Equus

equusWhodunnit? This question has been posed to audiences for centuries of storytelling. Whether it’s a murder mystery or a comedic caper, there’s nothing better than finding out the truth by the journey’s end.

With his Tony Award-winning 1973 play, Peter Shaffer presents an intriguing variation on the genre. Equus is a chilling whydunnit that delves deep into the troubled mind of a man delving deep into the troubled mind of a teenage boy.

With its paramount production of Shaffer’s modern classic, Pittsburgh Public Theater gallops into its 43rd season with the force of a thousand charging stallions.

Holding the reins as director here is, of course, Pittsburgh Public’s artistic director Ted Pappas. Much to heartbreak of many local theatregoers, this season marks his last with the company. Luckily, Equus is a high note in Pappas’s PPT swan song. He delivers a perfectly paced and deliberately acted two hour and twenty minute evening in the theater.

Like any whodunnit, Equus opens with characters learning of a horrific crime. Like any whydunnit, the culprit’s identity is known to all from the beginning.

Spencer T. Hamp as Alan and Daniel Krell as Dr. Martin Dysart
Spencer T. Hamp as Alan and Daniel Krell as Dr. Martin Dysart

Psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Daniel Krell) speaks directly to the audience about a case that has come across his radar. In a fit of mania, seventeen year old Alan Strang (Spencer T. Hamp) brutally blinds six horses with a metal spike. Dysart’s discussion of the Strang case is no longer abstract when court magistrate Hesther Salomon (the always compelling Lisa Velten Smith) basically drops the boy on Dysart’s doorstep.

In an effort to discover the method behind Alan’s madness, Martin turns to Alan’s parents, Frank (Timothy Carter) and Dora (Nancy McNulty). Martin quickly unearths Frank’s utter intolerance for the religion that Dora constantly thrusts upon Alan and the damage it has done to Alan’s mental state. After resisting for a while, Alan too opens up about his first real life experience with a horse outside of staring into the eye of the horse on the poster his dad gives him to replace one depicting Jesus’s crucifixion.

The experience of riding a stranger’s horse was transcendent for Alan and the start of his journey down an increasingly dark path. We learn that Alan meets a young woman named Jill (Jessie Wray Goodman), who works at a local stable and offers Alan a job there. Their instant attraction sparks something in Alan that brings his obsession with horses and his carnal desires to their inevitable violent conclusion.

Before you pick up the phone to call PETA, know that there were no horses harmed in this production of Equus.

The animals are portrayed by a sextet of strapping male actors (including Ben Blazer playing Nugget, Alan’s favorite horse) wearing elaborate foot and headpieces realized by costume designer Tilly Grimes. Pappas beautifully balances the pageantry of the horses’ many thrilling entrances with the grotesqueness of Alan’s twisted relationships with them.

Spencer T. Hamp as Alan and Ben Blazer as the horse, Nugget
Spencer T. Hamp as Alan and Ben Blazer as the horse, Nugget

The psychological cat and mouse game between Alan and Martin is made all the more exhilarating by the fact that, at any given moment, it is unclear who is the cat and who is the mouse. Pappas ratchets up the tension and finds tremendous meaning in the play’s gray areas. He pushes his audience and his actors to their very limits.

Equus is probably most famous for the 2007 Broadway production featuring Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to find discussion of Radcliffe’s performance in the show than it is to find discussion and photographic evidence of Radcliffe’s nude scene in the production. While that scene is pivotal to the show and, in this production in particular, spellbinding to behold, it shouldn’t distract from the incredible amount of work that the actor playing Alan must put in before then to make that scene land.

It certainly does not distract from Hamp’s beguiling work because he is laid bare before the audience long before he removes his clothing. His Alan is a horrifying reminder of what can happen when parents attempt to craft their children’s minds in their own image. Carter and McNulty have separate vicious moments with Hamp, but their anguish in their roles as confused parents is unmistakably sympathetic.

Hamp fills the stage (an elegant metaphor for the industrial, prison-like recesses of Alan’s and Martin’s minds created by scenic designer James Noone) whether he’s in the fetal position under a blanket in the corner or commanding center stage riding high on Nugget’s back.

At times, it feels like Martin Dysart is the audience’s patient. A lot about Martin’s personal life and nightmares are revealed via monologue, but Krell very effectively uses the silences between them divulge the most about his complicated character. It is a tour de force role and he delivers a truly tour de force performance to match.

I left the O’Reilly Theater an even bigger fan of Equus than I was when I went in. It is a play that is relevant not because its subject matter is ripped from the headlines but because the various characters’ searches for deeper meaning in life and its ugliness resonate.

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production (literally for me) brought that point home. It’s no Trojan horse, it’s the real deal.

Equus plays at the O’Reilly Theater through October 29th. For more information, click here.

Photos by Michael Henninger

Ted Pappas’ Grand Finale at PPT

Tedheadshot (1)“I’m kind of crazy about this season,” says Ted Pappas of his 2017-18 programming for Pittsburgh Public Theater.

The company’s 43rd season is also his last as artistic director. Pappas aims to provide audiences with a journey of infinite variety and imaginative vision. His selections are consistent with the wonderfully balanced array of plays and musicals he has programmed at PPT for more than two decades. What’s his formula?

“It’s a simple bit of chemistry,” says Pappas. “I produce the way I like to attend.”

Pappas is simply celebrating playwrights, directors, and actors he loves for his own finale season.

“I made it extra special for me, the directors, and I hope for the audience.” He’s also providing some terrific roles of the actors who will appear at the O’Reilly Theater stage beginning Sept. 28 and through July 1, 2018.

His tenure is a run of substantive programming that is at once entertaining and thought-provoking. While Pappas loves both directing and choreographing (as he will again for PPT’s annual musical), he has a knack for crafting a season with broad appeal and inroads for even the youngest or newest theater goers.

Audiences members will move from the deepest regions of the human psyche to the peak of musical theater frivolity. Along the way, patrons will meet Vietnam hero, an American family at a holiday dinner, an unlikely couple, and some very silly Shakespeareans.

The first productions are all works that Pappas considers as three of the most acclaimed works in theater–all Tony winners for Best Play, presented “back-to-back”. They are followed by “three very special projects” that also reflect PPT’s range. These six major productions are complemented by a solo show with undeniable Pittsburgh roots.

equus“Each of the plays is a blockbuster and all are monumental,” says Pappas.

Pappas was thrilled at PPT’s popular run of Shaffer’s Amadeus, so to open the season he revisited the British playwright as Equus “speaks passionately to the transformative power of the theater…and engages the audience In such a visceral way.”

Decades before the innovations of War Horse, Peter Shaffer’s Equus (1973) called on actors to portrays horses that are central to the plot’s central incident. The compelling psychological mystery connects a disturbed stable boy’s violence and a curious psychiatrist. Pappas praises “the extravaganza Shaffer demands of the director and designers.”

In his 29th PPT appearance, Daniel Krell portrays Dr. Martin Dysart. Pappas says he chose Equus “especially for Dan” but also as the play “epitomizes the team work we’ve built over the decades.” Six men in sculpted metal heads and hooves portray the horses in a cast of 14 in Equus, running Sept. 28-Oct. 29.

humansFor this season, Pappas also observes that “the new plays seem to balance the comedy and serious so well.” This quality is a hallmark of playwright Stephen Karam’s work which includes The Humans, Tony winner for 2016 best play (and finalist for a 2106 Pulitzer Prize).

The play is bound to conjure some beloved yet uneasy family gatherings for audience members during its Nov. 9-Dec. 10 run. Pappas says it may seem like many family members are part of this play and admits the pre-holiday timing is fun.

A Brooklyn couple hosts Thanksgiving for family members from back home in Scranton, PA (the playwright’s own hometown). All the neuroses and doubt swirling around dinner tables today provide alternately comic and dramatic moments. Karman’s script has been praised for its honest realism and wit–qualities Pappas couldn’t resist.

He also knew the script was a strong match for director Pamela Berlin. She returns for her 11th production with PPT, having staged Clybourne Park, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Between Riverside and Crazy.

Pappas, who considers The Diary of Anne Frank “a very significant production for the company”, emphasizes that Berlin “attracts great designers and actors”. PPT is one of the first companies to stage The Humans following its Broadway success.

Layout 1And, no, Rocky Bleier didn’t have to “fight back” for another run of his solo show The Play at PPT; Pappas was eager to invite the Steelers legend to again “star in his own story”, Dec. 28-Jan. 6. He gleeful admits most any Steeler fan would love tickets for one of Bleier’s nine performances, calling The Play “a great night out and I’ve done your Christmas shopping for you!”

Layout 1In 2018, Pappas will both stage and choreograph A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a timely and infectious comedy that weaves all things classical with hysterical situations.

He directed Forum in PPT’s pre-Cultural District days two decades ago at the Hazlett Theater.

“In a way, it’s a ‘thank you’ from me to the company for allowing me to be part of the company for the past 20 years.” Pappas promises “a new production of a musical that is both funny and great to look at…frisky and delightful.” Forum plays Jan. 25-Feb. 25.

Layout 1City Theatre’s most recent artistic director Tracy Brigden returns to direct Heisenberg, her fourth PPT production and a director Pappas is “just crazy about.”

Heinsenberg was a surprise hit about a woman who falls for an older man after a chance meeting. Pappas saw the show and “got the rights while it was still on Broadway. I predict it will one of the most produced plays in American over the next two to three years” says Pappas. The title alludes to the physics of attraction in this two-character play by Simon Stephen whose work includes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Heisenberg is on stage March 8- April 8.

Layout 1Pappas has produced Shakespeare about every other season with a balance of comedies and tragedies. Along with Equus, Hamlet was still on Pappas wish list of future productions. He describes his final production as “a classic production and beautifully designed”, running April 19-May 20.

Once more, student matinees will bring young people to each of PPT’s offerings during additional matinees. Pappas considers students “the future of theater and our country.”

“We don’t believe in dismissing the potential of student audiences. They will see all of our plays. Student performances of Hamlet are already selling out,” says Pappas. “We create the audience of the future through these plays.”

abridgedAnd a fun finale to the whole season is the return of the Reduced Shakespeare company in their Will’s Long Lost First Play (abridged), May 31-July 1. What should we expect? What could possibly go wrong? Pappas says “pandemonium on stage at the OReilly!”

Pappas considers the Public as “one of my favorite audiences and theaters” but the season he’s created will demand much of him.

“I’d like to go out with a little bit of fireworks, Pappas says. “My hope is to hand off the company in a top condition.

“I’m taking my vitamins.”

About Season and Ticket Options

Each of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s six main productions run about four weeks, with The Play having only nine performance dates. Single tickets starting at $30 are on sale September 5 with some popular subscriber dates already listing limited seating. A wide range of tickets options including flex packages of just three shows as well as group and other discounts, including 70% savings for students and anyone 26 or under. Tips: Take the time to explore PPT’s ticket info for interesting options and events such as post-show talk backs. You might want to some varied seating in the 650-seat O’Reilly throughout the season. Most any seats closest to the stage (regardless of price or seat level) afford some interesting perspectives. Visit online at: ppt.org

An Act of God

18673220_10154590149738388_3679876666088007479_oCommandment 11: Thou shalt buy tickets to this show.

I wouldn’t expect God to toot His own horn, especially when he has Gabriel around to do it for Him, but He was remiss in omitting that mandate from the list of laws He delivers from on high in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s miraculous mounting of An Act of God. I was enraptured from its thunderous genesis to its rollicking revelations and left praying for more.

This play is the gospel according to author David Javerbaum. The 13-time Emmy winning writer has a résumé that should have earned him an honorary doctorate in comedy by now. Most of Javerbaum’s acclaim stems from his long stint as head writer on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but his memorable work as a lyricist—for musicals including Cry-Baby—is also highly lauded. As a solo author, he has penned two books, the most recent of which serves as the basis for this 2015 one-act.

If that novel’s title The Last Testament: A Memoir by God doesn’t prepare you for the glory in store at the O’Reilly, I’ll do my best to paint the picture of a god that refers to Himself not only as jealous but also as a racist, sexist mass-murderer.

(left to right) John Shepard, Marcus Stevens and Tim McGeever
(left to right) John Shepard, Marcus Stevens and Tim McGeever

With a little help from His archangels Gabriel and Michael, God reflects on His infinite history and the small portion of it He has spent creating and recreating the universe we call home. Via a revised slab of Ten Commandments (handsomely projected on Michael Schweikardt’s razzle dazzle set that literally leaves you on Cloud 9) paired with surprising anecdotes that allude to God’s darker motivations, The Bible is largely and amusingly debunked as religious fan fiction.  

Fully aware of the fact that His facetiousness might be considered heresy to some, God even “takes questions” from the audience during His holy TED Talk. When God lays down His final judgment, it’s impossible to know if the world is saved or doomed but also impossible to deny that this small corner of it is entertained.

I value cleverness in a script above nearly all other virtues, and An Act of God is brimming with it. Rather than settling for just turning ancient Bible stories inside out, the play sets out to ground them in modern sociopolitical contexts.

Perhaps the most gut-busting and astute monologue of the show recasts Eve as Adam’s gay lover Steve. Steve’s sampling of the forbidden fruit is the first domino in the long legacy of homophobia and self-loathing we know all too well today. I was impressed at how skillfully the play balanced being sophisticated and preposterous at times while remaining relatable.

It’s an even stranger feat to craft what is basically a one-person show with three actors, but Javerbaum has conquered the task with ease.

Using Emmy-winning sitcom superstars like Sean Hayes and Jim Parsons to deliver His testimony has been God’s wont for previous Broadway productions of this show, but it’s truly a blessing that He’s chosen “Forbidden Broadway star and beloved Pittsburgh actor” Marcus Stevens as His vessel for this engagement.  

PPTActOfGod002There is no limit—not the sky, nor the heavens—to his likability and versatility. His poor wrath-management skills will leave you quivering in your seat even as that trademark grin spreads across his face. When God smites His most inquisitive angel Michael or delivers a cheesy pun, Stevens receives a huge and hilarious assist from sound designer Zach Moore.

Stevens’ “offbeat charm” is necessary to guide the show through some of its cringe-worthy topical mad lib references to notorious figures including  Bill Cosby, Caitlyn Jenner, and Kanye West. Discussing the sacrifice of his middle child Jesus Christ brings up an unexpected amount of emotion for Stevens’ God and the audience witnessing that rare quiet moment of contemplation.  

Rounding out the trinity—decked out in Valerie M. Webster’s pearly white suits and wings—are Stevens’ silver-haired sidekicks Tim McGeever (Michael) and John Shepard (Gabriel). Javerbaum’s late night talk show roots reveal themselves in the way he utilizes these two characters.

Shepard is divinely droll as God’s in-studio co-host, always backing him up with a Bible verse and supportive gesture. McGeever zips all around the theater displaying the strong improv chops and sarcastic appeal inherent in any successful field correspondent.

God and his wingmen are tons of fun, but the real king of the universe here is director Ted Pappas. He works in mysterious and magical ways ensuring that the pace doesn’t drag for one moment. Simply by placing Stevens in various positions in relation to a white sofa, he transforms it into a therapist’s couch, a majestic throne, and the rock from behind which the serpent slithers in the Garden of Eden.  

Whether it’s comedy, drama, classical, or contemporary, you can always count on Pappas to lucidly portray characters and events with tremendous flair. It may have taken God six days to create paradise, but for Pappas and his disciples, it took only 90 minutes.

An Act of God plays at the O’Reilly Theater through July 2nd. For more information, click here

Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Public Theater for complimentary press tickets. Photos by Michael Henninger.

 

PITR’s Top 5 Picks for Summer 2017

Let’s dive right into our Top 5 shows we’re looking forward to this summer!

Marcus Stevens (2)#5 – An Act of God – Pittsburgh Public Theater: A relatively new play, premiering on Broadway in 2015, An Act of God is a one-act comedy that originally started out as a series of tweets that evolved into the book of which the play was adapted from. Point Park University graduate Marcus Stevens plays God, joined by his sidekicks: angels Gabriel and Michael (John Shepard and Tim McGeever), in this comedy opening at the Pittsburgh Public June 9. For tickets and more information click here. 

#4 – Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play – 12 Peers Theater: Once you catch 12 Peer’s current production of Thom Pain: Based on Mr. Burns ImageNothing starring Pittsburgh’s own Matt Henderson, we’re sure you’ll be itching to see what else they have to offer. Opening August 3, Mr. Burns shoots us some years into the future after the apocalypse where we meet a handful of survivors trying to recreate a particular episode of “The Simpsons”. Fast forwarding into the future for Act 2, and even further for Act 3,  these reenactments become main forms of entertainment and eventually myths decades later. For tickets and more information, click here. 

#3 – Hot Metal Musicals – Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh (MTAP):Since Email-Blast-Image-c.PG-Web1-copyits creation, MTAP has set out to help create and promote new musicals and the artists creating them in Pittsburgh. The incubator was established in 2011 by Erik Schark and is now currently led by executive director Stephanie Riso, managing director Jeanne Drennan, and advisor Steve Cuden. The first Hot Metal Musicals showcase in 2015 was one of our first major events of that year, and after seeing the talents Pittsburgh had to offer then, we’re sure this year’s showcase on July 17 will knock our socks off. For tickets and more information click here. 

#2 – Momentum Festival – City Theatre Company: City Theatre, known as yt17-momentum-featurePittsburgh’s home for new plays, delivers on their promise to keep things fresh and new again this year by finishing out their season with their annual page-to-stage festival: Momentum. Featuring 5 different staged readings, this year’s lineup will include not one, but two shows in progress that will be fully produced in their 2017-2018 season. Hop in for a meet and greet and a staged reading this weekend starting June 1! For more information, click here!

18556456_10155486793559873_589745343035013449_o#1 – WordPlay – Bricolage Production Company: Sure, for the second year in a row, we’ve named Bricolage’s storytelling show WordPlay the #1 show we’re looking forward to this summer. But this time, WordPlay is no ordinary WordPlay. This time, Bricolage as team up with PERSAD CENTER, the nation’s second oldest licensed mental health counseling center specifically created to serve the LGBTQ community. Featuring tunes by Tracksploitation and stories by Nyri Bakkalian, Brian Broome, Cindy Howes, kelly e. parker and Ciora Thomas. And, as usual, hosted by Creator and Co-Producer Alan Olifson. Don’t miss out on this special edition WordPlay this weekend, starting June 2. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Summer Preview 2017

Summer Logo

A Letter from the Editor,

I would like to wish a happy unofficial start of summer to our marvelous readers! Because of you, we made it through another year here at Pittsburgh in the Round! As a special treat, we’ve put together one of our best season previews yet, including updates from old friends like MTAP and the Pittsburgh CLO, new friends like Split Stage Productions, and not one, but two Artist Spotlights!

Summertime is one of the busiest times of year for the Pittsburgh theater community, making it one of the busiest seasons for us here at Pittsburgh in the Round. There will be no shortage of reviews and articles and you may even see a few PITR exclusives!

With the release of this Summer Preview 2017, we’d also like to announce our latest Site Sponsor, the newly renamed Pittsburgh Festival Opera (formerly the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh). To find out more about their upcoming season, keep scrolling! If you or your theater or business would like to be featured in any of our advertising spots, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@pghintheround.com!

Our team here keeps on growing so we’ll have plenty of content to keep you busy this summer. We would love to take this opportunity to thank all of you who continue to read the content we work so hard to bring you, engage with us on social media, and support all of these local theaters and companies that help the arts grow and thrive in Pittsburgh.

Here’s to another great summer,

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


Let’s dive right into our Top 5 shows we’re looking forward to this summer!

Marcus Stevens (2)#5 – An Act of God – Pittsburgh Public Theater: A relatively new play, premiering on Broadway in 2015, An Act of God is a one-act comedy that originally started out as a series of tweets that evolved into the book of which the play was adapted from. Point Park University graduate Marcus Stevens plays God, joined by his sidekicks: angels Gabriel and Michael (John Shepard and Tim McGeever), in this comedy opening at the Pittsburgh Public June 9. For tickets and more information click here. 

#4 – Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play – 12 Peers Theater: Once you catch 12 Peer’s current production of Thom Pain: Based on Mr. Burns ImageNothing starring Pittsburgh’s own Matt Henderson, we’re sure you’ll be itching to see what else they have to offer. Opening August 3, Mr. Burns shoots us some years into the future after the apocalypse where we meet a handful of survivors trying to recreate a particular episode of “The Simpsons”. Fast forwarding into the future for Act 2, and even further for Act 3,  these reenactments become main forms of entertainment and eventually myths decades later. For tickets and more information, click here. 

#3 – Hot Metal Musicals – Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh (MTAP): Since Email-Blast-Image-c.PG-Web1-copyits creation, MTAP has set out to help create and promote new musicals and the artists creating them in Pittsburgh. The incubator was established in 2011 by Erik Schark and is now currently led by executive director Stephanie Riso, managing director Jeanne Drennan, and advisor Steve Cuden. The first Hot Metal Musicals showcase in 2015 was one of our first major events of that year, and after seeing the talents Pittsburgh had to offer then, we’re sure this year’s showcase on July 17 will knock our socks off. For tickets and more information click here. 

#2 – Momentum Festival – City Theatre Company: City Theatre, known as yt17-momentum-featurePittsburgh’s home for new plays, delivers on their promise to keep things fresh and new again this year by finishing out their season with their annual page-to-stage festival: Momentum. Featuring 5 different staged readings, this year’s lineup will include not one, but two shows in progress that will be fully produced in their 2017-2018 season. Hop in for a meet and greet and a staged reading this weekend starting June 1! For more information, click here!

18556456_10155486793559873_589745343035013449_o#1 – WordPlay – Bricolage Production Company: Sure, for the second year in a row, we’ve named Bricolage’s storytelling show WordPlay the #1 show we’re looking forward to this summer. But this time, WordPlay is no ordinary WordPlay. This time, Bricolage as team up with PERSAD CENTER, the nation’s second oldest licensed mental health counseling center specifically created to serve the LGBTQ community. Featuring tunes by Tracksploitation and stories by Nyri Bakkalian, Brian Broome, Cindy Howes, kelly e. parker and Ciora Thomas. And, as usual, hosted by Creator and Co-Producer Alan Olifson. Don’t miss out on this special edition WordPlay this weekend, starting June 2. Tickets and more information can be found here

If musicals are more your style, don’t worry, George has our 5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss this Summer here. 

Learn a little more about the people you’ve been hearing about for all these years in our Artist Spotlight series. This time around we’ve got two for you! Get the scoop on costume designer Tony Sirk and musical theater actor Quinn Patrick Shannon. 

Our opera expert George is always a regular at the Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s summer shows so he’s got the inside scoop on their upcoming season hereThey’ve even commissioned a new opera they’ll be debuting this year, Nicole went a step further and got us some more information on the new show A Gathering of Sons. 

Throughline Theatre Company has a new home and a new season to tell us about! Ringa even got a sneak peak on their 3rd show, check it out here

If our Top 5 Musicals article wasn’t enough to meet your musical needs, George caught up with Split Stage Productions and the Pittsburgh CLO!

Kinetic Theatre Company has some fun planned for us this summer and fall, check out Stephen’s preview here. 

In preparation of MTAP’s upcoming Hot Metal Musicals this July, reacquaint yourself with the Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh here. 

And last, but not least, a group of young Pittsburgh artists have come together to produce a cabaret night to showcase female talent in the industry to support Planned Parenthood, find out more here. 


 

Missing something? Here are some review highlights from the last few months!

Watch: A Haunting by Real/Time Interventions

The Philadelphia Story at Little Lake Theatre

La Rondine by Undercroft Opera

Anything Goes at McKeesport Little Theater

Falstaff by Resonance Works

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Prime Stage

Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre

Sive at PICT Classic Theatre

Tarzan by Pittsburgh Musical Theatre

Wife U at Carnegie Mellon Universtiy

The Summer King at the Pittsburgh Opera

What’s Missing?  by Corningworks

4.48 Psychosis at off the WALL

Collaborators by Quantum Theatre

Baltimore at the University of Pittsburgh

Sweet Charity at the Pittsburgh Playhouse

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson by the Duquesne Red Masquers

Who’s Afraid of iVirginia Woolf? by Cup-A-Jo Productions

Artist Spotlight: Quinn Patrick Shannon

db01f92e-d563-432e-a457-b2aa8dc3efc4Is it weird to think that an actor has done it all at only age 31?

Maybe. Still, that’s the impression I got after talking with Quinn Patrick Shannon.

Over the last decade, you’ve likely seen Shannon star in regional shows of all genres in venues of all sizes. It’s also true that his incredible talent is directly proportional to his generosity and work ethic.

Those values were fostered in him at a very young age. Although he grew up in the Pennsylvania suburbs of Washington and Bethel Park, he identifies as a Pittsburgher. Between his father’s work and his mother’s acting career, Quinn’s family spent a lot of time in the city. She co-starred in a musical comedy that literally defined the phrase “back by popular demand”, Nunsense.

His connection to the city actually goes back further than I ever imagined. The Shannon name has a lot of weight when dropped around baby boomers. Quinn’s grandfather was local media legend Paul Shannon. He emceed KDKA’s Dream Weaver and WTAE’s Adventure Time throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Paul Shannon passed away when Quinn was young, but his legacy has followed Quinn ever since. One of Quinn’s Grease cast mates showed him a 50-year old ticket stub from one of his grandfather’s shows. It was only a non-native Pittsburgher like me that confused that classic Adventure Time with the modern Cartoon Network show of the same name.

15068960_10154110007671696_496352613198024282_oI made him chuckle when I suggested that he was part of a performing dynasty, but I think the proof is in the pudding.

Even though it was a “million years ago” his brother was in a production of Peter Pan, Quinn still cites him as his “first and best acting teacher”. When his mother asked him if he wanted to be in shows, he replied with a resounding yes. His career as a child actor kicked off in similar fashion to many kids looking to find work on the Pittsburgh stage.

Three words: A Christmas Carol. At age six, he debuted with Pittsburgh Musical Theater as their first Tiny Tim.

He followed in both his siblings’ footsteps by graduating from Point Park University with a theatre degree. Recently, he revisited his first conservatory credit, Hair, not as an actor among his peers but as a director of teenage members of PMT’s own conservatory. He relished the chance, saying “there’s nothing like kids doing that show”. Rather than burdening his Hair with a Trump-hating agenda, he mounted the show as a thwarted “celebration of youth” and gave into its trippy moments. For Quinn, the job of directing children is twofold: ensuring that the kids learn and keeping their parents happy.

Frequent collaborator Guy Stroman and Pittsburgh Public Theater Artistic Director Ted Pappas have been two influential directors in Quinn’s career.

Stroman’s vast body of work includes originating the role of Frankie in the 1950’s jukebox musical revue Forever Plaid. In 2013, Quinn played Frankie in a pseudo-sequel to that show called Plaid Tidings. That experience was where everything truly “clicked” for him. Realizing that acting was his true calling on this project was a feeling he compares to falling in love. He credits Stroman with teaching him the value of “having a vision” and being meticulous as a director.

Pappas is responsible for casting Quinn in one of his dream roles, Nicely Nicely Johnson in last year’s production of Guys and Dolls.

“That offer was THE offer.”

Joel Hurt Jones (Nathan Detroit), Quinn Patrick Shannon (Nicely Nicely Johnson), Gavan Pamer (Benny Southstreet)
Joel Hurt Jones (Nathan Detroit), Quinn Patrick Shannon (Nicely Nicely Johnson), Gavan Pamer (Benny Southstreet)

He admits that there’s always pressure performing such iconic material but, as an actor, he thrives on it. Performers crave larger stages (Broadway, TV, film) because greater exposure often leads to bigger breaks.

CLO’s Cabaret at Theater Square is certainly not the biggest stage that Pittsburgh offer, but Quinn maintains that it’s the best job in the city. He’s performed there a few times including in the hardest show he’s ever done, The 39 Steps (also directed by Stroman). It’s a slapstick riff on the classic Hitchcock film of the same name in which Quinn portrayed several characters. The secret to succeeding at the Cabaret is building the stamina to perform the frequently extended runs. That involves forging good relationships with the cast and crew, taking care of your body and voice, and not letting the show “get away from you”. More than anything, shows in that setting require focus.

Offstage, Quinn enjoys playing the drums, a 16-year old pastime of his. When he lived in New York City, he was a member of about six different bands. He also wrote and recorded some solo music. It’s been a while since he flexed those muscles, but he’s eager to get back in that arena sometime soon.

This year, he also plans to arrange further readings of an original script he’s been working on with his best friend and roommate. He declined to reveal more about the project, insisting it be (literally) a surprise.

IMG_6894The last time Quinn led a PMT production was in the role of Quasimodo (pictured above) in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This rare chance to carry a show was a “surprisingly special” opportunity for him. Alan Menken’s score definitely took a toll on voice by the end of each show, but it was well worth it.

“When I came out for that last bow, it really meant a lot to me because I’m not going to get a lot of those being a character actor.”

The life of a character actor can be a difficult one spent in the shadows of people who fit the elusive leading man/woman type. If a person sticks it out though, there’s the chance for someone in a supporting or unconventional leading role to eclipse his co-stars and dazzle audiences.

Quinn Patrick Shannon is a proud, self-professed character actor. But, in my eyes, the sum of his charmingly self-effacing nature and positive attitude equal more than that. What his resume and bio won’t tell you is that he is also an actor with character.

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 #SummerwithPITR.

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Death of a Salesman

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It is hard to acknowledge something as profoundly masculine and steeped in caricatures as Arthur Miller’s milestone piece, Death of Salesman could evoke an emotionally unhinged response in me. To clarify, and to be fair, when I categorize the staple play as “masculine,” I in no way intend to demean it’s worth or indicate that texts that are male-centric lack depth or a certain type of emotional adroitness by nature. Rather, Miller’s work on the psychological, financial, physical and familial/relational decay of the central character, Willie Loman, is very specifically and poignantly male—it is one of the few plays that acutely examines and rips apart the subtle defenses (and their violent dissolutions) created by men, especially men within a family dynamic to safeguard against their vulnerabilities in a myriad of realms. It is outstandingly emotionally complex, but not particularly relatable. Indeed, Death of Salesman almost functions like a masculinized Our Town—the two plays exist as relics, not quite archaic, but operating on an emotional planes which are inextricably bound to a time, set of sensibilities, and sense of identity that is not wholly accessible to a modernizing audience base.

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Left to right: Shaun Hall and Zach Grenier in Death of a Salesman. Photo by Michael Henninger

Thus, I was pleasantly if not disquietingly surprised to be so floored and intimately riveted to Pittsburgh Public Theater’s recent production of Death of Salesman, directed by Mary B. Robinson. The play is remarkable in how it maintains an equilibrium of staggering length (roughly three hours) and searing, close examination of individual psyches. The staging helps significantly with this excellent juxtaposition of scale, as the somber stage, ensconced in masterfully engineered lighting, conveys the perfect amount of alienated examination—the audience is both constantly immersed in the fabric of the lives of the characters vis-à-vis their home décor and living arrangements, and also constantly aware of the dissolution within the home and between the characters that is actively happening throughout the play. Minimalist in execution, the scenic producer, James Noone, should be applauded for putting forth a set that eloquently conveys the physical and domestic dimensions of a familial and individual disintegration and agony.

Much of the success of the show, however, should be attributed to the absolutely flawless performances of the actors recreating the piece. A certain specific portion of my praise must be allotted to the two men cast as Happy and Biff, Willy’s two existentially haphazard sons, Happy and Biff embody and satisfy very specific, metaphoric roles in the play. Both boys “fulfill” Willy’s thwarted destiny, either in terms of their unchecked libidinousness, reckless spending habits, or inabilities to be a better version of their faltering father. Most poignant is perhaps Biff Loman, played by Alex Mickiewicz, who embodies the abnegated vulnerability in Willie. Mickiewicz so beautifully conveys in his performance what I found most devastating about this iteration of the show—the excruciating examination of what  happens to the man whose entire world and self is his children and career, a man whose sense of self is entirely externalized and fragmented, and what happens to the individuals around that man as he falls apart. Mickiewicz’s Biff is the prototypical jock, Adonis-esque apple of his father’s eye who starts to demonstrate cracks in his good ol boy persona—outbursts in school, failing classes, implicit abuse of the girls who worship him. And yet his acting out, both in the present moment of the shows and flashbacks, is clearly a manifestation of his inability to access and articulate his emotions. He is perpetually in limbo, burdened by the awareness of his own sensitivity and vulnerability, but primed and trapped in his own innate brutishness. His complicated kindness for his father is more painful given his own tempestuous relationship with his inner self (that is ultimately exacerbated by his father’s coddling and conditioning).

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Left to right: Alex Mickiewicz, Zach Grenier and Maxwell Eddy in Death of a Salesman. Photo by Michael Henninger

An additional, maybe somewhat obvious, acknowledgement should be given to the heavy-hitter of the show, big-screen frequenter (on such shows as The Good Wife) and Tony-nominee Zach Grenier. Grenier’s performance, though expert in showing the nuances of Willie’s crumbling psychology, is transcendent explicating the flawed masculinity that is inherent to the character. Grenier’s Loman is not simply a case study of the downfall of the American industrial man. His performance elevates Willie to the realm of tragic hero (perhaps minus the hero aspect), so rent apart by the multifarious issues left unresolved in his identity and sense of self that he is utterly destroyed as the world he tried to save and preserve dissolves around him. Death of Salesman, is utterly crushing, a piece replete with astronomical talent and devastating introspection into the ruination of self predicated on artificial identities.

Death of a Salesman is running through May 21st at the O’Reilly Theater and ticket information can be found here.

Paying Attention to Miller’s Masterwork at PPT

Layout 1“He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.”

– Linda Loman, Death of a Salesman

When Zach Grenier wrapped up his long-running role as David Lee on “The Good Wife,” he pondered what character he’d most like to have a chance to play on stage. Grenier admits that he didn’t think he’d have a shot at Willy Loman, the titular character of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer and Tony winning Death of a Salesman. After all, how often is that great American tragedy produced?

Meanwhile, stage director Mary B. Robinson says during our interview at Pittsburgh Public Theater, “I’ve known I’d be directing Salesman for a while. I love Pittsburgh audiences, having been here before,” says Robinson, who staged Freud’s Last Session at The Public. “I directed Miller’s All My Sons just last summer–always with Death of Salesman coming up in my head. That was very exciting.”

Surrounded by posters and memorabilia in the office of PPT artistic director Ted Pappas on a busy day at the Cultural District theater, Grenier and his director conjured their own dreams and memories.

Grenier says: “One Monday I was sitting around with my wife and no longer a regular on “The Good Wife”, doing a number episodics, looking for the next thing,” says Grenier. The couple even discussed moving from New York, perhaps to a good theater town–like Philadelphia, where he’d worked before.

He’s been thinking about it for 20 years. Grenier’s that guy who has been on stage with the likes of Frank Langella, Julie Harris, and Jane Fonda. He’s appeared in a wide repertoire of works ranging from Shakespeare to David Rabe to David Mamet. His historical characters have included Beethoven, Oliver Cromwell, and Dick Cheney. Television audiences know him for seven seasons on “The Good Wife” and movie fans will remember him in “Fight Club”, among other films.

Greiner in The Good Wife
Greiner in The Good Wife

Grenier said to his wife Lynn, “The thing is that I’m never going to play Willy Loman. I know it. I’m never going to play him. And the next morning I get a call asking if I can play Willy Loman, in Pittsburgh!” he says, sounding as surprised during as a short rehearsal break in April as he probably did in on the Martin Luther King Monday holiday in January.

When Grenier learned Robinson would be his director, the deal was sealed. He’s worked with her for Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten in the early1990s, he trusted fate, adding “I’ve heard great things about the theater.”

“Zach played James Tyrone, another mountain of a role,” says Robinson, adding that Shakespeare’s King John had first connected them a decade earlier in the 1980s.

Now Grenier plays the American Lear in Robinson’s Salesman in which Willy Loman wins and loses in his pursuit of the American Dream. The actor began his own preparation well before rehearsals began at the end of March.

“With this kind of mountain, you start climbing,” he says of Willy.

In February, after he was cast, Grenier turned 63, the same age as Willy. The realities of playing a role coveted by seasoned actors isn’t lost on him for “there is something about getting to this age. When I was younger, I thought Willy was for ‘when I’m an old guy’.”

“When I said, ‘I’ll never play Willy’, it had some weight that Monday,” Grenier observes, “because you don’t know what the future holds. When you get to a certain age, you don’t know how much longer you have. You have less time than you have had–unless they come up with something really fancy. In a way time is running out.”

Miller’s iconic drama introduced innovative leaps in time and space when it debuted in 1949. Considered on the masterpieces of 20th century American theater, Salesman foreshadowed techniques that have made theater more imaginative for both audiences and actor. Because of Salesman, productions became more nimble. At the same time realistic and abstract, Miller’s script has its lead character traveling from present day into his memories. He recreates a human journey informed by the recollected past and trepidation of the future.

Willy Loman is on a downhill journey in his career and relationships. Dreams are built from his delusions as the traveling salesman’s self-confidence erodes. His wife Linda is concerned while their sons Biff and Happy struggle with respecting their father.

Robinson and Grenier agree that Willy is a recognizable member of many families.

“My father was nothing like Willy,” says Robinson, “but many of my friends’ fathers were a lot like Willy. I was certainly around a lot of Willys growing up.”

“Miller really captured something so specific yet so universal and yet so not dated,” says the director. “Such rich characters and such real human beings–contradictions and all. The relationships are so full, fascinating and complex. And Miller set his plays all in a larger context so that these plays without being didactic about it, he cites something about this country as well. And I just find that extraordinary.”

Grenier notes his own personal connections to the Miller’s characters: “My father’s family is from the Bronx. Four boys grew up there in a very, very tough family emotionally. It happens with Neil Simon, it happens with Miller–not as much with O’Neill–but there’s an emotional language that I understand because it came from being around my uncles. I have a Manny Newman [the playwright’s uncle and inspiration for Willy] in my family.” Grenier says that was his Uncle Vin.

“There are things in the play–the kind of emotional blackmail that happens and broken dreams, like those my own father,” Grenier recalls.

“I love the fact we are doing this in a thrust space, says Robinson who is thrilled about her design team that includes scenic designer James Noone and costumer Tilly Grimes, with lighting by Dennis Parichy, and sound by Zach Moore.

Robinson recalls the story of a producer who questioned Miller’s use of flashback to share Willy’s past and present journey: “I don’t get it, these flashbacks, what are they there for?”

“They are not actual flashbacks, they are not memories,” she says. “They are Willy’s constructs. The play was originally titled ‘The Inside of His Head’. So we go inside Willy’s mind.”

So what was initially defined through theatrical effects as Willy Loman’s fantasies or memories are now accepted by audiences as an expected form and experience. She and Grenier agree the PPT set is perhaps even more minimalistic than the original yet complicated enough to accommodate both the realistic and dreamlike scenes.

Grenier says catching some news on a break he considered how now many voices are talking to us via the media. He compares Miller’s expressionistic and leading edge approach was a precursor to today’s delivery of many messages that distract, inform, and converge–much like the influences of Willie’s thoughts, dreams, emotions, and delusions.

“In a way this audience is in some ways more primed for this play,” Grenier observes. “We all do this now in so many ways. What it allows in the production is to not worry so much about that and go to the heart of the matter, the poetry of the play, the moment-to-moment. Of course, they did that then, but now I feel we are most comfortable in this form.”

Grenier considers Miller’s text “a long poem” in a form reminiscent of Shakespeare’s poetic prose.

“When you really take this play apart,” he says, “you really are reminded of Shakespeare, of how he uses the verse. It’s a Brooklyn Shakespeare that we are reciting. Grenier delights in the harmonics and the echoes of words and emotions in Miller’s script as he relishes the role of a lifetime.

“To get to do this is such a gift.”

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman previews at Pittsburgh Public Theater beginning Thurs., April 20, with the official opening on Fri., April 28. Performances continue Tuesdays through Sundays until May 21. Curtain times vary.

Audiences have several chances to delve deeper into the play and production. Featured Salesman events include “Sips & Scripts” on Wed., May 10, which provides a pre-show reception, a talkback after the show, and a script sent in advance with ticket purchase at $45. Use promo code PITTSCRIPTS online or by phone at 412-316-8200, ext. 704.

Tickets otherwise start at $30 with discounts for groups of 10 or more. A special price of $15.75 for age 26 and younger (valid ID required) is offered with code HOTTIX online while Friday and Saturday tickets may be purchased at the O’Reilly Theater box office.

Order online at PPT.ORG or call 412-316-1600.

Daddy Long Legs

Layout 1The Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of Daddy Long Legs under the direction of Ted Pappas, once again demonstrates theatre at its best. This subtle and nuanced production is the perfect balance of all the elements of theatre that combine to present in an evening of theatre magic.

The story of Daddy Long Legs celebrates the connection of lives brought together by unlikely circumstances. The cast is only two but the connection between the characters fills the stage.

It is set between 1908 and 1912 in a time when there was no instant communications by email, text or tweet or phone.  Letters were written and you yearned for a response that sometimes never came.

Daddy Long Legs is the story of Miss Jerusha Abbott, the oldest resident of The John Grier Home, a New England orphanage.  When she turns eighteen a mysterious benefactor decides to pay for her college education. There is one condition, she must write him a monthly letter, express no gratitude and not to expect any replies.PPTdaddylonglegs024

Prior to learning her good fortune, she notices from her window a man leaving the orphanage. She sees him in shadows and imagines him to be a very tall distinguished older gentleman. In her first letter, she begins to identify him as Daddy Long Legs and over time treats him more and more as the father figure she has never known.

Through her letters we see Jerusha transform from a sheltered and naive orphan girl into a confident and independent college educated woman. As he reads her letters, Daddy Long Legs becomes more enamored with this enchanting young woman. She reveals to “Daddy” a developing relationship with Jervis Pendleton, a well to do younger uncle of one of her roommates.

What makes Daddy Long Legs so compelling is what we in the audience have known all along. Jervis is actually her benefactor. His mother passed away when he was eleven and his father is absent from his life.  As Jervis reads her letters aloud we learn he is a surprisingly kind and caring man.  Although their circumstances are very different, he feels a strong connection to Jerusha and yet struggles to tell her the truth of their connection, never replying to her letters until….PPTdaddylonglegs096

Jervis and Jerusha are the only two seen on stage; the other characters in the story are brought to life by her letters.  Allan Snyder (recently relocated to our fair city) and Danielle Bowen are perfectly cast as Jervis and Jerusha.  Snyder is the more accomplished actor and Bowen is early in her professional career, that perspective and their age proximity gives them great chemistry on stage. He gives just the right amount of angst to Jervis as he struggles with what to do about his increasing affection for Jerusha. Bowen’s Jerusha conveys the right enthusiasm of a teenage girl along with with the wisdom and longing of a person who has never really been outside of the orphanage her entire life.

Ted Pappas once again he proves his directorial skills and sensitivity in Daddy Long Legs. The transformation of Jerusha from eighteen-year-old orphan is subtle and nuanced; a different dress, a different hat, a more confident carriage. The show is two hours, but it seems like we have been with her every day.PPTdaddylonglegs062

The orchestra made up of piano, cello and guitar under the direction of long time Public collaborator Wade Russo perfectly underscores the vocals. The musicians are on stage, and yet you almost forget they are there. The transition into the musical numbers is so natural and easy you almost don’t notice. Be it solos or duets Snyder and Bowens performances are first rate.

Pappas uses Michael Schweikardt’s scenic design to its optimum, but subtlety again rules. Jervis’ office is elevated upstage. It is decked out like a proper gentlemen’s library, a safe perch from which he “watches” Jerusha. Hers is an open more simple space, as it would be in the orphanage or college dorm and her letters are what connects them.

Theatregoers left the O’Reilly last night reminded of what makes life special, the connection we celebrate that develops between two people. Might as well change the name to Pittsburgh Perfect Theater!  Thanks Ted for another night of theatre magic.

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Daddy Long Legs is playing now through April 9th at the O’Reilly Theatre. Tickets 412-316-1600 or online at https://ppt.org/calendar

Photos courtesy of Michael Henninger

5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Spring

Pittsburgh theatregoers have a great mix of musicals to choose from this spring. Our preview features five shows that offer a mix of style, period and contemporary relevance. Two of them are new to Pittsburgh, Daddy Long Legs from the Public Theatre and Violet from Front Porch Theatricals.  The classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes will be offered by the McKeesport Little Theatre and the contemporary hit Dream Girls from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre. Rounding out the mix and out of today’s headlines is the Duquesne Red Masquers’ production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.Layout 1

Pittsburgh Public Theatres second musical of the season is Daddy Long Legs, the story of Miss Jerusha Abbott, who is the oldest resident of a New England orphanage. When she turns eighteen, a mysterious benefactor, Jervis Pendleton, decides to pay for her college education. There is one condition, she must write him a monthly letter and not expect any reply.

During the course of her education, Jerusha begins to imagine the woman she could become which leads to critical thinking about religion, the social issues of the day, and politics.

The story is set between 1908 and 1912 and Daddy Long Legs is a story of emotional growth told in song by both characters – as she’s composing and he’s reading her letters.

Pittsburgh’s own Allan Snyder plays Jervis. Audiences will remember him from PMT’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and the CLO’s 39 Steps. Danielle Bowen plays Jerusha.

The New York Times described Daddy Long Legs as “a great treat,” and Variety called it “a wholesome tuner in tune with the times.” Daddy Long Legs has been touching hearts for more than 100 years. Ted Pappas’ new production at the Public is “guaranteed to continue the tradition.”

Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s Daddy Long Legs

Playing March 9th through April 9th at the O’Reilly Theatre

Tickets 412-316-1600 or online at https://ppt.org/calendardream girls

American music has undergone many changes from the big band sound of the forties to rhythm and blues, to the new American sound of Motown. In 1962 even though Elvis was king and we listened to the Beatles, American’s were dancing to the new beat of The Supremes and other girl groups. Dream Girls tells the story of the The Dreamettes, a hopeful Black girl group from Chicago who enter the famous Amateur Night talent competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

The musical explores the relationships between the girls, their boyfriends and managers as the chase their respective dreams.

It is also about the behind-the-scenes reality of the entertainment industry that made this cultural phenomenon possible. The subject matter of this play deals with a musical contribution to America of such importance that only now — decades later —  we are beginning to understand.

“And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and “One Night Only” are just two of the great songs from Dream Girls that have become part of the canon of modern musical theatre.

Dream Girls from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre with performances at the Byham Theater March 9th to 19th. For tickets call 412-456-666 or at https://trustarts.org/production/49516BB andrew j

Pittsburgh’s oldest amateur theatre company, The Duquesne University Red Masquers certainly had excellent foresight in picking Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as their Spring Musical. After all, our President considers himself a modern day Andrew Jackson.

The shows opening song, “Populism Yea Yea”, reflects the desire of Jackson to bring political power back to the public and away from the elite. The subject of immigration today is a topic of much discussion. In Jackson’s era it was native Indian lands. At first, the citizenry meets Jackson’s exhilarating cowboy-like governing tactics with great enthusiasm. But, as the problems grow tougher, the public begins to resent him.

Jackson decides he must take ultimate responsibility for the nation’s choices and autocratically declares that he alone will be the one to make the difficult policy decision.

At the Broadway opening in 2010, The New York Times noted “there is no show in town that more astutely reflects the state of this nation than Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at Duquesne University Red Masquers playing 

March 15-19.

Tickets at http://www.duqredmasquers.com/purchase-ticketsanythign goes

Are you are looking for a lighthearted break from reality with quirky characters, great songs and fabulous dance routines?  The McKeesport Musical Theatres production of the classic Cole Porter musical comedy Anything Goes is just your ticket.

The S.S. American is sailing between New York and England with a comically colorful assemblage of passengers: Reno Sweeney, a popular nightclub singer and former evangelist, her pal Billy Crocker, a lovelorn Wall Street broker who has come aboard to try to win the favor of his beloved Hope Harcourt (who is engaged to another passenger, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh), and a second-rate conman named Moonface Martin, aka “Public Enemy #13.” Song, dance, and farcical antics ensue as Reno and Moonface try to help Billy win the love of his life.

Anything Goes features s some of musical theater’s most memorable standards, including “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “You’re the Top,” and of course, the title song.

According to Linda Baker, President of MLT “This is one of the classic musicals that unfortunately not enough millennials have had the opportunity to experience.” So disconnect and go see it.

Anything Goes at McKeesport Little Theatre May 5th to 21st. Tickets available at http://mckeesportlittletheater.com

Acclaimed Director Robyne Parish has returned to PPrintittsburgh to live after spending five seasons as the Artistic Director of the Gilbert Theater in North Carolina. Her second directorial assignment since returning is the Tony nominated Violet presented by Front Porch Theatricals.

Violet is a scarred woman who is traveling across the 1964 Deep South toward a miracle. She is looking for the healing touch of an evangelist that will make her beautiful. Though she may not succeed in being healed, Violet is able to repair those injuries that lie deeper than her skin. On the way she meets a young, African-American Soldier whose love for her reaches far past her physical “imperfections”.

I asked Robyne about her approach to the production. “One of the most interesting themes in this play, besides the complicated relationship Violet has with her Father, are the parallels between Flick and Violet. A black man in the south judged by the color of his skin and a white woman being judged by her scar. As an audience we will experience Violets growth, discovery of love, beauty, enlightenment and ultimately redemption.”

“Patrons will discover themselves in the characters in Violet. It’s the story of family, of first love, of desperation and of hope. They will identify with these folks and recognize them in an intimate way some shows may not allow. This is an intense and uplifting play about real people with real hopes, dreams and desires and real loss, failure and disappointment. This is a play about life.”

Violet from Front Porch Theatricals is in performance May 19th to 28th at the New Hazlett Center for the Performing Arts located in Pittsburgh’s historic North Side

Tickets https://www.showclix.com/events/12886

The spring of 2017 promises something for every theatregoer to enjoy.