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Grease

By: Drake Ma
2015Mast-GreaseIt's systematic. It's hydromatic. It's Grease the Musical! From the original 1972 Broadway premiere, to the 2016 Grease Live TV broadcast on FOX network, the story of Rydell High seem never cease to entertain the American audience with its timeless energy and passion. As the grand finale of Pittsburgh Musical Theater's 2016 "Magnificent Movie Musicals" season, Grease brings the long-awaited summer nights back to the Steel City with those classic '70s tunes and exciting rock n' roll. Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the show follows high school teenagers Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski as well as their boy gangs or lady squads as they navigate the realities and complexities of growing up. The stage version is a lot different from the 1978 hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as more songs were included and familiar songs were sung at different scenes. But overall the story and themes stay the same. [caption id="attachment_2560" align="aligncenter" width="656"]PlainPhoto Hayhurst and Gee[/caption] Leading the Burger Palace Boys is Point Park alumnus Mr. Ricky Gee who played Danny with a toned-down personality. The chemistry of the character didn't really sparkle until later but Mr. Gee's vocal and dance moves surely held the summer heat through the very last scene. His love interest Sandy was played by Ms. Lara Hayhurst who portrayed the classic "girl next door" with such a freshness and a beautiful voice. Her solo number "Hopeless Devoted to You" would make you sing "Oh Sandy" in a heart beat, and her strong spirit and "spicy" transformation in Act II is easily the momentum that drives the show upward. But the true stars of this show are the secondary characters. Ms. Larissa Overholt played Rizzo with a sharp edge and tender emotions. Her squad, the Pink Ladies, has the best dynamics whenever they are on the stage together, and her 11 o'clock number "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" was easily the most tear jerking moment of the night. Black horse of the show goes to Mr. Quinn Patrick Shannon and Ms. Audra Qualley who played Roger and Jan and stunned the audience with their shinning duet "Mooning". Another highlight is Doody played by Mr. Adam Marino whose "Those Magic Changes" is full of magical charms. And last but not least, honorable mention Mr. Brady D. Patsy, who played Miss Lynch as the comic relief of the show and took home the most laughs of the night. Originally inspired by writer Jim Jacobs' own high school experience in Chicago, Illinois, Grease was much more violent and explored darker themes during some of its early productions before the 1972 Broadway premiere. But over the years the story has been sanitized many times and eventually made more family friendly for the movie version. For this production Director Trey Compton tended to bring back some of the edgy elements while keeping the overall entertaining feeling,  but because the stage version already didn't have some of the climatic scenes in the movie, overall the plot felt bland and weightless. All of the big character moments and tense scenes eventually lost to the waiting for the next audience-familiar song. However, because most of the songs in Grease are so well-known, every number felt like a sing-along. Music Director Dr. Brent Alexander did a great job with the orchestra; you could just feel the hype in the house whenever the music started playing again. And this energy is only amplified by Ms. Lisa Elliott's electric choreography, integrating car tires and those good old hand jives. Tech design of this show turned out to be my favorite memory of the night, if not the best of the season. Ms. Kim Brown once again wowed the Pittsburgh audience with costumes that stole the spotlight. Mr. Todd Nonn's dreamy lighting proved that he's the true "Greased Lightnin'". Mr. Jeff Perri's brilliantly designed backdrop made of school lockers combined with colorful patterns will make your inner teenage self feel like it's prom night with every set change.  And finally, when all tech aspects came together in "Beauty School Dropout", you will realize that this is the true magic change that made you fall in love with Grease in the first place. Whether you're a fan of the original movie, or just love wearing leather jacket, Grease is the word! It might not be your everyday high school romantic musical comedy, but a night that ends with "happily ever after" is always guaranteed, only this time it's "a-wop-bam-a-loo mop and top bam boom"! Special thanks to Pittsburgh Musical Theater for complimentary press tickets. Grease runs at the Byham Theater through Sunday May 1st. Tickets and more information can be found here. Photo by Rockhan Photography

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

By: Isaac Crow
cuckoo-post-draft-2-It goes without saying that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a classic. The novel took readers inside a mental institution, humanized the patients inside, defined the “battleax nurse” stock character, and opened eyes to some cruel medical procedures. The film version is highly regarded and often considered one of Jack Nicholson’s finest performances.  So barebones productions had a good idea staging the play version of the story, a piece that injects both humor and brevity into a serious operation (get it? It’s in a hospital). Upon entering the New Hazlett Theater you’re greeted with a ton of stage fog and an intimidating set. All the action takes place in the common room of the mental hospital. In the back right corner of the set is the nurse’s station, complete with sliding glass windows and a microphone that broadcasts Nurse Ratched’s voice over an appropriately tinny PA. There are some chairs and tables set up in the room, and the side windows have bars on them. The balcony seats have “barbed” wire coiled on the railing, and lighting instruments sit on top of the walls like they’re ready to catch an escaping prisoner. Nothing is overlooked in this set; the production team didn’t phone in any details and the payoff is spectacular. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a basic explanation. The intimidating Nurse Ratched (Kim Parker Green) runs a tight ward in a mental hospital. She’s an intimidating presence and does everything just so. Her rule over her patients is challenged when a tough guy convict named R.P. McMurphy (Patrick Jordan) is transferred to the hospital, as he is trying to avoid spending time in prison. McMurphy’s refusal to follow the strict rules puts him at odds with Ratched, and the two soon begin a battle to see who really has control of the ward. There are some really strong performances amongst the large cast; both Mr. Jordan and Ms. Green do a great job with handling these well-known characters: Mr. Jordan is a charming scamp while Ms. Green has her chilling monotone locked down. Randy Kovitz steals some scenes as Dale Harding, probably the most rational patient in the whole hospital. Nick Lehane supplies the somber tragedy as stuttering Billy Bibbit, while the best comic relief is provided by Michael Lane Sullivan as the squinting schizophrenic Martini. The antics and plots that the characters get themselves into are familiar if you’ve read the novel or seen the film. While it’s usually a story that plays out somewhat slowly, the stage version tends to hurry things along a bit. At times it feels like maybe the relationships between the characters hasn’t had time to gel yet, but the actors succeed in portraying a familial group. The script also gives between-scene monologues to the silent Chief Bromden (Leandro Cano) that, while effectively performed, don’t seem very relevant to the rest of the story. Or maybe it’s been a while and I missed something. Sometimes the really crazy people are in the audience, know what I mean? Barebones productions has created an overall chilling evening. The performances are strong, the set is beautiful, and there are some nicely done special effects. If it’s maybe been a while since you’ve familiarized yourself with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (or if you’ve never seen it), go check out their production.   One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Presented by barebones productions Directed by Melissa Martin Written by Dale Wasserman, based on novel by Ken Kesey Designed by Tony Ferrieri (scenery), Andrew Ostrowski (lighting), Dave Bjornson (sound), Angela Vesco (costumes) Starring Leandro Cano (Chief Bromden), Billy Jenkins (Aide Warren), Maurice Redwood (Aide Williams), Kim Parker Green (Nurse Ratched), Magan Yantko (Nurse Flinn/Sandra), Randy Kovitz (Dale Harding), Nick Lehane (Billy Bibbit), Mark Tierno (Cheswick), Dave Manseuto (Scanlon), Michael Lane Sullivan (Martini), John Gresh (Ruckly), Patrick Jordan (R.P. McMurphy), Dereck Walton (Dr. Spivey), Wali Jamal (Aide Turkle), Erika Strasberg (Candy Starr). Special thanks to barebones productions for complimentary press tickets. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest runs through May 7th at the New Hazlett Theater, tickets and more information can be found here.  

One Stop Shopping: The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival Coverage 2016

By: Mara E. Nadolski
finge'In case you missed any of our posts, here are every single one of our articles that we wrote about the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival this year. A very special thank you goes out to Xela Batchelder, Dan Stiker, and the entire Fringe staff for their exemplary work this year. Another big thank you goes out to all the participants for press tickets, allowing us to thoroughly cover every show. The winner's of this years festival include: Best Actress: Anna Bennett (Confessions of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl) Best Actor: Chambers Stevens (It's Who You Know) Best Ensemble: Brawling Bard Theater (A Dream of Midsummer) Best "Mad Hatter" Show: Ukie Fusion (Slava Dance Company) Best "Featured" Show: The Eulogy (Michael Burgos) Best in Show Selke Award: If I Die, I'm a Legend: A Tale of Orisha, Hoodoo, and #blacklivesmatter (Boom Concepts)
  Friday, April 15th Reviews by Author: Jack: Friday Fringe Binge Nichole: Fringe Day 1: Storytelling and Eulogies Megan: Passing Through and 5 Hams Fairytales
Saturday, April 16th Reviews by Author: Megan: Ukrainian Dance to One Man Shows to #BlackLivesMatter Drake: The Last Lifeboat and A Dream of Midsummer Nichole: A Day Full of Female Playwrights Chloe: Beautiful Cadavers, LA Acting Coaches and Cinderella Stories
Sunday, April 17th Reviews by Author: Jack: Fairytales, Fights and Failure Chloe: Funerals, Poetry, Dance, and an Open Mic Megan: Critters! Nichole: A Day at St. Mary's Drake: Four Voices, It's Who You Know, and Always B Sharp One more thank you to you, our readers. Thank you for sticking with us through our coverage of the festival and with our regularly posted content. We couldn't do this without you! See you at next year's festival! For more information about the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival, check out their website here.  

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