The Smith Center Impresses With Opening Gala

Dancers from NV Ballet

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts has finally been completed and we were among the lucky ones who managed to get tickets to last night's opening gala which raised $470 million for the center.  It might seem odd that Las Vegas is making such a big fuss about a new performing arts center when we have so many shows and entertainment options available at the casino showrooms throughout the year.  But for those of us who moved here from cities like San Francisco, L.A., etc., where seeing a broadway play or hearing classical or jazz music performed live was routine, having this new center means we don't have to miss the culture we so enjoyed in our previous hometowns.

The Center itself is beautiful.  We'll cover more about the design and architecture when we have the chance to return for a tour of the facilities in the daytime.  Last night it impressed from the moment we entered with the art deco style of the buildings and the little touches, like the beautifully posed ballerinas from the NV Ballet who were positioned between Reynold's Hall and the Boman Pavillion.

Inside, is equally beautiful.  From the Italian marble that was chosen for its similarity in color to the Red Rock Conservation area to the chandeliers, the Smith Center impresses.  In fact, the art deco style and the grand staircases would make any major city proud.

The opening was hosted by the talented and amusing, Neil Patrick Harris who labeled the center as "Las Vegas newest and grandest attraction".  Early in the evening, John Fogerty took the stage.  He was followed by a stunning Jennifer Hudson.  She looked incredible and sounded even more incredible.  I wasn't thrilled when I heard the opening chords to Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" as Hudson took the stage. That song has long been on my personal list of least favorite songs from the era but Jennifer Hudson brought it to life in a way that even I loved it.  We've known that Hudson was talented from seeing her TV performances, most recently doing the tribute to Whitney Houston at the Grammy's, but she's even better live.  Would love to see her do a show at the Smith Center.

Other great performances were given by Martina McBride who teamed up with Train's Pat Monahan for a duet as well as each artist doing solo numbers.  McBride and Hudson joined Carol King towards the end of the show for a rousing version of Natural Woman at the end. 

One of the most popular segments of the show was the publicized duet by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.  They were also joined by Emmylou Harris on a couple of numbers.  This was especially interesting since Fred Smith, Chairman of the Donald W Reynolds Foundation admitted onstage that when he was first approached about the project that he thought a performing arts center was "a beer joint where Willie Nelson was playing".  Well, Willie was playing in a fine beer joint last night. From the moment we arrived at Smith Center until we departed, it was a lovely evening.  As Norm Clark, said in his column today they "knocked it out of the park".  

Our tickets were for balcony seats, which was my preference since I wanted to see if the acoustics were as good as they had made it sound.  I've attached a few photos of the view from the balcony.  Would have taken more photos, but they nicely asked that we not take any pics after the lights were dimmed and the show started.  As far as the acoustics, they lived up to the promise.  Even the harmonica that accompanied Willie & Merle's "Horse Named Music" was perfectly clear in the balcony seats. In conclusion, we only have one flaw that we can see with the new Smith Center.  The main, Reynold's Hall seats 2050.  When we tried buying season tickets for two adjacent seats, online the night before the show, we weren't finding them available.  Got lucky at the opening and yes, we do have two seats in the center of the second row of the balcony but would have preferred closer seats.  The season tickets are pretty much SOLD OUT we were told.  The husband admitted last night that he's a Sinatra fan so I tried getting tickets to Michael Feinstein's show this coming week.  It's SOLD OUT.  Noticed another fav, Branford Marsalis has two shows on March 31st.  Both are SOLD OUT.  

I can't fault those who dedicated themselves to getting this important center completed.  When they first started planning in the 90's, they probably thought two thousand seats would be huge to fill.  Today, we have a population of two million and it is not going to be hard to sell out shows at this venue.  I've learned my lesson.  If there is a show that interests us at Smith Center, we'll be snapping up our tickets asap.  Can't wait to go back for more. To see how others feel about the new performing arts center, read today's article in the Las Vegas Review Journal's Opinion Section.

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