Folks get a little riled up in the action of "Les Miserables," coming to the Civic Center April 17.


It isn't just flowers that will be opening soon; five new stage productions open locally over the next two weeks.

First up, the touring production of Broadway's Tony Award-winning drama "The Humans" opens tonight (April 3) and continues through April 8 at the Civic Center. Visit for details.

Des Moines Community Playhouse is producing the musical "Ragtime," about the pursuit of the American Dream early in the 20th century. Shows are scattered April 3-29. Get details at

A traveling troupe from Chicago's legendary Second City comedy club will perform "Look Both Ways Before Talking" at the Temple Theater April 10-29. Information about Second City and a ticket link are here.

Iowa Stage Theatre Company will open "The Christians," a dramatic look at organized religion, on April 13 for a 10-day run at the Des Moines Social Club's Kum & Go Theater. For details:

And on April 17, the powerful Broadway musical "Les Miserables" returns to the Civic Center with shows through April 22. It's presented by Des Moines Performing Arts, which has all the details at

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By Design presents dsmDining —

Owner and chef Tag Grandgeorge of Le Jardin has a special menu planned for National Grits Day—you know, April 14.


By Wini Moranville

If you’re wondering where to spend your dining-out time and money this month, these events might help you narrow the great options in town.

• Grits Throwdown at Le Jardin: April 14 is National Grits Day (who knew?), so Le Jardin’s chefs Tag Grandgeorge and Ashton Cross will duke it out to see who makes the best. This three-course dinner costs $34 and includes grits in each course. Guests will taste two entrees, one from each chef, and vote on which main dish is best. Reservations must be made by calling 515-255-5787. Le Jardin is at 2815 Beaver Ave., Suite 101.

• Tuesdays with Julia at Table 128: Back by popular demand, this Tuesday-night dinner series offers entrees inspired by the classic French cooking of Julia Child. On the menu tonight (April 3): lamb stew with spring vegetables ($25). Upcoming evenings will feature Sole à la Dieppoise — fish with mussels and shrimp — on April 10 ($27); Quiche Lorraine on April 17 ($19); and Lobster Thermidor on April 24 ($35). Table 128 is at 12695 University Ave.; 515-327-7427. The restaurant’s regular menu also will be offered on these nights.

• Wine from a Texas Vine at Bubba: Owner Chris Diebel has been working for more than a year to bring wines from his native state to Iowa. On April 19, Bubba will unveil four wines from the High Plains of Texas, serving them alongside a four-course Southern-inspired tasting menu. Courses include a citrus-avocado salad, black bean and poblano soup, cherry-chipotle glazed pork loin and a strawberry rhubarb sweet biscuit shortcake. Held in conjunction with Winefest Des Moines, the event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $45 and are available through tikly. Bubba is at 210 10th St.; 515-257-4744.

Wini Moranville writes about food, wine and dining for dsm magazine and dsmWeekly. Follow her on Facebook at All Things Food–DSM.

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Amazing counertenor John Holiday will be in concert Sunday and in an opera this summer.

By Michael Morain

This summer, the jet-setting countertenor John Holiday will make his Des Moines Metro Opera debut in a show called "Flight," about an Iranian refugee who lost his passport and was stranded at the Paris airport for 18 years, from 1988 to 2006. It’s based on the same true story that inspired "The Terminal," the 2004 movie starring Tom Hanks.

Meanwhile, the singer has a few other trips in the works. He’ll come to Des Moines on Sunday, April 8, for a concert at Plymouth Church, where he’ll sing a bit of Handel, a bit of jazz, and bit of everything in between. Later this spring he’ll perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at its home base at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and then in Paris, where, between concerts, he plans to track down that Iranian refugee.

As far as Holiday knows, Mehran Karimi Nasseri is living in a shelter somewhere in the French capital. "It’s really important to let him know his story has taken off in the United States and abroad," the singer said over the phone from his home in Wisconsin. "It would be awesome if he could see [the opera]."

It’s a "very moving" story, he said. In the first act, all of the characters except the refugee and a few airport employees are on their way to far-flung destinations. In the second act, when a storm grounds all the planes, the travelers learn how it feels to be stuck like the refugee, to rely on strangers for food and companionship, to build a sense of community if only for a short time.

The 1998 libretto and score by April de Angelis and Jonathan Dove, respectively, work together to paint images out of music and words, Holiday said. They also make the most of his stratospheric range.

He sang a line to show what he meant, swooping up at the end of the phrase: "Planes up in the sky, ah-ah-AAAAAH!"

As it turns out, he had already set his sights high even before he started preparing this role. He’s a big fan of an online flight simulator called PilotEdge and got to co-pilot a real plane, a single-engine Cessna Skylane, during a stint last summer at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival in upstate New York.

The main pilot was impressed with how Holiday could steer the plane and talk with the control tower at the same time.

"He said, ‘Wow, you really do fly a lot,’ " the singer said. "It was so much fun."

John Holiday’s solo concert starts at 7 p.m. Sunday at Plymouth Church, 4126 Ingersoll Ave. $25 for adults, free for students; Des Moines Metro Opera's production of "Flight" opens June 30.

A runway moment preserved from last year's Fashion Show at Iowa State University. This year's event is April 14.


The Fashion Show, a dazzling student-run production for the past 36 years, returns to Stephens Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 14. Iowa State students of fashion design and marketing have drawn wide attention to the show, from proud parents to industry pros. It is one of the largest student-run fashion shows in the nation with near sell-out attendance of 2,500 annually. The show features more than 150 student-designed garments on the runway and in the accompanying exhibition. For more about the show and its participants, see this recent story from dsm magazine. Tickets ($15-$30) are available through Ticketmaster here

Author Ryan Holiday will speak at the downtown Public Library on Thursday evening, the first in this year's AViD series.,


Reminder: Popular self-help author Ryan Holiday kicks off the 2018 AViD Series (Authors Visiting in Des Moines) on Thursday, April 5, at the downtown library. Doors open an hour before the free 7 p.m. program, and seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. This is the 18th year of the popular AViD presentations. For information about the schedule and all of the authors, click here.

Oklahoma's Turnpike Troubadours headline the first outdoor concert in this year's Nitefall on the River series.


Another sure sign
that spring is coming (however reluctantly), the popular outdoor concert series Nitefall on the River returns to the Simon Estes Amphitheater downtown at 8 p.m. Friday, April 20. The opening show features Cody Canada & the Departed, plus headliners the Turnpike Troubadours. Tickets are $25. Learn about the Troubadours and frontman Evan Felker, get tickets and see the full calendar for Nitefall performances here.

Photographer Mirza Kudic has a knack for viewing Des Moines buildings. So does the Iowa Architecture Foundation. They invite you to learn more about downtown architecture on a pub crawl.


The annual pub crawl that really encourages you to watch where you're going returns Saturday, April 14.

The 2018 event hosted by the Iowa Architecture Foundation starts at the Iowa Taproom at 215 E. Third St. The next stop is Truman's, a new Kansas City-style pizza tavern, then the tour mosies on to the Royal Mile before returning to the Iowa Taproom. Each stop will feature appetizers, beer samples and conversation with the tour volunteers. Along the tour route, have fun socializing,while enjoying a guided walking tour of local architecture.

This year, participants will have four separate starting times: noon, 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Select your time when you register here. Tickets are $40 and must be purchased in advance. More information: Or contact the foundation's director Claudia Cackler, 515-244-1888.

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