Most cities have either a theater district or a major facility for performing arts. Cincinnati has the Aronoff Center, situated at Sixth and Walnut. Across the street is the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Museum. It’s also home to the Backstage District, an ever-shifting series of bars and restaurants that service theater goers.
If you want music or a comedian, you go to the Taft, down on Fifth Street. If you want arena shows, you go to US Bank Arena. But if you’re looking for Broadway without the expense of a trip to New York, the Aronoff is your place.
Some concerts come to the venue, but in terms of music, the complex hosts ballet and the symphony more often. Sometimes, a big name like Lewis Black will bring a standup show, but the big attraction is the Broadway Across America series.
The Aronoff actually is three theaters and an art gallery. The largest is Procter & Gamble Hall, which seats over 2000 people. For smaller events, there is the Jarson Kaplan Theater, which hosts just over 400 patrons. At the small end of the scale is the Fifth Third Theater, which handles up to 150 people. At the corner of Seventh and Walnut is the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery. There are a number of smaller rooms and rehearsal spots as well that are used for small-scale performances and private parties.
The Aronoff did not exist when I first arrived in Cincinnati in 1991. The stretch of Walnut between Sixth and Seventh Streets was a seedy, rundown block most famous for the location of Larry Flynt’s original strip club in the early 1970′s. By the early nineties, the block had been demolished to make way for a new performing arts center.
The center has hosted such shows as The Vagina Monologues, Miss Saigon, Spam-a-Lot, and most recently, Beauty and the Beast.
More at the My Town Monday blog.