Last night, they got their proper introduction. Playhouse hosted a seven-hour block party, full of live music and surprise confetti, to reveal their brand-new, $10.2 million facade: five bronze and gold marquees fixed with programmable LED screens, 14 new sidewalk kiosk displays and an in-sync update to the GE Chandelier over East 14th.
At 9:15 p.m. sharp, following a crystal set from pop voice Andy Grammer and a fitting drum roll introduction from 216 STIX, all restaurants went dim along Euclid as cinematic music rolled on a loudspeaker. The five marquees danced in synchrony, flashing whites, greens, violets, teetering between Cleveland homage—Oh, the Lake Erie Monsters!—and soundtrack-laced marketing for Broadway shows.
By the time confetti exploded out of cannons affixed to the Playhouse and Hanna buildings, the revelry turned into more of a reminder of the square's viability as a party space than a showcase for Playhouse's digital might.
"You have the lights, you have the music, and they could all be coordinated for, say, if Wicked is coming to town, we could coordinate the marquee screens to play the music," Kristen Jantonio, a communications manager for Playhouse, told Scene in the lobby of the Connor Palace. "So when the show folks are coming into the show, they can have that full experience. They're at Playhouse Square, right?"
Advancing the Legacy campaign, the new marquees, Jantonio said, were both a necessity and a sought-after aesthetic update to, well, keep Playhouse's legacy. (Yes! Second largest outside New York! Believe it!)
Designed by the Barnycz Group and Design Communications Inc., the former of which built LED scapes in Las Vegas and Manhattan, the marquees took influence from theatrical facades of the past, keeping the signature blade-and-overhang style, while ramping up the gold and lighting real estate. Playhouse began installing them this summer, long after announcing their addition in October of 2022.
Surfing through the phone-wielding crowds Thursday, one might wonder how the marquee moment will extend into Playhouse's mission of enlivening their area of Downtown.
With a new Corner Gallery and space for the City Club down the block, along with new apartments in the Bulkley Building, an update to the U.S. Bank Plaza and a Fresh Garden Cafe across the street, it's clear the marquees fit well into a district attempting to bring itself further into the 21st century.
"They're really nice, man. I was expecting that," Lex Rogers, who drove with his wife Neisha from Lyndhurst, told Scene after the reveal. "They're trying to be like New York. It's the glitz and the glam. All the light. And people are here."
Neisha Rogers, who was happy to recall her time seeing Miss Saigon at the State, saw accessibility as a natural next step for Playhouse to focus its energy on.
"I think there needs to be some kind of adjustment so that people can come more and it's more affordable for us to visit us, experience all of this," she said. "Discounted tickets to schools or family, some kind of idea or something. Outreach, in a way, so the entire family can enjoy."
Carolyn Hendricks, of Strongsville, who came out with her friend Alisa Warshay, was impressed by the promise of the marquees' aesthetics.
"It looks nice because it's cohesive," she said, as confetti fell around her. As for Playhouse's tourist draw? "Hopefully it'll lead to more changes, innovations and infrastructure. But this is great."
Although Playhouse didn't announce any major new outdoor events for 2024, Jantonio reiterated to Scene that it will continue to pursue "excitement and activity" and "bringing people Downtown."
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