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New songs get their shot, way after dark

Wednesday brings a new beginning for the Composers Showcase, giving it a full five months to brace for Labor Day.

If you’re not familiar with the showcase, you’re forgiven. It’s one of the more inside events of the entertainment community. While there could be great synergy when it moves into The Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday night, if you are like me — expected to show up at work Thursday morning — it will probably synergize just when we’re turning in for the night.

But the gathering of performers singing original songs demonstrates the creative ripple effect of having these people in town.

“This is an opportunity for them to stretch their wings,” says Keith Thompson, the “Jersey Boys” conductor who has run the thing since 2006. “A showcase is to put you out there as a writer, to say ‘This is the kind of thing that I write.’ ”

Wednesday’s 10:30 p.m. debut in the Cabaret Jazz venue at The Smith Center will feature new writing from Travis Cloer, who plays Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys,” as well as Stratosphere headliner Frankie Moreno.

“I’ve actually had people come to the showcase who have never written before, who said, ‘All of a sudden I just knew I had to write,’ ” Thompson adds.

In moving from a restaurant, the showcase now carries a $20 ticket (any profit goes to charity) and reserved seats. But the loss of informality will hopefully be traded for “a cachet and prestige,” Thompson says.

But this community will take a hit when “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular” closes Labor Day weekend. “I love that cast. I’m going to be in mourning,” Thompson says. “I know a lot of those people will leave town.”

One of them is a scheduled Wednesday performer, Nicole Pryor, who also was to stage her own song showcase Saturday at a local library.

“Fortunately, I hear rumblings of other shows coming to town,” Thompson says of rumors that “Rock of Ages” and “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” will move into The Venetian/Palazzo.

And The Smith Center may contribute more than a high-profile home. Actors from touring shows could literally walk out one door and in another to attend.

“It’s the same community, the people we all know and love from New York,” Thompson says. “Because we’re all connected in such an interesting, family way, I would be absolutely comfortable reaching out to them ahead of time.”

Thompson recalls “Phantom” cast members showing up at an early showcase in 2006, when they were the new kids in town.

“We’ve kind of started a movement that won’t stop, that will continue in the community,” he says.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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