Criticism of New York Stage & Beyond series generates strong reaction

In Friday's Theater Chat column in the Neon, I complained about the University of Nevada Las Vegas Performing Arts Center New York Stage & Beyond series at Artemus Ham Hall.

"Despite my enjoyment of ('Tango Buenos Aires: The Fire and Passion of Tango'), I did come away perplexed," I wrote. "This was the second time this company has appeared as part of this young UNLV program, and it makes me wonder why the performing arts series management so often repeats offerings. Next up in the series is the great jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, another returnee. Is there really such a small pool of talent in New York & Beyond, which encompasses the entire world?

"And then there's that brand name. When the program was called, 'The Best of the New York Stage,' you knew to expect Broadway performers can cabaret artists. Now, with the changed title, the series has no identity. There seems to be a professional laziness at work among the organizers of this program, and I can't imagine that Vegas is the better for it."

The comments brought a strong reaction from Esther Lynn, a local entertainment blogger, better known as Claire Voyant (

Lynn wrote, "I couldn’t' agree with you more about UNLV's pitiful New York programs of late.

"Apparently it hasn't occurred to anyone in charge as to why the audiences are so small. (A recent excellent show) had fewer than 450 people in that 1800+ concert hall.

"I really like (manager) Larry Henley, but he and the rest of the people who do the booking have no imagination and even less faith. I really don't think there is anyone involved with the programs who really know the musical theater/cabaret genre -- unless we are talking about Michael Feinstein or Bebe Neuwirth or Bernadette Peters. I have given them CDs to listen to, along with lots of ideas for people to bring in. I get comments like, 'No one knows who, fill in the name, is.

"I thought UNLV was a teaching facility. When they have a season that includes Betty Buckley and/or Many Patinkin, they can also bring in a Karen Morrow or Jason Grace or Amanda McBroom or Ray Jessel or Kaye Ballard or any number of amazingly talented entertainers. It used to be that the season subscribers -- which have apparently dwindled down to a precious few -- trusted UNLV. If the powers that be were bringing in talented folks with recognizable names, surely the quality of those with less familiar names would be just as high. I don't get it.

"At this rate, once the Smith Center is up and running, there will probably be no reason to continue the series. Then they can turn the Artemus Ham Hall into an annex of the Thomas & Mack and have rodeos and basketball in there. Very sad. Very sad indeed."