No sunglasses required for this Ray Charles tribute

Normally it wouldn’t even be worth trying to convince a casino that a high-integrity, gimmick-free tribute to the music of Ray Charles could make the jump from The Smith Center to the Strip.

But when a casino decides on its own? That’s another story.

It was Rob Goldstein, the Las Vegas Sands president of global gaming operations, who reached out after seeing “Georgia On My Mind: The Music of Ray Charles” at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in February.

Now the show will play the Venetian Theatre for a limited run Sept. 28-Oct. 29. Tickets range from $82.50 to $148.50 and are already on sale through The Venetian.

Smith Center headliner Clint Holmes will again share the stage with the vocal group Take 6, vocalist Nneena Freelon and jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum, backed by a gospel choir and big band.

Holmes invited Goldstein to The Smith Center version last winter. “He walked backstage afterwards and said, ‘Where’s the producer? I need to talk to him?’ ” Holmes recalled after a Tuesday preview performance for the media.

“From his point of view he felt it was something that’s needed in Vegas. … Something that’s retro that could be new all over again,” says producer Larry Rosen. Knocking on doors on the Strip was “something I never would have contemplated” for the touring show.

As it did last winter, the revue will serve up faithful arrangements everyone associates with Charles’ best-known songs, but also give the stars a chance to interpret other favorites in their own style.

“This sounds corny I know, but the first time we all worked together it was like a family,” Holmes said.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at or 702-383-0288.

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