Intrepid reviewer goes to lengths to improve theater experience

If God is in the details, then surely these "little things" about The Smith Center for the Performing Arts are worth talking about.

In August, I asked an usher for directions to a water fountain. He politely rolled his eyes and apologized that I would have to go to the fifth floor to obtain the life-sustaining liquid. I asked a second usher and, curiously, got the same reaction. They seemed embarrassed to have to tell me. I wrote that the lack of reasonably placed fountains seemed to be a cheesy attempt to push expensive bottled water.

Smith Center President and CEO Myron Martin said he wasn't aware of the water situation. I wrote that I found it surprising that a man who had been in on the details of the building before it had even been designed would be so in the dark. Over the course of several emails Martin responded: "With thousands of things going on as we opened the building, I missed the water fountain deletion. ... I (have) asked our team to order water coolers. They will be replaced by water fountains once they figure out how/where to properly install them. This way we won't make people like you wait for a free drink of water. ... They are planning to install five-gallon water coolers on the first floor and mezzanine. ... By the way, I pushed our culinary partners very hard to start out (bottled) water at $2 per bottle, even though they pushed to sell it for $3."

I had received complaints that Vegas' showplace had failed to make a verbal announcement when "La Cage Aux Folles" star George Hamilton missed performances. Martin pointed out that The Smith Center fulfilled the union requirements by posting a notice in the lobby and inserting a bulletin in the program notes. Some said they felt a verbal announcement would be more helpful since the written notifications are sometimes not spotted.

Martin's response: "These decisions are made by the producers and company management long before they get to Vegas. I have no say. However I'll ask."

After contacting a company manager, Myron reported: "He's been doing this a LONG time, many, many tours of many, many shows. While he remembers a couple of short-lived exceptions, he believes that everyone does it this way because this is the best way to do it. (Personal interruption: The company manager is dancing around the question. Why is this the "best way" to do it? And best for whom? Certainly not the audience.) Ironically, he said that producers could save thousands of dollars by announcing rather than printing inserts.

"When I asked what he would say if someone like me asked him to make an exception, he very quickly said that this is a decision between the producer and Equity. (It was) not my place to ask. I'm sure I will get the same feedback from other companies."

I also recently complained that the Troesh studio had poor visibility because of the placement of approximately 250 seats on the same level. I recently saw a show there and, wonder of wonders, a hunk of the seats were on elevated platforms and I was able to see the stage.

Oh, good reader, the things I go through to improve your theater-going life!

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat@ You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.