I owned and operated a business in the city of Miami for 25 years. I lived in the Grove for five and a half years. My wife and I were season ticket holders at the Coconut Grove Playhouse and are season ticket holders at the Gables Stage Theater.
The Playhouse plan is an architectural and historic preservation success. But it would be an economic and theatrical failure. Economically, it is a gross under-use of the location. It will not be the economic driver the Grove business area needs. The theatrical element is an after-thought to architecture and preservation. The economic needs of the Grove have been totally ignored. There is no need for a restaurant or bar on site or even stores. It should be a theater, pure and simple.
With more seats, less competing elements and more parking, the Playhouse could fill the nearby restaurants and shops and draw thousands more customers to the area.
Theatrically, while Joe Adler is a legendary and gifted producer and director, his presentations have narrow appeal and will not attract significant numbers of patrons. The proposed design will lack the intimacy of the Biltmore location, putting the audience many rows back instead of five rows deep currently.
Some say that because the Playhouse failed, a 1,000- to 1,200-seat theater would not be filled. But actor Jose Ferrer had no problem filling it. It only became a problem when there was financial and artistic trouble under Artistic Director Arnold Mittelman that attendance fell off. The Playhouse Board was inept in many ways and especially so in not firing Mittelman immediately.
As is, the current proposal will just create a white elephant and will be an economic train wreck for the Grove and the City of Miami. The plan will be a non-event, where a major success is needed. This plan will kill the area for good. The city should consider the plan very carefully.
Barry J. White, Miami