Horse of different color joins Smith Center lineup

Gotta sing, gotta dance – and gotta gallop, as "War Horse’s" title character, Joey, helped kick off The Smith Center’s Monday announcement of its 2013-2014 Broadway Las Vegas season.

Nine of the 10 touring shows – including the previously announced "Book of Mormon" – are musicals.

But the Tony-winning "War Horse," arriving in early October, represents a first for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts : a nonmusical play.

Although "War Horse" includes a musical score and folk songs inspired by the play’s World War I setting, Myron Martin, Smith Center president, said the selection is for those who asked for a "nonmusical theatrical piece" in the center’s Reynolds Hall.

Martin described "War Horse" as "the most stunning production I’ve ever seen."

Smith Center supporters celebrating Monday’s announcement got a close-up glimpse of "War Horse’s" stunning stagecraft as the title steed – a larger-than-life horse made of cane and fabric, with a flowing Tyvek mane and tail – trotted around the center’s Troesh Studio Theater.

Puppeteers Jude Sandy, Joby Earle and Tom Lee put Joey through his paces, providing his "voice" and working the levers and gears that enable him to move.

As the giant equine puppet worked the room, impishly nibbling at the floral table decor and approaching attendees who stroked his nose and smiled at every whinny and nicker, production representative Scott Tucker explained the stagecraft behind the magic.

"It’s hard to believe, but after 20 minutes you forget this horse is a puppet," Martin said.

Other recent Tony-winners joining "War Horse" on The Smith Center’s Broadway schedule are "Once," Broadway’s reigning best musical, and "The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess," which won best revival, along with new productions of longtime favorites "Les Miserables," "Evita" and "Mamma Mia!"

Rounding out the season: a new "Wizard of Oz" combining the movie classic’s score with new songs by the "Evita" team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, plus musicals inspired by the hit movies "Sister Act" and "Flashdance."

Although Smith Center officials originally planned to offer a seven- or eight-show season, "there were more great shows that were available – and wanted to come to Las Vegas," Martin explained.

The 2013-2014 lineup, he added, means "Broadway has fallen in love with Las Vegas."

Since its March 2012 debut, The Smith Center has sold more than 420,000 tickets, Martin said at Monday’s event.

So far, more than 450 performances have been presented – not counting Cole Porter’s "Anything Goes," which opens in Reynolds Hall tonight.

"But the thing that excites me the most," Martin said, "have been the hundreds of school buses" – 657, to be exact – "that have pulled up to our front door."

Which means, he added, that "42,287 students have come here to be inspired by and engaged in the arts" in The Smith Center’s first 10 months.

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

COMING UP

The Smith Center’s complete 2013-2014 Broadway series:

"Les Miserables" (Aug. 7-11) – New staging and reimagined scenery highlight a 25th-anniversary production of the Tony-winning musical, based in Victor Hugo’s epic novel, that’s been seen by almost 60 million people worldwide.

"The Wizard of Oz" (Sept. 10-15) – New songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice augment the beloved 1939 movie’s Oscar-winning score in this Lloyd Webber production inspired by the movie, and L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

"War Horse" (Oct. 2-6) – Winner of five Tony Awards, this adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel (which also inspired the Oscar-nominated movie) combines stirring music and innovative stagecraft to recount the World War I tale of a boy and his horse.

"Sister Act" (Oct. 15-20) – Disco diva, and murder witness, Deloris Van Cartier hides out disguised as a nun, shaking up the convent in this adaptation of the 1992 comedy produced by, among others, original star Whoopi Goldberg.

"Evita" (Nov. 26-Dec. 1) – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Tony-winning classic returns, recounting Eva Peron’s rise from the slums of Argentina to become one of the most powerful women in the world.

"Mamma Mia" (Jan. 7-12) – ABBA’s bubbly pop hits provide the upbeat heartbeat for this jukebox musical about a mother, a daughter – and three possible dads.

"Flashdance – The Musical" (Jan. 28-Feb. 2) – Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the stage version of the hit movie about Alex Owen – steelworker by day, bar dancer by night – features original tunes and new songs.

"The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess" (April 15-20, 2014) – Winner of the 2012 Tony Award for best revival of a musical, the groundbreaking 1935 folk opera by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward takes place in Charleston’s Catfish Row, where beautiful Bess struggles to break free of her scandalous past – with the help of the crippled but courageous Porgy.

"Once" (May 20-25, 2014) – Winner of eight Tony Awards, including best musical, this stage version of the Oscar-winning 2006 movie focuses on a Dublin musician who’s about to abandon his dream – until a young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting songs.

"The Book of Mormon" (June 10-July 6, 2014) – Winner of nine Tony Awards, including best musical, this irreverent romp from "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone follows two eager young Mormon missionaries from Salt Lake City to Uganda.

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