Broadway comes to Vegas with slew of hit musicals

AP News
Posted: Feb 05, 2013 10:38 AM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — There's no shortage of stages in the Entertainment Capital of the World, although residents have long found it easier to find a celebrity impersonator than a Tony Award-winning musical.

But executives at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts believe that's been changing since their $470 million complex opened last March, and they plan to keep the first-year momentum going with a 2013-14 Broadway calendar that includes "Les Miserables," ''The Book of Mormon," and eight other Broadway mega-hits.

"We are over-the-moon excited about the lineup," Smith Center President Myron Martin told The Associated Press.

The venue will be a stop for the "Les Miserables" touring cast in August. After that, "The Wizard of Oz," ''War Horse," ''Sister Act," ''Evita," ''Mamma Mia," ''Flashdance," ''The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," and "Once" will take the stage at a pace of roughly one per month.

Most of the productions will run for one weekend, while the series will wrap up with a monthlong run of "The Book of Mormon," the 2012 Best Musical Tony winner that one New York Times critic called "the best musical of the century."

The lineup, announced Monday evening, has garnered a combined 40 Tony awards and comes after the center's wildly popular debut year that saw sellout crowds at each Broadway production.

"There really was pent-up demand for high quality arts and entertainment in Las Vegas," Martin said.

Last Broadway season featured six shows anchored by the Wizard of Oz-spinoff "Wicked." Martin said Smith Center officials planned to sell 6,000 subscriptions to the series, but ended up selling 11,000.

The demand has helped the Smith Center attract a top-notch second season.

"We owe a lot to the six week run of 'Wicked'," Martin explained. "Because of its overwhelming popularity, other Broadway producers who ... weren't sure before that saw that Vegas and The Smith Center are for real."

For many, the Art Deco Smith Center complex represents Las Vegas' artistic coming of age. The city's philharmonic orchestra and ballet company now have an elegant, permanent home, and Las Vegas locals can find shows that aren't geared first toward tourists.

"We've been city for performing arts," said Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce spokesman Cara Roberts. "The Smith Center represents a point in time where we offer programming primarily geared toward residents of the region."

Before Believing Kavanaugh's Accuser
Allie Stuckey

Martin believes the two sides of the tourist town go hand-in-hand.

"People who live here will always find reasons to entertain people, to go to casinos for celebrity performances and Cirque shows. That'll never change," Martin said. "But the same people now have a way to go to a non-gaming institution that's reasonably priced and centrally located. They can be entertained and inspired."

The center tries to keep prices accessible for locals and families, with tickets to Broadway shows starting at $24. One of their biggest challenges, Martin said, is selling out too quickly.

"It has been way beyond expectations," he said of the opening year. "We dreamed big ... but the community support has been overwhelming."

Subscribers to the current 2012-13 Broadway season can renew their passes starting Feb. 19. Orders for new subscriptions will be accepted starting in May.