Where to see performing arts in Las Vegas

Move away from the Strip for a different kind of show—discover the theaters, concert halls and arts centers only the locals know about



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Inside the new Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas

Inside the new Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas

Theater in Las Vegas is dominated by the extended-engagement productions on the Strip: Much larger than life, and always condensed for tourist audiences who are presumed not to speak English, and certainly not to be in the market for three hours of Brecht. You'll find little in the way of intricate storylines or even two-act structures in these bank-busting shows, but the levels of talent and professionalism can make for an engrossing spectacle.

There were hopes that Vegas would become a standard second stage for major Broadway hits, but less-than-stellar sales saw the arrival and departure of Avenue Q, Hairspray, The Producers, Monty Python's Spamalot and Mamma Mia! (which lasted five years at Mandalay Bay). In their place are the established Cirque and Cirque-esque spectacles, and dependable acts such as Celine Dion and Donny and Marie Osmond.

The big news for lovers of classical music is the recent opening of the Smith Center. Set in 60 acres of parkland called Symphony Park, the center has hosted serious theater and is the new home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Classical music

Las Vegas Philharmonic

Since its beginnings in 1998, Las Vegas’s resident orchestra has gradually gained recognition under music director Harold Weller. The Phil is celebrating its 15th season, and its repertoire has remained largely highbrow, with new works occasionally commissioned from

  1. Smith Center for the Performing Arts
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Dance companies

Nevada Ballet Theatre

Associated with UNLV, the Nevada Ballet Theatre remains Las Vegas’s only fully professional ballet company and training academy, favouring classical works and other time-tested pieces likely to entertain even complete neophytes. However, artistic director James

UNLV Dance Theatre

UNLV’s dance programme features a mix of performances by faculty, students and guest artists. Classical ballet and modern works are both represented, with productions held at the Artemus Ham Concert Hall and the Judy Bayley Theatre

  1. 4505 S Maryland Parkway, University District, (E Flamingo Road & E Tropicana Avenue)
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Theater companies and smaller venues

Cockroach Theatre Company

This nomadic theatre group has been staging offbeat productions since 2002. Their roaming ways recently came to a stop after settling in this space in Downtown’s arts district. Recent productions included Bekah Brunstetter’s You May Go Now and Arthur Miller’s

  1. Art Square Theatre, Downtown, (1025 S 1st Street, at W Charleston Boulevard)
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Las Vegas Academy Theatre

The site of the city’s first high school was nearly razed in the early 1990s. Instead, it found new life as the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, a high school devoted to performing and visual disciplines. The LVA’s Academy Theatre hosts impressive shows in a variety

  1. 315 S 7th Street, Downtown, (Bridger Avenue)
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Las Vegas Little Theatre

Las Vegas’s oldest community theatre company regularly hosts sell-out productions at its main stage and the Fischer Black Box. The companion Insomniac Project occasionally features less-mainstream works; fledgling companies also sometimes rent the building for their

  1. 3920 Schiff Drive, South-west Las Vegas, (Spring Mountain Road & S Valley View Boulevard)
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Onyx Theatre

  • Critics choice

Another member of Vegas’s growing underground theatre scene, Onyx hosts productions in a variety of styles, from burlesque and improv to traditional stagings such as an excellent recent production of The Glass Menagerie. If you’re looking for something quirky and

  1. Commercial Center, 953 E Sahara Avenue, (S 6th Street & S Maryland Parkway)
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Rainbow Company

This youth-theatre group stages about a half-dozen family-friendly productions each year. Shows are staged at the Charleston Heights Arts Center

  1. Charleston Heights Arts Center, 801 S Brush Street, 801 S Brush Street, Summerlin, (W Charleston Boulevard)
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Super Summer Theatre

  • Critics choice

Super Summer Theatre is staged in the coolest place in town—quite literally. On a summer evening, the temperature at the outdoor stage in Red Rock Canyon is a good 20 degrees below that of the sweltering city. Complete with looming rock walls and flittering bats,

  1. Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, Red Rock Canyon
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UNLV Theatre Department

Together with the Nevada Conservatory Theatre, a an ambitious crew that includes seasoned pros from all over the world as collaborators, UNLV presents a large spread of productions in spring and autumn in the Judy Bayley Theatre. Great productions can also be found in

  1. 4505 S Maryland Parkway, University District, (E Flamingo Road & E Tropicana Avenue)
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