- Kats with the Dish
Ah, we remember the days when The Smith Center for the Performing Arts was only a vision and a set of blueprints, back when Myron Martin and officials of The Smith Center Board of Directors scoured the planet looking for design ideas.
In one five-day spree in January 2007, The Smith Center Road Show toured 15 venues in five days, including Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Paris Opera House and Teatro La Fenice in Venice. Days later, the group trekked to European-styled venues in Mexico, specifically Mexico City, Guanajuato and Queretaro.
Martin and The Smith Center team included architect David M. Schwarz and theater designer Joshua Dachs, along with board members Don Snyder, Richard Plaster and Wyatt DeFreitas. They did their homework and legwork, no doubt of that, in designing and constructing what has proven to be the city’s preeminent arts center.
The Smith Center turned a year old this week, and during that one-year benchmark, Martin visited Tricia McCrone and me on “Kats With the Dish” for a show that aired at 7 a.m. Friday on KUNV 91.5-FM.
Highlights from the interview, in which Martin talked of the year past and highlights — and objectives — for Year 2:
On the success of The Smith Center in the first year: “We had big plans and big dreams, but the reality is so much better than the dreams were. We’ve been open a for a year, and we’ve already had 487 performances. Everything from ‘The Pink Floyd Experience’ to (last week) the first performance ever by the New York City Ballet in Nevada. There is something for everybody.”
On ticket sales for the Broadway Series in the first year of Reynolds Hall: “ ‘Wicked’ sold out 48 performances. Every show sold out. ‘West Side Story’ was completely sold out. The great thing about The Smith Center’s Broadway Series is that we open the doors with 11,000 subscribers. That’s 11,000 people saying, ‘I want to buy a ticket for every single Broadway show that you have this year.’ And now they are all renewing, which means that 11,000 out of available 14,000 tickets are sold before we ever go on sale to the public.
“The message here is if you want to come and see one or two shows, and you are not a subscriber, look for that date when we go on sale to the public. Put it on your calendar and buy that morning to ensure that you actually get seats.”
On next season’s Broadway Series lineup: “We just started only a week and already more than 60 percent (of subscribers) have already renewed in the first week. Once they heard that next year is going to be a big season. We have 10 big shows, including ‘Book of Mormon’, and maybe especially ‘Book of Mormon.’ It’s the hottest ticket on Broadway. You can’t get a seat for ‘Book of Mormon’ on Broadway. But you will be able to get a ticket and see it right here in Las Vegas.”
On the impact “Book of Mormon” compared to “Wicked”: “I’m not sure that anything will ever mean more to us than ‘Wicked’ did. ‘Wicked’ took a little bit of a gamble with The Smith Center. We were two years from opening when we did our agreement with them. They had to think long and hard if this was going to work. It was because of ‘Wicked’s’ great success that the entire Broadway community is now saying, ‘I want my show to go to Las Vegas.’ And now Las Vegas is at the top of the list when every big Broadway show goes out on tour. So thank you to our friends David Stone and the whole team at ‘Wicked.’ ”
“ ‘Book of Mormon’ is our second chapter. There were rumors that hotel properties were after this show. We were thrilled to get it for a number of reasons, mostly because The Smith Center is for people who live here, and we represent a fair ticket price in a beautiful facility. We wanted to bring it for our friends and family who have been asking me for two years.”
On other Broadway shows coming in the next year: “There has never been a straight play at a hotel/casino. So to get ‘War Horse’ and put it on a Broadway subscription series, we will sell it out, and people will be moved by this piece. It is really, really good. You won’t forget it. It’s something different for Las Vegas. There are 10 shows on the season, like ‘Wizard of Oz’ and the Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess.’ ”
On how the shows are chosen: “It’s a terribly tough process because we only have 365 days, and we only have so many weeks of Broadway runs, and it starts with the feedback that we get from our patrons. We talk to people every day, and we listen to them when they post things on Facebook or they tweet things. We follow that and there were some recurring themes this year that people really wanted, and we worked really hard to get them.”
On the return of ‘Mamma Mia!’ to Las Vegas: “People who live here think shows last forever, and it doesn’t matter how long it runs, there is this huge group of people who say, ‘Oh yeah, ‘Mamma Mia!’ I was going to go see that, but it closed before I got there.’ (It ran for six years at Mandalay Bay.) So for all the people who went and loved it, and there are a lot of those, and for all of those who wanted to go and missed it, we’ve got one week of ‘Mamma Mia,’ eight performances.”
On Cabaret Jazz reaching the arts and entertainment community with its monthly “Composers Showcase”:
“(Jersey Boys Music Director) Keith Thompson is 100 percent responsible for that. He’s done such an amazing job of bringing people together in Las Vegas who perform in all the shows and giving them an opportunity to perform something they don’t do eight times a week. Every month, it’s a different experience.”
On how Cabaret Jazz can continue to evolve: “Every weekend there, are nationally and internationally known artists from the worlds of cabaret and jazz who come in. The first weekend of every month, we have Clint Holmes. Branford Marsalis has been in that room on the jazz side. We’ve had Betty Buckley and Linda Eder on the cabaret side. That’s every weekend. My dream is that we find kind of the right fits for other things like ‘Composers Showcase’ that will come down once a month or once a week.
“One of my dreams is our good friend Jerry (Lopez) and the great group, Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns — they do this thing every Monday night (at the Palms), and I don’t want to steal them away from some other place, but it’d be cool to have locals coming to The Smith Center and hanging out with Santa Fe and hearing them in a room that was designed for music.”
On the possibility of non-cabaret and non-jazz acts performing in Cabaret Jazz, like avant-garde acts, magicians or comics: “The room was designed for live music with the idea that half of the time it was devoted to jazz and the other half it was devoted to cabaret. That is neither. It doesn’t mean it can’t work. (But) is there an audience that’s big enough to fill up 240 seats? We are open to anything … and what we find is you start with the big shows that you have to get on your calendar two years in advance, and then you start getting closer to the date and there aren’t many available dates.
“We would love to do comedy in Cabaret Jazz. We are looking at a couple of comedy nights in Reynolds Hall for those acts that really deserve 2,000 seats.”