‘Idaho!’ at Smith Center rooted in Teller’s ‘Tempest’


Mikayla Whitmore

A rehearsal for Idaho! The Comedy Musical at the Smith Center on June 16, 2016.

Sat, Jul 9, 2016 (12:10 p.m.)

The Kats Report Podcast

Kats Report Radio Show — Myron Man

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Smith Center for the Performing Arts President Myron Martin was one of the key figures in the production of “Idaho! The Comedy Musical,” which runs through July 17 at Reynolds Hall. Martin talks of the musical, co-written by renowned TV writer Buddy Sheffield (“In Living Color”) and “Jersey Boys” Music Director Keith Thompson, and why he decided the Smith Center should invest in the production.

The tent at Symphony Park that staged “The Tempest” didn’t much resemble a potato cellar, but what grew out of that enclave was a production centered on spuds.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts teamed with Teller and the American Repertory Theater for the stage adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in 2014. That production marked the first Las Vegas-produced play of Broadway caliber and scope.

“It was Teller’s idea, his concept, and he brought in the folks from ART at Harvard University as our partners to produce that show,” Smith Center President Myron Martin said during the latest episode of my inventively titled KUNV radio show, “The Kats Report,” which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays. “The truth is, because of Teller, we have the guts to say, ‘We can do this,’ and go for ‘Idaho!’ ”

Martin has emphasized the fortitude required for the Smith Center to bankroll this full-length musical, which celebrates its premiere this evening at Reynolds Hall and runs through July 17.

“Idaho!” is indeed a fully realized production. Initially, the plan was to perform a scaled-down version of the show in Las Vegas with a more simplistic set. Not so. Set designer Andy Walmsley has delivered a beautifully conceived backdrop that actually looks like the scenes that blanket the Gem State. The orchestra, directed by Keith Thompson (who co-wrote the show with Buddy Sheffield), is seated onstage. The choreography, costumes and script are all at the point where only fine-tuning is required to perfect the production.

Thus, this show is as complete as any you will see during the Smith Center’s Broadway Las Vegas Series.

“I don’t know if people realize it, but it took a lot of guts to take a show that has never been to Broadway and put it in our Broadway season, and give our 10,000 subscribers a chance to see something before it goes to Broadway,” said Martin, who nonetheless has reminded that achieving a Broadway run is a significant challenge for any production. “To see a show before anybody else gets to see it is a big, big thing.”

That was the case for “The Tempest,” performed at the ART’s Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, Mass.; Orange County’s South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, Calif.; and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater after it’s spring 2014 run at the Smith Center.

But “The Tempest,” the stage adaptation Shakespeare’s magic-themed final play and co-directed by Adam Posner, did need to build steam in Las Vegas. During its month-long series of performances at Symphony Park, the production found its footing after some early concerns among Smith Center officials that the show would not sell well. But it sold out consistently after previews, giving Martin and Smith Center Chief Operating Officer Paul Beard confidence that “Idaho!” could build similar momentum.

“The reason why we held previews (beginning Wednesday) and opening night before the scheduled week for the Broadway season, so we could during previews and opening night create the buzz,” Martin said. “It’s all on us, from this point forward … We want the buzz to be so great, that by late next week it will be hard to get a ticket.”

Is “Idaho!” then a test for another, yet-developed, Broadway-style show out of the Smith Center?

“Maybe,” Martin said. “ ‘The Tempest’ was absolutely our first, and it gave us the ability to dream, and we can thank Teller for that … Now we’re in the middle of it, and it’s not the time to ask if we’ll do it again. We’ll know after the run.” As we’ve learned in “Idaho!” and Idaho, a bountiful harvest does not grow overnight.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow Kats on Instagram Instagram.com/JohnnyKats1.

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