CLEVELAND, Ohio – The nationally touring production of “The Prom” opened in Playhouse Square and received rave reviews on November 2. a high school girl banned from taking her girlfriend to prom is not the only thing the public is raving about.
The show is the first time spectators can experience the results of a $ 3.5 million renovation at the 99-year-old Connor Palace. The work, completed just in time for the opening of ‘The Prom’, represents the most significant renovation of the theater since it was restored to its original splendor in 1987-88.
“Moe Howard of the Three Stooges wrote a book about his life as a vaudeville artist and said that Cleveland Palace was the best place he had ever performed,” said Tom Einhouse, vice president of facilities and capital of Playhouse Square. “So we’ve done a lot to keep a lot of these beautiful finishes, but to modernize them and make them meet the needs of today. “
Entering the Connor Palace is a feast for the eyes. The ornate ceiling. The huge Italian columns. Two large stairs at opposite ends of the hall. Five giant crystal chandeliers. And all that marble. The sight never gets old. Indeed, the best thing about the renovation is that the upgrades blend in so perfectly with the original theater design that you probably won’t notice the changes until you notice them.
The project, which ran for three months and was funded with funds raised as part of Playhouse Square’s Advancing the Legacy campaign, focused on four main areas: seating, public washrooms, carpeting, and changing rooms. in the wings.
With a capacity of 2,800 seats, Connor Palace is the second largest theater in the Performing Arts Center. Each of these seats has been replaced. Gone are the squeaky metal seats with washed-out 1980s restoration cushions. The new seats, made of ABS plastic, are lighter, quieter and identical to seats installed in KeyBank State and Mimi Ohio theaters in 2020. Final standards – the finely detailed aisle panels with the row letter – look vintage, but they’re new too. Newly installed handrails help spectators up and down to balcony level.
But the most distinctive feature of the seats is the fabric. Made from a soft, plush material, the cushions are stain resistant. Write on it with a Sharpie and it wipes off right away. They are comfortable too.
“Guests who came to the theater immediately noticed the comfort of the seats,” Einhouse said.
“Very soft” is how he describes the new carpet inside the auditorium. Last replaced around 15 years ago, the updated rug is made from 80% wool and features a red and gold trellis pattern in high traffic areas such as walkways. Design becomes more elaborate in spaces where people tend to be more stationary.
“If you are on the trellis, you move,” he explained. “It kind of keeps the mental flow going.”
Always on the to-do list was the carpet in the lobby. Einhouse said it would be predominantly burgundy and blue in color and would resemble a rug, although very large, with large medallions at each focal point. The new carpet arrived from South Africa a week ago and is expected to be installed in December.
Going to the bathroom in an old theater like Connor Palace is often a necessary endeavor, but not always pleasant. Washrooms are usually cramped, crowded, run down and, well, ugly. Playhouse Square addressed these issues by giving each of the public restrooms a facelift, using modern and luxurious materials while remaining true to the theater’s period character.
The designers covered the walls with porcelain panels that could easily be mistaken for marble. Mahogany is used on the stall doors and the counters are quartz. To help cut down on long intermission lines, capacity has been increased in some of the bathrooms. On the first level, for example, a bank of telephone booths has been converted into a female toilet with three booths for people with reduced mobility or who need additional space or privacy.
“The bathrooms are second to none,” Einhouse said.
But the scope of the renovation project did not end with the improvements intended for the public.
Playhouse Square also made sure to take care of the artists. The backstage can be pretty straightforward with block walls and not much else. But Connor Palace has always stood out. Some vaudeville artists of those early years compared it to a five-star hotel over similar venues, with fancy finishes and amenities such as fireplaces and large gathering spaces for the cast members.
Going backstage, Playhouse Square sought to recapture that level of quality by installing granite counters in locker rooms, renovating bathrooms with new showers and subway tiles, and replacing light fixtures with new, suitable sconces. at the time.
“A lot of artists here have been here before and they were so impressed,” Einhouse said.
“The Prom” plays at Connor Palace through November 21, followed by the Cleveland Pops Orchestra’s “Home for the Holidays” concert on November 28 and the Cleveland Ballet’s annual holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker,” from 3 to December 5. Tickets for all Playhouse Square events are available at playhousesquare.org.