The selection of which musical to produce in any given season can be a dilemma. There are many factors to consider that include casting, designer, director and performance space. These decisions need to be made many months before the show opens; sometimes the producers get lucky and pick shows that have relevance to today’s world.
We got very lucky this year.
This winter ’s musicals are a diverse mix of offerings that range from a Disney musical to two classics that are surprisingly pertinent today and two musicals just for fun.
Pittsburgh Musical Theatre is celebrating their 25th season with a production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is based Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel and the 1996 Disney animated film. Its music is by Alan Meken with lyrics by CMU grad Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote lyrics for Pippin, Godspell and Wicked.
The main character is Quasimodo, the deformed bell/ringer at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in 15th century Paris. He is held captive by an evil archdeacon and his own perception of self loathing. He escapes for a day to join the rowdy crowd at the Feast of Fools only to be treated cruelly except for Esmeralda, a beautiful free spirited gypsy. There is a plot brewing to destroy the gypsies but Quasimodo saves the day and the gypsies.
Well-known Pittsburgh native Quinn Patrick Shannon plays Quasimodo. Quinn recently appeared as Nicely Nicely Johnson in the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of Guys and Dolls, and is currently in playing the role of the White Guy in the Toxic Avenger at the CLO Cabaret. “Pittsburgh loves Quinn and he should be a big draw for the show” according to PMT’s Rodney Burrell.
The choice of The Hunchback of Notre Dame this season “continues PMT’s tradition of producing challenging musicals with a realistic gritty slant” said Burrell. The baseline of Victor Hugo’s story is the “realization of ones self-relevance” and a reminder to us all never to judge a person’s worth by their appearance.
This show is co-directed by Colleen Doyno and PMT founder Ken Gagaro, and it retains its powerful message particularly in today’s climate.
Performances are at the Byham Theatre; it opens on Thursday, January 26th and runs through February 5th, with Sunday matinees. Tickets and more information can be found here.
The University of Pittsburgh Department of Theatre Arts presents their second “just for the fun of it show”, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Putnam Valley Middle School is hosting their 25th annual spelling bee competition, and there’s a quirky cast of characters on either side of the microphone. Word pronouncer Douglas Panch returns to the Bee after a long hiatus due to a mysterious incident. Grade schooler William Barfée spells words with his feet. There are many more special friends who spell out H I L A R I T Y with H E A R T.
Tensions run high as the words become multisyllabic, and the pressure mounts. What could possibly go wrong?
Annmarie Duggan, new Chair of the Department at Pitt, says Spelling Bee was chosen because it is funny and heartwarming good time intended to counter the winter doldrums.
The cast is made up of completely Pitt undergraduates and reflects Pitt’s increased focus on musical theatre. “It is the strongest cast show this season” says Duggan. This show marks the Pitt directing debut of Rob Frankenberry, one of our city’s most often seen directors and performers. “The beautiful and adorable set, costume and lighting design are all by Pitt undergrads.” It plays at the Henry Heymann Theatre on the Pitt campus, February 9th through the 19th, with Sunday matinees.
For tickets and more information click here.
Pittsburgh CLO takes us on a fun all-American road trip of southern-fried rock, rhythm and blues with Pump Boys and Dinettes at the CLO Cabaret, which runs January 26th to April 15th.
Two friends wrote the musical about their experience working in New York’s restaurant scene. The ensemble of six friends sings of joy and heartbreak while they play away on a variety of musical instruments just shy of the kitchen sink in this Tony nominated musical.
Tickets are available now, for more information click here.
The Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, subscription series presents Ragtime,
based on E.L. Doctorow’s acclaimed 1975 book. The story is a window to many cultural and social classes and with a discerning eye addresses race, economic disparity and immigration.
This is a story of opportunity and oppression, Ragtime reflects on the limitations of justice, hope for the future, and humanity’s interconnectivity; ideas as important today as they were 100 years ago.
Director Tom’e Cousin says “Ragtime had always been on the list to try and do. It just happened that this years seniors are a great fit with a few additional roles to be played by juniors. The work is extremely timely but that was not planned.”
“Ragtime is a new American classic and given the highly charged political and social comments embedded within CMU’s high caliber performances are not to be missed. I personally have a creative reputation for unique interpretations and original concepts.”
Ragtime runs at The Philip Chosky Theater on the CMU campus February 23rd to March 4th.
Tickets and more information can be found here.
Split Stage in Westmoreland county presents the multiple Tony award wining Cabaret at the newly restored Lamp Theatre in Irwin, co-directed by Nate Newell and Rob Jessup
Cabaret takes place in Berlin at the seedy Kit Kat Klub as the Nazis are rising to power. It revolves around the relationship of an American writer and a young cabaret singer just as alarming political developments take hold in pre-WWII Germany.
When asked Why Cabaret? Co-Director and Split Stage Co-Founder Rob Jessup said “The decision to produce Cabaret is very relevant now with the election and current political climate. There is an opportunity to shape our production to create the desired impact for today.”
While this musical was first produced on Broadway in 1966, Rob promises his Cabaret will “be much more topical & gritty: and will have a more “beat up and weathered look” than the recent revivals. Sally the English singer will be more “stark and grounded having been through the ringer….the Lamp Theatre is the perfect venue for our Cabaret.”
For more information about Split Stage and their upcoming production, click here.
Winter 2017 is shaping up to be another great season for musical theatre, come enjoy!