Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2018

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Keith Thompson of ‘Jersey Boys’: Beat the heat with sweet new music

Keith Thompson

Don Cadette

Keith Thompson hosts Composers Showcase at Smith Center.

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Clint Holmes and John Wedemeyer.

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Philip Fortenberry and Keith Thompson.

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Philip Fortenberry performs in "The Man at the Piano."

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The Apple Sisters perform at Art Square Theater.

Editor’s Note: As Robin Leach winds down his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy and heads to the East Coast for a brief visit before returning to the rigors of Vegas DeLuxe, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with Keith Thompson, conductor of “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas.

Being the full-time conductor for “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas keeps me plenty busy, but never too busy to support fellow performers who are out there showcasing their talents.

This month alone, I saw those wacky Apple Sisters perform at Arts Square Theater downtown on July 18. On July 21, I watched pianist Philip Fortenberry reprise his solo cabaret/concert at Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. And it’s always fun to catch the Phat Pack performing daily at the Plaza.

My true passion is pouring my heart and soul into organizing and hosting my favorite Las Vegas event: the Composers Showcase.

The Showcase began in spring 2006 at Suede, a tiny nightclub near the airport, as an insider’s party for Broadway and Las Vegas performers. The Showcase provided an opportunity to share our original compositions with one another in a supportive environment. After just one Showcase, we realized that we were on to something, so we kept it going once a month for a year.

After Suede, the good folks at the Liberace Museum invited us into their cabaret showroom. The Showcase flourished amid Liberace’s kitsch and bling for 3 1/2 years until the museum fell into financial problems and was forced to close its doors to the public.

However, the creative spirits of Las Vegas’ songwriters was not to be silenced by a little inconvenience like being homeless. After the close of the museum, Cockroach Theater’s Will Adamson stepped forward to host the showcase at Creative Studios LV, a loft space in the southwest part of town; Adamson also helped to secure the Atrium at Garfield’s on the Lake in Desert Shores.

Faithful Showcase audiences followed us all over town until, finally, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts was ready to open and take Las Vegas by storm. Thanks to the hospitality of Smith Center CEO Myron Martin and COO Paul Beard, the beautiful 250-seat Cabaret Jazz showroom was made available to us. The faithful following that had grown significantly in the six years since we began continued to expand.

The Showcase now sells out regularly and has begun to attract not only the best composers, singers and musicians from various production shows, but also headliners such as Taylor Hicks, Frankie Moreno, Esteban, Michael Cavanaugh, and Las Vegas’ very own treasure, singer-songwriter Clint Holmes, who delights audiences with his one-man show at Cabaret Jazz the first weekend of each month.

What was once considered one of Vegas’ best-kept secrets, Composers Showcase has quickly become a not-to-be-missed happening on the list of off-Strip entertainment options. The lineup varies, but you can count on a show that is true to its artistic heart and alive with new, original music and features some of the most spectacular talent you won’t find anywhere else.

Look for the next performance Aug. 14 and dates through the end of the year. Check the Smith Center website and for updates.

Check out our other guest column today from actor Joseph Barbara, who has joined the cast of “Jersey Boys,” and on Sunday Derek Stevens of the D Hotel and producer Jeanie Linders.

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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