Erik Kabik and Cassi Thomas/ErikKabik.com
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 11:52 a.m.
- Myron Martin; Sean E. Cooper
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There is no point in lining up such superstars as Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Hudson, Joshua Bell, John Fogerty, Carole King, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris if you can’t share the experience with the masses.
That is the conclusion drawn from the Smith Center for the Performing Arts’ gala opening-night performance, held March 10 at Reynolds Hall. Announced last week was that the 2-hour special would air on PBS (Channel 10 on Cox Communications’ basic cable lineup in Las Vegas) at 9 p.m. Sept. 21.
PBS plans to rebroadcast the show 14 times through from Sept. 21-27 on its HD, Rewind 110 and Jackpot 111 channels on Cox’s extended cable packages; check the PBS website for information. A copy of the DVD will be sold on the PBS website upon airing. Smith Center President Myron Martin says a formal viewing party of sorts is still being discussed, a process currently in the “musing about” stages.
The black-tie, opening performance was made for TV, indisputably, as the show was produced and directed by George Stevens Jr. and Michael Stevens of the Stevens Co. The pair have produced “Kennedy Center Honors” TV specials for a decade and have amassed 19 Emmy Awards. The idea, and the preferred option, from Smith Center officials was always to record the show for PBS.
“We didn’t have a written agreement, but we knew we were doing it for PBS, and we really wanted PBS,” Martin says. “We didn’t have a date, but the Stevenses have put on a lot of shows, and Michael Stevens wanted to put a proper show on TV, and that takes time. This was not something that went from the truck to air. There was a lot of work to be done, a lot of precision production, to make sure it was great.”
Simply editing the show for length was a challenge. The two-hour TV show was cloven from a live show that lasted more than three hours and enveloped 33 acts.
Titled “From Dust to Dreams: Opening Night at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts,” the gala performance was loaded with a vast assortment of stars from Broadway and the music industry. Nelson and Haggard teamed on “Pancho & Lefty” and later were joined by Harris on Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever.” (Smith Center benefactor Fred Smith is a big country fan, especially of Nelson, hence the intense attention to that music genre.)
The show was rich with duets and collaborations. King and Mavis Staples sang “You’ve Got a Friend.” Hudson joined King and Martina McBride on “Natural Woman.” Train’s Pat Monahan teamed with McBride for “A Song for You.” Creedence Clearwater Revival co-founder (and unannounced guest) John Fogerty performed a four-song medley (“Centerfield,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Fortunate Son” and “Proud Mary”) at the live show that might not have made the final cut in its entirety.
The show also was a fitting stage for American Ballet Theater dancers Marcello Gomes and Luciana Paris. Broadway stars abounded. Celebrating the gala lid-lifter were Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell (“Kiss Me Kate,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Ragtime”), Laura Osnes (“Grease,” “South Pacific,” “Anything Goes”), Cheyenne Jackson (television's “Glee,” “30 Rock” and Broadway's “Finian's Rainbow,” “All Shook Up”), Sherie Rene Scott (“Aida,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Little Mermaid,” “Women on the Verge”), Montego Glover (“Memphis,” “Color Purple”) and Benjamin Walker (“Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson,” “Inherit the Wind”).
As Michael Stevens said in a statement:
"We set out to celebrate the best of the American creative spirit whether it was classical, Broadway, rock, dance or soul on the occasion of the opening of a world class performing arts center. It's not every day that you get the chance to see such a range of artists all at the peak of their respective talents."
With that assemblage of talent, and a highly experienced and capable production crew, the value of the TV special has grown beyond just the special airing on PBS. The acts who have appeared at the venue realize a great TV show can be staged at Reynolds Hall, and plans begin to formulate.
Specifically, the Canadian Tenors’ Aug. 5 show at Reynolds Hall is being taped for PBS and also for a live DVD. The vocal group, now billed as simply the Tenors, was present at the gala opening but did not perform that night. They did appear in concert the opening week, on March 17, and have been in contact with producers who have given laudatory reports of the quality of the broadcast that wound up in the hands of PBS.
“They are hearing that the Smith Center works really well for television,” Martin says. “People are thinking about their next big production and asking, ‘Where should we do this?’ The Smith Center is a place where you can do it.”
Word-of-mouth accounts among artists who have played the Smith Center have been positive. Bell was in town visiting friends last week and said he was quite fond of the new hall, having played the gala opening and a full performance in April with the London chamber orchestra Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.
A couple of weeks ago, Martin himself heard some positive feedback from an artist who had just performed at Reynolds Hall. As his family and he were walking through McCarran International Airport, they spotted the great trumpeter and composer Chris Botti, who had just headlined the night before at the Smith Center. Martin ambled over, and Botti talked glowingly of the experience, describing the arts fortress as Carnegie Hall set in the middle of the country’s gaming capital.
“He was blown away,” Martin says.
And soon, TV viewers across the country will see what all the fuss is about.