Archive | September, 2012

Culture in Las Vegas…. Wicked!

7 Sep


My apologies constant readers… your inconstant blogger has been A) On vacation, and B) Working his tail off since returning from vacation. Seriously. I got a call from the Field Operations Manager during a layover in Dallas on our way back from the Bristol race asking if I could go out on a case pretty much as soon as our plane landed.  I owe you another travel blog, and somewhere down the road I’ll have to tell you about doing surveillance on a boat. In the meantime, a quick critique;

Herself (My lovely wife Julia) and I went to see the touring production of Wicked at the new Smith Center for the Performing Arts here in Sin City (It runs through October 7). It was fantastic! Herself tells me that it compares favorably to the production she saw in NYC a few weeks ago. The show is an engaging take on the story we all know essentially from the other side. As Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is to Hamlet, so Wicked is to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Lots of great witty dialogue and memorable numbers, “No One Mourns the Wicked,” “Defying Gravity,” and “For Good.” Great voices, energetic cast, beautiful set and effects. Go see it if you get a chance.

Herself and I discussed a few odd aspects of the show’s design, and one thing that irked her no end; The Ruby Shoes are not ruby, but silver. In the original book Dorothy wears silver shoes. They were changed to the iconic red for the 1939 film because the producers thought they would better showcase the Technicolor film process (Or so Wikipedia tells me).  The shoes are never given any special name in Wicked and their color is not described in any dialogue. In the second act we learn their special properties. Seeing the show in New York, Julia thought a special effect illusion had somehow failed when the shoes remained silver. We both find this an odd creative choice given the other numerous nods to the film. The Wizard’s guards, for example, wear uniforms so close in design to those from the film that Julia was “Surprised they didn’t have to pay somebody” from MGM. The biggest example is of course Elphaba herself. Her skin is a pale green and she eventually adopts the black dress, cape, and pointed hat of Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West. This in no way matches her description from the original novel, where the Wicked Witch is described as having only one eye, or the illustrations for the book’s first edition.

Nitpicks about creative choices aside, we both very much enjoyed the show!

A few notes about the Smith Center;

First… it is gorgeous. The entire place has a Frank Lloyd Wright feel and is very sumptuously appointed in red stone and silver accents indicative of Nevada’s geology. Reynolds Hall is beautiful and vast, and even given my (Supposed) hearing problems the acoustics were quite impressive. There were not one but TWO bars on each floor of the lobby (Very civilized), and for an extra $3 the bartender will add a travel-mug lid to your (Reusable) Smith Center glass so that you may take it into the theatre. There is hope for us yet.

Couple of drawbacks… parking is kind of a mess. I’m not sure if there are plans for a garage for the performance spaces to match the one for the Discovery Museum, but their addition would be a huge plus. There was an army out directing traffic and lots of paper signs on orange cones pointing every which way. I had to stop to ask directions of every person I encountered and at one point nearly drove into oncoming traffic after refusing to believe the printed sign directing me to drive into a lane that was painted as an area where you are not allowed to drive. Since there are a number of very helpful brown street signs pointing you to the Center, perhaps some could be re-purposed to bring self-park folks onto the property via a route that does not require them to drive through the valet and Donor Parking Area lines. Public parking is in a surface lot just northeast of the center. A bit of a hoof if you’re more than 1/2 way back in the narrow lot, but they do have shuttles for older folks or anybody else needing assistance. Might be worth it to pay the $8 valet (Even though that goes very much against the grain in a town where valet is free pretty much everywhere else). Once the show is over you then have the task of getting back to the lot. Since pedestrians and vehicles are at the same level you’re stuck waiting at various crossings. Really can’t wait for them to build a garage.

My biggest problem as someone who bought his tickets over the phone that afternoon and had to pick them up from Will Call was the fact that you cannot enter the building without a ticket. Rather than post the ushers with ticket scanners at the entrances to the theatre inside the lobby, they’ve been positioned at the doors to the building. Getting to Will Call means walking around to a dedicated entrance on the west side of the building.

Now we’re on to the subject of the box office. The nice man I spoke to needs to learn what “In the center” means. I purchased balcony tickets because we’d never been to the Smith before and buying $175 Box Tier tickets just wasn’t in it until I knew what we were getting into. I was ok with being further back in the house as long as we were closer to the center. Nope. Five seats from the right side. Additionally, the balcony in Reynolds Hall is the top of not two or three, but five levels. You have the Orchestra/Parterre, Box Tier, Dress Circle, Gallery, and finally the Balcony. It was not entirely unlike sitting on the roof of a 5-story building and watching a show performed in the street below. Now we know. Pay more further in advance and you get a better seat. This is true everywhere, but I’ve never seen it demonstrated in such stark contrast before.

So, there we are. The show was great. The shoes were silver. Since I bought $90 tickets the day of the show we were in the nosebleed section. The place is beautiful once you can get in. You can drink at your seat! We didn’t get run over as we left the show, but this required a battalion of police officers and staff with stubby little light sabers.

The Smith Center is brand new and this is their first full season. They’re going to get better at this.

Oh, and by the way.. on Monday, September 24 there will be a one-night-only performance of The Rocky Horror Show featuring company members from the national touring cast of Wicked at the Tropicana. All proceeds to benefit Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS and Golden Rainbow (A local group providing housing and direct financial assistance to men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS in Southern Nevada).  Information and tickets here. 

Take good care.


© 2012 Roy Guill, The Naked Investigator