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Popular North American theater destinations

Allen Theatre, courtesy Playhouse Square

Ohio’s great lakefront city has developed an equally wonderful 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 such as 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 that highlight the history and architecture of the classic theaters there.

“You take all of these hidden passages, where random doors open in lobby walls,” Spencer said. “You go in the auditoriums and can go on the stage and see the backstage areas, dressing rooms and rehearsal areas.”

Texas has a thriving performing-arts destination in Houston, where the theater district is home to 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 their national program. 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.”

Groups that go to a show in Houston can complement the experience with some free time in Market Square, a historic neighborhood near the theater district that underwent extensive renovation work early this year.

“There’s a Greek restaurant inside the park there and a variety of restaurants and bars surrounding the park that are new and interesting,” Brown said. “One of the hidden treasures there is La Carafe, Houston’s oldest bar. It’s a wine bar that has been around since the late 1800s. It’s a great spot for drinks before or after a show.”