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