Each season, The Smith Center presents an array of marquee productions – the Broadway Las Vegas® Series. These are bigtime shows. Some are blockbusters such as The Book of Mormon (or Wicked in previous seasons) or longtime fan favorites like Cabaret, and others are new creations such as IDAHO! The Comedy Musical.
How does each new lineup come about? According to Paul Beard, vice president and chief operating officer, it’s a blend of business acumen, artistic insight and logistical skill.
Lining Up Supply
As with everything in the world, the laws of supply and demand affect what plays in Reynolds Hall. On the supply side, shows have to be currently in-production and actively touring. For its part, The Smith Center mostly brings shows to Las Vegas that were born on the Great White Way.
“Typically they’re first-run Broadway titles,” says Beard. “They’re shows that opened and ran successfully on Broadway.”
Myron Martin, president and chief executive officer as well as a Tony Award voter, and Beard have their eyes (and ears) continually open for new Broadway products.
“It’s usually something original and new,” adds Beard, collectively summing up the many shows the trio tracks at any given time.
“We are cognizant of emerging titles as they’re in development. We track them before they ever get to the stage. We know the producers, what they want to do, what their long range goals are for many projects,” he says.
Their attention stays on these potential success stories as they leave the development phase and open live on stage – with actors, lyrics, music, design and everything else laid out for theater critics and audiences to judge.
“There is a moment of truth when a production hits a Broadway stage and you get a critical and popular reaction to the title that can start in previews. We track that,” says Beard.
Beard notes that The Smith Center is not just an observer in this development cycle, it’s an active participant. The center invests funds – along with many others – in new potential shows with the hopes of facilitating the next Broadway breakout.
“A show that we’re invested in is just going into previews now – An American in Paris,” says Beard.
The Smith Center is also producing IDAHO! The Comedy Musical, a hysterically funny production that hopefully will be Broadway bound after its opening here as the season finale.
Beard adds that a minority of touring shows were created specifically for the road, never having had a bricks-and-mortar Broadway beginning.
“90 percent come from Broadway, the other 10 percent are shows that start on the road. Flashdance – The Musicalstarted on the road,” says Beard.
Similarly, Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage started in Sydney, Australia went on to a national tour in Australia and New Zealand, then took on London and a nationwide tour across the United Kingdom with great success, and now is a touring production in North America.
Eye on Demand
While looking at the overall supply of shows available to play here at The Smith Center, the Martin-Beard team along with John Burnett, vice president and chief financial officer, and Suzanne Chabre, vice president of marketing, has to consider the demand side of the equation – what will be successful in front of diverse Southern Nevada audiences. Together, there is a great deal of combined experience in making just such decisions.
As an example, they chose to run The Bridges of Madison County, which will play February 2016. While the show didn’t have a long run on Broadway, critics were approving. More importantly, the team thought it would be fulfilling and a good match for many of The Smith Center’s patrons.
“It’s a very good show, and we know that because we saw it. We saw the audience reaction to it. So we booked it, as did other quality presenters around the country,” he adds.
Some productions surprise Beard and his fellow executives when they attend them, such as A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder.
“That was the show that exceeded expectations. We saw the show and said, ‘Wow, amazing show, total surprise. Who expected anything this good?,’” exclaims Beard. “And it won the Tony Award ® for Best Musical!”
With such personal observations combined with the most prestigious prize in the Broadway universe, the show promises to meet local desire for the best in performing arts.
Of course, some touring shows already have proven demand here at The Smith Center, such as NETworks presentsDisney’s Beauty And The Beast.
“Beauty has a great track record here. It’s a wonderful show, everybody loves it. It will appeal to a family audience,” says Beard.
Similarly, The Book of Mormon is returning to Reynolds Hall in September after a wildly successful prior run.
After making calls on how shows will be received by The Smith Center audiences, Martin and Beard have to contend with another aspect of supply – the logistics of touring shows. It’s a continent-wide juggling act, one in which semi-trailer trucks are in the figurative air.
“The truth of the matter is these shows travel in trucks,” says Beard, noting that contemporary productions are transported from venue to venue on three to fourteen massive rigs.
“Agents have to route these shows. We have no opportunity whatsoever to get a touring show unless it’s in our neighborhood,” he says.
Our neighborhood encompasses California, extends nearby to Phoenix and reaches northward to Salt Lake City and even Denver at times. If any particular show doesn’t make it to one of these locales on a tour, it’s generally not going to be available to play The Smith Center.
However, Beard adds that The Smith Center programs far in advance, so that shows not touring close to Southern Nevada this season could very well be booked later when their trucks are in the region.
Beyond all the intricate mechanics of getting Broadway shows into Reynolds Hall, Beard and his fellow executives always keep The Smith Center’s diverse audiences in mind when planning seasons.
“For all the programming at The Smith Center, the fundamental prerequisite is to match up the right show to the right audience,” says Beard. “We’re expected to be all things to all people culturally in this valley.”
Along the way, The Smith Center’s management continually takes the pulse of the wants and wishes of the greater Las Vegas performing arts-going community.
“We start listening before a show ever gets here and try to anticipate what will happen when it arrives,” adds Beard. “If it fulfills the expectation of an audience that wants to see it, we’ll book it on their behalf.”
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