Built on an alfalfa field in 1954 by original founder Ben Segal, the original Oakdale was part of the "theatre-in-the-round" craze that saw many circular stages open in various parts of the Northeast. A family owned business for decades, it began primarily as a summer stock venue, hosting many of the musicals of the day: 'Kiss Me Kate', 'South Pacific', 'Oklahoma' to mention a few, with many of Broadways brightest stars like John Raitt, Danny Kaye, James Garner and Ethel Merman. In the 60s, Oakdale evolved into a summer concert venue where the likes of Harry Belafonte, Paul Anka, Steve & Eydie, Tom Jones, and more played to the open air crowds every summer, sometimes for 2 weeks at a time! The landscape changed in the late 60s and Oakdale rocked and rolled with Cream, The Who, The Doors and even Led Zeppelin, all playing live on the spinning stage.
The 60s and early 70s was the heyday for Oakdale. The wood dome was erected in 1972 and the seating capacity was increased from 1700 to 3200. The biggest entertainers of the day made Oakdale a must play on their summer rosters. Keep in mind: this was prior to the arenas that opened in Hartford and New Haven, and decades before casinos! Staples every summer were Englebert Humperdinck, Liberace, The Carpenters, Dolly Parton and comedians like Don Rickles and Rich Little.
In the 80s and 90s, the 'theatre in the round' was facing stiff competition in the entertainment industry. Many of the current performers were not particularly fond of a spinning stage, and it was getting more and more difficult to bring Connecticut audiences their favorite artists. Stars were demanding paydays that only larger venues could afford. Oakdale marched on and began presenting more country artists, a genre that, at the time, was not arena-friendly. Oakdale was the place where the Nutmeg State got its first taste of an emerging force in music as it became home to The Judds, Reba McEntire, Clint Black, Randy Travis, and Alan Jackson.
In 1996, the current Oakdale Theatre was built, transforming the old in-the-round theatre into the gracious theatre by adding a 4600-seat theatre with a proscenium stage that would now rival any entertainment center in the Northeast. Country duo Brooks & Dunn opened the then-new theatre on July 7, 1996.
With the new shape came the big stars: Sting, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Robin Williams, Coldplay, Josh Groban, Jerry Seinfeld; all of whom played the magnificent new theatre to sold out crowds. The new theatre also afforded Oakdale to present Broadway sized shows as the new stage was able to hold the large sets. 'Riverdance',, 'Grease', 'The Producers', 'Seussical', 'Movin Out' and more were all part of the Broadway Series that ran for 10 years. In 2015 – Oakdale brought Broadway back with the Tony award winning Jersey Boys – and broke box office records!
Legendary CT promoter Jim Koplik joined the Oakdale family in 1998, as we became part of Live Nation, the largest entertainment company in the world. Maroon 5, Britney Spears, Drake, Lady Antebellum and John Mayer had their first tours play Oakdale when their careers started, Recent sold out concerts by Ringo Starr, Steely Dan, 5 Seconds of Summer, Demi Lovato, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Hunter Hayes, Lana Del Ray, Further have joined the ranks along legendary Oakdale favorites such as Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash, Steely Dan, Chicago, The Moody Blues, Hall & Oates, Celtic Woman, Lynyrd Skynyrd to name a few.
Family shows have long been a staple at Oakdale . For decades the Wednesday Children shows was for many - their first theatrical experience, More recently – the biggest names in the family entertainment world have all made their way into the hearts of many – Sesame Street Live, . The Wiggles, Fresh Beat Band, Dora The Explorer, Peppa The Pig, Max & Ruby and many more!
In 1996 - Ray Davies was the first performer to do a performance in newly appointed concert space called - The Dome. Followed by Bruce Hornsby, Dropkick Murphys, Angels & Airwaves among many others. In recent years, there have been an array of acts to the mighty Dome - Hiip Hop’s hottest (Young Jeezy, Meek Mill), EDM’s brightest (Pretty Lights, Steve Aoki, Aviccii) and Metal’s heaviest (Killswitch Engage, Chevelle, Three Days Grace – The Dome concerts have become increasingly popular as the “no seats general admission” club like atmosphere has a big appeal. Other Dome shows - Dark Star Orchestra, Third Eye Blind, twenty one pilots, Neon Trees, Modest Mouse and many more have all played the expansive room with that iconic Dome roof.
From Danny Kaye to Steely Dan, Barney to Britney, The Doors to Drake, Lady Gaga to Lady Antebellum - the old alfalfa field that turned into one of the regions premier concert venues has seen its share of stars. The next time history is made at Oakdale, will you be there?
95 South Turnpike Road
Wallingford, CT 06492