'Hamilton,' 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' 'Frozen' Coming To Smith Center


Joan Marcus

"Hamilton" Chicago Company

Christmas has returned early for Las Vegas theater fans. 

The Smith Center just revealed its 2020-2021 Broadway season, and it’s loaded with some very familiar titles, huge pop music hits and big Tony winners, including the return of "Hamilton" for five weeks starting in September. 

Which means something for everyone, regardless of your theatrical tastes.

"It really is kind of like a meal," Sarah O'Connell, theater teacher at UNLV and editor of the blog "Eat More Art Vegas," "Each show is like a course 
and it really should have its own flavor profile and taste."
O'Connell said there needs to be diversity in the lineup and a little bit of something for everyone so that people who get individual tickets will find something they want to see, but season ticket holders will get a whole meal.
Even though "Hamilton" was just at the Smith Center two years ago, O'Connell doesn't think it is too soon for a return appearance. She said Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers are relevant in this age of impeachment.
"It's in the news! I mean, John Bolton is naming his book 'The Room Where It Happened' and people are tweeting 'You don't have the votes!' to Congress," she said, "They're quoting 'Hamilton' when they're doing that."
She said she loves to see people using the musical in that way because she loves "when it proves the importance of theater in our discourse."
While "Hamilton" was an original, unadapted work, the season includes several new takes on popular films like "A Christmas Story," "Tootsie" and "Frozen."
O'Connell said producing musicals from established works is a way for producers to hedge their bets by tapping into an established audience. However, she said there is a right way to put together a musical based on a previous work, and a wrong way.
"If you're adapting any kind of text for music that it didn't have before, it has to reveal something new about the story and [then] it really is a new work," she said.

"A Christmas Story" cast/Courtesy: Gary Emord Netzley

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O'Connell said if the music doesn't shed more light on an aspect of the story or one of the characters, then there is no point in remaking it.
Another show in the season takes an ancient work and remakes it for modern audiences. "Hadestown" is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus must go to the underworld rescue his love Eurydice.
O'Connell said "Hadestown" actually built on the success of "Hamilton" because Broadway saw what happens when something innovative and risky is allowed to take the stage.
"The music itself, because it's original, it's got all kinds of influences," she said, "It's more like an indie musical."
O'Connell said people are going to see that musical to hear the new sound and see how the music moves the story along.

Reeve Carney and the original Broadway cast of "Hadestown"/Matthew Murphy

Music that isn't new will be featured in two musicals known as 'jukebox musicals.' "The Cher Show," featuring the music of legend Cher and "Ain't Too Proud," featuring the music of The Temptations will both take to the Reynolds Hall stage.
"It's a natural fit," O'Connell said, "It's almost like a crossover between musical theater and the concerts we're used to."
She said choosing the right musical for the local audience can have a deeper impact than just a new presentation of popular songs.
One work being performed this season has no songs. A production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" will take the stage in June 2021. O'Connell said there always needs to be a straight play in every Smith Center season. 
"Getting the best of performing arts to the local audience is the job and that includes the straight plays, which are the bedrock of the American theater," she said, "Great musicals don't happen if you've got a bad book."
She said the play, which was written by Aaron Sorkin, expands on some of the well-known characters from Harper Lee's original work so even those who have read and re-read the book or watched the 1962 movie will find something new to enjoy about the classic story. 
This year's season ticket holders can renew for the 2020-2021 season now through February 20. A date for new subscriber sales will be announced at a later date; prospective season ticketholders can register interest here.  

Sarah O'Connell, editor, Eat More Art Vegas 

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