Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Smith Center Brings Class and Culture to Las Vegas

If you compiled a list of the most cultured cities in the world, Paris, London, and New York would undoubtedly rank exceedingly high, while Las Vegas, at least historically, probably would have fallen somewhere between Riverside and the woods where the Unabomber's cabin was located. But while it will take the world some time to change their perceptions of the glitzy gambling capital, the reality is that culture has indeed come to Sin City in the form of the breathtakingly beautiful Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown.

The Arts Center boasts a classic art deco design inspired by The Hoover Dam, with a 17 story working bell tower, a 2,050 seat theater with a massive stage and orchestra pit, an intimate 250 seat Cabaret and Jazz venue, and a small theater built for community based performances and events. Original paintings hang on the walls throughout the buildings, and handcrafted sculptures are placed indoors and outdoors throughout the 5 acre campus.

The Center is surrounded by the peaceful and meticulously manicured Symphony Park, featuring more original artwork. Names of prominent backers (including, surprising to exactly no one, Downtown savior Tony Hsieh) are carved into marble in the stunning Grand Lobby that leads into the complex's centerpiece, the jaw-dropping (yes, I'm using many synonyms for the adjective "pretty," but The Smith Center is exceedingly pretty), multi-tiered 2,050 seat Reynolds Theater, where most of the Center's major events are staged.

The programming is diverse and designed to draw in the entire local community, as high culture performances are mixed in with more widely appealing commercial fare. March's extravagant opening night gala was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris (who must have a closet full of tuxedos after as it seems like he's emceeing or hosting a different classy event every weekend) and featured performances by Carole King, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Mavis Staples, Jennifer Hudson, Joshua Bell, and John Fogerty. The Center is the home for the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theater, as well as The Broadway Las Vegas series (which is bringing an ambitious slate of productions including Wicked, Mary Poppins, Memphis, The Million Dollar Quartet, Catch Me If You Can, La Cage, West Side Story, Billy Elliot, American Idiot, Beauty & The Beast, The Addams Family, Shrek, and Anything Goes to the city in its inaugural season), and is hosting performances from music and showbiz icons like Diana Krall, Pia Zadora, K.D. Lang, Chris Botti, and Steve Martin in the upcoming months.

The Smith Center has filled a void in Las Vegas that once seemed un-fillable, bringing actual honest-to-gosh culture to Sin City, with a diverse programming schedule designed to invite the entire community to celebrate the arts. Beautifully designed and smartly curated, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a shining triumph in Downtown's metamorphosis from a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with empty lots, drug dealers, and low-rent hookers into a vibrant, creative, and thriving community.

No offense to low-rent hookers; they deserve to experience the arts as much as anyone.


  1. So far, you have covered almost all of my favorite Vegas spots (we were at the Barrymore last night!)

    ...however, I don't think you have covered The Tell storytelling event. It's our answer to The Moth, and it is great! I've been to 3 events, and it is so funny and worth all 5 bucks of admission!

    Thanks for your recommendations :)

  2. Thanks for reading and for the suggestion. I've never attended The Tell, but it sounds awesome! I'll do my best to be in town when the next even rolls around.