Ohio’s music and entertainment scene is thriving. The Buckeye State is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a hub of theater in the Midwest. Groups can attend a wide range of events, from Broadway shows and symphony concerts to stand-up comedy and ballet.
Though travelers may find themselves drawn to the myriad activities in Ohio, attending a performing arts event is a great dose of culture for any itinerary. From major cities such as Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati to midsize destinations such as Akron and Toledo, groups traveling throughout Ohio will find numerous opportunities to see concerts and performances.
Next time your group travels through Ohio, plan an evening at one of these spectacular historic theaters.
Akron Civic Theatre
The Akron Civic Theatre is one of the city’s most unusual landmarks. Built by Marcus Lowe of the Lowes movie theater chain, it opened in 1929 and was designed by renowned atmospheric theater architect John Eberson. In an atmospheric theater, patrons are virtually transported to an exotic landscape with twinkling lights like stars, a skyscape ceiling, trellises and other landscape effects such as trees. One of only 16 remaining Eberson theaters, The Akron Civic Theatre is designed to resemble a Moorish castle with intricate carvings, antiques, and alabaster sculptures.
In 2001, the theater underwent a $19 million restoration project to shore up its infrastructure and modernize the space to current standards. For nearly 90 years, thousands of guests have enjoyed stage and screen performances, and the theater has been a venue for quality entertainment. Seen as having a major role in downtown Akron’s revitalization, it also hosts more than 80 outdoor performances throughout the summer.
The Akron Civic Theatre is home to performances ranging from local acts to national and international performances of all kinds. This spring brings performances from the Temptations, Celtic Woman and the Ballet Theater of Ohio, among others.
One of the most spectacular surviving grand theaters in the country, the Ohio Theatre is known as the Official Theatre of the State of Ohio. It was originally built in 1928 as one of the Lowes cinema chain, designed by noted architect Thomas W. Lamb and decorated by New York designer Anne Dornin. At the time, the theater was the height of luxury, offering guests an escape from their everyday lives with themed rooms decorated with accoutrements from Dornin’s travels and lavish men’s and women’s lounges. It originally screened silent films, and later, talkies; it featured its own orchestra and Robert-Morton theater organ, which has been restored and is still in use today. Celebrities like Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and Jack Benny also performed live onstage.
The theater closed in 1969 and was slated for destruction. Community members rallied together, raising funds to keep the theater open and founding the organization that runs the Ohio Theatre now: the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA). Concerts there featured the likes of the Grateful Dead and Alice Cooper. The former movie palace expanded in the mid-1980s, doubling in size and adding rehearsal and dressing rooms and expanded stage space.
Today, the Ohio Theatre is the home of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, BalletMet, the Broadway Series, Opera Columbus and the CAPA Summer Movie Series. This spring it will host “Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander, a ballet performance of “Cinderella,” symphony performances of Gustav Mahler compositions and the Broadway classic “Hello, Dolly!”
Cincinnati Music Hall
One of the city’s most recognizable buildings because of its Victorian-Gothic facade, the Cincinnati Music Hall is home to the Cincinnati opera, ballet and symphony, as well as the May Festival, the longest-running choral festival in the Western hemisphere. Since 1878, the three buildings that make up the Music Hall have been host to a wide variety of programming, from sporting events to exhibitions and everything in between, including both the Republican and the Democratic national conventions and even a circus.
Among the celebrities who have performed there are Frank Sinatra, Prince, Elton John and Bob Dylan. This spring, the Music Hall will welcome popular hip-hop/strings duo Black Violin, a symphony performance of Debussy and Ravel’s “Colors of Spain” and a Cincinnati Pops rendition of the soundtrack of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Groups will also enjoy exploring the surrounding Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, which recently experienced a renaissance. Washington Park offers a beautiful greenspace, and the area is full of trendy shops and restaurants.
Playhouse Square is a group of theaters that make up a theater district in the center of Cleveland; the theaters were built in the 1920s and were host to hundreds of vaudeville, movie and theatrical performances. By the late 1960s, all but one of the theaters had closed. But private funding led to restoration and renovation to create the theater district in the 1970s and 1980s. Two new theaters were added, and Playhouse Square is now the largest performing arts center in the U.S. outside of New York City.
The theaters include the Allen, the Hanna, the Ohio, the Palace, the State, Kennedy’s and the Westfield Insurance Studio Theatres. All together, they play host to over 1 million guests for more than 1,000 performances annually. Events include Broadway shows, concerts, dance, family shows, comedy and plays, among others. Visitors can participate in after-show discussions, master classes and workshops.
This spring, Playhouse Square will feature the Cleveland Blues Festival, Michelle Obama, the Cleveland International Film Festival and “The Taming of the Shrew.” Groups will also appreciate the theater district’s proximity to area hotels and restaurants.
Built in 1969, the Stranahan Theater is a 2,424-seat theater and home to the largest proscenium stage in northwest Ohio. The theater hosts more than 170 performing arts events a year, along with banquets, receptions and trade shows. It invites a roster of notable Broadway shows and the city’s annual performances of “The Nutcracker” by the Toledo Ballet and “A Christmas Carol” by the Toledo Repertoire Theatre. It’s also the home of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra’s pops series.
Events at the Stranahan range from performances by William Shatner and Paula Poundstone to Broadway musicals like “Les Miserables” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to popular children’s program hosts and brothers the Wild Kratts. The Stranahan is in the heart of Toledo, and groups will want to take advantage of nearby attractions like the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Botanical Garden and the Toledo Zoo.