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Great theater destinations

Courtesy Houston CVB

Great theater entertainment may be closer than you think.

In cities from Toronto to Houston, neighborhoods, downtowns and other areas have become thriving theater and entertainment districts, giving groups the opportunity to choose from a variety of shows and other fine-arts performances. Those areas often have much more than theater, too, with attractions, retail and restaurants to help round out the ideal theater trip.

Texas has a thriving performing-arts destination in Houston, where the theater district is home to some eight performance companies.

“We have a resident company in every major performing-arts genre,” said Lindsey Brown, director of marketing and public relations for the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have two Broadway companies, a chamber music orchestra, a symphony, a ballet and a number of other places, all within a 17-block area.”

One of the Broadway companies coordinates a series of touring productions that play in Houston as part of its national programs. The other company, Theatre Under the Stars, puts on original productions of favorite Broadway shows. The current season’s lineup includes “Spamalot,” “Flashdance,” “A Chorus Line,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Evita” and “The Little Mermaid.”

Ohio’s great lakefront city has developed an equally great theater scene that is based on nearly a century of local history. The theater district, PlayhouseSquare, has become a hub of entertainment for locals and visitors.

“PlayhouseSquare is the second-largest performing-arts center in the U.S., second only to the Lincoln Center in New York,” said Jackie Spencer, communications coordinator for Positively Cleveland. “They have five theaters within one district that were all built in the 1920s. Most of them have been renovated or rebuilt since the 1980s.”

The largest facility, the State Theatre, seats up to 3,400 guests; the smallest in the group has a more intimate capacity of 500. The large theaters play host to touring Broadway shows — “Once,” “Wicked” and “Jersey Boys” are on the docket for the coming season — and each theater also has a resident company that mounts its own productions. The spaces are also used by theater groups from local universities, as well as by community groups like Great Lakes Theater and Dance Cleveland.

With so many options, groups can look forward to taking in a show or two whenever they visit Cleveland. They can also arrange private tours of PlayhouseSquare, which highlight the history and architecture of the classic theaters there. 

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.