Westmoreland and Somerset Counties and the entire Laurel Mountain region is world-renowned for their outdoor activities, but another treasure that lies in Westmoreland County is the production team of Split Stage Productions that adds that special touch to the region. When you come in from enjoying the summer weather and are ready to take in some entertainment indoors Split Stage has what you need. Most recently a production that included murder, exploitation, corruption, treachery, adultery, and violence in their production of Chicago co-produced by Kelly Simon Event Management.
Well-known in the area for producing top-notch plays and musicals using local talent, Split Stage has been providing the region with entertaining fare that usually leaves audiences on their feet asking for more – think “rock concert encores” at the end of their productions. As the particularly large crowd left the Palace Theater in Greensburg, one could sense that the patrons indeed did get their money’s worth, earning kudos for Director Jim Mikula, Musical Director Eric Barchiesi, Choreographer Laura Wurzell and Stage Manager Alyssa Wano.
Chicago represents everything dazzling and inclusive when thinking about Broadway, and to undertake such a well-known and beloved musical requires a great amount of time and focus to ready the actors, singers, dancers, and designers for a single two day run. The energy all actors and dancers put into this musical left me a bit stunned. To put it simply, Split Stage’s production was fantastic, particularly in the area of musical talent (including an entire orchestra led by conductor Eric Barchiesi). It’s not that I would never doubt Split Stage’s abilities – they simply pull off the impossible.
Fan favorites local attorney John Noble (Billy Flynn), Mandy Russak (Roxie), Victoria Buchtan (Velma), Ryan Hadbavny (Amos), and Shelly Spatara (Mama Morton) brought down the house in what I might call (because of the minimalist set and costume design Mikula used) more of a “Chicago Greatest Hits” version rather than a full out musical drama. Chicago is such a well-known musical, it wouldn’t be a stretch to fill the Palace Theater with patrons who just want to enjoy the musical numbers. Judging by the audiences’ reception to the show, it was a fun night out in the theater to hear the renditions of “And All That Jazz”, “Cell Block Tango”, “I Can’t Do It Alone”, “Mister Cellophane” (Hadbavny’s greatest moment – I absolutely loved the song and his rendition), “Nowadays,” and “Finale” to name just a few.
All of the music in this version of Chicago was more than entertaining and led me scouring the playbill to learn more about the performers and whereabouts they came. Much to my surprise, from the lead roles to the smallest parts in the musical, most of these performers are from either the Westmoreland, Somerset, or Pittsburgh area. It is encouraging to know that that much talent exists in Western Pennsylvania.
Noble’s Billy Flynn steals the show. He’s good. Really good. He’s a local attorney that could have easily found a home on the big stage. It was fun to see Noble (in the finale) standing beside Barchiesi in the orchestra pit “helping” conduct the final songs. It was not only funny, but it added to the entire ambiance of the evening – big time production with local flair. The audience seemed to enjoy this as much as they enjoyed the entire production.
This review simply doesn’t have the space to list the credits of EVERY actor in Chicago. The playbill is filled with paragraphs of not only the principles but the credentials of the entire cast of 23. Let’s just say that the entire cast has received theater education from the best the Pittsburgh region has to offer – Point Park, Robert Morris, Carnegie Mellon, Squonk Opera, and more. Split Stage Productions, particularly Jim Mikula, knows how to assemble a cast. Just as the Broadway version featured some of Broadway’s elite talent, then the Split Stage version of Chicago includes some of Westmoreland County’s elites.
In addition to those actors mentioned above, a standing ovation has to go to Allysa Bruno (Hunyak), Savanna Bruno (Mona), Josh Daisley, Bill Fisher, Adam Fladd, Courtney Harkins, Ashley Harmon (Liz), Jeff Johnston, Kyley Klas, Barbara Lawson, Maddie Nick, Brady Patsy, Kevin Rabbits, Josh Reardon, Nicole Rosenbayger, Nicole Stouffer (Annie), Brittany Tague (June), and Ryan Wagner for their outstanding performances.
Split Stage Productions and Kelly Simon Event Manager have been bringing a very rich sense of popular drama and musicals to Westmoreland County, and with its very cozy atmosphere, the Palace Theater is always a place of comfort regarding the acts presented to this region.