Reviews

Macbeth

By: Eva Phillips
19466329_1710954552531860_4629879117822679369_oAn appreciation for the true essence of ensemble theatre, the electricity of enthusiasm and kinetic nerves that can pulsate through members of a troupe, is something that is not often considered or discussed in modern dramaturgy. While there are certainly a preponderance of awards specifically honoring the strength of ensembles, the actual spirit of ensemble acting or the dynamics which emerge from the productions put on by troupes, is somewhat lost on modern audiences. In the New Renaissance Theatre Company’s recent outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Tragedie of Macbeth, actively challenged and both the conventions of modern theatrical staging and the conceptions of ensemble interactions. This recent staging, which was paired with the Company’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew, was designed specifically to capture the Shakespearean vision for theatrical productions, specifically of his own works (if, of course, you believe they were indeed his own). This staging of The Tragedie of Macbeth was prefaced—after an impressive, charmingly anachronistic sonorous introduction by two of the company members singing a very impassioned rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Trouble”—by the prompter for the show explaining the historical precedent for an outdoor, unrehearsed performance of Shakespearean theatre. Explaining the fear of creative theft and wanton reproduction in the absence of copyright laws, the prompter emphasized the importance of spontaneity in performance style and the irreproducibility of the scripts that the actors would work have to work with in their nightly stagings. Not only would actors not have the chance to rehearse their lines and stage directions for the highly demanding pieces they would have to perform each night (and often in a different locale every night), but each actor would be dependent upon a scroll that would only contain their own lines, in the hopes of preserving the integrity of the whole play. This production of Macbeth, part of the innovative Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project, forced the actors to rely on not only just a scroll of parchment with only their lines transcribed upon it, but was also completely unpracticed (or, at least, relatively “unpracticed,” given the inability for a modern thespian to exist in a vacuum which Shakespeare or Macbeth cannot permeate) rendition of the play. Moreover, the Company’s production braving the element outdoors added to the purist authenticity of the production. The results, while at times anxiety-inducing given the precarious weather, were invigorating if not a little a disjointed. Granted, a fair amount of the disjointedness of the production can be attributed to the show’s lack of rehearsal—and, to the Company’s credit of authenticity, the actors relied impressively on a prompter for the entirety of the show as performers in the Shakespearean era would have. The production of Macbeth, while occasionally interrupted by modern disruptions like helicopters and planes, was enlivening, and the actors’ stamina and commitment to their cohesion, remarkable. The interconnectivity of the actors truly highlighted the potential of ensemble acting to be a beautiful beast in its own right—though, forced to single out, the Duncan, Lady Macbeth, and beloved witches truly stood out. The New Renaissance Theatre Company aptly lived up to the challenged they set out for themselves. And what is more, getting to hear a grown man with a beard belt out Kesha’s “Tik Tok” as a way of distraction from an interrupting plane was a delight, and probably had Shakespeare (or whoever actually penned Macbeth) sneering from his grave. The New Renaissance Theatre Company's productions of Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew sadly have both already closed but if you'd like to know more about New Ren and their Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project, click here. 

Resounding Sound

By: Roxy Lillard
5d4-5133-copy-2_origI didn’t know much about Texture Contemporary Ballet's Resounding Sound before arriving at the New Hazlett Theater. I was a fill in for another writer that had fallen ill, so I only really knew the time and the place. I walked into the theater to take my seat and I was automatically intrigued. The stage was level with the ground the seats were cascaded like bleachers, knowing that was here to see a contemporary ballet performance I was thrilled, I would be able to see everything! The show starts and the band (for lack of better words, it was simply a vocal artist accompanied by guitar) is highlighted above the stage and begins to sing, and the dancers come out and I’m instantaneously thrilled. When I was a performer myself, we had this joke that we always wanted to give our best performance especially in ensemble numbers, to truly let our personality shine through because a critic that came to review a show we had previously performed said that they were “blown away by the 3rd ensemble member from the right”. Fast forward 11 years later and I found my very own 3rd ensemble member from the right, a dance student from Point Park University named DaMond Garner. I can’t explain how or why he was so captivating, but he demanded my attention from the first second that he stepped onto the stage and I was happy to give it to him. Upon exit my girlfriend said the same thing to me, she was mesmerized. (Thank you for such a great show, DaMond) The show itself was a unique experience for me. The band, Sacramento-based musicians, Justin Edward Keim and Vincent Randazzo, were singing songs that I was unfamiliar with but loved, very reminiscent of a John Mayer singing his own version of Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane. The dancers turned these songs into love stories that revolved around the theme “A Twist of Fate”. The performance was short, only lasting about 45 minutes with no breaks or intermissions, but they took us on such a beautiful journey in that little bit of time. The choreography was elegant and beautiful. At times I thought the dancers were out of sync and then they came back together instantly, which honestly is genius when you consider that they were telling stories about love. Perfectly imperfect is what I would call the work that Artistic Director and Dancer Alan Obuzor prepared for Resounding Sound. If you are familiar with the work of Mia Michaels, I would highly recommend you attend anything that he has to offer to the stage in the future. Along with Assistant Artistic Director Kelsey Bartman, he delivered an extremely original and passionate performance. Overall, I truly feel like they can separate the band from the dancing each can stand on their own as a great show.  This was an absolutely beautiful performance from Texture Contemporary Ballet, which is in their 7th season, and now that I’m aware of what they do and how well they do it I am looking forward to what they have to deliver to us next. They will return to the New Hazlett Theater September 29 – October 1 2017 for Boundless. Can’t wait to see you all there. For more information on Texture Contemporary Ballet, check out their website here. 

Spamalot

By: Megan Grabowski
spamalotI love musicals for the interlude of melodrama and escape they provide from my tragically mundane life. The singing and dancing, costumes, and live orchestra swelling between me and the stage make my heart happy. Opening night of Stage 62’s production of Monty Python’s Spamalot has me beyond excited. This is my first time seeing Spamalot but I am familiar with the zany British sketch comedy of Monty Python and the absurdist humor that forces you to laugh, even if you aren’t sure what you are seeing and hearing is stupid beyond measure or ridiculously hilarious. As I wait for the curtain to rise, I can't imagine disappointment. [caption id="attachment_5340" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Rob James and Carl Hunt Rob James and Carl Hunt[/caption] Spamalot is a parody of the 1975 film, Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Theatergoers who have never seen the film will not be left in the dark. The musical, ‘lovingly ripped off from the motion picture’, maintains much of the plot of the film, (or what there is of a plot amongst the craziness of smutty French soliders, a killer rabbit, knights who say “Ni” and the impossible task of locating Jews for a Broadway musical). Spamalot takes place in 932 A.D. England, when King Arthur, played by renowned Rob James and the animated Carl Hunt cast as his servant Patsy, traverse the country in search of recruits for the Round Table at Camelot. King Arthur's first 2 volunteers, Matthew Rush as Robin and Jeremy Spoljarick playing Lancelot are soon followed by a political radical, Sir Galahad played by Chad Elder and Nick Mitchell as Sir Bedevere. After some convincing by, leading lady, Stephanie Ottey as The Lady of the Lake and her Laker Girls the troupe arrive in Camelot. Once there they are contacted by God, the voice of Marcus Stevens, fresh from the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s prominent performance An Act of God, who instructs the knights to locate the Holy Grail. The men receive more encouragement from The Lady of the Lake and set off traveling the land, visiting a French castle, a dark and “very expensive” forest, and a frightfully comic run in with The Black Knight. [caption id="attachment_5341" align="aligncenter" width="656"]L-R Nick Mitchell, Matthew J. Rush, Rob James, Jeremy Spoljarick, Carl Hunt, Chad Elder L-R Nick Mitchell, Matthew J. Rush, Rob James, Jeremy Spoljarick, Carl Hunt, Chad Elder[/caption] The Knights of the Round Table are next tasked with finding Jews for a Broadway musical then Lancelot runs off to rescue a damsel in distress and The Lady in the Lake is ticked off for not getting enough stage time. All of these experiences are expounded through madcap musical numbers, some ripping off other well known musicals. Songs such as “I Am Not Dead Yet”, “The Song That Goes Like This”, “Knights of the Round Table”, “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway”, “Whatever Happened to My Part?” and “His Name is Lancelot” will without a doubt cause laughter. There is so much more hair- brained chaos I would hate to spoil the show by revealing too much, but I assure you, with the help of the audience, the Holy Grail is found and a Broadway-esque musical is successfully performed, nonsensical perhaps but loads of fun. [caption id="attachment_5339" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Stephanie Ottey Stephanie Ottey[/caption] Typical of Stage 62 productions, Spamalot’s cast is bursting with talent. Aside from James and Ottey, each lead is cast in multiple roles, which requires many costume changes and sometimes different accents and it all appears effortless. The cast includes many accomplished thespians, but it is without a doubt James and Ottey who steal the show. Their strong voices and mastered characterization are delightful to watch. Ottey’s diva flourish and Jame’s execution as King, provide moments of side stitching hilarity. The ensemble is a tight bunch, especially The Laker Girls. After seeing several musicals at Stage 62 I am confident in reporting the choreography for Spamalot is by far the best I have ever seen. Hats off to choreographer Devyn Brown for creating routines that are energized and engaging, especially, ”Fisch Schlapping Song”, “I Am Not Dead Yet”, “Knights of the Round Table” and “His Name Is Lancelot”. Becki Toth’s skilled stage direction allows the cast to emanate ease in movements and smooth scene changes on a small stage, all of which translate into a show well done. I will offer you with a trigger warning: if easily offended by the offensive, if you are uncomfortable with bawdy jokes, parodies, preposterous plots, ‘little boy’ type humor often revolving around flatulence, then perhaps you might lighten up just a bit. This is a summer show you don’t want to miss. Spamalot does not make much sense but that doesn't matter. The show is for grins, starring a tremendously talented cast and crew who clearly aim for having as much fun on stage as the audience does watching them. If planning to attend a performance of Spamalot be aware that the venue has a major construction project happening right now and there is no parking on their property. Neighborhood side streets may offer a few spaces. The theater company has a shuttle service that will transport you from the parking lot on Main Street in downtown Carnegie, up the hill to the entrance of their building. Spamalot runs at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall through July 30. For tickets and more information click here Special thanks to Stage 62 for complimentary press tickets. Photos courtesy of Friedman Wagner-Dobler.

Wonder of the World

By: George Hoover
WonderoftheWorldLittle Lake Theatre's production of Wonder of the World is a zany madcap comedy populated by characters who are just a bit off center. What is normal these days? As the play opens, a young woman from Brooklyn named Cass is preparing to leave her husband Kip. She has recently discovered his collection of Barbie heads while arranging his sweater drawer and he confesses to an unusual sexual fetish, Kip arrives home unexpectedly with a surprise make-up gift of trout aspic for lunch. Through the course of rapid-fire zany “I’m leaving”, “Please don’t” banter, it becomes quite obvious these two characters are at the opposite end of the spectrum in just about every aspect of their public and private lives. After she disentangles herself from Kip, Cass hops a bus to Niagara Falls in search of freedom, enlightenment and a chance to check off a few items from her voluminous personal bucket list. On the bus, she winds up sitting next to Lois, a suicidal alcoholic with a barrel. She is on her way to the Falls and one can easily guess why. wonder07Cass has the boundless energy and inquisitiveness of a puppy which is the last thing the alcohol infused Lois needs. However, lunch in the form of trout aspic wins her over and they bond. Next scene, they are sharing a hotel room at the Falls, complete with the mother lode of a well-stocked mini bar. Lois is pleased. In order to research how the barrel-over-the-falls thing might work for Lois, she and Cass decide to take a trip on the “Maid of the Mist”. Here we meet an older couple Karla and Glen (hold that thought) and Mike, the handsome widower tour boat captain. After meeting  Mike, Cass decides to check off an item from her list by sleeping with a ship’s Captain. Turns out Karla and Glen are a pair of bickering and bumbling private detectives hired by Kip to track down Cass.  In reality, they are really just down on their luck yarn shop owners who decide to be detectives to make a few bucks. [caption id="attachment_5347" align="aligncenter" width="656"](left to right) Jacob Wadsworth as Kip, Arjun Kumar as Captain Mike, and Renee Ruzzi-Kern as Janie (left to right) Jacob Wadsworth as Kip, Arjun Kumar as Captain Mike, and Renee Ruzzi-Kern as Janie[/caption] Just to round out the fun, there is a woman on the boat who has lost her hair , a helicopter pilot who drinks while flying, three waitresses at three different themed restaurants and a clown therapist on parole. Wonder of the World was written by David Lindsay-Abaire who previously wrote Fuddy Meers. Both works show off his madcap imagination and snappy dialogue writing style. The ensemble cast is led by Elizabeth Glyptis who plays Cass to perfection as a delightful victim of unfocused ADD whose words careen out of her mouth with little connection between thoughts or sentences for that matter. Jacob Wadsworth portrayal of Kip leans towards that of a gay man, which further reinforces the inherent incompatibility of Cass and Kip as a married couple. His opening scene begging Cass to not leave him is a bit over the top, not quite as hysterical as was perhaps intended. Wadsworth demonstrates good comedic timing skills in his portrayal. You would not necessarily expect an alcoholic on a bender to be the sane one of the group, but Leah Hillgrove’s portrayal of Lois provides a breath of relative calm and draws in our sympathies. The scene with Cass and Lois on the bus is just perfection. Her facial expressions are subtle and spot on. David Hoffman as Glen and Marianne Shaffer as Karla, are the down and out yarn shop owners turned detectives. They perfectly portray the long-married couple. The scene where they are searching the girl’s hotel room as Glen can’t keep his mouth shut and Karla tries her best to stifle him was delightful. Captain Mike, played by Arjun Kumar, is probably the most “normal” character in the show. There was a missed comedic opportunity as Cass was trying to seduce him in the wheelhouse of the “Maid of the Mist”. [caption id="attachment_5348" align="aligncenter" width="656"](left to right) Arjun Kumar as Captain Mike, Renee Ruzzi-Kern as waitress, and Elizabeth Glyptis as Cass (left to right) Arjun Kumar as Captain Mike, Renee Ruzzi-Kern as waitress, and Elizabeth Glyptis as Cass[/caption] Renee Ruzzi-Kern plays the other six characters, the best of which is the “who cares it’s just another flight over the Falls” helicopter pilot. She is also the Clown Therapist, which is a challenge to draw our attention late in the show with all these other crazy people on stage. Physical comedy is not easy to pull off yet Director Jena Oberg brings the ensemble together quite effectively. The show is complex in its staging with multiple scene locations and her experience with Little Lakes in-the-round stage pays off. Little Lake’s veteran Prop Master Pam Pasternak once again demonstrates her gift of creating effective settings with no scenery, just props. Program credit is not given for lighting or sound design, but both were quite effective in setting the mood of the scenes. On opening night, the run crew was spot on with their cues. Kudo’s to Technical Director Andrew Seay. Cass’s journey of enlightenment on the way out of her marriage and into the Falls brought joy and smiles to the audience, to the point of people almost falling out of their seats with laughter, a perfect escape for a hot summer night. Wonder of the World at the Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive, Canonsburg, PA 15317. Performances on July 21st  & 22nd , 27th to 30th and August 1st to 3rd. For tickets visit http://www.littlelake.org/box-office/  or call 724-745-6300 Special thanks to Little Lake for the complimentary tickets. Photos courtesy of James Orr. 

Intermezzo

By: George B. Parous
intermezzoPittsburgh Festival Opera continues to make good on its promise of producing Richard Strauss rarities, and for the fourth consecutive summer has revived one of the composer’s lesser known works. The company last year set the bar as high as it seemingly could go with its magnificent performances of The Silent Woman, but that was pretty much the same impression the previous summer’s Capriccio performances left, as did Ariadne on Naxos the summer before. Next summer will see what the company can do with Arabella, but last night’s performance of Intermezzo (another Pennsylvania first) was a quite excellent evening of majestic music and comedy. The story of Intermezzo is based (and only somewhat loosely) on misunderstandings which occurred between the composer and his wife. In the early 1900’s, a letter meant for a conductor was sent by a woman to Strauss in error. His wife opened and read the letter, and it was with the greatest of difficulty that Strauss was able to convince her of his innocence. A separate incident, involving Mrs. Strauss’ head being briefly turned by a man who later tried to get money from her, is incorporated into the mix. Strauss apparently thought that setting these events to music – without telling his wife the plot of his latest opera – was a good idea. The composer describes the work as a “Bürgerliche Komödie mit sinfonischen Zwischenspielen,” and that mouthful translates into a “bourgeois comedy with symphonic interludes.” [caption id="attachment_5333" align="aligncenter" width="758"]Robert (Ryan Milstead) confronts Christine (Meghan DeWald) about the drawing that Baron Lummer (Jason Slayden) made of her. Robert (Ryan Milstead) confronts Christine (Meghan DeWald) about the drawing that Baron Lummer (Jason Slayden) made of her.[/caption] Strauss’ usual librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, wanted nothing to do with the project. Strauss was turned down by a couple of other writers, and one wrote text that wasn’t quite what Strauss had in mind. Hermann Bahr, a distinguished German critic and author, who had written the draft which hadn’t impressed Strauss, suggested that he write the book himself. Strauss becomes “Robert Storch,” a famous conductor in the finished opera, and his wife, Pauline, is represented by “Christine.” The story goes that after the opera premiered in Dresden in 1924, soprano Lotte Lehmann (who had just created the role of Christine) congratulated the startled Pauline Strauss on the “marvelous present” her husband had given her. There are a couple of versions of her response to Lehmann, all containing the word “damn.” Like a number of his other operas, Strauss’ Intermezzo includes no overture – the singers hit the ground running within seconds of the orchestra’s first tones. The composer’s majestic orchestration, complex, ravishingly beautiful, and virtually continuous, is one of the finest features of this work, and it was played remarkably well and conducted with a thorough sympathy with the music by Brett McMunn. He has demonstrated before that he is quite capable of bringing Strauss’ colorful scores vividly to life, and he proved his abilities again last night. The stamina of the instrumentalists made his vision possible, and all are to be congratulated on a performance that greatly pleased the audience. [caption id="attachment_5335" align="aligncenter" width="799"]Baron Lummer (Jason Slayden) bringing Christine (Meghan DeWald) flowers. Baron Lummer (Jason Slayden) bringing Christine (Meghan DeWald) flowers.[/caption] The lion’s share of the opera falls on the shoulders of the leading soprano role, Christine Storch. The part is astonishingly difficult. Almost continuously she must deliver a huge amount of text at a breakneck speed, with few moments of slowly sustained singing. Demanding half-spoken, half-sung “patter” to use of the uppermost flights of the soprano range in rafter-rattling fortissimo passages, it’s by no means a role for the faint of heart. Only the most highly skilled of singing actresses can hope to make a success of the part, and last night Meghan DeWald did exactly that. In voice, action, appearance and more she was outstanding. This remarkably gifted woman gave a performance encompassing the use of a magnificent voice and charming, comedic acting skills that aren’t likely to be forgotten anytime soon by those on hand last night to see and hear her. Strauss modestly confines his counterpart, Robert Storch, the conductor, to a comparatively short portion of the first act, bringing him more to the fore in the second, but this does not mean that the role is an easy one. Ryan Milstead sang and acted the role quite well, and the chemistry between he and Ms. DeWald was rather enchanting, and the comic bickering between the two, which could not hide a deep and abiding love between the two characters, was great fun throughout. Maggie Burr, as Anna, the long-suffering maid, was a comic delight who sang the part well and did more acting with her face than many can do with their entire bodies. Jason Slayden, as “Baron Lummer,” the young Lothario type who briefly captures Christine’s half-hearted fancy, certainly looked the part and has a voice which is quite pleasing. [caption id="attachment_5336" align="aligncenter" width="382"]Ryan Milstead as Robert Storch. Ryan Milstead as Robert Storch.[/caption] For the most part, the other roles are sung (or spoken), in the second act, and all were in the hands of artists who made the most of their opportunities - and the audience wish that their parts were larger. Adam Hollick was quite engaging as the lawyer Christine visits in her attempt to start divorce proceedings against the quite innocent Robert, and here again the entertaining results came largely through the chemistry he shared with Ms. DeWald. Others who came and went all too quickly were Elise Mark (the attorney’s wife), Robert Chafin (Stroh), Robert Gerold (A Commercial Counselor), Evan Koons (A Legal Counselor), Adam Cioffari (A Celebrated Singer), Marie Anello (Fanny), Lori Carrau (Marie) and Heather Hale (Resi). A charming young lad named Jake Blackledge spoke a few lines as the Storchs’ son Franzl, and won all when he offered his distraught mother a teddy bear. The ensemble, including Thomas Cilluffo, Diego Del Valle, Kelsey Fredriksen, Chunghee Lee, Francesca Molinaro, John Teresi and Terriq White, had their work cut out for them, mainly in the shifting of the opera’s numerous scenes. Some of these were quite effective, and thanks to Hank Bullington’s innovative projection and scenic designs, the audience was treated to children (Maggie Belliston, Sasha Cowan, Lila Weber and Simon Weber) tobogganing in snow, and at one point saw a large opera audience staring back at them. Only one performance remains – Sunday, July 23, at 2:30 p.m. Please see and hear this Strauss rarity that you’re not likely to have a chance at any time soon, locally or otherwise! For tickets and more, visit Pittsburgh Festival Opera. The Production Team for Intermezzo –  Conductor, Brent McMunn; Director, Jonathan Eaton; English Translation, Andrew Porter; Scenic and Projection Design, Hank Bullington; Pianists, Stephen Variames and Soo-Yeon Park; Costume Design, Krista Ivan; Lighting Design, Madeleine Steineck; Hair and Makeup Design, Rikkilee Rose; Assistant Director, Eunbi Cho; Stage Manager, Kathleen Stakenas; Assistant Stage Managers, Lauren Wickett and Katy Click Photography – Patti Brahim

Newsies

By: Brian Pope
20106537_10154782789481696_7925143825675537356_nBelieve it or not, times used to be harder for those with a career in the journalism industry.    No clear victor has emerged in this war between modern journalists and their cantankerous subjects who cry “Fake news!” in the face of all negative press. Unless you consider late night TV talk shows who need look no further than current headlines to find material for a week’s worth of broadcasts. There’s a similar battle brewing that pits those who write the news against those who make it at the Benedum Center in Disney’s Newsies presented by Pittsburgh CLO. Fortunately, the titular characters of this show—a ragtag group of poor young men selling newspapers on the streets of New York City—are aided in telling their underdog story (based on the actual Newsboys strike of 1899) by toe-tapping Tony-winning tunes courtesy of iconic composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman and supported by a production that literally leaps off the stage and into your heart. [caption id="attachment_5321" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Joey Barreiro and Daniel Quadrino Joey Barreiro and Daniel Quadrino[/caption] When the illustrious publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer decides to raise the price that the delivery boys must pay for their daily stack of newspapers, a dreamer named Jack Kelly (Joey Barreiro) quickly becomes the face of a strike and leader of a newly established newsie union. What Jack desires most is to leave the closed off Big Apple for the wide open plains of Santa Fe. Still, he knows that his true responsibility is to his colorful band of fellow newsies including his handicapped best friend Crutchie (Daniel Quadrino) and a new-to-the-game brother duo, Davey (Stephen Michael Langton) and Les (William Sendera). With Jack’s heart and Davey’s brains the only thing left for the union to acquire is a voice. They find one in what was, at the time, the most unlikely of sources, a female reporter. After a series of run-ins with Jack, including one at a vaudeville theater owned and headlined by the brassy yet classy Medda Larkin (another bravura turn by Patricia Phillips, last seen and raved about by me in CLO’s In The Heights), Katherine Plumber (Beth Stafford Laird) follows and shepherds the story of the strike all the way to the front page. [caption id="attachment_5322" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Cameron Anika Hill, Patricia Phillips & Carina-Kay Louchiey Cameron Anika Hill, Patricia Phillips & Carina-Kay Louchiey[/caption] Katherine and the newsies tangle with a variety other baddies, including the shady detention center warden nicknamed Snyder “the Spider” (Connor McCanlus), but when the word “Disney” is in the billing, you know how the story is going to end. That doesn’t make the journey to the show’s tidy, hopeful ending any less satisfying though. For that, we owe the acrobatic and hunky male ensemble our thanks and unanimous slack-jawed expressions of amazement. With only a first name and a creative variation on Dixon Reynolds’ authentic newsie ensemble, each actor distinguishes his character from the others with memorable line readings. As Spot Conlon and Race respectively, Sky Bennett and Michael James carried the banner most admirably and adorably. Richard J. Hinds is the only member of the ensemble that we don’t see onstage, but his ebullient direction and choreography is the backbone of the production. He provides both actors and audience with a much needed breather from the gymnastic wizardry by employing dynamically stark march sequences during a few of the show’s many dance breaks. DSC_6833-RETOUCH_1Four people who know those dance breaks all too well are Newsies veterans and lead the cast in the roles of Jack, Katherine, Crutchie, and Davey. In the show’s often-reprised signature theme “Santa Fe”, Barreiro’s transcendent final notes shoot far past New Mexico somewhere into the stratosphere and bring down the Act I curtain with the sheer force of their gravity. He is extremely well-matched by Laird who conveys a winning wit in her difficult patter “Watch What Happens”. Bruce Brockman’s urban-industrial sets evoke West Side Story during group scenes and Romeo and Juliet during Jack and Katherine’s romantic Act II duet. Crutchie and Davey’s characters are the closest that this show gets to tragedy, but the inner warmth they both display couldn’t be more uplifting. On one healthy leg, Quadrino stands tallest with a smile and a spirit that could light up the whole theater. While I wish that Langton sang more, it was lovely to witness Davey’s arc as living proof of the positive effects of male fraternity. DSC_6350-RETOUCH_1Sharing the byline, as book writer, alongside Menken and Feldman is a legend in his own right, Harvey Fierstein. They originally envisioned Newsies as nothing more than a licensing opportunity for regional and amateur theaters. The original 1992 film, starring a pre-Batman Christian Bale was a massive flop, but it gained a huge cult following in the intervening years. Everything changed when the show premiered at the Papermill Playhouse in 2011 to rave reviews. The production was fast tracked to Broadway where it ran for over two years and inspired its own fervent legion of admirers called “Fansies”. You may feel silly counting yourself among the Fansies, but there’s no better argument for their cause than Hinds’ electric production of one of Disney Theatrical’s strongest outings. It does what every successful musical is supposed to, inspires audiences sing and dance about what the characters are singing and dancing about. Newsies plays through July 23rd at the Benedum Center. For more information, click here. Photos courtesy of Matt Polk.
Peter Pan
By: Emily Koscinski
The Liar
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Xerxes
By: George B. Parous
Seussical: The Musical!
By: George Hoover
Pippin
By: Mark Skalski
In the Heights
By: Brian Pope
One Man, Two Guvnors
By: Mark Skalski
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
By: George B. Parous
A Night of Mini Splendors at the Glitterbox!
By: Eva Phillips
The Tempest
By: Ringa Sunn
In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
By: Eva Phillips
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By: Emily Koscinski
The Christians
By: Patricia Thornweilder
The Little Mermaid
By: Brian Pope
Clue: The Musical
By: George Hoover
A Gathering of Sons – World Premiere
By: George B. Parous
Proof
By: Eva Phillips
An Act of God
By: Brian Pope
Chicago
By: Stephen Arch
Thom Pain (based on nothing)
By: Patricia Thornweilder
An American in Paris
By: George Hoover
The Next Stop
By: Eva Phillips
Watch: A Haunting
By: Jason Clearfield
The Philadelphia Story
By: Mark Skalski
Undercroft Opera Presents Puccini’s “La Rondine.”
By: George B. Parous
Violet
By: Brian Pope
Ironbound
By: Yvonne Hudson
Anything Goes
By: George Hoover
Peter and the Starcatcher
By: George Hoover
Resonance Works Presents Verdi’s “Falstaff.”
By: George B. Parous
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By: Mark Skalski
Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water
By: Victor C. Leroi
Sive
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Tarzan
By: Brian Pope
Death of a Salesman
By: Eva Phillips
Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical
By: Stephen Arch
Peter and the Starcatcher
By: Nicole Tafe
Wife U
By: Jason Clearfield
The Summer King – The Josh Gibson Story
By: George B. Parous
True West
By: Brian Pope
What’s Missing?
By: Eva Phillips
4.48 Psychosis
By: Megan Grabowski
Wild With Happy
By: George Hoover
The Three Musketeers
By: Stephen Arch
Collaborators
By: Yvonne Hudson
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Or The Most Popular American Play You’ve Never Seen
By: George Hoover
Lights Out
By: Jason Clearfield
Baltimore
By: Mark Skalski
Peter and the Starcatcher
By: Brian Pope
Oedipus Rex
By: George Hoover
Turandot
By: George B. Parous
The Guard
By: Mark Skalski
Sweet Charity
By: Yvonne Hudson
Daddy Long Legs
By: George Hoover
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
By: Alex Walsh
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
By: Ringa Sunn
Dreamgirls
By: Kellie Gormly
Polish Joke
By: Stephen Arch
Forever Plaid
By: Mark Skalski
1984
By: Jason Clearfield
Findings
By: Brian Pope
Patience
By: George Hoover
Ragtime
By: Jason Clearfield
Big Love
By: Stephen Arch
Rust
By: Ringa Sunn
As One
By: George B. Parous
The Pink Unicorn
By: Mark Skalski
The Complete History of America (abridged)
By: Stephen Arch
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
By: George Hoover
Pump Boys and Dinettes
By: Victor C. Leroi
Woody’s Order!
By: Kellie Gormly
Twelfth Night
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Royale
By: Jason Clearfield
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
By: Mark Skalski
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By: Kellie Gormly
Cabaret: The Musical
By: George Hoover
Richard the Lionheart (“Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra”)
By: George B. Parous
Into the Woods
By: George Hoover
A Christmas Carol
By: Mark Skalski
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical
By: Victor C. Leroi
A Musical Christmas Carol
By: Megan Grabowski
The Nutcracker
By: Claire Juozitis
A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Christmas
By: George Hoover
The Lion in Winter
By: Isaac Crow
Unbolted
By: Eva Phillips
Lungs
By: Victor C. Leroi
Midnight Radio Holiday Spectaular
By: Kellie Gormly
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
By: Mark Skalski
Mr. Marmalade
By: Jason Clearfield
Between Riverside and Crazy
By: Patricia Thornweilder
The Rover
By: Mark Skalski
Three Days in the Country
By: George Hoover
The Sea
By: Eva Phillips
The Music Man
By: Megan Grabowski
Hair
By: Jason Clearfield
12 Angry Men
By: Mark Skalski
How I Learned to Drive
By: Meredith Rigsby
The Merchant of Venice
By: Yvonne Hudson
Salome
By: George B. Parous
To Kill a Mockingbird
By: Kellie Gormly
Yankee Tavern
By: Eva Phillips
Giselle
By: Chloe Kinnahan
Feeding the Dragon
By: Victor C. Leroi
Midnight Radio’s Night of the Living Dead N’at
By: Claire Juozitis
Barefoot in the Park
By: Victor C. Leroi
Prometheus Bound: A Puppet Tragedy
By: Yvonne Hudson
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By: Mark Skalski
Carrie: The Musical
By: Eva Phillips
The Who’s Tommy
By: Isaac Crow
Pride and Prejudice
By: Yvonne Hudson
Jekyll & Hyde
By: Kellie Gormly
An Accident
By: Yvonne Hudson
Trial by Jury and Gianni Schicchi
By: Nichole Faina
The River
By: Mark Skalski
Intimate Apparel
By: Eva Phillips
The Fantasticks
By: Isaac Crow
La Traviata
By: George B. Parous
The Playboy of the Western World
By: Jason Clearfield
Avenue Q
By: Eva Phillips
I’m Gonna Pray for You So Hard
By: Victor C. Leroi
Hand to God
By: Yvonne Hudson
Titus Andronicus
By: George Hoover
The Toxic Avenger
By: Isaac Crow
PNWF Program D
By: Chloe Kinnahan
The Censor
By: Eva Phillips
Next to Normal
By: Mark Skalski
PNWF Program C
By: Victor C. Leroi
Beauty and the Beast
By: Mark Skalski
PNWF Program B
By: Eva Phillips
Wig Out!
By: Isaac Crow
Remains — A One Woman Show
By: Jason Clearfield
Shirley Valentine
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Comedy of Errors
By: Jason Clearfield
PNWF Program A
By: Megan Grabowski
Floyd Collins
By: Nichole Faina
A History of the American Film
By: Eva Phillips
This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
By: Megan Grabowski
Loot
By: George Hoover
Driftless
By: Mark Skalski
Peribáñez
By: Jason Clearfield
The Birds
By: Mark Skalski
Seven Guitars
By: Yvonne Hudson
South Pacific
By: George Hoover
Aida
By: Drake Ma
American Idiot
By: Isaac Crow
Jesus Christ Superstar
By: Drake Ma
Julius Caesar
By: Nichole Faina
The Hound of the Baskervilles
By: Isaac Crow
A Pirate’s Tale
By: Megan Grabowski
The Silent Woman
By: George B. Parous
Night Caps
By: George B. Parous
Come Back, Little Sheba
By: Jason Clearfield
Shrek: The Musical
By: Isaac Crow
A Midsommer Nights Dreame
By: Mark Skalski
Julius Caesar
By: George B. Parous
Anything Goes
By: Nichole Faina
Anna in the Tropics
By: Mark Skalski
Eff.UL.Gents
By: Megan Grabowski
Kiss Me, Kate
By: George B. Parous
Damn Yankees
By: Isaac Crow
Krapp’s Last Tape/Not I
By: Jason Clearfield
Church Basement Ladies
By: Mark Skalski
Bloody Hell
By: Mark Skalski
SummerFest’s Tour of “Carmen the Gypsy” is On!
By: George B. Parous
Judgement at Nuremberg
By: Jason Clearfield
Venus in Fur
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Theatre Festival in Black and White, Delivering Fantastically
By: Jason Clearfield
The Consorts
By: Victor C. Leroi
The Spitfire Grill
By: Isaac Crow
The 39 Steps
By: Isaac Crow
Undercroft Opera Sinks Its Teeth into Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”
By: George B. Parous
The Lion
By: Drake Ma
Assassins
By: Drake Ma
The Giver
By: Yvonne Hudson
Cock
By: Drew Praskovich
Two Tales of Terror
By: Chloe Kinnahan
The Musical of Musicals
By: Drake Ma
Autism and the Arts: Bricolage Creates Sensory-Sensitive Immersive Experience
By: Jack Lake
Spring Awakening
By: Isaac Crow
Tru
By: Drew Praskovich
The Rake’s Progress
By: George B. Parous
Grease
By: Drake Ma
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
By: Isaac Crow
Laws of Attraction
By: Chloe Kinnahan
The Last Match
By: Isaac Crow
White Rabbit Red Rabbit
By: Drew Praskovich
The Master Builder
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Flick
By: Isaac Crow
The Barber of Seville
By: George B. Parous
Sister Act
By: Drake Ma
Sex with Strangers
By: Drew Praskovich
The Drowsy Chaperone
By: Isaac Crow
Disgraced
By: Isaac Crow
Miss Julie, Clarissa, and John
By: Yvonne Hudson
The Pirates of Penzance
By: Megan Grabowski
The Bluest Eye
By: Jack Lake
Sister’s Easter Catechism
By: Jack Lake
The Full Monty
By: Drew Praskovich
“27” (“Twenty-Seven”)
By: George B. Parous
First Date
By: Isaac Crow
Saturday Night Fever
By: Drake Ma
Guys and Dolls
By: Drake Ma
Some Brighter Distance
By: Yvonne Hudson
Mother Lode
By: Megan Grabowski
Ciara
By: Isaac Crow
Little Women
By: George B. Parous
The Sisters
By: Megan Grabowski
Oliver Twist
By: Drake Ma
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
By: Nathaniel Quinn
Macbeth
By: Drew Praskovich
Scared of Sarah
By: Megan Grabowski
Yinz’r Scrooged
By: Nathaniel Quinn
Chickens in the Yard
By: Nathaniel Quinn
The Rocky Horror Show
By: Megan Grabowski
Sunset Baby
By: Isaac Crow
A Servant to Two Masters
By: Isaac Crow
The Wild Duck
By: Drew Praskovich
Così fan tutte
By: George B. Parous
1984 (Midnight Radio)
By: Isaac Crow
Oliver
By: Drake Ma
Brainpeople
By: Drew Praskovich
Into the Woods
By: Drake Ma
The Night Alive
By: Jack Lake
Iolanthe
By: Drew Praskovich
Nabucco
By: George B. Parous
Altar Boyz
By: Drake Ma
Death of a Salesman
By: Megan Grabowski
The Diary of Anne Frank
By: Drew Praskovich
Dulcy
By: Drake Ma
Stand Up Horror
By: John Nau
Choir Boy
By: Isaac Crow
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program D
By: Drake Ma
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program C
By: John Nau
The Winter’s Tale
By: George B. Parous
Games of the Mind
By: Drake Ma
Dead Accounts
By: John Nau
King Lear
By: John Nau
Educating Rita
By: Isaac Crow
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program B
By: Drew Praskovich
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Program A
By: Megan Grabowski
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Staged Readings
By: Megan Grabowski
Pittsburgh New Works Festival’s Staged Readings
By: Drake Ma
The Light in the Piazza
By: Isaac Crow
Exit Laughing
By: John Nau
Be My Baby
By: John Nau
The Heart of Shahrazad
By: Drake Ma
The Winter’s Tale
By: John Nau
The Merchant of Venice
By: Jack Lake
Kinky Boots
By: Isaac Crow
Outside Mullingar
By: John Nau
It Could Be Any One Of Us
By: Chloe Detrick
Capriccio
By: George B. Parous
The Wedding Singer
By: Isaac Crow
Strength and Grace
By: Chloe Kinnahan
Sharon’s Grave
By: Isaac Crow
Medea
By: Isaac Crow
“New Kind of Fallout” – World Premiere
By: George B. Parous
The Drowsy Chaperone
By: Megan Grabowski
How To Be a GoodPerson™
By: John Nau
Sherlock’s Last Case
By: Isaac Crow
Much Adoe About Nothing
By: Chloe Detrick
Damn Yankees
By: George B. Parous
Gypsy
By: Isaac Crow
The Marriage of Figaro
By: George B. Parous
Brewed
By: John Nau
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
By: Chloe Detrick
Man of La Mancha
By: Isaac Crow
Lucky Guy
By: John Nau
Out of This Furnace
By: Dale Hess
The Ruling Class
By: Chloe Detrick
Mary Poppins
By: Isaac Crow
Buyer and Cellar
By: Isaac Crow
How the Other Half Loves
By: John Nau
The Best of Everything
By: Justin Sines
Knickers
By: Tyler Plosia
Midsummer
By: Corey Hawk
The Last Five Years
By: Isaac Crow
Fences
By: Chloe Detrick
Saints Tour
By: Isaac Crow
Detroit
By: John Nau
American Falls
By: Justin Sines
Someething’s Afoot
By: John Nau
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
By: Mara E. Nadolski
“Daughter of the Regiment” (La fille du régiment)
By: George B. Parous
The Whale
By: Sarah Beth Martin
My Way
By: John Nau
Peter Pan
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Othello
By: Isaac Crow
A Streetcar Name Desire
By: Jack Lake
Lunch Lady Cabaret
By: John Nau
Lovecraft’s Monsters
By: Chloe Detrick
All the Names
By: Chloe Detrick
The Rocky Horror Show
By: Isaac Crow
Oblivion
By: Justin Sines
Endless Lawns
By: Tyler Plosia
The Disappearing
By: John Nau
Carmen
By: George B. Parous
How I Learned What I Learned
By: Jack Lake
Animal Farm
By: Dale Hess
Elemeno Pea
By: Jack Lake
The Mikado
By: Mara E. Nadolski
Young Frankenstein
By: Isaac Crow
Ghosts
By: Isaac Crow
The Boyfriend
By: Isaac Crow
The Wiz
By: Chloe Detrick
For the Tree to Drop
By: Jack Lake
Wolves
By: Dale Hess
Boeing, Boeing
By: Isaac Crow
Existence and the Single Girl
By: Justin Sines
Prussia: 1866
By: Jack Lake
Brahman/i
By: Isaac Crow
Mr. Joy
By: Chloe Detrick
My Fair Lady
By: Jack Lake
The Little Mermaid
By: Chloe Detrick
Rodelinda
By: George B. Parous
Or
By: Isaac Crow
Christmas Star
By: Chloe Detrick
Urinetown
By: Isaac Crow
It’s a Wonderful Life
By: Jack Lake
The Santaland Diaries
By: Isaac Crow
A Streetcar Named Desire
By: Isaac Crow
L’Hôtel au Purgatoire
By: Isaac Crow
Evita
By: Jack Lake
Avenue Q
By: Isaac Crow
As You Like It
By: Isaac Crow
Otello
By: George B. Parous
Murder for Two
By: Justin Sines
SCarrie: The Musical
By: Jack Lake
The Last Day of Judas Iscariot
By: Justin Sines
The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs
By: Jack Lake
Outside Mullingar
By: Isaac Crow
The Glass Menagerie
By: Jack Lake
Macbeth
By: Isaac Crow
Sons of War
By: Isaac Crow
Doubt: A Parable
By: Justin Sines
Of Mice and Men
By: Isaac Crow
Bus Stop
By: Corey Hawk
Parade
By: Isaac Crow
Tamara
By: Isaac Crow
Romance
By: Isaac Crow
Fixing King John
By: Corey Hawk
“Ariadne on Naxos” (“Ariadne auf Naxos”)
By: George B. Parous