A Lyrical Christmas Carol

23155182_308054963011222_6533525378661195855_oWhen presenting a show as widely known and frequently told as A Lyrical Christmas Carol, it becomes important for a production company to breathe fresh life into the show, or at least to be excellent storytellers. Pittsburgh Musical Theater did not put a modern twist on the classic story or rely on an eye-popping gimmick to make their show stand out. Instead, they told the story in the best way possible; by giving a wonderful performance.

I got to see the Holly Cast perform last week (the other cast being the Ivy one, naturally), just in time for Christmas. I had never seen the lyrical version of the show, but it turned out that this simply meant lots more song and dance. I have to say, the cast of this show is made up of very talented singers. Although sometimes it seemed like a song was inserted in a scene without much need or reason, every song was well performed. I enjoyed each song, which were mostly Christmas classics, but I especially enjoyed the dancing. Whether it was a group number with the characters waltzing around the stage or a solo ballet piece, the cast never failed to entertain during the songs. Kudos to choreographer Jerreme Rodriguez for providing a delightful show.

I was impressed that such a large cast, mostly made of children and teens, were able to be so precise and consistent. Clearly these players all have a passion for the theater, and it came through in their performances. I was also impressed at the transformation some of these young actors and actresses went through. Until the intermission when I got a chance to look at the photos of all the actors, I didn’t realize that there were only two adult actors in the cast. It was hard for me to believe that some of the characters were being played by people so young, as they really sold the ages of their characters. Most notable were Nino Masciola as Mr. Fezziwig, Matty Thornton as Fred, and Jeramie Welch as Jacob Marley, whose portrayal of the famous ghost showed a talent beyond his years.

And I must mention Scrooge himself, Brady David Patsy. The physical work he put into the character combined with his wide range of emotions made him a delight to watch in every scene. I especially enjoyed a moment of improv on his part when Brecken Farrell (hilariously playing the light-hearted Mr. Cratchit) knocked over a set piece and Patsy insisted, in character, that he set it back up before he continued with the scene.

I want to take a moment to point out that these actors and dancers all had a very small space to work with, considering the number of people that were constantly coming and going on stage. I never noticed anyone bumping into each other, and all the set changes flowed smoothly throughout the evening. This was clearly the result of a great working relationship between director Lisa Elliott, the actors, and the set crew. Despite being a small set, the scenery was exactly what you’d expect for this type of show, and the show included lots of fun atmospheric delights, such as fire effects made from lights, snow that actually fell from the ceiling, and ghostly magic like entrances through a wall.

Going along with the set dressing, the costumes for this show were phenomenal! Costume designer Annabel Lorence really know what she was doing with this show. Even down to the most minor characters, everyone was dressed in full Victorian garb. Without that visual on every character, something would definitely have been missing from the show. It was easy to feel a part of the story when you were being drawn in from all aspects of the production.

In fact, I have only one complaint at all about the show, and that is the sound levels. Clearly, there was some kind of issues with some of the microphones, but it was opening night and those things happen. Aside from some random interference from time to time, the live band often drowned out the characters. The band surely didn’t need any microphones to enhance their volume, but if that was deemed necessary the levels of the speakers should have been turned up. I often couldn’t hear the narrator at all when the band was playing behind him.

Despite the sound issues, I loved this show and had a wonderful time at it! And it was all topped off by the greatest curtain call I may have ever seen. I can’t possibly describe it in a way that does it proper justice, so I hope everyone got out to see it in person before it ended. You know it was a successful show when you find yourself acting out the curtain call song and dance with your friend days later! Congrats on the truly festive holiday show, PMT, and God bless us every one!

A Lyrical Christmas Carol has already closed, but you can check out what else Pittsburgh Musical Theater has for us this season by clicking here. 

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

Jekyll & Hyde

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People know when attending a Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s Richard E. Rauh Conservatory Company (RERC) show that the production features all youths, rather than a Broadway cast of professional actors.

But if audience members didn’t know that going in to Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, which played Oct. 20 to 23 at the Byham Theater, chances are, they might not have noticed. Except for the young age of the mostly teenage cast, the production seemed very professional and not amateurish as one might expect with a student production. The only time the age factor showed was when characters portrayed a father and daughter, yet looked to be the same young age.

The two-act play – based on the Victorian-era book, “Strange Case of Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by author Robert Louis Stevenson –  brought to life the London-set creepy story with perfect timing for Halloween, punctuated by lively and often intense music. It takes a special acting talent for the same person to portray such a split personality – the polite and nice scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the evil and violent alter ego known as Mr. Hyde. Talented teen actor Nick Cortazzo fulfills this challenge with passion and finesse, along with a powerful singing voice. He wears a ponytail when in Jekyll mode, and lets down his hair when switching to Hyde mode. The intensity of the Hyde character brought a spine-tingling element to the story, in which characters spoke in decent British accents.

Complementing Cortazzo was Elena Doyno as Jekyll’s fiance, Emma Carew. She and her partner awed the audience during the tragic climax at the end of the play, when Jekyll turns into Hyde during their wedding and falls dead, with Emma crying over his body.

The stage scenery was simple but fitting and evolving, with a beaker-filled mad scientist’s lab, flanked by two staircases, serving as a frequent centerpiece. This is where Jekyll conducted his ultimately ill-advised experiment seeking to prove that in every man dwells both a good and evil force. The Jekyll and Hyde story is perhaps the most poignant example in literary history about the dangers of flirting too much with evil.

These few dozen students in the cast – including Sabina May, who does a fine job playing the supporting prostitute character Lucy Harris – are theater students at Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s Richard E. Rauh Conservatory in the West End. They all show great talent and potential.

We would be remiss not to mention the unseen members of the cast: the musicians in the orchestra pit come from Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, the city school district’s arts-magnet school. A total of 133 students, according to the program, participated in Jekyll & Hyde.

This show, which kicks off PMT’s four-show 2016-2017 season, should give PMT a good celebration for its 25th anniversary this year. The next shows playing at the Byham are: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, (Jan. 26-Feb. 5); Dreamgirls (March 9-19); and Tarzan (May 4-14.)

Special thanks to Pittsburgh Musical Theater for complimentary press tickets. For more information about PMT’s upcoming season, click here.

 

Pittsburgh’s Must-See Halloween Shows

Pumpkin 1Fall has descended upon Pittsburgh with a comical quickness, and so the time has come embrace mystery, horror and the supernatural realms. This Halloween season, Pittsburgh’s theaters are bringing to the stage both new experiences, classic favorites, and the merging of the two.  Pittsburgh in the Round has put together a list of the must-see Halloween shows, whether you are seeking a thrill or a good belly laugh.

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Midnight Radio’s Night of the Living Dead N’at

Bricolage Production Company’s Midnight Radio returns and following it is a hoard of hungry undead. A cast of voice actors will perform a reimagination of George Ramero’s 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead as a live radio show and will undoubtedly include a generous amount of Pittsburgh humor. Have you ever dreamed of playing a part in a Bricolage production, or just being a zombie for a night? Great news, each show has six “Zombie Porch” seats available for purchase where you become part of the show…as a zombie.

Catch Night of the Living Dead N’at from October 27th – November 12th! Find more information on the show and tickets here.main-image2

Enter the Imaginarium

Bricolage Production Company has teamed up with ScareHouse to build an extraordinary immersive experience where participants must work as a team to discover the mysteries of the Imaginarium. This collaboration brings together the teamwork and gameplay that is the basis of the escape room phenomenon and the story telling and scenery of an immersive show. There are two different story lines to choose from, Chamber of Illusions and The Inventor’s Paradox.

Though Enter the Imaginarium will be running indefinitely, right now tickets are available through November here.2016Mast-JandH

 Jekyll and Hyde

Based on the beloved horror-drama novella, Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical is a special spooky production not to be missed. The classic tale of Dr. Jekyll battling his inner demons in the form of a medical-experiment-gone-evil as Mr. Hyde is given a modern spin with a spine-chilling score from Grammy and Oscar-winning pop rock songwriters. This musical thriller is presented by students of the Richard E. Rauh Conservatory, accompanied by the CAPA Orchestra.

This show runs from October 20- 23 at the Byham Theatre. Order tickets online here.8143734

Carrie

High school prom can be scary in many ways– especially if a strange lonely girl with telekinetic powers goes rogue, causing chaos and exacting revenge on her tormentors. Brought to you by Split Stage Productions, Carrie: The Musical is Stephen King’s cult classic on Broadway. Despite the musical’s notorious “flop” status– it’s sure to excite and horrify all audiences and get you in the Halloween mood.

Carrie: The Musical runs from October 20-29 at Apple Hill Playhouse. Learn more here.14707874_10154577010151460_4154434185964917862_o

Giselle

Do you believe in ghosts? Giselle, an eerie, romantic ballet, will make you think twice about what you believe. Presented by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, this is the tale of a village girl who dies of a broken heart, only to be supernaturally summoned back from the dead by a group of vengeful, phantom dancers. The ghostly women attempt to dance Giselle’s previous lover to death– for his betrothal to another is what send Giselle to the grave.

Giselle runs from October 28-30 at the Benedum Center. Buy tickets and read all about it here. Photo by Ken Stiles.

 For more Fall theatre fun, check out our Fall Preview here.

Sister Act

2015Mast-SisterActAs the third show of Pittsburgh Musical Theater (PMT)’s “Magnificent Movie Musicals” season this year, Sister Act is an excitingly soulful production filled with blessings, laughs, great gospel music, and power-house performances.

Based on the 1992 hit comedy film of the same name, Sister Act tells a story of a lounge singer, Deloris Van Cartier, who has been put under protective custody in a convent and has to pretend to be a nun to hide from her mobster boyfriend Curtis Shank after she accidentally witnessing a gangster crime. Originally opened on Broadway in 2011 with book written by Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner, Douglas Carter Beane, new music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Glenn Slater, this is another classic feel-good musical comedy that will keep you on the edge of your seat all night jamming to the great soul-lifting music, while being moved by the touching story at the same time.

The star of the show is played by Pittsburgh native and AMDA graduate Ms. Amanda Foote, who is absolutely a musical star herself. With a powerful voice,  an amazing range, and a “less Whoopi Goldberg more Patina Miller” character portrait,  every time Ms. Foote steps on stage all eyes are on her and every time she sings the crowd go crazy. Ms. Foote’s equally excellent acting also successfully delivered the Sister Mary Clarence we all know and love and the heroine we would all care and root for in a heart beat. Her show title solo number “Sister Act” in Act II channeled the emotion of the character to a surprising high level and easily became one of the dramatic and musical highlights of the night.

But this show is not just about Deloris the “diva wannabe”. In fact, one of the amazing things about this how is how diverse the ensemble characters are and how the dynamic between Deloris and each single one of them would play out and gradually affect the progression of the plot.

Mother Superior was played by Ms. Allison Cahill, who gave this “old school Maggie Smith” character a great depth. Her solo number “Here Within These Walls” beautifully set up the emotional conflict and struggle for the main plot. And her resolving moment with Deloris in the second Act is one of those tear jerking scenes that would make you want to praise the Lord. Main antagonist Curtis was played by Mr. Brady D. Patsy, who easily managed to bring the coldness and cruelty to the story with songs like “When I Find My Baby”, which was hauntingly comedic and terrifyingly creepy. The subplot love interest “Sweaty Eddie” was played by Mr. Justin Lonesome, who shined in his solo number “I Could Be That Guy” and foreshadowed the triumph in the plot. And the comedic relief Monsignor O’Hara was played by Mr. Tim Hartman, whose “MC” moment in the beginning of second Act with a live raffle ticket drawing (including Bishop Zubik of Pittsburgh) on the opening night definitely brought the house down.

And of course, the sisters, the true “wine and bread” of the show. Ms. Nicole Uram played the sweet and innocent Sister Mary Robert, who instantaneously connected with the audience in her solo number “The Life I Never Led”. Ms. Christine Laitta and Ms. Nina Danchenko played Sister Mary Lazarus and Sister Mary Patrick with eye-catching personalities that took home the most laughter of the night. And finally, every single chorus number in the show with the nuns is a show stopping moment.

Composed by the king of Disney music, Alan Menken once again delivered a score full of character and spirit that the first group number “Raise Your Voice” alone is worth the ticket price. And besides occasional tempo and sync issues, those gospel and soulful melodies sounded loud and great as always with the orchestra in the pit led by Music Director Dr. Brent Alexander. And Ms. Lisa Elliott ‘s energetic choreography also added a great beat to the overall narrative.

Because the popularity of the original film and how familiar most audience are with the story of Sister Act, Director Ms. Colleen Doyno gave the show a very fast paced tempo, that some of the plot-driven dramatic scenes were dealt with relatively quickly and more time and attention were focused on the musical elements of the show. But the tech aspect seamlessly balanced the tension by providing an overall stunning impression to the production. Mr. Kevin Kocher’s scenic design kept the momentum of the show going without losing the grandeur of the theatrical reality in each scene. And Ms. Kim Brown and her Spotlight Costumes team wowed the audience by pulling a “William Ivey Long” with a double breakaway and once again proved that her seasonal collaboration with PMT production is truly a “blessing to our show”.

Whether you’re a fan of the original films or have never seen nuns singing and dancing before, Sister Act will bring you all the fun and feels you need to convince yourself join the fan base (or the sisterhood). And if you are still looking for a reason to go to the Byham Theatre this Easter weekend and experience the energy, Director Ms. Colleen Doyno herself said it the best, “Sister Act is truly a heavenly good time!”

Special thanks to Pittsburgh Musical Theater for complimentary press tickets. Sister Act runs at the Byham Theater until Saturday March 26th, tickets and more information can be found on their website.