playhousesquare primed for plenty of peak performances

Q: What happens when you combine unseasonably warm weather, a hot new restaurant opening, and a world-class whodunit?
A: You get a downtown streetscape absolutely percolating with energy.
PlayhouseSquare has always had its own beat, but lately, it seems positively supercharged.
As the second-largest performing arts district in the nation, home to a dozen or so performance spaces, the neighborhood attracts well over one million visitors annually. That figure is on the rise thanks to the recent relocation of Cleveland Play House and CSU's theatre department to the renovated Allen Theatre. They will round out a calendar already bursting with theater, opera, dance and music taking place at the Hanna, Ohio, State and Palace theatres.
That was enough incentive to lure restaurateur Zack Bruell to the area. In early February, he opened the ultra-sleek bistro Cowell & Hubbard -- his fifth Cleveland eatery -- in a historic PlayhouseSquare building.
"I believe this is one of the next neighborhoods to pop," Bruell told me.
It appears that it is already "popping." On a balmy March evening, people filled the streets, restaurants and theatres near the intersection of Euclid and E. 14th. As early as 6 p.m., Cowell & Hubbard was running at full capacity. Across the street, Bricco likely was doing the same. In the moments before the curtains went up at area theatres, the streets filled with pedestrians.
After a fantastic meal at Cowell & Hubbard, we made the short walk over to the lovely and intimate Hanna Theatre, where we squeezed into our seats for a performance of The Mousetrap. It was brilliant, and from the looks of the place, it was a sold-out performance. A follow-up email confirmed that it was.
"We are still crunching the final numbers, but initial indications suggest that we have broken Great Lakes Theater box office sales and capacity records at the Hanna Theatre during our run of The Mousetrap," the memo stated. "The run of sold out houses was amazing evidence of your support for the classics in Cleveland and Great Lakes Theater."
Next up for the "popping" neighborhood is the opening of Hodge's Restaurant, which happens later today. See you there after the show.

Photo Bob Perkoski

Read more articles by Douglas Trattner.

Douglas Trattner is a fulltime freelance writer, editor and author. In addition to acting as Managing Editor of Fresh Water, he is the Dining Editor of Cleveland Scene, author of “Moon Handbooks: Cleveland,” and co-author with Michael Symon on two New York Times best-selling cookbooks. His work has appeared in Food Network magazine, Miami Herald, Globe and Mail, Wine & Spirits, Cleveland Magazine and others. He lives in Cleveland Hts. with his wife, two dogs, five chickens and 20,000 honeybees.
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