CINCINNATI -- As far as closing acts go, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra could not end Lumenocity on a much higher note.
The fourth installment of CSO's light and music spectacular, Lumenocity: Re-Imagine, opened Friday night in a radically different format than in previous three years. The CSO moved the choreographed show, typically projected onto the outside of Music Hall, to inside Downtown's Taft Theatre as Music Hall undergoes renovations. Organizers also replaced light show production company Brave Berlin with Lightborne Communications.
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The ticketed Lumenocity Village in Over-the-Rhine's Washington Park also became a free three-day block party outside the Taft Theatre on Fifth Street between Sycamore and Broadway.
The changes to Lumenocity left some people skeptical about what they would see at the Taft. The first night of the re-imagined event, though, was definitely able entertain, if not slightly underwhelm, audiences.
Here is what worked and what didn't at Lumenocity's last hurrah.
The block party: How do you top a crowd of thousands gathered on Washington Park's lawn to experience a massive light show projected onto Music Hall? You don't. Instead, you offer something familiar yet different to entertain crowds between Lumenocity performances. For example, Red Sesame, Urban Grill, Slice Slice Baby and Sweets & Meats BBQ food trucks offered mouth-watering eats. There also were two beer booths, including Rhinegeist, to wash down the food.
— Tasha Stewart (@tstewart2) August 6, 2016
And the interactive installations!: A light pad art display in P&G Gardens had adults dancing and running and playing with their children. Others kicked up their feet on a swing set attached to a one-man band near Broadway. And perhaps the coolest feature of the block party, a virtual reality dome, literally transformed reality.
— Tasha Stewart (@tstewart2) August 5, 2016
For those who have never experienced VR technology, the dome, which is powered by Google Tilt Brush, is a completely immersive experience. It allows users to get lost in a whole new world once they put on goggles and activate two video game-style controllers.
After the sun set, the block of Fifth Street between Sycamore and Broadway lit up in spectacular fashion.
— Brian in Cincinnati (@B_Mains_Cincy) August 6, 2016
What didn't work
The block party's only problem was that the festive atmosphere outside the Taft faded between shows, as people entered the theater for one of the two performances Friday or headed elsewhere after their show. This was a change from prior years, when single nightly performances did not start until after dusk and contained two acts, which lasted more than an hour that kept Washington Park packed.
Speaking of the show ...
Lightborne did a fantastic job orchestrating a show that matched the tone and pace of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Pops' six pieces of music. For 45 minutes, a combination of stunning visuals and breathtaking performances enthralled the audience.
The only issue was scope. When the 8 p.m. Friday show ended only 45 minutes later, it left a feeling of incompleteness or of wanting more. As one person said after the show, the performance seemed more like a CSO concert with lights than the spectacle of years past.
To the CSO's credit, capturing the magic of previous Lumenocity performances, especially that first year in summer 2013, would have been nearly impossible. As Chris Pinelo, the CSO’s vice president of communications, said of Lumenocity's inaugural success, "We thought we could draw 5,000 people to this event with a projection-mapping element, and we ended up getting 15,000 the first night and 20,000 the second."
With Lumenocity: Re-Imagine, the CSO did not capture lightning in a bottle for a fourth year; however, it has offered a graceful, bittersweet exit for a well-loved event.