Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 | 8 a.m.
An all-star lineup of award-winning musicians, famed dance troupes, speakers and some returning celebrity favorites has been signed to the new spring season at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, and Vegas DeLuxe has the first advance word.
Tickets will go on sale Friday, Jan. 24. However, we already know that singer-songwriter Diana Krall, singer-songwriter John Legend, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, legendary comedienne Lily Tomlin and actor Chazz Palminteri’s one-man show “Bronx Tale” are on tap.
The star attractions also include two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone, master-violinist Joshua Bell with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra and the big-band sound of Doc Severinsen (“The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson”) with Mary Wilson of The Supremes. Add in jazz trumpet titan Chris Botti and country stars John Anderson and Tracy Lawrence, and you’ve got a playlist that rivals the finest of any world concert hall.
The entertainment attractions also range from “The Pink Floyd Experience” to smooth jazz superstar David Sanborn and “One Night of Queen” performed by Gary Mullen and The Works.
“Definitely something for everybody,” laughed Smith Center President Myron Martin when I talked with him. I asked him if he had changed his philosophy, with music weighing so heavily this new season.
“No. There’s music, there’s dance, there’s theater and solo shows,” he responded. “When you look through and see the music, you’ll see some of our favorites. People like Diana Krall and Chris Botti are returning after a year or two. We’re bringing them back because our patrons asked for them.”
I told Myron that it might look as if he’s taking a page from our nightclub industry in booking John Legend, newly married to gorgeous Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit supermodel Chrissy Teigen, whose family lives here. As a result, he makes numerous nightclub and concert appearances here.
“First of all, we’re not stealing anybody,” chuckled Myron. “Think about it: There are people who live in Las Vegas who go to the nightclubs, and there are people who live in Las Vegas who don’t. There are a whole bunch of people who have not seen John Legend live in Las Vegas, and what better place than an acoustically perfect hall?
“This really focuses on the music and not performing one number while hosting a party. It’s an acoustic set, no lip synching, but really live onstage delivering the goods.”
Myron (and I confess me, too) is excited with Rio headliner magician Teller’s magical version of William Shakespeare’s final play “The Tempest” that will play under a specially built tent in Symphony Park at Smith Center from April 6-13.
“This is all about Teller. We just happen to be the presenter, the venue that’s partnering with him to produce the show. I don’t want anybody to be confused about where it started or how it was developed. There’s one driving force behind this, and it’s Teller. It’s delightful to see something locally blossom from a seed and become a big national success.
“One of the dreams that we have is that one day we will launch something new from Las Vegas that will then tour the country. Meantime, Teller’s creation is pretty awesome. You put the magic of Teller and the music of Tom Waits and the movement of Pilobus all together — I don’t know what the word is, but it’s awesome; it really is. This will take away any horrid memories you have of struggling with Shakespeare in high school.
“What’s interesting, there’s a group of people here who trek to Utah to go see Shakespeare every summer, so there are fans of Shakespeare in Las Vegas, no doubt. Teller is certain that this particular ‘Tempest’ will appeal to people who have never seen Shakespeare, including kids. It’s a little different.
“I’ve seen his visuals and his brilliant design of the tent. When we first talked a couple of years ago, he said he had this idea. In one of his books, back in the 1920s maybe, he found this story about a famous magician who traveled around the country with his own tent. The tent bodied all of the illusions. So once they set up the tent, the show was kind of ready to go. He took that and said what better show to do in a tent with magic than ‘The Tempest.’
“I love the way he described the content from the very moment he started talking about it. Part of the beauty of this is that he has designed it all, an inspiration seating 500 people, in Symphony Park at the front door of the Smith Center. A one-of-a-kind special tent because of its design — it not only contains the magic and illusions, but also a place for the play to run.”
Here’s the full Royal Robin Rundown:
The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra: Saturday, March 1
The St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is one of Russia’s — and the world’s — greatest orchestras. Founded in 1882, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra is Russia’s oldest symphonic ensembles and a symbol of the country’s passion for art and music. It was with this orchestra that Tchaikovsky chose to premiere his Symphony No. 6 (“Pathetique”). This performance will be rising Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang’s first appearance in Las Vegas.
“One Night of Queen” Performed by Gary Mullen & The Works: Sunday, March 9
Since May 2002, Gary Mullen & The Works has performed throughout the world to sold-out audiences to pay tribute to rock legend Queen. “One Night of Queen” is a spectacular live concert re-creating the look, sound, pomp and showmanship of one of the most notable rock bands.
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields With Joshua Bell: Tuesday, March 18
Master-violinist Joshua Bell commands and directs this brilliant chamber orchestra known worldwide for its polished and refined sound. Formed in 1958, they have come to represent the pinnacle of musicianship. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields is purity put to music, perfection played out loud, and every performance is a true treat for music enthusiasts everywhere.
“PFX — The Pink Floyd Experience”: Wednesday, March 19
The English rock band who is world-renowned for its elaborate live shows and philosophical lyrics lives on through six outstanding musicians who are “The Pink Floyd Experience.” The group will perform some of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits, such as “Money,” “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb,” in addition to not often-heard rarities.
Patti LuPone in “Far Away Places”: Thursday, March 20
In her new critically acclaimed concert “Far Away Places,” two-time Tony Award winner (“Gypsy” and “Evita”) Patti LuPone shares her wanderlust, taking audiences on a musical journey featuring thrilling renditions of songs by an eclectic list of songwriters that includes Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Willie Nelson, Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, Frederick Hollander and even The Bee Gees.
“Satin & Soul” Featuring David Sanborn and Jonathan Butler: Friday, March 21
This concert is as smooth and sexy as satin and as deep and earthy as the roots of American music. Bringing together two award-winning stars, David Sanborn, the six-time Grammy winner and multiplatinum alto-sax star, will grace the stage alongside Jonathan Butler, platinum-selling singer-guitarist.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Saturday, March 22
Under the artistic direction of Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater offers the pulse-racing thrill of new works by some of the world’s best choreographers to the spirit-lifting joy of beloved classic “Revelations.” America’s most popular dance company returns for two performances.
An Evening With Chris Botti: Wednesday, March 26
Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti returns to the Smith Center for an evening that begins with jazz and expands beyond the limits of any specific musical genre.
John Legend — “The All of Me Tour: Intimate, Acoustic and Stripped Down”: Thursday, March 27
Singer-songwriter John Legend won his first of nine Grammy Awards with 2004’s “Get Lifted,” which went platinum. John returns after five years with his fourth solo album, “Love in the Future.”
“John Anderson & Tracy Lawrence — Acoustic, Up Close & Personal”: Friday, March 28
An acoustic evening enjoying hit after hit from two of the most distinct voices in country music. Their setlist includes country classics such as “Seminole Wind,” “Time Marches On,” “Straight Tequila Night” and “Paint Me a Birmingham.”
Doc Severinsen & His Big Band With Mary Wilson: Saturday, March 29
Doc Severinsen, leader of Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” band for more than 25 years, is hitting the road with his own big band in “Once More with Feeling.” Named after his bestselling recording, the show features the legendary Mary Wilson of The Supremes in an evening of classic big-band tunes that defined a golden era of television.
William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”: April 6-13
The poet’s final play “The Tempest” makes its world debut in Symphony Park with an untamed world of phantoms, monsters, madmen and lovers in this wild adaptation co-produced between the Smith Center and Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater by directors and adaptors Aaron Posner and Teller (of Penn & Teller). His magic is accompanied by music from Tom Waits and movement choreography by Pilobus.
Diana Krall — “Glad Rag Doll World Tour”: Wednesday, April 9
Celebrating her recently released 11th album “Glad Rag Doll” by filling Reynolds Hall with her newfound sound at the piano, this extraordinarily talented vocalist introduces a solo guitar, a drum set and a keyboard to her latest compositions.
“Women Fully Clothed”: Friday, April 11
“Women Fully Clothed” adds hilarity to everyday life in an unparalleled night of laughter. An evening with “the funniest women in Canada” (Eugene Levy) is like an evening with good friends who make you laugh ‘til you cry.
Renee Fleming: Thursday, May 1
One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, soprano Renee Fleming is known for her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry and compelling stage presence. She has performed across the world, from the Beijing Olympics to Buckingham Palace to President Barrack Obama’s inaugural celebration. For her first-ever public performance in Las Vegas, she will sing beloved songs and arias ranging from grand opera favorites and Broadway to The Great American Songbook.
Audi Speaker Series: “An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin”: Sunday, May 11
A warm and uniquely affecting Lily Tomlin experience filled with comical insights and wildly witty observations about the human condition.
Audi Speaker Series: Chazz Palminteri in “A Bronx Tale”: Tuesday, May 13
A classic coming-of-age story brought to life in an original one-man show. Written and performed by Oscar-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri, “A Bronx Tale” tells the story of Calogero Anello, a young boy from a working-class family who gets involved in the world of organized crime.
It’s such a powerful, star-studded list that I had to ask Myron if he had a favorite. “I can’t have a favorite, but I think the nice thing about this lineup is that there’s really something for everybody,” he told me. “Some would say that the Academy of St. Martin and The Fields is certainly one of the greatest orchestras in the world, and Joshua Bell may be the greatest living violinist.
“Bringing them together is going to be a really great night. It’s going to be Patti Lupone’s first time at the Smith Center; people are loving what we’re doing with Jazz Roots. We’ve already announced a tribute to Ray Charles with Take Six and Clint Holmes, so that’s another big all-star lineup.”
Our prestigious Smith Center is getting ready for a third year, and I wanted to know how it’s now perceived in the theatrical world locally and globally now.
“It’s not only the Broadway community who has embraced us; agents and managers and artists are now seeking us out,” said Myron. “Pre-opening, we were having to make all the phone calls and explain that we were building a world-class performing arts center in the Entertainment Capital of the World, and we had to do a little selling to persuade people to come and play with us.
“Now everyone wants to play the Smith Center. The buzz in New York and around the world and in this community is all about the Smith Center right now, so that helps us not only to attract new artists but also with the Diana Kralls and Chris Bottis because they’ve been here, they loved it and want to come back over and over again. I think it’s not only a testament to the building, but also the way we take care of the artists when they get here.
“We typically announce the entire Broadway season in the early spring for next year, so that will be coming up soon. With music stars, you typically don’t book as early as you would a Broadway show, so we can’t announce an entire year of musicians and singers just because of the way the industry works.
“Kicking off our next Broadway season will be the tour launch of ‘Kinky Boots.’ They could have picked any city to launch the tour, and they picked Las Vegas. That’s with Jerry Mitchell and Harvey Fierstein and Cindy Lauper. She’s not in the show, but all three of them will be here working and rehearsing to get the show ready for the tour. So you’ll have an opportunity to spend time with them. You know Jerry from producing ‘Peepshow’ at Planet Hollywood. We don’t know any casting yet.
“We couldn’t be happier with the progress and growth we’ve made in such a short time. It’s just been thrilling to see the response from artists who take to our stage and our audiences who love what they see and hear.”
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.
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