Reviews

James and the Giant Peach Jr.

By: Emily Koscinski
410bc1174d6a19beb7e212476e00019b950281e5Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center presented their third junior production, James and the Giant Peach. Based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book, this production features students from grades seven through nine, along with featured dancers. It is an hour long show with no intermission. James and the Giant Peach is about a young boy, James, whose parents were killed in a tragic accident with a rhino - leaving James to live in an orphanage. That is until his two selfish aunts are granted custody, and he is moved out to live with them and their schemes to get rich. Upon arriving, James meets the magical Ladahlord who guides him to make a potion that will bring full power to whoever digests it. But then things go wrong, and a giant peach grows from the dilapidated peach tree, leading to gigantic adventures. Walking into the Center, still to this day, continues to take my breath away. Once you walk through the double glass doors, you are greeted by an open foyer with a high-arching ceiling. Typically, during events, refreshments will be served, a gift shop booth to purchase Center or Charter School clothing, and a small table with coloring pages and crayons for the little ones. A cute attraction outside the Main Theater is the cardboard cut-out of a peach with two face-shaped holes for anyone to take a picture with. Although I have been a student here, my excitement never dwindles each time I enter the grand building. [caption id="attachment_5985" align="aligncenter" width="656"]James and his aunts James and his aunts[/caption] A lot of the times I could barely hear and understand the actors while they were singing and speaking. Their voices would be quiet - almost in a hushed tone - as if they were voicing out to the audience, and not into the mics attached to their foreheads. Although, after a few moments, their voices would become clear and crisp, indicating an issue with the sound that was not yet resolved before the actors went onstage. Nicholas Vanhorenbeck, who played Grasshopper, could have been a bit more clear and concise with his speaking and singing parts. His voice was very quiet and shy, which made it difficult to hear and understand what he was saying. I am unsure if this was first night jitters, or not. But, I would have liked for him to have belted out his words more confidently. Professionals always say that you know you are doing well when you feel embarrassed – so just run with it. It is common, though, to experience nervousness when performing your first big musical. Although, Vanhorenback’s counterparts, Hannah Post (Ladybug) and Clare Rectenwald (Spider) performed with astounding voices that were almost soothing at some points. Even though these two are one of the eldest of the cast, being ninth graders, I was taken aback by their precise singing. Each note seemed to be on key, and their voices never wavered. Sydney Clay, who played the Matron Nurse, needed more expression for her role. During the times that she had a speaking part, she seemed she was uninterested in performing that part, within the play, or in general overall. When she did speak, she was monotonous and didn’t try to add any changes in tone or facial expressions to give the character a more three-dimensional feel. It’s always exciting to feel the actors’ excitement to be performing onstage at a young age. I’m sure with more practice and being in more plays will help her improve. Tyler Pintea, who played Earthworm, had such an enthusiastic performance. Even though this is supposed to be about James, hence the name of the musical, Pintea stole the show with his humorous acting and confident tone. The audience was laughing until they were teary-eyed during “Plump and Juicy” where Pintea danced around the stage while he sang of being the best snack for the seagulls. Laughter always erupted when he would scream, wiggle his body, and flaunt his behind. [caption id="attachment_5984" align="aligncenter" width="656"]James (in vest) and cast members James (in vest) and cast members[/caption] Olivia Dempsey (Spiker) and Sophia Curry (Sponge) both had these odd accents that made their parts hilarious at times. When they would sing, they still kept that strange accent within it. Once again, being very impressive for freshmen in high school. They also handled a small accidental incident when Curry dropped a can of whipped cream. Instead of panicking and making a show of it, she kept on acting as though she had never dropped it. Although, it was enjoyable how Curry kept spraying mouthfuls of whip cream into her mouth. A really creative aspect of this play was when they demonstrated the peach growing bigger and bigger on the tree. Some actors stood underneath the cardboard branch and opened up a few umbrellas in intervals. It was a cute and unique way to express the growth of the gigantic peach. All of the character’s costumes had a sort of 50s or 60s era spunk to them. The costumes were full of bright colors and cute little pins that adorned frilled jackets. It brought light to what would be seen as a bleak situation. Though the rhino, played by Luke Brahler and Tyler Johnston, was simply a blanket thrown over two actors, with a few pots put together to create the head. It may have been intriguing and filled-in more to have seen an all over fabric costume (like those two-person horse ones) or even a cardboard cut-out that an actor moved around. Despite the actors all being younger, they showed a level of matureness within this junior production. They were able to work together as a team with the leaders of the Center, and were treated as though this was a true Broadway show. A strong amount of confidence and eagerness poured from the souls of these young minds as they performed in this show. You can see James and the Giant Peach at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, Pennsylvania from November 17-19. Tickets range from $15, $18, and $20 and can be purchased online at lincolnparkarts.org. Photos courtesy of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center.

The Impresaria and Djamileh

By: George Hoover
.kljhgdtsetdrfykhuIt has been said that musical theatre and opera are the two most collaborative art forms. Actors, singers, dancers, designers, musicians, choreographers, and directors must work together in real time to create the work of art. If your passion is opera, you must find a like-minded group of individuals to collaborate with, unlike the more solitary work of a painter.  For those whose passion has not become a professional career, community theatre and opera community provide a vehicle to express their art and passion. Undercroft Opera’s mission is to “create a community for singers and orchestral musicians by offering performance experience to emerging and seasoned local artists and developing audiences through both innovative and traditional operatic productions.”  Closing out Undercroft’s 11th season with a wildly varied and unique offering of two one-act operas, The Impresaria and Djamileh, display both their commitment to the mission and the company’s versatility. The Impresario, or Der Schauspieldirektor was composed in a day as part of a contest by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is arguably the most renowned figure of late 18th-century opera. Mozart describes it as "comedy with music" and it is viewed as one of the most playful of his works.  Undercroft has updated and adapted the story and characters to the 1950s. The traditional male role of the impresario has been switched to be a woman, hence the title shift to Impresaria Set in post-war Vienna, famed soprano turned director Francesca Zeller is starting a new theatrical company. But funds are tight and her assistant Buff comes up with a tried but true solution. Get an eager actresses’ sugar daddy to finance the tour! The said actress is the not so young anymore Alura Pierce. She auditions with a long Noel Coward piece. As she finishes, an aspiring young singer arrives to wow Francesca and Buff, but she comes with way too many demands for a wannabe. This sets off a seemingly endless parade of aspiring actresses and actors all who desire a larger and larger cut of the non-existent budget pie. Finally, two sopranos arrive, duel it out with different arias that, turn into a catfight for bragging rights as to who really is the diva. Once that is “settled”, the fight over salaries breaks out again. Francesca, who cleverly demonstrates why she is The Impresaria, turns it all around and the company comes together to celebrate their art in the final song. As operas go, this interpretation of The Impresario is heavy on dialogue and light on singing. That’s too bad as the auditions involving singing are entertaining and well done as opposed to those that are just belabored readings.  No schauspieldirektor worth their salt would let those take up so much of their time in auditions. Anna Singer (formerly WQED host and recently seen in Pittsburgh Festival Operas’ Sweeny Todd) makes an excellent Impresaria and gets to show off her singing chops in the opera’s first scene. Rob Hockenberry’s and Mary Beth Sederburg’s direction can’t quite find purpose the growing masses of hopefuls on stage with little to do as the auditions wind their way to the dueling soprano’s in this “odd duck” of an opera. The singers all have strong voices, clarity is sometimes difficult to discern in the acoustically live auditorium in Seton Center. Conductor Hyery Hwang (Ball State University) has an excellent command of her musicians and brings out the beauty of Mozart’s score. The orchestra is marvelous and underutilized in this performance. The second presentation of the evening is Djamileh is an opéra comique in one act by Georges Bizet.  The opera begins at the end of the day the caliph Haroun (William Andrews) reclines and smokes a hookah in his Cairo palace, with his servant Splendiano (Zach Luchetti). The conversation turns to Haroun’s lover Djamileh (Mary Beth Sederburg), who is actually his slave girl. As is his standard practice, Haroun trades in his lover at the end of the month for a new model.  Djamileh’s month is up and therefore she must go. Splendiano confesses to Haroun that he loves her and would like to keep her for himself. Haroun says not to worry; “he is not in love with her, only with love itself.” Djamileh however loves Haroun. The slave merchant, Mervin, brings the prospective new girls in to dance for Haroun, and he chooses his new concubine. Splendiano comes up with a scheme to confirm Heroun is not in love with Djamileh. He will dress her as the new girl. If she fails to win Heroun’s heart, she will be available to Splendiano. Heroun eventually recognizes her and therefore Splendiano has lost out. Undercroft calls this is a “stylish evening of one-act operas galvanized by Diva Dynamism.” Are slave girls taken as lovers on a monthly upgrade cycle truly representative of girl power? There were some interesting glitches with the auditorium lights during the Impresaria, but the actors, singers, and musicians paid it no heed. It was distracting but not disastrous. Tonight’s evening featured excellent singers, a great conductor, and an accomplished orchestra, a tribute to the quality of opera and musical talent in the Pittsburgh area. Undercoft Opera's performances of The Impresaria and Djamileh are at the Seton Center Auditorium, 1900 Pioneer Ave in Pittsburgh on  November 17th and 18th at 7:30 pm and November 19th at 2:00 pm. For tickets visit https://www.undercroftopera.org/community/tickets/ Thanks to Undercroft for the complimentary tickets.

Arsenic and Old Lace

By: Mark Skalski
arsenic-oldlace1Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace is a play about how we interpret spaces. When our protagonist Mortimer Brewster (Ron Clawson) returns to his family’s home, he’s pleased to once more re-enter the womb of boyhood memory. The aunts who were so sweet to raise him, Martha (Dorothy Fallows) and Abby (Jan Gerber), are still as safe and mundane as a Norman Rockwell portrait. His brother, Teddy Brewster (Randy Berner), continues to suffer from a dissociative psychological condition that has reduced his life to the pleasant recurring fantasy that he is actually former US President Theodore Roosevelt, therefore rendering him harmless. You know, normal stuff. Life is knowable; life is good. Life, also, can be terrifying. Mortimer does not expect to find that his aunts are more or less remorseless serial killers who lure unmarried elderly men into their home to poison them. He also does not expect to find that his other, more sociopathic brother, Jonathan Brewster (John Paul Richie), is back in town with a new face the intent to murder. Everything Mortimer thought was knowable is not, and likely never was. And so it is with us, the audience, during McKeesport Little Theater’s production. We enter the theater to find ourselves in a lovingly hand-crafted living room in Brooklyn. It is a space designed by Edward Bostedo, who is also Arsenic’s director, and it exudes a dusty American nostalgia. The lights dim. Abby appears, and disposes of a corpse as casually one would throw away a receipt to the tune of Edvard Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King,” which immediately blows out the theater’s speakers. This generates static, making the otherwise comedic image immediately unsettling. Martha joins her shortly after, barely masking her enthusiasm to discuss their latest victim. The women are so plainspoken that their detachment from the murder reads as realistic. Enter: Teddy, who storms around the stage in a larger than life performance that is all practiced caricature. His comedic physicality literally shakes the decorative plates and framed photographs hung around the apartment. Later, when Mortimer arrives and discovers the body, which is roughly half his size, it weighs him down as dramatically as a bag of bricks. Clawson’s mixture of incredulity and his ability to improvise comedy out of production bumps and scrapes – at one point a gesticulation launched the receiver of a telephone he was using clean from the chord, which he used to re-ignite his character’s sense of panic – make him a kind of self-foiling straight man, simultaneously Abbot and Costello, especially when contrasted with the other three protagonists. A lot about McKeesport’s Arsenic and Old Lace can be excavated from its war of performative tones; it feels like several interpretations of one play. Example: Fallow and Gerber’s Arsenic is a quiet show propelled by the witticisms of two realistic women who have lost touch with reality. Clawson’s panicky Mortimor and his put-upon partner, Elaine (Elizabeth Civello), have classic comedic chemistry and transmogrify Arsenic into a dark, yet friendly improv show. The introduction of a disparate third duo, Jonathan and Dr. Einstein (Michael Ciarlone), initially feels like an attempt at narrative cohesion, considering how Jonathan is such a straightforward (re: convincing!) killer and that Ciarlone’s Einstein feels like it was pulled straight out of an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory. Unfortunately, because the play’s tone is so scattershot they actually end up feeling too menacing, and scenes in which they put bystanders in peril become such a tonal mishmash that it propels any potential comedy violently into a wall. I will say that Arsenic and Old Lace is a play that has aged well. Our rose-colored perception of its ‘40s-set America has defanged the era enough that revealing its quaint exterior to be such a brutal space escalates an already fairly escalated farce. It’s also a play that, appropriately, has so much more thematic depth than is popularly portrayed and is therefore ripe for re-interpretation. To the credit of McKeesport’s production, its varied methods of performance do make the play read differently. These interpretations, however, are largely without cohesion. Much like Martha and Abby’s poisoned victims, we the audience need to believe Arsenic and Old Lace’s façade before we succumb to it. Arsenic and Old Lace runs at the McKeesport Little Theater through November 19, for tickets and more information, click here. 

The Silver Theater Project Presents Mother Tongue

By: George Hoover
MTThe Silver Theater Project presented the third of their 2017 inaugural fall season’s Salon Readings with F.J. Hartland’s Mother Tongue on Saturday, at the Glitter Box Theater. Most readers will be familiar with the staged reading of a play, where the actors are still “on book” with perhaps a costume piece or two and a couple of props with generally no scenery. The Salon concept originated in Italy in the 1600s as “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, it serves partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.” The Silver Theater’s Salons are on book and more un-staged, with the readers seated or standing. The important added feature over a staged reading is the opportunity for the audience to interact with the author, readers and each other before, at intermission and after the reading. This serves as a valuable tool for playwrights to try out scripts and revisions. For the audience, it is an opportunity to let your imagination roam, conjuring stage directions, scenery, lighting & costumes in your mind. It also brings the dialogue to the forefront unencumbered by the trappings of a partial or full production. It has been said that “Love conquers all.” Hartland’s Mother Tongue adds the tincture of time as an essential element of the equation. Bertie, read by Marianne Shaffer, is living in Seattle and divorced from her husband who left her for a younger woman. He later passed away rather suddenly without her seeing him before he met his end. The combination of anger and an admitted tinge of grief sends her into therapy. The solution for her to deal with her “issues” is to become a standup comedian so she can vent and unleash every mean-spirited joke about men and relationships to help her cope with her loss. Bertie has a gay son in his mid-twenties, Matt (Ezra Dickinson) who is living in New York City and struggling to get his artistic painting career off the ground. The play opens with Matt “under the sheets” with his new love interest, an older gentleman named Cale, (Randy Oliva) who tries to distract himself from Matt’s oral skills by reciting the multiplication and periodic tables out loud. During one tryst as the scene nearly reaches its climax, Bertie, forgetting the time zone difference, rings up Matt. She guesses from Matt’s curt answers that he has a man over and persuades Matt to put him on the line.  Let the grilling begin! Mother Tongue juxtaposes Bertie's comedy club routines with scenes of the budding relationship of Matt and Cale as we learn their backstories and the impact of Bertie’s standup career on Matt and his own unresolved issues with his father and his sexuality. The full and complex story of the relationships reveals itself in an emotional and touching fashion as the play comes to an end. [caption id="attachment_5962" align="aligncenter" width="656"]In rehearsal: Randy Olivia as Cale, Liam Ezra Dickinson as Matt and Marianne Schaffer as Bertie In rehearsal: Randy Olivia as Cale, Liam Ezra Dickinson as Matt and Marianne Schaffer as Bertie[/caption] Allison Weakland (BA - Seton Hill) directs the reading as well as delivering the stage directions to the audience. Weakland takes her readers to near performance level acting particularly, the scenes between Matt and Cale. The intimacy of the Glitter Box makes this an ideal venue for Salon Readings, it’s as if you are a fly on the wall listening in without distractions. The facial expressions and body language between the men make their mutual attraction, that turns to love, all the more believable. You can see the Bertie character evolving to become more of a female George Burns or Don Rickles type, or perhaps the attitude of an older Sara Silverman in a more fully developed performance. Playwright F.J. Hartland (MFA – CMU) has sixteen appearances in the Pittsburgh New Works festival to his credit along with over one-hundred stage directing credits and twenty-six years as an Equity actor. His newest full-length work, Rust, had its world premiere at Duquesne University this past February. Keep Mother Tongue on your radar, I expect to see a full production premiere in Pittsburgh’s future. Founder and Artistic Director Michael McGovern (BFA - Point Park, MFA - CMU) created the Silver Theatre Project as a venue for actors and authors over forty.  For an enjoyable and affordable evening watching new works come to life in an intimate setting coupled with some nosh, a glass of wine and good conversation, the Silver Theater Projects’ Salon Readings are hard to beat. The Silver Theater Project takes a winter hiatus (Florida anyone?) returning in the early spring. Follow them to learn of the next reading at https://www.facebook.com/TheSilverTheaterProject/ Salon Readings are one night only events on Sundays at the Glitter Box Theatre in Oakland with a $10 suggested donation per person. Thanks to the Silver Theater Project for the complimentary tickets.

You on the Moors Now

By: Brian Pope
WebMOORSIt is an interesting phenomenon when the storytelling trends currently dominating the television and film landscapes creep up in the theatre world. Every new project announced nowadays, whether it’s for the big or small screen, seems to be either a reboot of a previously successful property or some sort of crossover event that brings together fan favorite characters for an epic adventure. This year alone, we’ve seen the first installment in the third incarnation of the Spider-Man film franchise and, later this week, the Justice League will assemble for the first time in a live action movie. On the other side of the genre and content spectrum from those blockbusters, Point Park’s Conservatory Theatre Company presents a surprisingly physical and universally stunning production of Jaclyn Backhaus’s play You on the Moors Now Backhaus’s script operates as a reboot/sequel to some of the 19th century’s greatest novels that have since become staples of high school syllabi around the world. The play opens as the worlds of Jo March (from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women), Jane Eyre (the titular character in Charlotte Brontë’s novel), Catherine “Cathy” Earnshaw (from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights), and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennet (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) collide during pivotal moments in all their lives. They have each received marriage proposals from their respective love interests and, to their surprise, they’ve all said no. Now, they are all left with an even bigger and more difficult question to answer: What’s next? [caption id="attachment_5969" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Julia Small (Elizabeth Bennett), Madeline Watkins (Cathy), Aenya Ulke (Jane Eyre), & Shannon Donovan (Jo March) Julia Small (Elizabeth Bennett), Madeline Watkins (Cathy), Aenya Ulke (Jane Eyre), & Shannon Donovan (Jo March)[/caption] Their decisions to abandon their homes and families and strike out on their own have disastrous effects for the people in their lives. It’s definitely a four way tie for who handles this the most poorly between the young women’s jilted suitors Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff, and Mr. Darcy. With the help of some colorful supporting characters from each of the novels, the men hunt down our heroines. Their search leads them into the mysterious world of the moors where Jo, Jane, Cathy, and Lizzie have set up camp. An all out battle of the sexes ensues between the gendered factions. It takes disfigurement and death on both sides to bring the conflict to an end. Even though it’s not until ten years after the end of the war that we meet our characters again, it’s clear that those who survived are still dealing with the pain of their psychological scars. In one way or another, our four heroines find peace within themselves and with the choices they’ve made in their lives. [caption id="attachment_5970" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Bryan Gannon (Fitzwilliam Darcy), Evan Wormald (Mr. Rochester) & Micah Stanek (Heathcliff) Bryan Gannon (Fitzwilliam Darcy), Evan Wormald (Mr. Rochester) & Micah Stanek (Heathcliff)[/caption] I’m sorry to be purposely vague on the plot details of You on the Moors Now, but I think the best way to experience the show is knowing as little as possible. There are tons of twists, turns, and Easter eggs for fans of the books. But, if you’re like me and you got stuck reading Ernest Hemingway and Aldous Huxley in high school instead of Alcott, Austen, and the Brontë sisters, you’ll love getting to know these bright, quirky young women and easily identify with their struggle for independence While I maintain that on paper this play sounds like a television or movie pitch waiting to happen, I credit director Sheila McKenna with employing thrilling movement and combat sequences to give the piece an impact that only theatre can achieve. As the play skillfully subverts our expectations and perceptions of these classic characters, she along with dance captain Meghan Halley and fight captain Shannon Donovan raise the stakes of what could be considered by an especially cynical viewer as simply feminist fan fiction. The way that the opening line dance and the fight scene that ends Act II echo each other is truly poetic. It is a story 100% by and about women that is truly feminist for the way it establishes women and men as equally fearsome adversaries on the battlefield and equally able to make and learn from their mistakes. Unfortunately, for all of their talents, McKenna, Halley, and Donovan are not able to rescue the production from its tidy and tedious ending in the play’s third act. That task is left to the show’s designers Tucker Topel (sets), Terra Marie Skirtich (costumes), and Heather Edney (lights), whose work was a beauty to behold for the entire show but definitely shone brightest in its final moments. [caption id="attachment_5971" align="aligncenter" width="656"]Meghan Halley (Nelly Dean, Beth, Jane Bennett) & Adam Rossi (Joseph, Marmee) Meghan Halley (Nelly Dean, Beth, Jane Bennett) & Adam Rossi (Joseph, Marmee)[/caption] The actors literally wore their characters’ emotions on the sleeves in outfits that looked like they were ripped from the runway of a 19th century-inspired Urban Outfitters collection. You’ll truly feel like you’re in the world of a book with the walls painted to resemble scorched parchment pages and where you can be transported from deep in the woods to high in the stars in an instant. It will be hard to witness a more energetic and charismatic ensemble than the one featured in this production. They are led by the aforementioned Ms. Donovan (Jo), Julia Small (Lizzie), Madeline Watkins (Cathy), and Aenya Ulke (Jane), who all combine the classic elegance and strength that made these characters iconic with a modern wit that makes these worlds worth revisiting today. Their bond is indestructible and sweet (without being sappy) as in the scenes where Cathy hilariously bemoans her sister-less state and her three friends reassure her that she’s never without a sister as long as they’re around. Point Park’s You on the Moors Now makes sisters of all this revisionist riff. Regardless of age, gender, or era, we’re all just fighting to be heard and have our dreams respected. You on the Moors Now runs through November 19 and from November 30 through December 3rd. For more information, click here. Photos by John Altdorfer

Parade

By: Yvonne Hudson
Parade-PosterPainful stories and shameful histories benefit from the illumination of dramatization. While the audience views past events in almost real time, we are required to look and perhaps to learn. Parade is more than worthy of your attention for these reasons and the stellar performances of a largely student cast at University of Pittsburgh Stages. You’ll be part of an event that echoes many recent events, conversations, and controversies from the last century with today’s societal and political overtones. This Parade production plays all its cards handsomely to tell a difficult true story beautifully as a well-crafted tragedy should. It’s Atlanta, 1913, just 50 years after the Civil War. The first images are a soldier coming home from that war then we see his older self as Confederate Memorial Day is observed with a parade and festivities. In this distinctly Southern setting, 13-year-old worker Mary Phagan is found murdered the following day in the Atlanta factory where Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jew married to a Lucille, a Georgia native, is supervisor. Frank is deemed a most likely suspect. Parade follows Leo’s experience from that May holiday to the terror of imprisonment through the false accusations born of community hysteria during his trial. After the eventual commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment by the Georgia governor, there is a crowning horrific irony. Local men take Frank from the jail and lynch him by hanging in nearby Marietta, Mary’s hometown. No spoilers here. The historic case shed light nationally to Anti-Semitism and fueled the founding of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It also ignited a more active Ku Klux Klan. Director Robert Frankenberry is known as a versatile singer-actor, conductor, arranger, and lecturer in music theater at Pitt Theatre Arts. Frankenberry stages this 1998 musical imaginatively, adroitly moving his 28 actors efficiently on Gianni Downs’ lovely two-level set and even into the audience. A high frame for projected elements--ranging from the hills of Georgia to sensationalistic trial headlines--fills the space below the proscenium arch. Roger Zahab conducts the University Symphony Orchestra of 31 instrumentalists in Tony Award winner Don Sebesky’s full orchestration. This version of the score was heard only once before for the 2015 Manhattan Concert Production’s Parade In Concert, conducted by the composer. Jason Robert Brown’s score is indeed American flavored with some Southern spice (even a touch of Stephen Foster), replete with some lively patriotic percussion. At the Nov. 10 preview some cellos were missing, while Frankenberry told us he filled in for the guitarist. Alfred Uhry’s script covers the timeline of Frank’s dilemma, trial, and death. The mystery of Mary’s murder gets muddled as theories about the crime are magnified by gossip and supposition. The writers believed in Frank’s innocence, but while Parade reinforces that belief, there’s no escaping that feeling that you are in the South. With the opening and closing number "The Old Red Hills of Home", it’s all there: post-Reconstruction pride and ancestors who fought for “The Cause”.  The odd juxtaposition of New Yorker Leo and Georgian Lucille represents the ongoing tension between the Southerns and “the other”. Dan Mayhak as Leo and Brittany Bara as Lucille create the heart of the story, bringing nuance and chemistry to their depiction of a devoted couple who likely took one another and Frank’s position for granted prior to this disaster. Their soaring and emotional duets are highlights of the production. Dan Mayhak shines as Leo, traversing the deep layers of Frank’s discomfiture throughout, his work ethic, and his Jewish roots. Mayhak, a fourth year Pitt student recently seen in Front Porch’s Violet and Pitt’s Hair, is capable of playing Leo’s veiled emotion and subtext. His wonderfully sung numbers include "Leo's Statement: It's Hard to Speak My Heart". During the vaudevillian "Factory Girls / Come Up to My Office" we see Leo’s possible “other side” when he leaves his trial defendant’s chair to participate in the incriminating number. Brittany Bara is alternately subtle and passionate as Leo’s wife Lucille. Devoted but eventually weary of taunts around town, Lucille is steadfast and practical. This second-year performance pedagogy MFA candidate’s performance reflects her professional scope. Bara’s vocal performance is outstanding with “You don’t know this man” beautifully poignant and complex. Tru Verret-Fleming, a pro seen most recently in the Scottsboro Boys at the Point Park’s REP Company, turns in a superb debut performance at PItt as Jim Conley, the pencil factory janitor (aka “sweeper”) who is led to further incriminate Frank. Verret-Fleming has the charisma to sell a number or spin a yarn, particularly when depicting what’s it’s physically like to be part of a chain gang ("Blues: Feel the Rain Fall") or sealing Frank’s fate with his accounts of assisting the supervisor in his factory interactions. While these performances would shine in a professional production, the wonderful thing is that this is true of all the lead performers in Parade. They undoubtedly support and inspire the mainly student cast. Stand outs in other leading roles include Rachelmae Pulliam as Mary’s mother and Sally Slayton, the governor’s wife. Her lullaby-like “My daughter will forgive you” is heart-wrenching. Mature and polished, Alex Knapp is the savvy prosecuting attorney who carves his political path as he deviously manages the case, plotting with the governor and sneering in the courtroom. As Governor Slayton, Zev Woskoff navigates the ramifications of his character’s pursuit of both political success and the truth. Dr. William Banks brings operatic chops to the role of the factory’s nightwatchman, Newt Lee. Tyler Prah as Frankie Epps (who fancies then mourns for Mary), Emily Cooper as Mary Phagan, and Davis Weaver as the returning young soldier who opens the show all provide strong performances and moments. The cast is authentically costumed by KJ Gilmer. Hannah Blume’s movement coaching includes same snappy tap and dance steps. Meghan Bressler employs the Randall’s lighting range, illuminating the actors wherever they go. Zach Brown’s sound is fairly balanced and will likely work out any challenges over the run. For a closer look at the production elements, Pitt has a wonderful online collection that provides audience https://pitt.libguides.com/2017-18mainstage/parade The deep themes and controversial history of the Frank case and lynching deserve a closer look. You can read more about the musical’s history in a 2016 Playbill story Think You Know Parade? Think Again. And The Tuskegee Institute Archives reveal the staggering number of lynching not only the South, but throughout the US, 1877-1968. Parade is onstage at the University of Pittsburgh Stages through Nov. 19 with performances Wed.-Sat. at 8 pm and Sun. at 2 pm. Tickets range from $12-$25.
Annie
By: Megan Grabowski
The Busy Body
By: Mark Skalski
All Quiet on the Western Front
By: Tiffany Raymond
The Marriage of Figaro
By: George B. Parous
The Crucible
By: George Hoover
Beauty and the Beast
By: Gwenyth Gamble Jarvi
The Hard Problem
By: Yvonne Hudson
Mythburgh: Round 2 with 12 Peers
By: Tiffany Raymond
Clue: The Musical
By: Mark Skalski
Belfast Girls
By: Yvonne Hudson
Angelmakers: Songs for Female Serial Killers
By: George Hoover
Romeo and Juliet
By: Yvonne Hudson
Xanadu
By: Brian Pope
Kiss Me, Kate
By: George Hoover
I Won’t Be in on Monday
By: Eva Phillips
DODO
By: Meredith Rigsby
Unhinged
By: Alex Walsh
H.M.S. Pinafore
By: Helen Meade
The Last of the Boys
By: Tiffany Raymond
Mary Poppins
By: Emily Koscinski
The Seven Voyages of Sinbad
By: Mark Skalski
Side Show
By: Tiffany Raymond
Our Town
By: Helen Meade
The Matchmaker
By: Megan Grabowski
Equus
By: Brian Pope
Tosca
By: George B. Parous
Boundless
By: Eva Phillips
East Texas Hot Links
By: Jason Clearfield
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City
By: Brian Pope
Orphie and the Book of Heroes
By: George Hoover
Middletown
By: Helen Meade
PNWF 2017: Program D
By: Ringa Sunn
Some Assembly Required
By: George Hoover
The Goodbye Girl
By: Mark Skalski
Jekyll and Hyde
By: Eva Phillips
PNWF 2017: Program C
By: Tiffany Raymond
The Homestead Strike of 1892
By: Yvonne Hudson
Boeing, Boeing
By: George Hoover
The Scottsboro Boys
By: Patricia Thornweilder
A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing
By: Mark Skalski
Henry V
By: Cayleigh Boniger
Six a Breast: The Absurd Life of Women
By: George Hoover
PNWF 2017: Program A
By: Mark Skalski
Schoolhouse Rock Live
By: George Hoover
PNWF 2017: Program B
By: Megan Grabowski
Red Hills
By: Eva Phillips
Annie
By: Ringa Sunn
Big Fish
By: Mark Skalski
The Audience
By: Eva Phillips
Go Back for Murder
By: George Hoover
Billy Elliot
By: George Hoover
Cloud 9
By: Brian Pope
Little Shop of Horrors
By: Mark Skalski
Million Dollar Quartet
By: Brian Pope
Mamma Mia
By: Eva Phillips
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
By: Jason Clearfield
Rumors
By: Mark Skalski
Avenue Q
By: George Hoover
Macbeth
By: Eva Phillips
Resounding Sound
By: Roxy Lillard
Spamalot
By: Megan Grabowski
Wonder of the World
By: George Hoover
Intermezzo
By: George B. Parous
Newsies
By: Brian Pope
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