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September 23, 2018

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Talking five years of the Smith Center with Myron Martin

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Tom Donoghue / DonoghuePhotography.com

Rehearsal for Nevada Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, at the Smith Center.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts opened in Downtown Las Vegas’ Symphony Park on March 10, 2012, which means our cultural cornerstone has already been around for five years. The $470 million facility, home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Nevada Ballet Theatre and Broadway and other shows that have sold more than 2 million tickets, filled such a crucial arts void that if often feels as if it’s been around much longer.

“That’s the coolest part, that it’s such a part of the fabric of the community now, people assume it’s always been there. I love that,” says President and CEO Myron Martin.

The Smith Center celebrates this week with an anniversary concert on March 7 at 7:30 p.m. featuring Broadway Stars Adam Kantor (Rent) and Betsy Wolfe (Bullets Over Broadway) as emcees and Keith Thompson as director; Tickets start at $29 and can be purchased by calling 702-799-2000 or at thesmithcenter.com . To mark the occasion, we quizzed Martin about the center’s past and future and how it became Las Vegas’ living room.

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Smith Center President and CEO Myron Martin speaks during a preview for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts 2017-2018 Broadway series preview Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Reynolds Hall.

What were some of the specific goals for the Smith Center when you were opening five years ago? We definitely wanted to make it the place that welcomes the entire community, where we gather together to be inspired and to celebrate. It was always our goal to keep ticket prices affordable, with the idea that the place was built primarily for those of us who live here. As for that notion of the living room, we knew we would have weddings and events and corporate meetings, but we didn’t expect we’d have something like the memorial service [in 2015] for the fallen Metro police officers. For me, that’s I memory I will always take with me in that this really was a place for the community to come together, in this case to grieve and hug each other.

I suppose it’s impossible for you to single our favorite performances in the first five years. It’s hard because in so many ways it’s a blur, after five years and something like 2,500 performances. That by itself is a “Wait, what?” kind of thing, because that’s more than one a day. But I think it’s safe to say there’s been something here for everyone, and in those shows so many extraordinary moments. One way I love to look back happens when people come up to me at the mall or at a restaurant and say, “Gosh, we saw such and such at the Smith Center and it was the best show I’ve ever seen,” but it’s never been the same show. It’s always different.

You have an amazing slate coming up with the Broadway Las Vegas Series, Rent and The Color Purple and Hamilton and many others, but Reynolds Hall has hosted so many different performances already, including some acts that could have been playing casino showrooms. How do you think the mix of shows will change in the coming years? We suspected that Broadway would be the 800-pound gorilla and that came true, and in fact we have more subscribers than we ever thought we would have. We like the fact that we bring Ira Glass or some other NPR favorite to Las Vegas and then on the other end of the spectrum, our audience got to hear Ringo Star in an acoustically great environment. The nice thing about being in Las Vegas is that because this is the entertainment capital of the world, the Smith Center really does have a place in this bigger recipe of entertainment. But there will always be lots of shows that could be almost anything that aren’t really commercially viable options for tourists on the Strip.

What can we expect at the anniversary concert? Since our opening night that was aired as a PBS special around the country included some of the best performers from Broadway, we thought bringing some of the best from Broadway back to celebrate our fifth makes perfect sense, and we have a group of incredible performers to help us celebrate what happened over the last five years. Keith Thompson, who was the music director for Jersey Boys and handles our Composers Showcase, is going to have something of a Las Vegas all-star band and we’re just going to give people a show they’ll really enjoy.

The other thing I can tell you is there was a big discussion whether this should be a gala, a fancy black tie thing with really expensive tickets. But we just felt for our fifth anniversary, because the Smith Center is for all of us, we wanted ticket prices to be affordable like any other concert and so they are. And when the show is over we’ll all gather in the lobby and around the building to have a little toast and a chance to talk with our neighbors about what we saw onstage and reminisce about the last five years.

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