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The Smith Center for the Performing Arts ushers in a new era in downtown Las Vegas.
Photo: Joan Marcus (above); Geri Kodey (middle)
Las Vegas loves a show, and now the curtain has risen on perhaps its most ambitious and forward-thinking performance yet: The opening of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Nearly two decades in the making, The Smith Center opened to the public in March and has already established itself as a major player in the Las Vegas arts and culture scene. Sitting on five downtown acres, The Smith Center—an integral part of the sustainably built Symphony Park—is part of a larger movement to revitalize a part of the city that’s long been overshadowed by the Strip.
“We knew we had to think differently about The Smith Center to set it apart from all the things you see on the Strip,” says president and CEO Myron Martin. In a city where some buildings have been imploded after only a few short decades, this building seems to have what it takes to stand the test of time. Inspired by many styles of architecture, The Smith Center’s design borrows from some of the world’s most famous performing arts spaces. Its open lobby features high ceilings, clean lines, custom-designed light fixtures, and large windows.
The design and construction process was guided by sustainability and optimal-performance conditions, so not only is there no bad seat in the house, but The Smith Center is also the first performing arts center of its size and scope that will be Silver LEED certified. The cultural citadel is topped off with an impressive 17-story bell tower that houses a four-octave Carillon comprised of 47 handcrafted bronze bells.
The heart of The Smith Center is the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall, which features several mezzanine and balcony levels, a large stage, and a full-orchestra pit. “Your perspective changes depending on where you sit, but everything you see and hear is great,” says David M. Schwarz, the lead Smith Center architect. “We all felt strongly that acoustics and design had to work together seamlessly.”
In the Cabaret Jazz theater, located in the Boman Pavilion next to the main venue, guests can experience intimate jazz and blues concerts in a space reminiscent of old New Orleans clubs. Tables and chairs provide relaxed seating while a second-story, U-shaped tier offers a different viewing angle for jazz, cabaret, and similar performances. The Troesh Studio Theater, also located in the Boman Pavilion, is a versatile space that can be used for rehearsals, community events, and black box theater performances.
Featured throughout The Smith Center and the Symphony Park community are many commissioned pieces of art that help define the space, including a statue of a tall, winged figure in the grand lobby by Benjamin Victor, several paintings by Tim Bavington that are inspired by “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and a colorful sculpture in the park titled Pipe Dream, also by Bavington. The artistic reach goes beyond the center as well, such as workshops in Southern Nevada classrooms with artists such as Mary Hall Surface and Cynthia Elek.
Despite The Smith Center’s educational outreach, distinctive architecture, and plentiful show features, it’s the accessibility to a wide array of arts performances and education that really have people talking. In years past, Las Vegas has been avoided on touring schedules of large-scale musical, theatrical, and dance productions because there was nowhere to house such shows.
The Smith Center addresses this artistic void by offering a comprehensive blend of performances from local arts groups as well as first-run touring attractions. Béla Fleck & the Flecktones kicked off the public presentation schedule on March 12. From there, the performance schedule is jam packed, sometimes with several shows vying for attention in any given week. The majority of shows are held in Reynolds Hall.
Perhaps one of the most exciting things to come out of The Smith Center is that, finally, the Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic have a permanent performance space. Though the two organizations have operated independently for many years, The Smith Center gives them the opportunity to collaborate. Now, when guests come to watch the ballet, they’ll be treated to a full-pit orchestra concert as well.
In addition to having a new space in which to perform, both the ballet company and Las Vegas Philharmonic are embracing the capabilities of The Smith Center, which means audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy new and innovative performances by both organizations. “Besides being able to enhance our productions because of the nature of the hall, we will be able to perform with live music, which is an essential ingredient of our art form,” says Beth Barbre, executive director and CEO of the Nevada Ballet Theatre. One of the highlights of this year’s schedule includes a version of “The Nutcracker” unique to Las Vegas.
“Our new season is very community oriented and [diverse],” says Jeri Crawford, president and CEO of Las Vegas Philharmonic. “We have taken a totally new direction because we have the [ability] in this concert hall to do things we could never do before.”
The culmination of beautiful architecture, world-class acoustics, enthusiastic management, an impressive lineup of shows, and a home base for two of Las Vegas’ well-established arts programs may be reason enough to welcome The Smith Center into the city, but it also has a ripple effect into the community and beyond. “I think The Smith Center will change the cultural perception of Las Vegas. …I’m just so thankful that we’re living in a time where the community has invested in this wonderful gift for Las Vegas,” Barbre says. Photo: Randa Bishop
“The Smith Center is bigger than a building,” Martin adds. “We dreamed about creating something great, and it’s so much better than any dream we had.” For Las Vegas specifically and Nevada in general, The Smith Center is poised for a standing ovation.
Broadway Las Vegas
• Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins,” May 22-27
• “Million Dollar Quartet,” June 12-17
• James Gavin’s STORMY WEATHER: The Lena Horne Project, May 11-12
• Jane Monheit, May 18-19
• Barbara Cook, May 24-27
• Emily Bergl, June 8-9
• Lucy Woodward, June 15-16
• Preservation Hall Jazz Band,
Nevada Ballet Theatre
• 40th-Anniversary Gala, May 5
Las Vegas Philharmonic
• Masterworks V, May 12
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
361 Symphony Park Ave.,
Las Vegas, NV 89106
Billing itself as the “first modern-day city neighborhood in Las Vegas” and encompassing an estimated 10 million square feet, Symphony Park stresses community and sustainability in its environmentally friendly design.
• Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
• The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
• Discovery Children’s Museum
• The Charlie Palmer boutique hotel
• Residential Neighborhood by Newland Communities
• Casino/Hotel/Retail Complex by Forest City
FOR MORE INFORMATION
W. Bonneville Ave. & S. Grand Central Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89106