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September 2, 2014

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Q+A: Myron Martin reveals Smith Center’s Broadway Season 3, including three debut U.S. tours

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Steve Marcus

Myron Martin, president and CEO of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, wears kinky boots while announcing the 2014-15 Broadway Las Vegas Series at the center Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. The Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots” is coming to the Smith Center in September.

Smith Center CEO Gets ‘Kinky’

Myron Martin, president/CEO of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, walks to the stage in kinky boots as he announces the 2014-2015 Broadway Las Vegas Series at the Center Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. The Tony Award-winning Launch slideshow »

The Smith Center Broadway Season 3

Broadway Season 3 at The Smith Center

“Wicked” is part of Broadway Season 3 at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas. Alison Luff is pictured here as Elphaba. Launch slideshow »

Fan-favorite hit shows from New York’s Great White Way are among the new Broadway Las Vegas Season 3 lineup at downtown’s Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Three will be first national tours alongside Broadway staples and exciting Las Vegas premieres.

The Smith Center will launch its own first-ever national tour with the Tony Award-winning “Kinky Boots” with Cyndi Lauper, Harvey Fierstein and “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood creator, director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell.

They will take over the entire campus for four weeks of technical, music and stage rehearsals before its 10-day run here in September that kicks off the national cross-country tour.

In addition to “Kinky Boots,” the series features a variety of Tony-winning productions and celebrated new shows: “Ghost: The Musical,” “Pippin,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Newsies,” “Cinderella” and “Annie.”

Patrons who missed out during the unprecedented, sold-out, six-week run of “Wicked” two seasons ago will get another opportunity to see it with a special four-week run starting in October.

VIP patrons of the Smith Center were treated tonight to the unveiling of the series on a five-minute sizzle-reel video, plus, a sneak preview of one of the shows.

Additionally, Smith Center President Myron Martin invited Rio magician headliner Teller and Aaron Posner of American Repertory Theater from their first day of rehearsals for the upcoming world premiere of William Shakespeare’s “Tempest” under a tent in the adjacent Symphony Park.

Previews are April 1-4, and the shows run April 5-20. Our interview with Teller about his first-day experiences will be posted Wednesday.

I talked with Smith Center chief Myron on Monday about the new Broadway season:

Each year, this lineup seems to grow in strength, stature and star power. We’re almost getting better than Broadway.

I don’t know if I can go that far, and, frankly, we’re always at the mercy of Broadway producers and what goes on the road, but this year we feel really good about what we will be presenting.

Let’s start this by looking at “Book of Mormon” in July. As that major coup ends, and I am presuming that ticket sales are unbelievably strong for it, you follow that with the new 2014-2015 series. You aren’t missing a beat.

That’s right. Oftentimes performing arts centers operate on a nine- or 10-month schedule and kind of shut down in the summer and retool and make repairs, but we aren’t taking a breath from “Book of Mormon” leading right into “Ghost.”

How are the sales for “Book of Mormon”?

They’re very, very, very good. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be one of those shows where every seat for every performance will sell out. That sounds good on the surface but creates its own set of problems when VIPs or people who you want to accommodate call wanting tickets, and you literally don’t have a place for them. We’re preparing for that; we know it’s going to be a very hot ticket.

I love “Kinky Boots” and “Newsies” because those are the two that strike me as totally new.

You can throw “Ghost” in that same mix and “Pippin,” which won the Tony just this past year. Yes, “Pippin” started on Broadway in the early 1970s, but this is a brand new production, but still with Steven Schwartz music. “Nice Work” is a brand new production, too. With “Cinderella,” people assume that this is an old show, but this, too, is a revival that just came out in 2013. There’s a lot of the very new, the very fresh. Having seen “Pippin” on Broadway, I know people are going to absolutely love it here.

In a sense, these are all new productions.

Well, with the exception of “Wicked,” they’re certainly all new to Las Vegas. I mean you can make the case that “Joseph” and “Annie” have played, but their touring Broadway companies have not come through as far as I can tell.

In terms of the range of shows, do you feel like you’ve suddenly become Wolfgang Puck, master chef, and serve something for everybody on the menu?

This year, we did have to kind of walk this tightrope of making sure that we were in line for all of the first run-touring shows, but not booking so many that we overwhelmed our patrons. So, the truth is that we could have added two or three big shows this season and didn’t because we felt that nine titles, eight new ones and the return of “Wicked” were right about the sweet spot of where people will love coming and not get fatigued from Broadway.

Is “Wicked” a reprise of the exact same show that we had two years ago?

That’s right. So two-plus years after “Wicked” made its Las Vegas debut, it’s coming back, and it’s coming back this soon for a number of reasons. One, it really did sell out every ticket for every show and performance, and we had an unbelievable number of people still wanting tickets. There’s also “Wicked” phenomenon that people want to see that show over and over again. I’m thrilled that two years after playing it, it’s coming back.

I’m sure that there will be cast changes as there are in all touring productions, but otherwise same sets, same everything. Remember when it played here the first time, it played here for six weeks? The producers of this show are absolutely convinced that had they had the six weeks to give us that we would have sold out all 48 performances. It happens, the way the routing worked, that we could only get four weeks. It’s giving people what they want and trying our best to have enough supply to meet the demand.

Myron, do you have a personal favorite in here that you absolutely fought to get?

The fact that we are launching a national tour is big news. I said to you a year ago that I had two goals with Broadway. One was to launch a national tour, and the other was to create new product here in Las Vegas to go to Broadway. It doesn’t really pertain to this new Broadway series, but the fact that we are doing Teller’s production, which is a brand new work, “The Tempest,” which will then go on to Boston and D.C. and hopefully have a life beyond that, we’re accomplishing both of those things this season.

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Myron Martin, president and CEO of the The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, announces the Broadway shows for Season 2 during a donors reception at The Smith Center on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013.

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“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is part of Broadway Season 3 at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas. Real-life husband and wife and “American Idol” alumni Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo are pictured here.

For this upcoming Broadway season, the fact that we are launching a national tour of “Kinky Boots” makes it something very extraordinary for me and for the Smith Center, and we’re thrilled about it.

Does that mean that Jerry Mitchell, Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein put the national show together here in Las Vegas, or do they still do that in New York and then bring it ready to go in Las Vegas?

No, no, no, it will obviously be cast and rehearsals will begin in New York, but when Harvey and Jerry and Cyndi all three put their final touches on the tour, it will all happen right here at the Smith Center. Part of the time they are on the main stage. They’re also taking over the campus, and they’ll be rehearsing parts in Troesh Studio Theater. They’ll have free range of the Smith Center in order to gear up for this giant national tour.

It certainly gives us a very productive occupancy by giving them the ability to rehearse the band in one area and lines in another and have multiple spaces to pull the show together. The fact that Jerry and Cindy and Harvey will all be here is a big thing for the Smith Center. A couple of weeks of tech and then almost two full weeks of onstage rehearsals.

Do you have an idea yet about casting for any of these shows yet?

We have two “American Idol” contestants in Joseph, Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, who both starred as a couple in “Hair” on Broadway (and are married in real life). I haven’t seen cast lists posted yet for the other shows.

So this is now officially Season 3 of Broadway for Las Vegas?

Season 3 1/2, kind of. … If you recall, we had this little short season since opening back in March, April, May and June of 2012. So then we had the 2012-13 season, then the 2013-14 season, and this is our announcement now for the 2014-15.

Are you already at work plotting, scheming and planning for 2015-16?

Absolutely. As a Tony voter, I go back and see every show, and I certainly have my eyes on some, and we’re having conversations about others in the 2015-16 year.

Do producers of touring Broadway shows now talk favorably about the Las Vegas market and the Smith Center? Has it gone from fighting for recognition for you now fighting them off?

That’s a really good way to put it. We had to prove ourselves. We had to show that we were serious and for real, and we’ve done it. Frankly, some of these tours, the Smith Center grosses have been the highest, plus, the artists and performers love coming here. The tour managers and agents love working with us.

This is now an important stop on any national tour, and in just three years that massive change took place. It’s better than I ever thought. There really, really is a buzz in New York about Las Vegas and the Smith Center like I’ve never seen before.

Knowing that, do you look at the Smith Center and its shows as a complement to what’s on the Strip, or do you look at it as a challenge to the Strip? How do you view it in the overall entertainment landscape of Las Vegas?

Look at the Smith Center in total, all the things that we do from music theater and dance from around the world to Broadway to children’s productions to educational productions. The Smith Center really was a game changer for the city. Many of these shows that we’re bringing on the Broadway Season and certainly outside Broadway wouldn’t have come to Las Vegas prior to the Smith Center.

The fact that in the last 365 days, we had something like 450 performances, more than one a day with really happy audiences, says that Las Vegas had a pent-up demand. People are really buying tickets and coming to shows. I think that we have a really great relationship with the Strip. Many of the hoteliers are on the board. Jerry Nadal from Cirque du Soleil is on my board. We complement what they do.

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“Ghost: The Musical” is part of Broadway Season 3 at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas.

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“Cinderella” is part of Broadway Season 3 at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas. Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana are pictured here.

You talked about the hunger that exists here in Las Vegas. Is it fair to say that the city of all ages and demographics has embraced what you accomplished? Is there a larger meaning to it than just accepting the fact that a beautiful building went up and shows came in? Do you sense that? Do you know what that is?

I totally sense it. You may recall we learned from some peers around the country that that’s really the impact that these building have on communities. People around the world perceive Las Vegas differently today than they did pre-Smith Center. Whether that’s classical music or dance or the fact that our Broadway partners love coming to Las Vegas on their tours, this is a new time for our city.

I couldn’t be happier when I think about being able to do all of that and have tickets starting at $24 for any of our Broadway shows. This really was built for those of us who live here and our families, and it was built for our entire community, not just a select part.

You’re chief in charge of all, but are we safe that you’re sticking around and unlikely to be stolen by somebody else who wants you to do just as great and a bigger job in another city?

I love Las Vegas, and the reality is that I wasn’t someone who was brought in to manage the facility. I was given the honor of giving birth to something really spectacular, and this is my baby. My board has been very supportive, and I am certainly not interested in looking around for anything else. This is our home, and I love the Smith Center.

* * *

Here’s the official Royal Robin Rundown of Broadway Season 3:

“GHOST: THE MUSICAL”

Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 - Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014

“Ghost: The Musical” is a visual experience to relive the iconic and magical moments from the Oscar-winning movie in a brand-new Broadway musical on a thrilling adventure to the afterlife. Inanimate objects take on a life of their own, a person walks through a solid door right before your eyes, plus, other special effects. “Ghost: The Musical” features an original pop score from multiple Grammy Award winners Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard and is adapted from the hit film by its Oscar-winning screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin.

“KINKY BOOTS”

Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 - Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014

“Kinky Boots” is the exhilarating Broadway musical that won six Tony Awards including Best Musical in 2013. The inspirational story follows a struggling shoe factory owner who works to turn around his business with help from Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. Together, the unlikely pair proves that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world. “Kinky Boots” features a Tony-winning score by Cyndi Lauper, direction and Tony-winning choreography by Jerry Mitchell and a hilarious, uplifting book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein.

“WICKED”

Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 - Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014

Whether one missed it the first time or just wants to revisit Oz, the Smith Center presents “Wicked” as a Broadway Las Vegas’ special add on with an extended run. Back by popular demand, the cultural phenomenon broke box office records and sold out in record time when it first played the Smith Center. Winner of more than 50 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tonys, “Wicked” is “Broadway’s biggest blockbuster,” says the New York Times.

‘War Horse,’ More in Season 2 at Smith Center

Mary Stopa gets a close-up look at Joey, the puppet horse from Launch slideshow »

Broadway Season 2 at The Smith Center

Launch slideshow »

“PIPPIN”

Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 - Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014

“Pippin” is back on Broadway for the first time since it thrilled audiences 40 years ago. It won the Tony for Best Musical Revival with a beloved score by Tony nominee Stephen Schwartz. This captivating new production is directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (“Hair,” “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess”) and features sizzling choreography in the style of Bob Fosse and breathtaking acrobatics by Les 7 Doigts De La Main, the creative force behind the sensation “Traces.”

“JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT”

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015 - Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is the irresistible family musical about the trials and triumphs of Joseph in the retelling of the Biblical story of Joseph, his 11 brothers and the coat of many colors.

“NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT”

Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015 - Sunday, March 1, 2015

A 1920s-era feel-good musical, complete with extravagant dance numbers, gorgeous girls, high-stepping magic, glittering costumes and an unlikely love story between a wealthy playboy and a rough-and-tumble lady bootlegger all set against the backdrop of classic Gershwin hits like “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Fascinating Rhythm.” Featuring a cast of larger-than-life characters, direction and choreography by three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall (“Anything Goes”) and a snappy book by Tony winner Joe DiPietro (“Memphis”), the madcap tale harkens back to the golden age of American musical comedy.

“NEWSIES”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - Sunday, March 22, 2015

They delivered the papers until they made the headlines. Direct from Broadway comes “Newsies,” the smash-hit, crowd-pleasing musical from Disney. Winner of the 2012 Tonys for Best Score and Best Choreography, “Newsies” has audiences and critics alike calling it “a musical worth singing about” (The New York Times).

“RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - Sunday, May 3, 2015

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is the Tony-winning Broadway musical from the creators of “The Sound of Music” and “Annie” that’s delighting audiences with its contemporary take on the classic tale. This lush production features an incredible orchestra, the pumpkin, the glass slipper, the masked ball, plus, some surprising new twists.

“ANNIE”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 – Sunday, May 31, 2015

Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin, this production of “Annie” is a new incarnation of the iconic original. Featuring book and score by Tony winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, “Annie” includes “Tomorrow,” the eternal anthem of optimism.

Tickets for the upcoming Broadway Las Vegas series will first be made available for renewal to current season subscribers beginning March 3. New subscription orders for the 2014-2015 season begin May 12 at TheSmithCenter.com, by phone at (702) 749-2000 and (808) 326-6868 (TTY) and at the box office located at 361 Symphony Park Ave. On-sale dates for tickets to individual shows will be announced at a later date.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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