By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Nov 14, 2023 at 1:56 PM

After almost a year of work, the $456 million expansion of the Baird Center – formerly the Wisconsin Center – is beginning to brace for its grand opening early next year. And while the newly enhanced Downtown center will certainly be the star of the night, it'll have some pretty strong competition: Tony-winning singing icon Idina Menzel, who will give a special one-night-only performance at the grand opening gala scheduled for Thursday, May 16. 

For those who haven't had eardrums for the past 30 years or so, Menzel is the voice behind some of the past decades' most popular songs on screen and stage – ranging from her breakthrough performance in the original Broadway cast of "Rent," to winning a Tony for Best Actress in the popular "Oz" reimagining "Wicked," to providing the soaring vocals for "Let It Go" and "Into the Unknown" from the "Frozen" films. 

Menzel has made previous Brew City stops over her illustrious career, headlining the Riverside in 2017 as well as serving as a special guest opener for Josh Groban at the Fiserv Forum in 2018.

“WCD is well known for our three core values to be bold, be proud, be experience obsessed,” said Marty Brooks, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District, in a release. "This grand opening gala will set the new bar for events in Milwaukee and beyond, and no detail will be overlooked."

Table sales and sponsorships for the grand opening gala – hosted in the Baird Ballroom on the building's rooftop – are available now at the Baird Center gala's website. Tables range in price from $7,500 to $10,000 and $15,000, with a majority of the proceeds going toward the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County as well as the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).

For more information about the gala, click here – and for a look inside at the progress on the expansion, check out Bobby Tanzilo's update from earlier this year as well as a reader question about the future of its "City Yard" area.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.