source of cultural tourism, too, attracting over 110,000 patrons across three days).

With six stages and over 115 acts, it’s one of the largest editions of the fest, which dates back more than 20 years (if you include a few name changes during that time). And the homegrown talent is once again the main highlight.

Living legends who helped pioneer techno and house music in the city, like Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale and Carl Craig, are on the bill, plus the next generation of musicians, including Shigeto, Ladylike, and Ladymonix. National headliners to add to the list of must-see acts include Caribou, Basement Jaxx, and Three 6 Mafia.

Movement music festival happens Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29) at Hart Plaza, 1 Hart Plaza, Detroit. Tickets are available via movementfestival.com.

More Top Metro Detroit Events in May 2023

Disney’s Aladdin is coming to Detroit’s Fisher Theatre May 9-14, 2023. // Photograph by Deen Van Meerat

86th Annual Detroit Public Schools Community District Student Exhibition

Detroit Public Schools students in grades K-12 will have an opportunity to present their imaginative works to the DIA’s vast audience at this annual exhibition. The display includes paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, ceramics, videos, jewelry, and more. April 22-May 28. No cost with museum admission. Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; dia.org.

Father John Misty

This prolific singer-songwriter rose to prominence as drummer and backing vocalist for Seattle-based indie band Fleet Foxes. After leaving the band in 2012, Misty went on to release multiple critically acclaimed solo albums, including 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear. He will support his latest effort, 2022’s Chloe and the Next 20th Century, when he embarks on a North American tour this spring with support from folk artist Butch Bastard. May 1. $40+. Masonic Cathedral Theatre, 500 Temple St., Detroit; axs.com.

Small Town Murder

On their hit podcast, Small Town Murder, comedians James Pietragallo and Jimmie Whisman analyze homicidal crimes in small-town America for their many listeners. Although the stories are troubling, the comedians’ witty and comedic perspectives keep audiences entertained and laughing. See them work their magic live on stage when they take their show on the road this month. May 5. $39+. Masonic Cathedral Theatre, 500 Temple St., Detroit; axs.com.

Candlelight Concert: 100 Years of Warner Bros.

Celebrate a century of memorable music from iconic films like The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, The Lord of the Rings, and more at this multi-sensory experience at Detroit’s Redford Theatre. The Listeso String Quartet will perform the 65-minute program amid the ambient glow of hundreds of candles, creating a uniquely memorable experience for ages 8 and up. May 6. $32+. Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser Road, Detroit; redfordtheatre.com.

KC and the Sunshine Band

Boasting a back catalog rife with party hits, including “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “Shake Your Booty,” and “Keep It Comin’ Love,” this legendary disco-funk ensemble is sure to get the audience dancing at Detroit’s Music Hall this month. Led by vocalist and songwriter Harry Wayne Casey, the group has sold more than 100 million records worldwide over the course of its nearly 50-year career. May 7. $64+. Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, 350 Madison St., Detroit; musichall.org

Disney’s Aladdin

The beloved 1992 animated film comes to life in this musical Broadway adaptation directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw. Hear favorite songs from the original Disney feature, along with new music by Tony and Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, when the magical production makes a stop at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre for a five-day run. Recommended for ages 6 and up. May 9-14. $35+. Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit; broadwayindetroit.com.

Mother’s Day Celebration

Presented by Mix 92.3, this night of soulful gospel music is the perfect treat for music-loving moms. The program features Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Tasha Cobbs Leonard, whose 2013 hit single “Break Every Chain” topped Billboard’s Gospel Songs chart. Grammy Award-nominated vocalists Tamela Mann and Jekalyn Carr will also perform, along with singer-songwriter Charles Jenkins. May 12. $54+. Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

David Cross

Best known for his roles in acclaimed TV comedies, including Mr. Show, Arrested Development, and Modern Family, this Emmy Award-winning comedian, actor, director, and writer will perform at Royal Oak Music Theatre as part of an expansive spring tour. Cross’s newest stand-up special, I’m From the Future, was released in February and can be streamed for free via his website. May 13. $42.50+. Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. 4th St., Royal Oak; royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Madagascar the Musical

Follow Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo as they embark on a new journey in this musical stage adaptation of the hit film franchise. Kids of all ages will be dazzled by catchy songs, colorful costumes, vibrant sets, and opportunities to sing and dance along with the characters. May 13. $15+. Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

Harold Lloyd Celebration with Suzanne Lloyd

The granddaughter of legendary silent film actor Harold Lloyd will be on-site at Detroit’s Redford Theatre for two days of events to celebrate her grandfather’s legacy. Screenings will commemorate the 95th anniversary of two of Lloyd’s best-known films — The Freshman and Speedy — complete with live organ music. On Saturday, the theater will hold a VIP reception featuring a Q&A with Suzanne Lloyd, along with specialty desserts and screenings of rare home movies. May 19-20. $15+. Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser Road, Detroit; redfordtheatre.com.

The Mavericks

Hailing from Miami, this eclectic band blends country and Americana music with pop and Latin influences to create a unique, genre-bending sound. The group’s most recent album, 2020’s En Espanol, was recorded entirely in Spanish and emphasized the band’s Latin American roots by incorporating mariachi, salsa, ska, and Afro-Cuban elements. May 19. $39.50+. Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; theark.org

Tom Papa

With more than 20 years of stand-up experience under his belt, this New Jersey-based comedian, actor, and radio host is sure to bring the laughs when he stops at Royal Oak Music Theatre this month. His newest special, What a Day!, is streaming on Netflix and features the comedian’s hilarious takes on “post-marriage intimacy, his problematic pet pug, and why men are to blame for most of life’s inconveniences.” May 20. $34.50+. Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. 4th St., Royal Oak; royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Seal

The London-based Grammy Award-winning soul and R&B singer will launch a world tour this spring in celebration of his 30-plus year career. Hear hits like “Kiss From a Rose,” “Crazy,” and “Killer” when the singer performs his iconic first two records, Seal and Seal II, in their entirety. English new-wave act The Buggles will kick off the show. May 21. $49+. Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

Janet Jackson

The five-time Grammy Award-winning global superstar will make a stop at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena on her upcoming Together Again North American tour. Fans will have a chance to hear Jackson’s newest song, “Luv I Luv,” along with chart-topping classics like “Control,” “Rhythm Nation,” and “All for You.” Rapper and producer Ludacris will open the show. May 24. $72+. Little Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com.

Internal Affairs Trilogy

Released in 2002 and 2003, this trilogy of films by Hong Kong-based directors Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak served as the source material for Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Academy Award-winning film The Departed. Featuring superstar actors Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Andy Lau Tak-wah, the films utilize Buddhist philosophical motifs to weave tales of self-deception and betrayal in Hong Kong’s criminal underworld. Each film will screen separately. May 26-27. $7.50+. Detroit Film Theatre, 5200 John R. St., Detroit; dia.org.

Ella Mai

This R&B phenom was discovered following her audition for the 11th season of the British reality music competition show The X Factor. Since then, she’s released three EPs and two full-length studio albums, which garnered her a Grammy Award, a BET Award, and three Billboard Music Awards. She’ll support her latest effort, 2022’s Heart on My Sleeve, when she hits the road for a North American tour this spring. May 30. $64+. The Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; livenation.com.


This story is part of the May 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.