The Great Silver State Way
Nevada is home to a bustling Broadway and performing arts scene.
BY MIKALEE BYERMAN
Making a trip to see a Broadway play in a large city often comes with jaw-dropping sticker shock. First are the ticket prices themselves, the cost of which could rival the gross national product of a healthy micronation. Then you’ll need to factor in transportation, parking, dinner/drinks, and hotel stays.
Bottom line: You might need to take out a small loan to enjoy “Hadestown” or “Hamilton” in New York City or San Francisco.
And this is one of the many reasons Nevada is becoming an alternate—and sometimes, far more enticing—destination for a Broadway experience.
BROADWAY ON A BUDGET
Nettie Oliverio, president of the executive board of the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno, discovered this sentiment while surveying Pioneer patrons.
“They were telling me you can come to Reno, pay far less, stay in a hotel downtown where parking is free, walk to the Pioneer, have dinner across the street for less than half the price you’ll find in a big city, watch a Broadway show, often with the same touring companies as San Francisco, then get up the next morning and go hiking at Lake Tahoe,” she recalls. “Why would they NOT come here?”
Indeed, the Pioneer Center in the north and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in the southern tip are destinations for entire calendars of Broadway productions. And more and more people are discovering the benefits.
THE PIONEER SPIRIT
“It’s not only Broadway that attracts people to northern Nevada,” Oliverio says, adding that the 1,500-seat Pioneer is home to the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, and Artown. “The Pioneer is the perfect place to sample all different genres of entertainment, from dance to book lectures to music and beyond.”
The Pioneer opened in 1968 and has been an anchor of northern Nevada’s vibrant artistic and cultural scene ever since. Its geodesic dome comprised of 500 interlocking panels has earned it the nickname the “Golden Turtle.”
“When people first visit, they expect a standard theater,” Oliverio explains. “But our design—let’s just say it’s weird. Who would have thought that it would be a great idea to dig a deep pit, and that’s the main floor? And now, innovative design around arts venues is practically an expectation. The Pioneer was ahead of its time for sure.”
In recognition of its historical and architectural significance, the Pioneer Center is listed in the registers of historic places, both locally and nationally.
The Pioneer Cente r for the Performing Arts
Clyne’s Cello Concerto, Reno Philharmonic
“Come From Away,”
Broadway Comes to Reno
March 28-April 2
“Carmen,” Reno Philharmonic
A.V.A. Ballet Theatre Presents
“The Frozen Snow Queen”
“Anastasia,” Broadway Comes to Reno
Just as the Pioneer is an architectural and cultural landmark in the north, similarly, The Smith Center in Las Vegas fills that role in the south.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of its opening, and Suzanne Chabre, vice president and chief experience officer, notes it will continue to bring world-class productions with a goal of making the performing arts accessible to all.
“We take great pride in bringing the best of Broadway to our theater,” she says. “In fact, multiple productions have launched national tours at The Smith Center, and we expect to launch more in the future.”
The Smith Center has already accomplished one of its top goals in producing an original musical, “Idaho! The Comedy Musical,” and it will continue to explore opportunities to generate new works.
The Smith Center encompasses three theaters that each provide a different experience:
• The 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall houses large-scale performances, such as Broadway productions and legendary performers like John Legend and Bernadette Peters.
• The 240-seat Myron’s venue offers a more cabaret-style experience where audiences can enjoy their favorite performers up close—such as stage-and-screen stars Sutton Foster and Erich Bergen—while enjoying light bites and cocktails.
• The 250-seat Troesh Studio Theater houses a wide range of shows best enjoyed in an intimate setting, including classical ensemble performances, plays, and stand-up comedy.
The Smith Center has sold more than 3 million tickets in its first 10 years, demonstrating its importance as a cultural hub. And like the Pioneer Center, The Smith Center’s architectural design helps it stand out among performance arts venues. The design ultimately took inspiration from the Art Deco architecture of the Hoover Dam, in homage to the dam’s role in the development of Las Vegas.