After pandemic pause, show goes on at Vegas' Smith Center

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T1011REYNOLDSHALL1_C_HR [credit: Courtesy of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts]
Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas seats 2,050 people; it is the largest of three venues at the center. Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Built primarily for locals but also drawing tourists since opening almost a decade ago, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas has become a cultural hub for both the city and the region. In addition to other programming, its popular Broadway Las Vegas series returns this month, ending a pandemic-related hiatus.

For Myron Martin, founding president and CEO, the reopening is both a relief and the culmination of a lot of hard work to schedule productions amid the uncertainty.

"This has been a tough year and a half or so," Martin said. "It's tough to not be surrounded by the team that you built, to not greet our guests every day like we're used to, to have the ghost light [the theater tradition of keeping a single light burning at all times] being the only illumination on the stage for most of these days and months that we've been closed."

"Cats" reopened the theater with performances from Oct. 12 to 17. That will be followed by the world premiere of the musical "An Officer and a Gentleman" (Oct. 26 to 30) as it launches its 50-city North American tour. Based on the hit film starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, the stage production celebrates triumph over adversity with the same memorably romantic ending. In addition to "Up Where We Belong," other '80s classics -- "Alone," "Don't Cry Out Loud," "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and "Material Girl" -- are featured.

"The Play That Goes Wrong" (Nov. 9 to 14), melding the humor of Monty Python with a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and "A Christmas Carol" (Nov. 23 to 28) follow. Next year brings "My Fair Lady" (Jan. 25 to 30), 10-time Tony Award-winner "The Band's Visit" (Feb. 15 to 20) and "Tootsie" (May 24 to 29). 

The musical/cultural phenomenon "Hamilton," which appeared at the Smith Center for nearly a month in 2018, will return for the 2022-2023 season.

Whether the Smith Center would attract the highest-profile Broadway tours was a question when it opened in March 2012 with a star-studded celebration that aired on PBS.

"We were unproven," Martin said. "Even our friends in New York, the Broadway producers and agents, had no way of knowing what level of success we would actually attain."

T1011SMITHCENTEREXTERIORDAY_C_HR [Credit: The Smith Center for the Performing Arts]
The center's popular Broadway Las Vegas series returns this month with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Cats." Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Las Vegas Strip resorts experimented with Broadway in the early 2000s. But it wasn't until a six-week, sold-out run of "Wicked" at the Smith Center during its inaugural season that Las Vegas definitively proved to be a good touring market for Broadway shows, Martin said.

Ever since, the Smith Center has gotten its fair share of first-run tours. The national tour of "Kinky Boots" launched there in 2014, and the venue has produced several other shows in anticipation of them eventually heading to Broadway. It is consistently ranked among the top theaters in the world by Pollstar magazine.

The Smith Center's main performance space, Reynolds Hall, can seat up to 2,050. State-of-the-art acoustics and masterfully designed sightlines make any event an unforgettable experience for guests, Martin said.

"Every seat's a good seat. There are no obstructed views. Acoustically, it's extraordinary. And it's just comfortable and beautiful at the same time," Martin said.

Two more intimate venues, the 240-seat Myron's (named for Martin) and the 200-seat Troesh Studio Theater, are also housed in the Smith Center. 

Myron's features jazz and other live music, with small plates, snacks and beverages, in a cabaret-style experience. Troesh is a flexible space with large windows and two tiers of general admission seating; it hosts classical ensemble performances, plays, family shows and stand-up comedy.

T1011SMITHCENTEREXTERIORVERT_C [Credit: The Smith Center for the Performing Arts]
The Smith Center exterior. Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Built through a public-private partnership with numerous donors, a car-rental fee and the city of Las Vegas, the $470 million Smith Center is the city's first performing arts center. So its programming complements the Strip's world-renowned offerings, Martin said.

"Nobody's better than Las Vegas at entertaining guests. The hoteliers and the concert promoters who do their work up and down the Strip are unmatched. They really do an extraordinary job," Martin said.

He estimated that audiences normally include about 90% locals, which includes those from the short-drive market of northern Arizona and southern Utah. However, he said, the split between tourists and locals becomes closer to 50-50 when it's a blockbuster show such as "Wicked" or "Hamilton."

"We're proud to show off this jewel of Las Vegas to people who come in and visit from out of town. And we're very welcoming when they join us for a show," he said. "[But] we bring the things that our local population wants to see, and we give them an experience that is unmatched. And that's our niche."

In addition to the Broadway productions, the Smith Center schedule includes performances by a pair of Broadway icons, Kristin Chenoweth (Dec. 31) and Patti LuPone (Jan. 22); music legends Johnny Mathis (Nov. 6) and Paul Anka (March 10); and acclaimed jazz performers Branford Marsalis (Oct. 29 and 30) and Boney James (March 26).

The Smith Center will also host renowned dance groups Ballet Folklorico (March 23) and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (April 9) as well as speakers Garrison Keillor (Jan. 21) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (March 8).

Tickets can be purchased at the Smith Center's website, thesmithcenter.com/tickets, where the venue's Covid-19 protocols can be found. 

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