Winter Preview 2017

5A letter from the Editor:

Our dearest readers,

Winter is only 24 days away and we’re already dashing through Christmas decorations and Cyber Monday sales as 2108 creeps up on us. 2017 has gone fast and we at Pittsburgh in the Round are picking up speed too! So far this year alone we’ve reviewed 151 plays and written 84 feature articles, blowing last year’s statistics out of the water! Even though some of our long-time writers have moved on to greener pastures, our team has ballooned up to 17 regular contributors bringing you the most consistent coverage that we can. We even have our first high school intern!

Beyond this preview, we’ll be bringing you some insights on Ted Pappas’s final shows at the Pittsburgh Public, the Pittsburgh Opera’s World Premiere Ashes and Snow, and a few tips on theatre etiquette from some of the pros. We will also continue to introduce you to the people that make up Pittsburgh’s vibrant theater community through our Artist Spotlight series.

2017 has been a very big year for us and 2018 will be even bigger as Pittsburgh’s theatre community continues to grow with us. We want to thank those of you that have and continue to support us through your engagement with us and simply being readers. Most importantly, we want to thank you for supporting local theaters and companies and helping the arts grow and thrive in Pittsburgh. Remember, if you would like to sponsor us or purchase advertisements on the site, contact info@pghintheround.com.

We would love to hear from our readers and follow along with your theater adventures so keep in touch with us on our FacebookTwitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #WinterwithPITR. To stay up to date on everything we’re getting into, click here to join our email list! Weekly updates straight to your inbox every Thursday.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Pittsburgh in the Round, now get out there and enjoy some theater!

Mara E. Nadolski


Let’s start off with the Top 5 shows we’re looking forward to this winter:

KINETIC-LOVE-LARGE-SQUARE-1#5 – Love, Love, Love by Kinetic Theatre:  Produced in association with Cockroach Theatre in Las Vegas, we follow a London couple from the summer of love in 1967 through the peaks and inevitable downfall of their relationship through present day. Playwright, and Olivier Award winner Mike Bartlett forces us to think about the baby boomer generation and its effect on our current state of life. Love, Love, Love starts previews November 30 and runs through December 17. For tickets and more information, click here

CT1712_AbsoluteBrightness_573x437 (1)#4 – The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by City Theatre: Known for their commitment to producing new plays, City Theatre stays true to their mission with The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. In this one-man show by Academy Award winner James Lecesne, a teenaged Leonard Pelkey goes missing and it’s up to one detective and a team of the town’s citizens to find out what happened to him. Inspired by Leonard’s absence, the locals start to question everything about their lives and realize that it’s okay to be different. Catch this heartwarming comedy at City Theatre starting January 20 through February 18. For tickets and more information, click here.

heat-of-the-night-IMG_7327-300x216 (1)#3 – In the Heat of the Night by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company: From a book to a movie to a TV series in the 60’s, In the Heat of the Night finally makes its way to the stage at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. First produced in 2010, the story follows that of the original novel and subsequent adaptations. Virgil Tibbs, a detective from California, is arrested and wrongly accused of a murder of a white man in 1962 Alabama but slowly becomes the town’s only hope of solving such a brutal homicide. In the Heat of the Night runs at Pittsburgh Playwrights’ downtown space from February 2 through March 11. For tickets and more information, click here.

Screenshot (22)#2 – Inside Passage by Quantum Theatre: Gab Cody has been a staple in the Pittsburgh playwrighting community for years. After producing her play Fat Beckett with Quantum during their 2011-2012 season she’s back with a more personal story. Cody was born in Juneau, Alaska. When she was five her parents divorced causing her to move back to the east coast with her mother, leaving behind three siblings and two Tlinget Indian foster siblings. In this mash up of documentary film, music, and performance, Cody goes on an adventure to reconnect with her long-lost foster siblings. Inside Passage opens at a yet to be determined location March 2. For tickets and more information, click here

2017Mast-EvilDead#1 – Evil Dead the Musical by Pittsburgh Musical Theater: First in their new “After Hours” series, Pittsburgh Musical Theater heads to the West End for their Pro Series in the Gargaro Theater. Based on the 1980’s movie franchise of the same name, five college students, led by our hero Ash Williams, head to a cabin in the woods for Spring Break. After some light basement exploration, they find the Book of the Dead and accidentally unleash a spirit that slowly turns them all into demons! Running in repertory with PMT’s We Will Rock You, Evil Dead runs weekends starting February 2. The show starts at 10:30pm so make sure you find a babysitter because this production is definitely not recommended for children. For tickets and more information click here.

For more on the musicals coming up this season, check out George’s list of the 5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Winter!

Christmas is coming soon and you know what that means? Christmas shows! Read up on this season’s offerings in Brian’s article here. 

Pittsburgh’s theatre community is constantly growing and morphing. A few new theaters have popped up recently and we got some insider info for you! Check out Eva’s talks with the Glitterbox in North Oakland and Meredith’s interview with Aftershock Theatre in Lawrenceville.

We broke some pretty big records this Fall! In case you missed out on any of our adventures, here are some highlights from the last three months:

Six a Breast: The Absurd Life of Women by Corningworks

Henry V by Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks

Boeing, Boeing at the Apple Hill Playhouse

Some Assembly Required by Attack Theatre

Angelmakers: Songs for Female Serial Killers by Real/Time Interventions

Belfast Girls by the Ghostlight Theatre Troupe

Romeo and Juliet by PICT Classic Theatre

Unhinged  by Cup-A-Jo Productions

HMS Pinafore by the Pittsburgh Savoyards

Equus at the Pittsburgh Public Theater

I Won’t Be in on Monday by off the WALL Productions

The Impresaria and Djamileh by Undercroft Opera

Arsenic and Old Lace at the McKeesport Little Theater

The Busy Body  by the Duquesne Red Masquers

All Quiet on the Western Front by Prime Stage

The Marriage of Figaro at the Pittsburgh Opera

5 Christmas Shows To Put On Your Nice List This Holiday Season

Snowflake 6When the weather outside is frightful, there is no place more delightful than the theater. Companies all around the city of Pittsburgh are offering up holiday-themed shows of all genres to give anyone craving it an extra dose of yuletide cheer. Most of these titles will ring a jingle bell for Christmas-obsessives who grew up watching them on TV with family. All of these wonderful upcoming productions will surely be an early Christmas present for everyone able to see any one of them.

“Unsung” is definitely not the word to describe American composer Irving Berlin’s contributions to the Christmas season. But it strikes me as odd that the person who penned the music and lyrics for the world’s most recorded Christmas song isn’t up there with Santa, his elves, and Ebenezer Scrooge as a face of the holidays. I’m of course talking about “White Christmas” which was first sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, but eventually grew to even more prominence in its 1952 namesake film also starring Crosby.

white-christmas-marcus-center-show-detailThe stage adaptation of the movie White Christmas, with a book by David Ives and Paul Blake, premiered in 2000 at The Muny and will soon be dancing its way into the Palisade Playhouse. The story, set to a fantastic assortment of Berlin standards including “Happy Holidays”, “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”, and “I Love a Piano”, introduces audiences to two World War II soldiers turned song-and-dance men, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, as they reenter civilian life to become the toast of Broadway. Two beautiful, talented sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, catch Bob’s and Phil’s eye. Romantic hijinks land the foursome at a lodge in Vermont with no other way to process their feelings for one another but on stage and in song. When the curtain and the snow finally fall, the poetic refrain of the title song echoes through everyone’s hearts.

White Christmas plays at the Palisade Playhouse from November 30 through December 9. For more information, click here.

MDRchristmasStoryFINAL3-890x420If you’re such a huge fan of the classic Christmas comedy A Christmas Story that waiting until Christmas Eve for its 24-hour marathon on TBS is unbearable for you, then you’re in luck this year. In addition to Fox’s presentation of A Christmas Story Live!, The Theatre Factory and Bricolage Production Company are serving up their own unique versions of Ralphie Parker’s hilarious coming of age tale.

Rather than taking a cue from the broader elements of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s A Christmas Story, the Musical, both The Theatre Factory and Bricolage are using Philip Grecian’s straight play adaptation of the 1983 movie (itself an adaptation of Jean Sheperd’s semi-autobiographical short stories) as their source text. All versions of A Christmas Story center around nine year old Ralphie Parker’s relentless quest for what he sees as the ultimate Christmas present, a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. He faces nightmarish pink bunny pajamas, disapproving parents, and disappointing mall Santas along the way, but no obstacle is more persistent than the warning that upon receiving his coveted BB gun he will “shoot his eye out”.

cache_899459874Catherine Kolos is directing The Theatre Factory’s staging of A Christmas Story while Bricolage will be presenting their production as an installment of their live radio play series, “Midnight Radio”. Both companies promise to give fans of the property all the moments from the movies they love from the reveal of the leg lamp to the sticky situation with a child’s tongue and freezing cold metal pole.

The Theatre Factory’s A Christmas Story runs from December 7-17. For more information, click here

Bricolage’s Midnight Radio: A Christmas Story runs from December 7-23. For more information, click here.

If you’re looking for a palate cleanser for all the movie-turned-play/musical productions happening in the area, Little Lake Theatre has you covered with their A Tuna Christmas.

TunaChristmasJaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard’s play might not be as well-known as other shows on this list, but A Tuna Christmas does have a rich history in its own right and with Little Lake Theatre specifically. The show is the second in a trilogy of plays about the fictional town of Tuna, Texas.  For the citizens of Tuna, the holiday season marks the return of their annual Christmas Yard Display Contest. A mysterious vandal known as the “Christmas Phantom” aims to thwart Vera Carp’s 14-year winning streak and ruin the contest for everyone involved. The real twist of A Tuna Christmas is that those characters and a host of others, including everything from a DJ to an aspiring taxidermist to a UFOlogist, are played by only two people.

This raucous comedy is making its return to Little Lake Theatre after several successful engagements in the past. It’s living proof that Christmas classics don’t just live on our television and movie screens.

A Tuna Christmas plays at Little Lake Theatre from November 30 through December 2 and December 7-9 and 14-16. For more information, click here.

002026edbc72d33b4ffddc3b85e9c322_750x600Our fifth theatre recommendation for the Christmas season is, you guessed it, an adaptation of a movie. It’s probably the most famous Christmas story not written by Charles Dickens. It’s being put on at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. It’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story “The Greatest Gift” inspired Frank Capra’s 1946 movie version of It’s a Wonderful Life, which in turn used George Bailey’s existential crisis to inspire people around the world to be thankful for all that we’re given and all that we give.

When George contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve after a day of mounting frustration with his business and family, a guardian angel by the name of Clarence Odbody intervenes. After seeing proof that George is a good person who has been helping people his entire life, Clarence, at George’s request, shows George what the world would be like if he never existed. That alternate reality is anything but wonderful, but the poignant lesson that George learns and the reward Clarence receives for helping to teach him that lesson are truly timeless and universal symbols of the season.

It’s a Wonderful Life runs at the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center from December 1-3, 7-10, and 14-17. For more information, click here.

Don’t be a Grinch, please check back with Pittsburgh in the Round throughout the month of December for our coverage of each of these shows! Until then, Happy Holidays!

James and the Giant Peach Jr.

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.

James and his aunts
James and his aunts

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.

James (in vest) and cast members
James (in vest) and cast members

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.

Mary Poppins

21768185_1906329982717356_1116199930238048046_nMary Poppins, a family favorite for decades, came flying into Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center as the opening production to their eleventh season. This combines P.L. Travers’ book series and Walt Disney’s film into one stage musical. It includes all the most renowned musical scores from Disney’s film such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” along with additional scores.

This making is based around the dysfunctional Banks family – primarily the two children: Jane and Michael. After many failed nannies, one answers Jane and Michael’s call and turns the whole house upside down. But despite the abnormality of her, all of them love Mary Poppins as she fixes the family in her own charming way.

Mary Poppins is a fun-filled yet stern nanny. Amanda Gross, who played the titular character, portrayed these two sides by appearing to George (Allan Snyder) and Winifred (Erika Strasburg) Banks as a fitting nanny to the children. Although, when she is alone with the children, the audience learns that she has tricks up her sleeve that win over their hearts. Amanda Gross won over my heart as she efficiently displayed these opposing sides of her role.

untitled (510 of 712)A pleasant addition to this show was the flying effects that were a part of the technical aspects. Mary Poppins is renowned for coming into a scene from the sky with her umbrella in hand. But, it was remarkable to see it onstage! Even Bert, played by Mathew Fedorek, used the flying effects in the song “Step in Time.” Fedorek’s use of the suspensions had me holding onto the edge of my seat as he walked up the proscenium of the stage, up to the top, and back down the other side. Praise to Mathew Fedorek for executing that stunt so well.

All the actors and actresses were very well trained in being historically correct within this show. They kept up with a consistent British dialect, since this takes place during the industrial period of England, which was towards the end of the Victorian Era. It helped the audience pick out a sense of place within the show.

The most well-trained actor, though, was the precious little dog, Lily, that the Center casted as Mrs. Lark’s dog, Willoughby. Lily remained still in the arms of whoever was holding her within that moment. She made no noise or signs of struggle each time the audience saw her. Lily was the love of every young child watching.

22221981_1917670534916634_4396336125824043449_nA minor issue I had was with the musical structure itself was the first time “A Spoonful of Sugar” is sung, it takes place in the kitchen and not in the bedroom like it is in the film. The song also happens very abruptly within that kitchen setting. I feel as though it would’ve been more suiting if the writers for the musical would have kept it within the bedroom, instead of changing the scenery.

What I did enjoy about the kitchen scene, though, were the props used within it. Robertson Ay, played by Zane Gagliardi, ends up having a fainting spell before “A Spoonful of Sugar” begins and knocks over hanging pans, destroys china in a pantry, then crashes into a table, splitting it. Shortly after the song, Mary Poppins uses her magic and you see pans float up onto their racks, china and shelving restoring itself to a straight position, and table sliding back into one piece. The technicality behind the breakable but reparable props was a wonder to witness!

I was impressed by the way Gregory Buck, who played Neleus, remained rock-still as a statue during the first park scene. I did not realize he was real until he jumped down from the pedestal. He was graceful as he performed turns, leaps, and the such till he returned to his static pose. Despite all the movement, he remained still the second time around.

22384304_1923869024296785_9059847582351770289_oAs far as choreography goes, almost every song had a dance number to it. Jennifer Verba, Mary Poppins choreographer and Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School’s head of Dance, was the director for these creations. The dancers were poised, elegant, and expressed the song being performed through their feet. The more memorable choreography was during “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

At the ending of the show, Amanda Gross walked over towards the corner of the stage and became suspended once again with the ZFX flying effects and ascended over the audience. It was a fairy-tale sight, seeing her gradually flying over the rows of spectators to the balcony seats with an enormous smile on her face. She eventually was harnessed up, and lifted back down to the stage for the end acknowledgements.

You can see Mary Poppins at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland Pennsylvania from October 13-15 and 20-22. Tickets range from $15, $18, and $20 and can be purchased at lincolnparkarts.org.

Photos courtesy of Zac Cageao and the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center.

Fall Preview 2017

Fall Logo

A Letter from the Editor,

Our dear readers, we’ve made it through another summer season! After 40 reviews and 14 features this summer, we’re ready to dig out our sweaters, put on the kettle and continue to keep you up to date with everything local theater. We’ve got some pretty big things coming up for us in the next three months and we can’t wait to share it with you! In addition to everything in this Preview, we’ll also be giving you the scoop on Bricolage Production Company’s latest Immersive Encounter Dodo , The Pittsburgh Playwrights upcoming season, checking in with off the WALL, and  giving you Part 3 of our coverage of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival.

There is plenty to keep us busy this fall and we don’t want you to miss a thing! We would love to hear from our readers and follow along with your autumn theater adventures so keep in touch with us on our FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Email List and by using the hashtag #FallwithPITR.

If your theater or business would like to feature any advertising on the website for any of the upcoming content this busy season, don’t forget to reserve your spot well in advance! Please don’t hesitate to contact us at about rates and packages at info@pghintheround.com.

Here’s to looking forward to another busy Fall season,

Mara E. Nadolski
Editor in Chief, Pittsburgh in the Round


 

Let’s start off with our Top 5 productions we’re looking forward to this Fall!

quiet#5: All Quiet on the Western Front – Prime Stage: Prime Stage Theatre is known for their productions of shows adapted from literature and this season opener holds true to their nature. Prime Stage honors veterans and those serving our country by partnering with Soldiers and Sailors Hall for this US premiere of the classic World War I novel by Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front opens at the New Hazlett Theatre November 4.

Tickets and more information can be found here. 

rj-431x500#4: Romeo and Juliet – PICT Classic Theatre: After bringing us productions of Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice in previous seasons, PICT is taking on one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies this season with their 100th show! The classic tale of two star-crossed lovers and their clashing families comes to life in a new location at the famous Fred Rogers Studio at WQED in Oakland. PICT has chosen the 1930’s in New York’s Little Italy as the setting for this rendition of Romeo and Juliet which officially opens Saturday, October 21st. For tickets and more information click here. 

Attack Theatre's presentation of "Assemble This" at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh. © Martha Rial 2/17/2010

#3: Some Assembly Required – Attack Theatre: In their 23rd season opener, Attack Theatre will be performing another round of original performances in their second production of Some Assembly Required. In this unique series, dancers tow the line between dancing, visual art, music, and even a bit of improv. This show requires input from the audience as to where the performance will go next, thus creating unique  performances with each show. Some Assembly Required opens at Contemporary Craft in the Strip District September 21. Tickets and more information can be found here.

DODO-1-880x420#2: Dodo – Bricolage Production Company: Bricolage’s latest immersive theatre adventure partners with the Carnegie Nexus initiative to bring us a sensory-based experience that brings together art and science while exploring public spaces. Held in the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History in Oakland, adventurers will embark on an experience that navigates through behind-the-scenes areas normally off limits to traditional museum visitors! Adventures being October 13 – find more information here. 

21055136_10155550641940797_7827704986490740316_o#1: Unhinged – Cup-a-Jo Productions: On the heels of their production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf inside an actual home, Fringe Festival veterans Cup-a-Jo brings us a new undertaking with Unhinged. Part haunted house, part immersive experience, the highly experimental project promises to have something for everyone. Unhinged starts performances October 13 in an empty bowling alley in Etna. Cup-a-Jo advises we keep a close eye on their Facebook page for ticket links and performance updates.

Next stop on your Fall Preview tour is 5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Fall, click here to learn more!

Mark Clayton Southers brings a little history into the mix with his one-act play The Homestead Strike of 1892 in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the clash between steelworkers and mill owners, opening September 15. Find out more in Yvonne’s article here. 

The New Hazlett Theatre will be starting up their 4th Community Supported Art Performance Series on October 26! See what they’re up to this season here. 

The Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Artistic Director Ted Pappas will be starting his final season there this year. Yvonne sat down with him to get the scoop on what he’s envisioning this season! Click here to read more!

Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks is at it again this year with Henry V, find out more about their 13th season here. 

Quantum Theatre may be in the middle of their run of Red Hills but how much do you know about Rachel Stevens, the director of their next production The Hard Problem? Check out our latest installment of our Artist Spotlight series here. 

See what else the Steel City has to offer this year with a few season previews of City Theatre from Brian, the Pittsburgh Opera from George, and the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center from our High School Correspondent Emily!

The Pittsburgh New Works Festival is already in full swing, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this year’s preview with Part 3 coming soon!

In case you missed it, check out our 2017 Collegiate Preview too!

We were pretty busy this summer, you might have missed a show or two. Don’t worry, here are some highlights from Summer 2017:

Annie at the Paliside Playhouse

Big Fish by Front Porch Theatricals

Cloud 9  by Throughline Theatre Company

Little Shop of Horrors at Comtra Theatre

Mr. Burns by 12 Peers Theater

Spamalot at Stage  62

Avenue Q by the Alumni Theatre Company

The Liar  by Kinetic Theatre

Seussical the Musical at the Apple Hill Playhouse

Pippin at The Theatre Factory

One Man, Two Guvnors at Little Lake Theatre

Sweeney Todd by the Pittsburgh Festival Opera

Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center Dreams Bigger

1916154_1277051875645173_4367323203200371281_nFor their 11th year of performances, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center is introducing their 2017-2018 season – “Dream Bigger,” beginning on October 6, 2017, through June 24, 2018. This season is unlike any theatre or shows they produce. Apart from the plays and musicals, there will be two ballets performed. During the construction of the LPP Arts Center and Charter School in Midland, the town coined the “Build the Dream.” After that dream was built, and 11 years since, the Center is now expanding their dream in this season.

Justin Fortunato, the artistic director of the Center, is the creative mind behind this season. He chose each of the 8 shows that encompass the theme of “Dream Bigger.” “From a flying nanny helping a family in need to the American dream, to dreaming about one’s impact on the world, this season challenges us to push our perceptions of what is possible. Lincoln Park as an organization is also growing and developing based on the dreams that were dreamt a little over a decade ago when it was created,” Said Justin Fortunato.

A special component of the Center is that the students from the accompanying Charter School are encouraged to audition for these productions. Anyone with the passion to sing, act, and/or dance is more than welcome to audition. From students to resident artists, professionals, and even teachers – all are welcome to perform.

Mary-Poppins-iconThe season will kick off with everyone’s beloved nanny in Mary Poppins from October 6-8, 13-15, and 20-22. This production will feature spectacular flying illusions and amazing costumes. Based on the original book by P.L. Travers, featuring songs from the Walt Disney film, this is a magical and ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ way to start a bigger dream.

James-Peach-iconFrom November 10-12 and 17-19, audiences can embark on a journey traveling in and over-sized fruit in James and the Giant Peach Jr. This will be Lincoln Park’s third junior production. It will mostly feature a younger casting, with middle school students and below. Based on Roald Dahl’s novel, you can join a young boy, an insect, and their gargantuan juicy vessel.

Wonderful-Life-iconLincoln Park will begin their holiday cheer with It’s A Wonderful Life December 1-3 and 8-10. Inspired by Frank Capra’s film. Sticking with the season’s theme, the story follows a man, George Bailey, who is always chasing a dream just out of reach.  He then meets his guardian angel, who puts him in a dreamlike state, or nightmare, so that he can see what life would be like had he never been born.  This American classic has love, tragedy and plenty of laughs, and is a great way to start the winter holiday.

Nutcracker-iconThe Nutcracker concludes the holiday season from December 14-17. Performed by Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School’s own dance students, this combines Tchaikovsky’s famous melodic pieces and E.T.A Hoffman’s story. Featuring over 50 high school dancers, this performance will have the audience dreaming of sugarplums.

Great-Gatsby-iconBased on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novella, The Great Gatsby will be performed from February 16-18 and 23-25. In this haunting rendition, audiences follow Nick Carroway when he meets Jay Gatsby. Carroway eventually learns of Gatsby’s obsession with the gorgeous girl next door.

Another performance by Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School will grace the stage with Sleeping Beauty Dance Upon A Dream. This classic tale will leave anyone awake and breathless from March 16-18 and 23-25.

Big-Fish-iconRight from Broadway on April 20-22, 27-29, and May 4-6, Lincoln Park presents Big Fish. One of Lincoln Park’s most technically ambitious shows performed, this production is about family and adventure. From Daniel Wallace’s acclaimed novel and Tim Burton’s film rendition, the show focuses on Edward Bloom, a traveling salesman with extraordinary tales. But when his son, Will, is going to have a son of his own, he tries to sort out his father’s tall tales.

Ragtime-iconLincoln Park’s 2017-2018 “Dream Bigger” season ends with Ragtime the Musical. During the high-time of the melting pot that is New York, this show features three different kinds of families: an upper-class wife, a Jewish immigrant, and a Harlem musician as they face the challenges during that time. This will be performed June 15-17 and 22-24.

 

“I look forward to seeing our young aspiring artists – our students – doing what they love and all of the talent, energy, and enthusiasm they bring to each and every performance!” Said Stephen Catanzarite, who helped with the marketing and promotion of the series, about this upcoming season. Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center’s hometown of Midland waited anxiously for the dream to be built. Now that it is, they are making the theatre world, and student’s dreams bigger with this season. “I look forward to opening our season on October 6 with Mary Poppins and continuing through June 24, 2018 with Ragtime. This season is full of beautiful moments, and programming for the entire family!”

 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

HunchbackLincoln Park Performing Arts Center’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a darker version than the Disney classic that will send you on a rollercoaster of emotions. The musical featured an outstanding addition of a thirty-person choir above the stage, and seventeen-piece orchestra in the pit.

This musical is the conclusion to the Center’s ten-year celebration. Justin Fortunato, a new artistic producer who has been there for two years, brought a new air of creativity to the theater. He has pushed the boundaries and brought on more risqué and adventurous musicals/plays to the stage.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is about a young bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who is a deformed hunchback that has been secluded in the bell tower of a church in Notre Dame. He longs to go outside from his sanctuary and interact with others. But when he finally gets the chance, the people were crazed at his hideousness – except a gypsy called Esmeralda. Esmeralda captures the heart of Quasimodo, along with the archdeacon of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo, and a returning soldier, Phoebus. The admiration of this girl is what drives this tragic story.

Zachary as Quasimodo
Zachary  Medola as Quasimodo

An amazing part of the final portion of the introductory number, “The Bells of Notre Dame” was LPPAC student Zachary Mendola walked out on stage in just an undershirt and pants. He smeared black paint across the side of his face and transformed into Quasimodo right before our eyes! We saw as he put on the hunch and threw a green cloak over himself, turning from an ordinary man to a hideous monster. In the song, they give the audience a riddle saying, “What makes a monster and what makes a man?” which is revisited later in the musical.

I give special kudos to Mendola in his role as Quasimodo. In the more startling fragments, such as the whipping or when Esmeralda died, Quasimodo cried. But Mendola had me believe that he himself was crying, not just the character. Quasimodo is a hard-hitting character to play. The actor must go through losing their incorruptibility in the most disturbing of ways, all-the-while having to act less-human.

Esmeralda, played by Annemarie Rosano, is the driving force in this whole story. She is what makes Frollo, Quasimodo, and Phoebus dynamic characters. Rosano did a wonderful job at displaying Esmeralda’s innocence and how she wanted to fit in, too. Her singing through Esmeralda contained the strength and independence that the character possessed.

Annamarie Rosano as Esmarelda
Annemarie Rosano as Esmeralda

Although the character of Esmeralda has some virtue, she is also a gypsy, and gypsies can tend to be seductive. The other gypsies along the side did good work with this characteristic – the swaying of the hips and pulling the men in. But, I would have liked to see Rosano go a little further. I would have liked to see her fall into the rhythm of the music and let her body sway with it.

From the start, you could see the submissive relationship Quasimodo had with his uncle/master, Dom Claude Frollo (Tim Hartman). Hartman did a splendid job with portraying Frollo’s holy yet sinful demeanor. His song, “Hellfire,” truly chilled my bones. Very clearly, you could see how Hartman made apparent the spontaneous change in Frollo’s manner, abusing his power saying that he would hunt down Esmeralda for her committing witchcraft. When Frollo asked for forgiveness of both him and Esmeralda, Hartman really expressed how Frollo can feel guilt for his actions, and that there may be some sense of a man in him. Hartman did an exceptional work at showing Frollo’s split feelings with his duties with God, and love for Esmeralda.

unnamedA moment that trapped me was when Hartman and Rosano were in the prison cell together: Frollo gave her one last chance to save herself and be with him. At a point, Frollo flung himself onto Esmeralda and screamed at her to love him. Hartman very much portrayed the desperateness Frollo felt towards Esmeralda, driving him mad.

Phoebus, played by David M. Toole, hit the classic “frat boy” appeal to this character. Regardless of Phoebus’s troubled past, he seemed more interested in playing around with the gypsies. It would have been interesting to see more of his disturbed war background affecting him. We see a moment of this during “Rest and Recreation,” but never again. It could have added an even profounder depth to this character if that past was brought through a bit more.

Midway through the first act, the song “On Top of the World” the cast cleverly used foam railings to represent the balcony of the church, and later prison doors and the streets of Paris in other songs. It was a great use of limited props to extend the imagination of the audience.

It was astounding how the actors and actresses altered into other characters by changing their costumes right on stage. Either by throwing on a cloak or taking off a small piece of garment. The gargoyles, though, could have been a bit further realistic. The actors and actresses still wore their townspeople attire but added on a light gray shawl over their shoulders. There could have more elaboration, such as horns or wings, or even make-up.

An absolute favorite part of mine was when Quasimodo carried Esmeralda and placed her on the ground. The townspeople flanked the sides of the stage and imitated the actor at the beginning when he distorted into Quasimodo: pretending to smear their face with paint then contorting their bodies. Some may have seen it as imitation, but I saw it as a sign of respect and admiration for the creature that was finally being a man.

You can see The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, Pennsylvania from June 23-25. Tickets range from $15, $18, and $20 and can be purchased online at lincolnparkarts.org.

Special thanks to the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center for complimentary press tickets. Photos courtesy of LPPAC