Theater Galas and Fundraisers in Pittsburgh this Spring

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If you’re looking for a glamorous night out with dazzling entertainment, dancing, drinks and food, you’ve come to the right article. We’ve curated a little list of some of the best upcoming theater galas and fundraisers in Pittsburgh this spring that you’ll surely want to attend. Dust off your dancing shoes for a night to remember, all while supporting local organizations!

Q Ball 17, “Painting with Light” – Quantum Theatre
February 25 | Union Trust Building16836251_10154323174132997_2927994775148121712_o

Quantum Theatre hosts an annual event called the “Q Ball.” This year’s theme, “Painting with Light” involves live paintings from 19th century artists! There will be food from Black Radish Kitchen, drinks, art, dancing, and more creative surprises. Here’s what Quantum has to say about the event: “The Q Ball provides an opportunity for Quantum’s very imaginative artist friends to let their hair down and make a beautiful, wild party atmosphere filled with live performance. Add to that our tradition of transforming non-traditional environments, and I think you get a pretty special event! This year we’re inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, because a play we’re making for next season intersects with them, so we’re building these marvelous ‘tableaux’ – live versions of the paintings people can step into.” The Q Ball promises to be a wild, imaginative evening. 

BUS – Bricolage Production Company
March 11 | August Wilson TheaterBUS: Bricolage's Annual Fundraiser

One of the most unique fundraisers in town is Bricolage’s BUS fundraiser. This is an adventurous mix of theater, VIP Gala, auctions, food, drinks, and community. The theater element truly stands out: bringing together some of Pittsburgh’s top theater artists to create original plays in just 24 hours! Yes- you can watch theater form and be performed all in one event!

Thoughts from Bricolage Artistic Directors,  Jeffrey Carpenter and Tami Dixon: “beyond a chair in the dark and mere suspension of disbelief, we have always preferred theater that was somewhat dangerous to behold. So when it came time to fashion a fundraiser that would fulfill our financial goals while maintaining our adventurous identity, the traditional route of live-auction-dinner-gala just wouldn’t do.”

Gala Cubana – Pittsburgh Festival Opera (formerly the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh)
April 22 | Pittsburgh Golf Club, Schenley Park

If you’re in the mood for something a bit more tropical to ease you out of winter, why not try “Gala Cubana” with the newly renamed Pittsburgh Festival Opera? This event is a “celebration of Cuban culture,” with food, drinks, dance (of course) and exclusive performances of the first Cuban opera in decades- Cubacan. Mingle with Pittsburgh Festival Opera organizers and tap your toes to Afro-Cuban melodies.

This is one of the most unique themes of the season, certain to transport you to a tropical, cultural paradise. Keep an eye on their website for tickets and more information!

Gods & Goddesses Gala – Pittsburgh Public Theater
May 5 | Wyndham Grand PittsburghFinal_online_Post_card-1

“The Public’s annual Spring gala has become a must-attend event for arts lovers, socialites, and party animals,” Pittsburgh Public Theater leader, Ted Pappas.

For a fanciful, glitzy ,and buzz-worthy event worthy of the gods, Pittsburgh Public Theater’s annual gala will sweep you off your feet. This traditional fundraiser is the highest of class. Tickets include cocktails, dinner, entertainment, and “The Public’s monumental flair” in the Wyndham Grand hotel.

40th Bash Gala and Auction – City Theatre Company
May 22 | Heinz Field East Club Lounge

To top off your classy theater party season, join in the “dancing and diversions’ at City Theatre! This fabulous event includes everything from cocktails to wine pairings and bidding on “extraordinary outings and adventures.” This isn’t any ordinary evening.

The event offers several tiers of sponsorship packages, from bronze to platinum. The packages include things like recognition in programs, reserved seating, acknowledgment at the events, and ticket vouchers for the upcoming season. Don’t miss this celebration of 40 years of galas!

Don’t get caught wishing you could have danced all night, when you certainly can with this glamorous line-up of galas and auctions this spring. Be sure to get out and support the Pittsburgh theatre community so they can continue to entertain you throughout the year.  

 

The Nutcracker

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I’ve attended the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker countless times. I went as a young, aspiring dancer growing up, and in the past few years, have the renewed the tradition as an adult. This year, as any other, I was dazzled.

As I mentioned in a previous article, the PBT’s production of The Nutcracker is set in Gilded Age Pittsburgh, in a Shadyside home (where the Kaufmann and Heinz families are guests). The giant clock mounted at the proscenium is modeled after the old Kaufmann’s clock, and during “The Waltz of the Snowflakes,” the backdrop becomes an antique view from Mt. Washington. It’s a delightful change that brings the story closer to home for the audience.

The opening scenes at the Christmas party are full of energetic and joyful, full of laughs, magic tricks, and humorous characters. The journey through the woods is transcendent (and my favorite), and the Land of Enchantment is full of, well, enchantment, and a circus-like display of vibrant colors and dancing. I enjoyed how Marie was portrayed a bit differently this year: playful and curious as a girl on the brink of an adventure ought to be, and less like the typical, innocent damsel waiting for her Prince Charming. Less Cinderella, more Alice. A refreshing characterization.

The sets, costumes, and choreography amazed everyone in the audience, as usual. Snowflakes falling, a Christmas tree growing larger than life, impossible clown cars, and spinning carousels descending from the sky left nothing to the imagination. The lead dancers were all on point (no pun intended), the ensemble routines were gracefully in-sync, and the youngest little dancers charmed as sheep, mice, and bumblebees.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen this production many time but not much changes from year to year. The costumes and choreography remain largely the same. This could be taken as a criticism, but instead I think of it as watching one of your favorite holiday films or making a family recipe– A Christmas Story and grandma’s cookies don’t change from year to year either, but they’re just as delightful every time. PBT has found something that works, and works well. It makes sense to stick with it.

The PBT dancers are extremely talented and their art is commendable, but I’d argue that what has really helped this production stand the test of time is making the ballet accessible to everyone. For children that have never been to a ballet before, for adults that think ballet is boring or snobby, and for the die-hard ballet supporters, all the same, here is laughter at the clowns’ and antics, and awe at the Sugar Plum Fairy’s and Cavalier’s pas de deux. It’s the perfect mix of holiday and Pittsburgh nostalgia to tickle everyone’s memories in some way.DSC_9831-1

My only real issue with this production is the lack of live musicians. Tchaikovsky’s music always deserves a full orchestra.  It’s a shame to miss out on that, but it’s certainly understandable why they opt for a recording instead. Either way, it’s difficult to remain disappointed however you listen to Tchaikovsky’s score. Each movement is like a special treat, just as familiar as a favorite Christmas carol.

The Nutcracker is playing at the Benedum until December 27. The Benedum is stunning at this time of year, and this show is perfect as a family outing or a date night. It’s a wonderful Christmas activity to add to your list (and perhaps a tradition to begin). You can purchase tickets and read more about the show hereSpecial thanks to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for complimentary press tickets.

Photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

5 Holiday Shows You Don’t Want to Miss

December has crept up on us faster than the Grinch stole every last present in Whoville. Luckily for us, the holiday season in Pittsburgh means some of the best, festive shows around. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite upcoming productions that are sure to fill you with holiday cheer, whether you’re Buddy the Elf or Mr. Scrooge.

Midnight Radio’s Holiday Spectacular!, Bricolage Production Company

Midnight Radio’s Holiday Spectacular!Holiday radio programs have been a nostalgic staple in this country ever since kids were decoding crummy commercials for Ovaltine in the 40’s. Bricolage Production Company  continues their popular series, Midnight Radio, to bring this beloved Christmas entertainment to life! Midnight Radio’s Holiday Spectacular! is in the form of a 1940’s radio broadcast where you are the live studio audience. Raucous humor, classic stories, and Pittsburgh-themed spoofs can be expected every night, but be sure to check the schedule for special events like an Ugly Sweater Contest, photos with Mr. & Mrs. Claus, local musical guests, and a hands-on sound effects workshop! The show runs downtown from December 1- 17.

The Nutcracker, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater

Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s brings the Tchaikovsky’s classic, The Nutcracker, closer to home. Rather than the 19th century Germany setting, this version begins in a beautiful old home in Shadyside during the Gilded Age. A number of characters and props are homages to famous Pittsburghers like Heinz, Carnegie, and especially the Kaufmanns, and the set will give you a glimpse of the Mt. Washington view from a hundred years ago. Stunning costumes, choreography, moving sets and magic tricks never fail to delight audiences of all ages. Don’t miss this dazzling, dancing tradition at the Benedum, December 2- 27.

A Christmas Carol, Little Lake Theatre

Don’t be fooled– this isn’t the same story you’ve heard before! In this funny little twist from Little Lake Theatre, a comedic adaptation of this Dickens’ favorite is done a la Groundhog Day, as Scrooge is forced to relive his ghostly Christmas Eve journey year after year. A Christmas Carol is the perfect family festivity from a faithful cast that considers performing at Little Lake to be part of their own holiday traditions. This show will be shaking things up like the bells on Santa’s sleigh, so go see it from December 1- 18.

 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Pittsburgh Playhouse

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The MusicalPoint Park University’s Conservatory Theatre Company brings you this unconventional Christmas comedy. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever  follows the six Herdman children, AKA the “worst children in the world,” who have been known to shoplift and smoke cigars. Upon hearing that snacks are served at church, the children weasel their way into playing in their Sunday School’s annual Christmas pageant, and chaos and holiday hilarity ensue. This show runs December 9- 18 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

 

Naughty or Nice 2: A Holiday Concert, PARK Productions

Sugar, spice, and everything (naughty or) nice. PARK Productions is continuing their successful holiday extravaganza, featuring all kinds of holiday tunes performed by a pianist, and you! Yes, you! “Naughty or Nice 2” is an open-mic show encouraging audience sign-ups from groups and individuals to perform any Christmas carol of their choosing– but the “raunchier the better.” This show is one of a kind and ONE NIGHT ONLY on December 10th at The Cabaret. Get tickets and sign-up to perform here, because we all know that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

 

Tickets for all of these shows are on sale now! Get yours and get in the Christmas spirit. Plus, stay tuned for our reviews of these shows and so much more this season!

Oh, and remember…

 

Midnight Radio’s Night of the Living Dead N’at

livingdead-site-banner-890x420In a Halloween season where America’s most popular zombie show, The Walking Dead, just had one of their most devastating, gory episodes of all time, it’s refreshing to find an opportunity to laugh at zombies again.

This season, Bricolage Production Company, has brought the classic horror film, Night of the Living Dead, back to life with a Pittsburgh radio twist. Their immersive approach starts when you walk into the venue– for the Halloween-themed show, the lobby is decked out in spiderwebs and miscellaneous zombie parts. There are a number of silly, spooky games to play while you have a drink and wait for the house to open,  including a spot to give your input on who you would eat first if the zombie apocalypse came to Pittsburgh…

This was my first time visiting the Screenshot (14)Bricolage theater space. It’s intimate, but very casual–  the friendly staff makes you feel right at home . The Midnight Radio series is an ongoing favorite that is primarily audio-driven, not requiring a full set and costumes; however, the stage was still decorated in the Halloween spirit. The musicians’ area was decorated like a graveyard, and the actors’ podiums were boarded-up, like something you’d do to doors and windows in the midst of a zombie mob. I’m told this is more visual effort than they normally do–  it was a nice mood-setting touch.

The show kicks off with the “n’at” part of things. The actors open with a radio show intro, all using deep Pittsburgh accents that are both extremely accurate and amusing. Then in the fashion of old school radio programs, they proceed to tell the story of Night of the Living Dead as if you were listening at home. For the duration, clips and stills from the movie itself were projected on the back wall while the actors provided voices and sound effects. To me, this was reminiscent of Bad Lip Reading videos, and it was just as funny.

While the voice actors’ talents carried the show, the musical guests, Cello Fury, brought depth and dimension. The bellowing cellos accompanied the voice actors as a musical score for the radio program., adding to the suspense and intensity (and hilarity) of the scenes. Cello Fury also performed a few solo pieces during the production. The only criticism here is that the serious, melancholy songs felt a bit out of place with the rest of the show’s nonsensical comedy. Regardless, it’s very hard to mind the mismatch when you hear Cello Fury play. Their autumnal, eerie sound chills you to the bone, and is absolutely beautiful.14606263_10154817529849873_1890467029275397064_n

Additional funny bits: audience members can get a slightly cheaper ticket (at $15) and sit on the interactive  “zombie porch.”  You’ll be equipped with all kinds of props to go bump in the night and make zombie noises to your heart’s content (but on cue, of course). Another highlight was the undead spoof commercials breaking up the radio show: a favorite of mine was for Al Pacino’s latest eau de parfum, “Scent of a Dead Woman.” There was even a themed version of “Family Feud,” inviting audience members onstage for the chance to win prizes. Pittsburghese is injected here and there to keep up the “n’at” vibes. These added bits made everything feel almost more like a variety show– but the laughs were consistent all throughout.

If you’re slightly deterred by the idea of a “mostly-audio” show, don’t be. There’s still so much to watch, from the projected clips to the actors’ incredibly funny expressions, to the slew of props used to make the sound effects (everything from empty tissue boxes to an actual car door). You don’t miss a full set or costumes, and you come to appreciate the true skill in voice acting. This show had us in stitches, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few folks decided to rise from the dead just to see it.

Night of the Living Dead N’at is playing at Bricolage Production Company’s space dahntahn until November 12th. Special thanks to Bricolage for complimentary press tickets.

Photos courtesy of Bricolage Production Company and Claire Juozitis.