Las Vegas joins league of big cities with grand halls

Reynolds Hall, shown in full fruition.
Photo: Sam Morris

Smith Center prepares for grand opening

Symphony Park in Downtown Las Vegas

Smith Center

Seeing a performance live is exhilarating, be it a musical, a concert, a Cirque du Soleil spectacular or a San Diego Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium. There is so much fantastic Strip headliner entertainment in Las Vegas that I recommend to visitors — “Phantom — the Las Vegas Spectacular,” “Jersey Boys,” “Peepshow,” “Viva Elvis,” “Mystere,” Frankie Moreno, Rick Faugno, “Crazy Horse Paris,” Celine Dion, “Absinthe,” Sir Elton John and Human Nature.

Now I can recommend the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown's Symphony Park, and specifically the stunning and top-notch Reynolds Hall. I had the pleasure of watching country legend and bronchitis-battling Randy Travis perform for nearly two hours during a “hard hat” opening March 2, a concert for the talented men and women who helped create the Smith Center. Travis’ voice wasn’t its best, but the beauty and grandeur of Reynolds Hall elevated him and the evening.

The sound and video system are crystal clear and flawless. The main floor is flanked by five stories of opera house-style box seats. Five stories! The art deco design is breathtaking — look up at the ceiling, and the golden kaleidoscope is spellbinding. It’s so nice to see live theater again without having to walk through smoky casinos or crowded shopping malls.

“Welcome to your new home,” Smith Center President Myron Martin said, beaming, before Travis took the stage. Indeed.

I remember fondly and vividly seeing “The Music Man” at Grand Street Theater in Helena, Mont., as a high school student (population 25,000 back in those days). It was especially cool because a classmate, Elizabeth Loos, played a darling Marian the librarian. From Montana to major metropolitan areas, the excitement and electricity from watching a live performance are still the same.

I’ve been fortunate in my journalism career to see stellar productions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and New York. I will watch “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent,” “Les Miserables” and “Wicked” again and again at the drop of a hat. The last show I saw in New York City a few years ago was the Green Day musical “American Idiot.”

Smith Center puts Las Vegas alongside these wonderful cities. One thing that elevates Smith Center, however, is its newness, so there is no pretension. Come one, come all! And Smith Center, bring on “The Color Purple,” “Mary Poppins,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “Memphis” and “Wicked.”

As Smith Center welcomes, among others, Neil Patrick Harris, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Jennifer Hudson and Joshua Bell tonight at its official grand opening gala, I can’t help but be excited for the future of the arts. I can’t wait to defy gravity with the Smith Center — and see Las Vegas soar to new heights.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Don Chareunsy has worked in arts and entertainment at the San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Hollywood.com.

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