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Smith Center gives Broadway a big Vegas stage

Norm Clarke

March 2, 2017 09:56 AM

By Norm Clarke
VSiN columnist

Tuesday marks the five-year anniversary of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts but the celebration started early.

A near-capacity crowd of about 2,000 showed up Wednesday, not for a performance, but for a free unveiling.

For the first time, the announcement of the highly popular Broadway Series for 2017-2018 was held in Reynolds Hall, after four years in the 220-seat Cabaret Jazz.

The move was made “due to the simple fact we had subscribers asking if they could attend,” and they were there to be the first to learn when “Hamilton” was arriving, said Myron Martin, president of the Smith Center.

The Broadway sensation, which runs from May 29 to June 24, 2018, will be the finale of the nine-show lineup.

With 11,000 Smith Center subscribers, the demand was so high the 2,000 tickets were scooped up within a couple hours. Martin said he can’t recall the kind of buzz “Hamilton” has generated. He bases it on “the number of people saying ‘I want to be subscriber just to get tickets to ‘Hamilton.’”

And just like on opening night five years ago, the big crowd lingered in the lobby long after the nine shows were announced.

“This city has so come of age,” marveled Robert Fisher, a long-time Broadway buff who waited decades to witness such a feverish response.

Fisher, whose parents were movie theater owners, been attending Broadway shows since 1965 when he saw “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” co-starring John Column and Barbara Harris.

The longtime CEO and president of the Nevada Broadcasters Association estimates he’s seen 150 Broadway shows in New York and another 100 in Minneapolis, London, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Things have changed dramatically with the arrival of the $450 million Smith Center.

“If you will remember, Broadway shows would come to Las Vegas and be housed in casinos and they would be abridged,” Fisher said. “When the road shows would finally come, we got the second cast, or third cast and sometimes the fourth cast. Thanks to Smith Center we are now top tier.”

The powerhouse series opens with “Something Rotten” from Aug. 8-13, followed by “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (Sept. 19-24), Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” (Oct. 3-8), “The King and I” (Oct. 25-29), “The Bodyguard the Musical” (Nov. 21-26), “Rent” 20th Anniversary Tour (Jan. 30-Feb. 4), “Love Never Dies” (March 20-25), and “The Color Purple” (April 24-29.)

Broadway will have a big role in Tuesday’s anniversary performance.

Co-hosting the evening will be Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor, co-stars of “The Last Five Years.”

Two of the leading ladies from “Idaho! The Musical” – Alex Ellis (Ida Dunham) and Jessica Fontana (Cassie Purdy) – make a return to the Smith Center.

It’s also a homecoming for Chris Convery, the first alumnus from the Smith Center’s Camp Broadway. He made his Broadway debut in “Kinky Boots,” the Tony Award-winner, in February 2016 at age 8. His mother, Vanessa Convery, is a long-time performer in Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” at New York-New York.

Raymond Teller, the silent half of the long-running Penn and Teller show at the Rio, will perform a scene from his show “The Tempest.” But he’ll be talking Tuesday.

And there will be some “surprises,” said Martin.
 
A mother’s battle with Guns N’ Roses
A former neighbor at Regency Towers inside the Las Vegas Country Club sent me her new book the other day.

Deanna Adler is the proud author and prouder mother of “Sweet Child of Mine: How I Lost My Son to Guns N’ Roses.”

Released in January, her tell-all covers the turbulent, drug-filled journey of her son, Steven, who predicted at age 11 he would become the drummer for one of the “biggest rock bands on the planet.”

Her book comes a year after the 30th anniversary of the legendary rock band’s formation.

It was co-written with Lawrence J. Spagnola, who also collaborated with her son, the banished Guns N’ Roses drummer, on the New York Times best-selling “My Appetite for Destruction: Sex & Drugs and Guns N’ Roses.”

DeAnna Adler quickly learned how cutthroat the music industry can be. One day she received an envelope containing her son’s unsigned “Last Will and Testament” from an attorney representing Geffen Records, the company that signed Guns N’ Rose in March 1986.

“I was dismayed to discover he named the band’s manager as the executor of the will. In the section for dispersal of property the manager’s name appeared again.

He was listed to receive Steven’s home in Studio City and new Mercedes. Steven left his drum set to Tommy Lee (of Motley Crue), and numerous videotapes to Axl Rose. His brother Kenny and father Mel were not mentioned in the will. In the next paragraph, Steven left 14 percent of his net worth to me. He left another 14 percent to his accountant’s secretary.”

It wasn’t her first soul-wrenching shock, or the last. She deserves sainthood for never giving up on her son. 
 
On this day…
March 2, 1999: Dan Akroyd, Jim Belushi and John Goodman lead a parade of bikers on Harleys into the Mandalay Bay lobby to celebrate the grand opening of the $950 million resort. Its 12,000-seat events center is christened a month later with a concert by Luciano Pavarotti.
 
Sightings
Jessica Simpson’s sister, Ashlee, and actor Evan Ross, the son of Diana Ross, attended the singing legend’s final performance Friday at The Venetian with their daughter, Jagger Snow Ross. Also attending was Chudney Ross, TV producer and daughter of Diana Ross, and another daughter, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, an actress. Ross pulled her granddaughter on stage.

The punch line
“During the ‘In Memoriam segment (of the Oscars) they accidentally showed the picture of a woman who is still alive, an Australian producer named Jan Chapman. Which in a way is a much bigger story than ‘La La Land.’ Sure, it’s bad to think you have won Best Picture when you didn’t. But how about being told you’re dead when you’re not?” – Late-night host James Corden.

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