Classic musicals aren’t too hard to come by in Pittsburgh, like My Fair Lady, The Wiz, etc. But when was the last time you saw something brand new? Something brand new created by a local artist, no less? That’s a rarer find. However, the Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh (MTAP) is set to show you what you’re missing with their first original musical showcase Monday night at the Cabaret at Theater Square. It’s called Hot Metal Musicals, it is free to the public, and it’s all new.
MTAP was established in 2011 by Erik Schark and is now currently led by executive director Stephanie Riso, managing director Jeanne Drennan, and advisor Steve Cuden, who agreed to answer some questions about the organization for us. MTAP is pretty unique in that it is solely devoted to helping creating new original musicals. “The creation of new musicals is all that we do at MTAP,” says Cuden, “and all with local talent too.”
MTAP holds monthly meetings at the Wightman Community Building in Squirrel Hill. At these meetings artists working on original pieces can discuss, pitch ideas, perform original songs, and get constructive feedback with a group of peers. The meetings appear to be a good place for artists to bounce around ideas with like-minded people and get a fresh look at issues they may be having. While MTAP is still in its early stages of life, they did have one workshop at the University of Pitt: a staged reading of Off with Her Maidenhead by James Rushin and Amy Claussen, which is one of the many shows to have songs performed on Monday night.
Hot Metal Musicals is MTAP’s first showcase of new material, and everyone involved seems very excited to see an audience react to these new works. “These are new songs and we have no idea what the actual reactions to them will be, but we have confidence the material is solid.” Cuden also expresses there is something for everyone at the showcase, from ballads to fun numbers, stuff for young crowds and some for older. Seven singers and a piano will bring the songs to life, briefly explaining the concept of each show as they do.
The Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh hopes to make Hot Metal Musicals an annual event, to keep showcasing fresh talent and ideas for audiences to enjoy. Cuden remarks on the difficulty of creating and presenting a new musical, especially in comparison to a new play. “Musicals are maybe the single most difficult art form of all to develop and pull off well,” he said, citing all the factors involved like adding in songs that help the story, finding talented singers, dancers, and actors to pull it off, and then getting the appropriate staging. “Figuring out how to write a musical so that it flows right, has the songs spotted just so, gets the rhythm and the flow of the story and music in perfect balance is an ultra-difficult task to achieve.” says Cuden. “But when it works it blows people away.”
Visit the Musical Theater Artists of Pittsburgh website to learn more about them or make contact. Hot Metal Musicals is happening tomorrow, March 2nd, at 7:15 at the Cabaret at Theater Square Downtown. The bar opens at 6:15, the house opens at 6:45, and it is free to the public, however it is highly suggested you RSVP a ticket. Our thanks to Steve Cuden for taking the time to answer our questions and provide information about the organization. We’ll post a recap of the event here later this week!