Violet

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Front Porch Theatricals’ heavenly production of Violet has a lot of baggage.

Johnmichael Bohach’s rustic, minimalist scenic design is primarily comprised of suitcases, chests, and duffel bags that the actors sit, sleep, and sing on. This concept is not only incredibly creative and whimsical, but it also artfully realizes the themes of travel and identity that are central to the musical.

This show is the explosive kickoff to Front Porch’s summer season, which is being billed as “Journeys & Tall Tales”. Despite premiering Off-Broadway a little more than 20 years ago, the musical probably didn’t register on most people’s radars until it transferred to Broadway from a one-night production at New York City Center in 2014.

Both outings received widespread acclaim including the Drama Critics’ Circle award for Best Musical and a slew of Tony Award nominations. By bringing together an exceptional group of artists all at the tops of their game in this production (which also marks Violet’s Pittsburgh premiere) Front Porch has cemented its reputation as Pittsburgh’s finest producer of musical theatre and the show’s legacy as one of musical theatre’s purest hidden gems.

Bus Ride 4Violet, set during the late summer of 1964, takes you on a wild ride with a disfigured young woman of the same name as she journeys via Greyhound bus from North Carolina to Oklahoma to seek a life-changing miracle from a TV evangelist. Twelve years before, an incident with a wayward ax blade leaves her with a horrible scar on her face and a broken relationship with her father (Jonathan Visser).

The extended trip introduces her to a host of diverse people and places including a hilariously talkative old lady (Becki Toth) and two handsome soldiers, Flick (Lamont Walker II) and Monty (Daniel Mayhak).

Both men take a keen interest in Violet as her fiery personality and dark past unfold. As an African-American living in a difficult time in history, Flick understands the constant pain Violet suffers always being harshly judged at face value. Monty learns from Violet that he does not have to rely on his machismo and playboy antics to make real connections with people.

Magazine Beauty

When Violet finally reaches Tulsa, her steadfast faith in God is tested. She learns lessons that cannot be summed up by old clichés about beauty. Her truest journey begins at the show’s end. For the first time, it’s one entirely on her own terms with no clear destination.

I know I commended writers Jeanine Tesori (music, also responsible for Fun Home) and Brian Crawley (book/lyrics, also responsible for A Little Princess) for not saddling their skillful adaptation of Doris Betts’ short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” with tired platitudes defining the “true” meaning of beauty, but I’m going to employ a few now. Like most clichés, these are just true.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, in this case, that’s director Robyne Parrish. She deftly navigates Violet through its recurring flashback scenes while ensuring that each moment has equal visual and emotional impact.

At absolutely no fault of Walker, Mayhak or their extraordinary voices, the love triangle their characters are entangled in with Violet just doesn’t work.

Parrish allows that part of the story to shine and illuminates what emerges as the heart of the piece, the resentment festering between Violet and her late father. At my performance, you could hear a pin drop during the sequence where they sing “Look at Me” and “That’s What I Could Do”.

Healing Meeting 3

Two women play Violet, one as an adult (Elizabeth Boyke) and the other at the time of the accident (Samantha Lucas). Like the many actresses before them who took on this role, including Sutton Foster, their raw and passionate performances subvert the idea of beauty being only skin deep. Without the help of complicated makeup effects, they must create the image of Violet’s mutilation in the minds of the audience as sharply as it exists in her own.

Boyke is nothing short of a force of nature seamlessly pivoting from tremendous hope to profound despair as her character’s fickle fate plays out. Lucas’ haunting presence and command over an array of complex affects prove that she is perfectly cast as a girl wise beyond her years. Violet is disgusted by her appearance and lets everyone know it, but the work of these two great talents make it impossible to look away.

Violet’s “imaginary” scar is also brought to life during the show through the reactions of the people she encounters on her trek. The hard working ensemble of Violet is more than up to the task of making themselves look good while making Violet feel bad. Erich Lascek and Gena Sims lead the gospel number “Raise Me Up”, which stopped the show multiple times over its nearly seven-minute runtime.

At the end of this Violet’s intermission-less two hour run time, you’ll find that your heart has an invisible, deep, and permanent scar that matches the one on Violet’s face. Don’t make the same mistake she does. Don’t convince yourself that your heart is now broken or ugly because, as the preacher teaches her, a scar means that you’re healed.

Violet runs at the New Hazlett Theater through May 28th. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Ironbound

YT17-Feature-IronboundThe waiting in life takes up a lot of our time–waiting for the next big thing, the next job, the next person. Ironbound’s Darja reconfirms out that anyone who takes public transportation is captive to waiting. Her attachment to a significant bus stop represents her own continual anticipation of the right man and better times.

City Theatre’s Pittsburgh premiere of Ironbound depicts an important slice of immigrant life in America. It reminds us that everyone on the bus has a story, a reality perhaps most magnified in the dense greater New York-New Jersey metro area. Ironbound zooms in on one woman who could be anyone, but Darja is inspired for playwright Martyna Majok by both her own Polish immigrant mother and the notable absence of working class women in contemporary plays.

Rebecca Harris, in her 10th role with the company, captivates with impeccable realism as Darja. Harris is the constant force here along with a dark, menacing bus stop. Her solid and fierce portrayal is someone like many who endure wearing commutes to whatever job they can get to make rent while avoiding any unexpected financial catastrophes. They persevere and crave, as Darja says, “even the ugly jobs they don’t have no more.”

This Polish immigrant cleans houses in an upscale community two buses away, struggles to make ends meet following the loss of her factory job. Darja’s own crises are not just about being alone; she could easily become homeless due to a bad choice or broken relationship, perhaps more recognizable in hindsight.

Rebecca Harris as Darja
Rebecca Harris as Darja

On stage for all of the 90-minute piece (intensely performed with no intermission), the actress is either alone or interacting with three male characters. Harris’ powerful performance impresses with raw and honest craft as a character who is remarkable in her stamina, resilience, and lifeforce. She weighs her options in relationships and finances, bargaining to try to somehow gain some enhanced security.

City’s Artistic Director Tracy Brigden, who was eager to program this new play, said in the production news release that  Majok’s “unique point of view as the child of Polish immigrants ripples throughout her work. Ironbound is a truly American play—raw and alive from the very first words.” And we must agree as Ironbound so deftly depicts aspects of the immigrant experience that Brigden describes as “so vital to this moment in time.”

Ironbound debuted in New York at Rattlesnake Theater in 2016 before Brigden took the wheel to direct its next production. Pittsburgh audiences will recognize the ramifications of losing an industrial economy.

Brigden places the Elizabeth, New Jersey bus stop intimately in City’s thrust configuration.The centerpiece of Anne Mundell’s compact set is a giant graffiti covered steel girder appearing to pierce the top of the theater as it towers over the action, the litter, and a ubiquitous abandoned car tire. Lighting by Andrew David Ostrowski flashes from above as Eric Shimelonis’ sound effects are heard by the audience upon and arrival and continue to indicate the rattling of both New Jersey transit trains and traffic above and in in the house. If you know New Jersey and I-9, you can especially conjure the traffic, potholes, and smells. The stink of the paper factory where Darja once worked may be gone in this century, but the setting evokes the industrial Jersey of the late 20th century.

JD Taylor as Maks and Rebecca Harris as Darja
JD Taylor as Maks and Rebecca Harris as Darja

We wait with Darja at this dark and dirty bus stop where a lot happens but some things never change. As time shifts among scenes, her journey of relationships always brings her back to the bus stop near her former factory job and its associated memories.

In several flashback scenes, her first husband Maks is sweetly played by JD Taylor. Darja’s backstory is built through their alternately hopeful and bittersweet encounters. In 1992, she is pregnant with their son Alex as Maks dreams of making music in Chicago.

In his one scene with her, Vic, a young man played by Erick Martin, finds a battered Darja trying to sleep at the bus stop after her second husband has abused her. Vic provides an objective listening ear and a comedic rap. He reminds her that a shelter or motel room would be safer and offers some money to help her out. Pittsburgh’s Erick Martin’s Vic is the energetic parallel to her son Alex–the absent male in this version of Darja’s story. Martin is endearing in his portrayal of a kid who’s struggling with his sexual identity.

Rebecca Harris as Darja and Erik Martin as Vic
Rebecca Harris as Darja and Erik Martin as Vic

Don Wadsworth’s exacting dialect coaching supports Darja and Mak’s Polish slant. The characters’ sometimes muddled sentence structure also adds to the authenticity of Majok’s script along with her inclusion of some Polish.

Costumes designed by Robert C.T. Steele aptly convey the look of the implied decades from Vic’s track suit and sneakers and Tommy’s geeky postman shorts.

Ironbound reminds us how lives intersect–even if only for a few minutes on our respective commutes as everyone dreams and holds on to survive a new day.

Closing City Theatre’s 41st season, Ironbound runs through June 4 with tickets starting at $15 for under 30 with generous discounts for many patrons (seniors, military, etc.) as well as a “pay-what -you-want” option for the Sat., May 27 matinee. Special audience opportunities include a post-show talkback on May 24 and another with the playwright on Thurs., May 25. Greenroom on second Fri., May 26 provides a $25 ticket that includes beverages and a post-show chance to hang out with the show’s cast and team. Click here for more information. 

Photos courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover

Anything Goes

anything goesAre you are looking for a lighthearted break from reality with quirky characters, great songs, and dance routines? The classic Cole Porter musical comedy Anything Goes is Delightful, Delicious, and De-Lovely.

There are several versions of Anything Goes available to theater companies, with each offering a slightly different song list, running order and book (script) variations.

This McKeesport Little Theater production uses the 1962 version, there is also a 1987 version and a 2011 Roundabout Theatre version as well, so don’t think you’re crazy if this is a bit different than you may remember.

Unlike many musicals of its day, Anything Goes has a strong plot line full of twists and turns as you wonder who gets the girl and who gets the boy.  The later the version, the more fully developed the story line is. The musical is set on the S.S. American a cruise ship that is sailing between New York and England.  The voyage is packed 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 con man 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 offers a fascinating stylized glimpse at American life in the 1930’s. It’s Broadway debut in 1934 was a year after prohibition ended and roughly at the mid-point of the Great Depression. Roosevelt was just elected president in 1933 and the mood of the country has shifted towards cautious optimism.  Attitudes regarding women, class structure and foreigners have slowly begun to change. Although you might be surprised to see how little has changed between then and now.  Odd as it may sound, this retrospective is more predominant in the latter Roundabout version than the earlier ones, but this is still worth observing.

What community theater lacks in resources and experience, it often makes up for in enthusiasm. This production is no exception.

Most of the scenes take place on deck, the main highway for characters coming and going. Director Dorothy Fallows scenic design makes use of two winglets on either side of the main deck that serve as staterooms and the brig. Getting the large cast on and off the deck often seems a bit contrived as secondary characters appear as needed for big musical numbers.

The leads come to the production with various levels of experience and talent. It was interesting to see the diversity of age of the actors that embodies the true spirit of community theatre.

Riley Tate is a lovely woman and carries off the somewhat older than she Reno Sweeney quite well. She has played Reno before and it shows. While this production’s musical numbers choreography is not as lush as might be expected, Tate dances with joy and grace. She shows great promise vocally. Ron Clawson’s Billy Crocker doesn’t have the good looks of Ryan Gosling;  but he has a good voice and pleasant delivery. Tim Tolbert’s portrayal of Moonface Martin was fully realized with entertaining expressions and gestures and a good voice. Sam Minnick’s Sir Evelyn Oakley has just the right restrained British character, flummoxed often by American sayings and culture. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Reno and Evelyn just isn’t there. Emily-Ann Stephens’ Hope Harcourt never quite explains why Evelyn and why not Billy. Julia Lodge is a triple threat as the ditzy sexpot Bonnie.

Anything Goes features some of Cole Porter’s and musical theater’s most memorable standards, including “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “It’s Delovely”, “Friendship”, “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 continues it’s run at the McKeesport Little Theatre May 19th to 21st. Tickets available at http://mckeesportlittletheater.com

Thanks to MLT for the complimentary tickets to a Broadway classic.

Peter and the Starcatcher

peterstarcatcher300x300You are correct, there has been a “boatload’ of Peter and the Starcatcher productions this summer, three in fact.  I must confess I did not see Little Lake or the University of Pittsburgh’s productions.

I did see the Broadway national tour in 2014 and the Shaw Festivals production in 2015, both left me with the feeling of “meh”.

This review of Stage 62’s charmingly clever production of Peter and the Starcatcher was for me a voyage of re-discovery.  It was as if I had never really “seen” the show before.

Starcatcher is a comedy with some music, but not a musical. There are the requisite dancing girls, in this case mermaids, played pretty much mostly by boys. The opening number to the second act is hilarious.

Without getting too much into the plot here (You can read about that in Nicole Tafe’s review of the Little Lake production in the PITR archives here) Starcatcher is the prequel to J.M. Barrie’s 1904 novel Peter Pan, about the boy who never grew up.

The story: Lord Aster (J.P. Welsh) has been assigned by the Queen of England to insure safe transport of a treasure chest full of “starstuff” known to give anyone who possesses it the ability to realize his or her dreams.  Aster devises a plan to ship two identical chests on two different ships by two different routes to insure safe delivery. He dispatches his daughter Molly (Casey Duffy), a Starcatcher-in-training, on the ship Never Land and he takes the trunk with the real starstuff on the Wasp. Unbeknownst to Lord Aster and Molly, the trunks are switched by pirates before the ships set sail and Never Land holds the goods.

The Never Land’s crew is actually pirates, led by Black Stache (Brett Goodnack) and in addition to the trunk with the real starstuff. The Pirates also have three orphan boys held prisoner in the bilge of the Never Land.  And so we set sail…..

The thing that makes this production so special is the group of actors, all of them are Pittsburgher’s or graduates from our universities’ theatre programs. A few are in the early stages of their acting careers; many are very experienced having played many roles in multiple companies. What makes it work so perfectly is Spencer Whale’s creative vision and direction. The actor’s comedic timing, gestures and expressions seamlessly integrate together creating an ensemble that is a joy to watch as they are having such fun performing together.

L-R Brett Goodnack, Nate Willey
L-R Brett Goodnack, Nate Willey

Pittsburgh’s brilliant comedic actor Brett Goodnack as the silly and sinister Black Stache leads the ensemble. His stage presence keeps your eyes riveted to him and a smile on your face.

Other standouts in the uniformly strong cast include Point Park graduate Nate Willey as the Boy who becomes Peter Pan. Cody Sweet’s portrayal of Molly’s nanny, Mrs. Brumbrake, captures the sweet caring woman with a beard and a twist who can raise a pirate’s flagpole. J.P. Walsh’s portrayal of Lord Aster conjures up the classic proper British explorer and caring father. Casey Duff’s Molly is an ageless girl full of hopes and dreams, eager to prove her worth and trustworthiness. The entire cast has double if not triple duty. The orphans, Prentiss and Ted, played by Jake Smith and Charles Buescher Rowell keep their characters in perfect sync as they switch back and forth.

Nate Willey and Cast
Nate Willey and Cast

Director Whale called on old friends and colleagues Nathan Mattingly and Ellen Pyne for the set design, reminiscent of ship sails and outfitted with a hoarder’s treasure trove of props, flotsam, and jetsam.  Costume Design also by Pyne is spot on. Where a dozen actors with strong physical characteristics play a hundred roles, the costuming helps us identify their character of the moment. Black Stash’s look reinforces his silly yet frightful pirate nature and Molly’s enhances her character as a young girl just transitioning to a strong young woman.

In the pit, percussionists Tony Tresky and Brendan Higgins work subtly; their background rhythms perfectly match the action without overpowering the actors.

L-R Nate Willey, Casey Duffy
L-R Nate Willey, Casey Duffy

As we were leaving the theatre, reflecting that this was one of the best shows we saw this season, I wondered how three companies had come to choose the same play to present this spring. Perhaps in troubling times, sitting together in a dark room watching silliness and wishing you never grew up is good therapy for us all.

If you haven’t seen Starcatcher yet, this production is the one to see. If you have seen Starcatcher before, by all means this production is worth a visit. Come prepared to smile till your jaw hurts, laugh till your head hurts and be sure listen carefully so you don’t miss any of the great lines.

Stage 62 presents Peter and the Starcatcher at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Avenue, Carnegie, PA 15106

 Performances Thursday through Saturday, May 11-13 and 18-20 at 8 pm, Sun. Matinees May 14 and 21 at 2 pm Tickets: Adults: $20, Students/Seniors: $15. Click here for more information. 

Our special thanks to Stage 62 for the complimentary tickets.

Resonance Works Presents Verdi’s “Falstaff.”

falstaff_headerResonance Works, collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh Department of Theater Arts, gave the first of two performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff, last night, at the Charity Randall Theater in Oakland. The ambitious project offers an opportunity to hear the famous composer’s only successful comedy, which premiered at La Scala, Milan, in 1893, when Verdi was nearly 80 years old. He penned the sparkling and engaging music to a libretto that Arrigo Boïto adapted from Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” with a little of “Henry IV” added to the book as well. The story, set in Windsor, England, during the reign of Henry IV, tells the farcical tale of an aging and portly knight, Sir John Falstaff, and his thwarted attempts to relieve two married women of their husbands’ money, their revenge, mistaken identities, young love, and a mirthful ending.

Immensely popular in Italy and elsewhere shortly after the time of its premiere, the opera lost its audience appeal in a surprisingly short period of time, and fell into extended stretches of neglect. As the 20th century progressed, largely due to the efforts of the famed and influential conductor, Arturo Toscanini, Falstaff received numerous revivals, and today holds a respectable standing in the standard operatic repertory, but it never was, and probably never will be, as well known or popular as many of the composer’s more dramatic works. Various musical historians have pondered over the reasons for all this, while others have proclaimed the work as Verdi’s best. It probably isn’t his best, but it’s certainly one of his most entertaining operas, bubbling over with broad comedy set to delightfully orchestrated music that offers a number of opportunities for the display of beautiful voices.

The contemporary staging and “modern day” costumes hardly take anything away from this production, since the color and atmosphere of Verdi’s music is so naturally Italian, so masterfully “grand opera” in style and flavor, that it suggests early 15th century England about as much as his Un Ballo in Maschera (“A Masked Ball”) fits its Colonial New England setting. It is also quite a feat that the staging and direction so successfully brings a rather large opera to a comparatively small stage, especially when the ensembles and boisterous action are considered. Happily, the text is sung in Italian (with English surtitles projected above the stage).

Benjamin Bloomfield (Falstaff)
Benjamin Bloomfield (Falstaff)

Unlike the better known Verdi operas in several ways, the most surprising departure comes at the very start; there’s no “overture.” The orchestra sounds several vivacious bars and it’s off to the races. And what an orchestra it was that played last night. Reduced to a little over twenty pieces, the instrumental accompaniment was more than sufficient for the size of the theater, and consisted of highly skilled instrumentalists who did themselves and Conductor Maria Sensi Sellner ample justice. From the first note to the last, they played a major role in the success of the evening. They received a generous ovation from the distressingly slim audience, and deserved it.

Vocally, the cast is one of uniform excellence. There were familiar faces on the stage, as well as a few who sang in Pittsburgh for the first time. Naturally heading the list of newcomers was Benjamin Bloomfield in the title role. He possesses a baritone voice capable of great power, but finesse and subtle nuances are at his command as well. He’s rather young to give a visual impression of the aging schemer, but his acting of the part was finely honed, funny, and in the character’s other unsavory traits, his make-up, costuming and demeanor more than negated his youth.

Brooke Larimer (Mistress Quickly), Kara Cornell (Meg Page), Natalie Polito (Nanetta), and Amelia D’Arcy (Alice Ford)
Brooke Larimer (Mistress Quickly), Kara Cornell (Meg Page), Natalie Polito (Nanetta), and Amelia D’Arcy (Alice Ford)

Joshua Jeremiah, as Ford, is a Grammy nominated baritone also making his Pittsburgh debut in these performances. His voice is one of great strength and resonance, he possesses acting skills (both comedic and dramatic) to a great degree, and his appearance is commanding and quite agreeable to the eye. As his daughter, Nanetta, soprano Natalie Polito was the third newcomer, and proved a fine addition to the cast. Her voice is captivating, as is her stage presence and acting, and she sang “Sul fil d’un soffio etesio,” (“Now lightly borne from near and far”), probably the best known aria from the opera, charmingly, if somewhat cautiously.

Amelia D’Arcy, as Alice Ford, gave a sterling performance. Her ringing soprano, lively acting, and facial expressions were positively delightful. Mezzo-soprano Kara Cornell, as Meg Page, seemed to “live” her role, as she always does, and was another highlight of the evening. As Mistress Quickly, mezzo-soprano Brooke Larimer displayed a richly hued voice and nicely timed comedic ability. With Mr. Bloomfield, she shared the well known “Reverenza” scene, in which Quickly lures the old knight with feigned respect further into her friends’ web of revenge and comeuppance he so richly deserves.

A pleasant surprise was the young tenor, Benjamin Robinson, in the role of Bardolfo. He has gained materially since I last heard him a couple of summers ago. His voice has grown in strength and quality, he displays more confidence, and his facial byplay and acrobatic acting of the part were fun additions to an impressive vocal performance. His antics with Matthew Scollin, the reliable, versatile and powerfully voiced bass-baritone, as Pistola, were among the most entertaining highlights of the evening.Falstaff3

Tenors Christopher Lucier, as Fenton, the young man Nanetta loves, and Joseph Gaines, as Caius, the man her father wants her to love, were talented additions to the large cast, and the ensemble sang the small choruses quite effectively.

The only thing missing from the performance were bodies in seats. The theater was maybe half filled. Now, more than ever, the arts need and deserve financial support. And this operatic endeavor on the part of Resonance Works most decidedly deserves capacity patronage. Only one more performance will be given, tomorrow afternoon at 3. Take Mom, a friend, anybody  – to a musical treat that they’re not likely to forget any time soon. Visit Resonance Works for tickets, a complete synopsis, cast biographies and more.

The Production Team for Falstaff

Conductor/Producer, Maria Sensi Sellner; Stage Director, Stephanie Havey; Production Manager, Brennan Sellner; Stage Manager, Tina Shackleford; Scenic Designer, Gianni Downs; Lighting Designer, Kate Devlin Matz; Costume Designer, Karen Gilmer; Assistant Conductor, Jeffrey Klefstad; Chorus Master, Joel Goodloe; Rehearsal Accompanist, Uliana Kozhevnikova; Orchestra Manager, Ryan Leonard; Assistant Stage Managers, Rachel Sinagra and Cassandra Canavan;  Scenic Charge Artist & Assistant Scenic Designer, Megan Bresser.

Photography – Alisa Innocenti

 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

perksPrime Stage Theater’s adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a sincere, though sickly-sweet interpretation of the Young Adult Literature phenomenon. To enter the New Hazlett Theater and revisit this oft-remembered, rarely revisited story is to yet again come of age and recall that high school is, generally speaking, really crappy but also really important.

Charlie (Peter Joseph Kelly Stamerra), who is alternately stoic and desperate, is a lonely high school freshman who’s had a tough life. He divides his time between being ridiculed by his peers, struggling with his mental health, obsessing over any of the half-dozen awful tragedies he’s experienced, and generating phrases people will want to get tattooed on themselves in his journal. He is, in other words, the Alpha and the Omega of YAL protagonists. Your ability to enjoy the play will likely hinge on your capacity to enjoy Charlie.

Wallflower is not a play about journaling and wallowing, however, and the story’s pace picks up significantly once Charlie strikes up a friendship with the extroverted, scene-stealing Patrick (Logan Shiller) and Sam (Julia Zoratto), an adventurous young woman intent on pushing Charlie out of his comfort zone who Charlie immediately falls in love with to no one’s surprise.

More heavily influenced by the film than the original novel, Wallflower director Jeffrey M. Cordell’s adaptation is too direct with its drama and too flippant with its supporting cast and sub-plot to quite capture what made the original work so compelling.

Stephen Chbosky’s original script is a comprehensive course on how delicately a writer must balance a plot built on nostalgia, teen drama, and abuse. This is partially because Chbosky’s bittersweet-ness is less perfectly balanced than it is nearly imbalanced; for every awkward first kiss or pot brownie there are two ham-fisted quotes about what being alive feels like. To be fair, many would argue that’s part of the novel’s/film’s authenticity.

Prime Stage Theater’s work, which utilizes Hailey Rohn’s script, is by contrast too eager to orbit the story around the big moments (think the famous (infamous?) bridge sequence), and turn what was awkward yet complex into something melodramatic yet sincere.

To dismiss Wallflower as overdramatic would be unfair, because when it hits those heavier, more intimate moments, I did find myself consulting with my inner teenager the same way as I did watching the film. Stamerra possesses that very necessary contained desperation inherent to his character, and he really nails the whole ‘ahhhhh did I say the wrong thing???’-ness of his character. On that note, Shiller’s Patrick is full of the posi-vibed buoyancy one would expect, and Zoratto’s Sam has a palpable subdued confidence. Many quiet moments pass between these three that are as vulnerable as you’d ever want.

Unfortunately, the play’s various explosions – be they sequences where silhouettes of lost loved ones or abusers loom over the cast, or moments of sudden violence – too closely stick to the film’s aesthetic, and can feel a little bloodless. Scenes in which Charlie narrates his journal entries feel almost unnecessary the way they’re sped past, and important characters like Charlie’s sister’s boyfriend Derek (Connor Bahr) and the well-meaning English teacher Mr. Anderson (John Feightner) are played too broadly and are too peripheral to justify the stage time they do manage to get.

The supporting cast often interacts with Charlie as they adjust the objects on set, which is a fun twist, but that and the dramatic use of silhouettes in lieu of flashbacks make up most of The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s theatric adjustments. The ingredients for a great adaptation are all here, but too much focus on recapturing the magic of a less intimate medium make the play feel more like a greatest hits of its progenitor than an out and out creative success.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower runs at the New Hazlett Theater through May 14. For tickets and more information click here. 

Special thanks to Prime Stage for complimentary press tickets.

Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical

tenderly

The board of directors at the Theatre Factory in Trafford has a reputation of not shying away from challenging productions, and this group has the pluckiness, daring, and foresight to bring theater to Pittsburgh that not only entertains but teaches and inspires as well. According to this organization’s philosophy, performing plays and musicals for the sake of performance is one thing (this they do extremely well), but choosing entertaining plays and musicals to bring to the Pittsburgh cultural scene that continues to draw diverse audiences is quite another.

The Theatre Factory once again hits some pretty high notes by bringing Rosemary Clooney back to larger-than-life status with their performance of playwrights/composers Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman’s musical Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical.

This two person trip down a “memorable lane” takes the audience on a 30+ year journey of Clooney, her rise to stardom, her relationships, her very public battle with drugs, her eventual fall from grace, and then her recovery and triumphant return to perform at the Hollywood Bowl in 1998.

Most of the real “meat” of the story takes place in Clooney’s psychiatrist’s office after she is committed to a sanitarium following her 1968 nervous breakdown on a Las Vegas stage caused by a plague of relationship, money, and drug problems. The musical bounces back and forth between Clooney’s issues with her mother, her sister Betty, husband Jose Ferrer, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Bobby Kennedy, and Dante DiPaolo, including the music taken from the 20+ albums she recorded during her life.

Breanna Deutsch (Ariel in Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, Isle in Spring Awakening), an energetic and spirited performer who hits all the right notes, portrays the troubled starlet Clooney, takes each of the singer’s indiscretions and demons, and then, in a most smooth and flawless performance, ties them into the lyrics and musical score that made her famous.

Tenderly director Katya Shaffer is able to take Vogt and Friedman’s original intent of showing the “meaning behind the music” that audiences in the 50’s and 60’s could not have imagined. In an era of jazz and pop music where performance, style, and glamour were “the thing,” Shaffer and Deutsch pull the cover off what many would have thought to be simply entertaining “songs,” which, in reality, contained the very real pain that Clooney was feeling.

In fact, Ms. Deutsch is able to turn those upbeat and romantic songs of Clooney’s into lyrics that are the script of a woman in distress. The show brings to mind the same issues that Monroe, Davis, Wood, Mansfield, and Elvis experienced.  Audiences failed to see angst and humanity, choosing rather to see a “flawless” performer with a buttery voice who rubbed elbows with the Rat Pack and the Kennedy’s. Duetsch is able to move the character of Clooney from insecurity to stardom and back again so briskly that it is no wonder Clooney experienced a meltdown. Deutsch brings this to life so realistically that even if the audience didn’t know of Rosemary Clooney, her life, and her music, will leave the theater feeling personally attached to her.

Toward the end of the play, Deutsch’s portrayal of Clooney makes you want to just put your arm around her and tell her “everything will be alright.”  She is the quintessential example of the star who has everything but experiences a deep and dark emptiness in her life.

And that’s where her co-star, multi-purpose actor extraordinaire Jeremy Kuharcik (Billy Flynn – Chicago, Jitter – Musical of Musicals, Paul – Barefoot in the Park, and Bert – Mary Poppins) falls into this psychological journey. Kuharcik plays no less than 12 roles as he transforms from Clooney’s sister Betty to her husband Jose Ferrer to her friends and lovers Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dante DiPaolo. Not only does his role require him to impersonate of all of these characters, he must sing “in character” – performing entertaining duets with Deutsch. Kuharcik’s character transformation from one to another is a credit to his commitment to his craft. At the very end of the musical, when Clooney performs at the Hollywood Bowl in her comeback performance, Kuharcik (the psychiatrist) pays her a visit as an older, tattered, and physically broken friend. This is Shaffer’s intended direction which provides the audience a timeline meant to highlight the many decades of Clooney’s relevance.

A really special treat in this musical is the trio of talented musicians, band leader Kirk Howe (keyboards), Jesse Walls (percussion), and Mike Mara (bass), who provide the soundtrack that is reminiscent of the jazz and pop beat that underscored Clooney’s songs. (As well as Crosby and Sinatra). Music director Kirk Howe and stage manager Alicia DiPaola, and their assistants, are on point in providing the audience with the authenticity that is necessary in this production.

Finally, Clooney aficionados are treated to versions of such favorites as “Mambo Italiano,” “Come-on-a-My House,” “Botcha-A-Me,” “Count Your Blessings,” “Hey There,” “I Stayed Too Long at the Fair,” “Tenderly,”  and 15 other hits that provides a refreshing walk down memory lane.

Tenderly also shows how prolific Clooney was in her heyday and how she never stopped, causing her breakdown. Her successes created her own Sisyphus character, who, without the help of friends such as Sinatra, might have steamrolled over her and ended her life.

Tenderly is a lively and entertaining musical that is a tribute to Clooney’s Phoenix-like resolve.

The show runs through May 14th and you can find ticketing information at www.thetheatrefactory.com

Peter and the Starcatcher

Peter and the Starcatcher“We ask you now to imagine a grown cat in flight.”  This line—as a glowing scarf floated through the air while cast members created the sounds of a cat gurgling and cooing—was just one of many that had Friday night’s audience for Little Lake’s Peter and the Starcatcher howling with laughter.

Brilliantly opening Little Lake’s 69th season, Peter and the Starcatcher
provides a backstory to the century-old tale of how an unhappy orphan becomes Peter Pan- “The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up.”  The Tony-Award-winning show is a theatrical adaption of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s best-selling novel, and the play was made for the stage by directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, written by Rick Elice, and includes music by Wayne Barker.

The show takes audiences on an adventure on the high seas and to the faraway Mollusk Island. It opens with the mix-up of two trunks— deliberately similar to each other in their…trunkness—each aboard one of two ships, the Wasp and the Never Land.  A young, nameless orphan and his mates, aboard the Never Land, are being shipped off from Victorian England to a distant island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They know nothing of the mysterious trunk on board, but upon their meeting of a bright, young girl named Molly—a starcatcher in training—they learn that the trunk contains a precious, otherworldly cargo called starstuff—a celestial substance so powerful that it must never fall into the wrong hands.

op row: Andy Coleman, Bill Lyon, Carly DeCock, Art DeConciliis Middle row: Jeff Johnston, Eric Mathews, Tom Protulipac, Nick Staso Bottom row: John Herrmann
Top row: Andy Coleman, Bill Lyon, Carly DeCock, Art DeConciliis Middle row: Jeff Johnston, Eric Mathews, Tom Protulipac, Nick Staso Bottom row: John Herrmann

Meanwhile aboard the Wasp, Lord Aster—Molly’s father—is unaware of the mix-up and encounters the fearsome pirate Black Stache, his sidekick Smee, and a pirate crew as they learn that the wrong trunk is aboard the ship they have pirated.  The enchanting villain Black Stache is determined to claim the trunk and its treasure for his own, and they quickly change course to take over the Never Land and find the precious trunk filled with starstuff.

While on the Never Land, both the orphan boy—who is soon given the name Peter—and Molly become close as they take on the Wasp’s Slank and other various villains while trying to keep the starstuff out of the wrong hands. The Never Land eventually shipwrecks, Molly saves Peter from death, and together they fly to an unknown island.

The shipwreck leads them to a mysterious island—Mollusk Island—and Molly is kidnapped by Slank. Peter saves her from him, along with the help of Prentiss and Ted.  The story ends with Molly and Peter saying goodbye to each other, and with Peter promising to visit her in England. Molly and her father return to the real world, while Peter and the Lost Boys remain on Mollusk Island, which they rename Neverland, the name of the ship that was shipwrecked.

(clockwise from top) Nick Staso as Prentiss, Carly DeCock as Molly, James Curry as Peter and Max Andrae as Teddy
(clockwise from top) Nick Staso as Prentiss, Carly DeCock as Molly, James Curry as Peter and Max Andrae as Teddy

The show, featuring just a dozen actors who portray more than 100 unforgettable characters, is a thrilling adventure that keeps audiences on their toes from start to finish.  Little Lake’s production was directed and choreographed by Jena Oberg, and musical direction was provided by Holly Jones.

Overall, the show’s set was modest but made creative use of simple materials like ropes and wooden boards to simulate different settings including various parts of a ship, and blue aerial silks and ladders to simulate underwater scenes.

The cast was nothing short of stellar as they portrayed their larger than life characters.  Smee, played by Andy Coleman, stole the show as his expression, delivery and naturally humorous disposition had the audience in stiches from his very first line.  Black Stache, played by Bill Lyon, was also an audience favorite as he eccentrically delivered his cleverly written lines while incorporating today’s culture and entertaining sayings into the script—so much so, that it was at times hard for his castmates to stay in character and keep a straight face.  Another notable comedic performance was given by Slank, played by Tom Protulipac, who also embodied the pouty Hawking Clam on Mollusk Island.

James Curry, in his portrayal of Boy (Peter), delivered a strong dramatic performance with charming good looks and an expressive face.  There was an instant spark and connection when he locked eyes with Molly, played by Carly DeCock, for the first time.  It was this connection that had audiences in tears, amid their laughter, at the end of the show.  DeCock’s acting fit the character perfectly and was top notch for a young woman of her age, though—as this was a musical, even though there was a great deal more dialogue than music in the show—her singing voice was not quite as strong, and was often engulfed and lost amid the booming bass voices of the nearly all male cast.  A particularly stand-out vocal was provided by John Herrmann, who portrayed Aft with a cutting tenor instrument that could be heard loud and clear from any corner of the room.

(left to right) Andy Coleman as Smee and Bill Lyon as Black Stache
(left to right) Andy Coleman as Smee and Bill Lyon as Black Stache

Though the entire evening provided the audience with captivating entertainment, it is without a doubt that the audience’s favorite scene was the opening of act two, when—in vaudevillian song—nearly the entire cast portrayed a group of underwater mermaids that recall their experience of being transformed from regular fish after swimming in the wake of the starstuff.  The audience was so overcome with howling laughter that, at one point, it became difficult to hear the mermaids’ song!

The cast and crew received a standing ovation from a nearly sold-out house for their spectacular performances, and it was obvious that audiences enjoyed an imaginative evening filled with laughter and tears.  This captivating performance will be on the Little Lake stage on weekends through May 13- so don’t miss your chance to see this highly-recommended show!

Special thanks to Little Lake Theatre for complimentary press tickets. Peter and the Starcatcher runs through May 13, for tickets and more information click here. 

Photos courtesy of James Orr.

Wife U

WIFE-U-WEB-COVER_Page_1A great word for adaptation is “knock-off”.  Like ‘cheap’; ‘pegged-down’; an insinuation that’s just a bit crappier.  The ill craftsmanship of a poorly made, get-rich-quick impostor, aesthetically just as pleasing as it needs to be to seem classy.

We’re in Disneyland, the gift shop, and there’s this knock-off of a Molière play.  It pulls the same strings, the plot is basically intact, it’s got a veneer of plasticky faux-gilding and an over-saturation of color whose sheen is a little too contrasting to be considered subtle or clean.  Oh, and it’s full of irony: like it’s made to look that cheap.  The way of Disneying the icon is to pull it out of its regal, self-centered and dated 17th Century aristocratic French flare and slap it with the 20th Century sweatshop stickiness of facsimile.  But then also show it for what it is: indulgent, quick-buck garbage.

This is CMU fellow director Sara Lyons and writer Eric Powell Holm’s adaptation of Moliere’s School for Wives as Wife U taking the fructose out of a satirical french fruit and putting it into laffy taffy.

I’m not saying this wasn’t good.  It was very good.  Perhaps I should highlight that after so many negative words: THIS WAS VERY GOOD!  It was strange, it was very talented and entertaining and it was provocative.  But it was a take on a classical play that needed a cultural updating.  It’s as director Sara Lyons said in a press release for the show:

“Going all the way back to School for Wives, the way that I’ve described it to people is that it’s Taming of the Shrew-level messed up.  It’s really frightening and problematic in terms of its treatment of women.”

So, this is an adaptation that cheapens some of the aspects in that ‘problematic’ play, issues with sex and class.  Importantly, they do that on purpose!  They lathered up the old scheme of a classically contrived plot concerning a beguiling villain, commentary on the nobility and lines that lick the air of assonance in cleverly lain verse.  And then they add green-screen with photoshop; faux-gilding on tacky baroque chairs.  And the star, Clay Singer’s Arnolphe; the lanky shit eating grin, of an Eric Trumpesque skeezball with a misogynist bent and leading man likeability that fits him right into the scheme.   Classic story, classic villain.

Wife U attempts to give more to the women, the classic shill who are consistently harangued in stories that use them as the buffer.  As, again, Lyons said, “Holm’s adaptation maintains Molière’s style in terms of rhyming and wit, but it’s contemporary language and criticizes the play for its violence. I wanted to push this further and make an effort, in the production, to shift the point of view, actually inside of the play, from Arnolphe’s to Agnes’.”

Amanda Fallon-Smith’s Agnes has all the poise of a debutante and the levity of a flower.  She’s a beautiful woman, and this is an undeniable aspect of the plot from either perspective.  Her beauty though is not a begetting of her grace, rather within Lyons and Holm’s adaptation the depiction of woman’s beauty is a scourge of defiance and consciousness rather than simply conclusions.  They wanted to make a feminist show and so they gave the thing over to the women.  Fallon-Smith’s evolution in character, from vapid to alpha has a resonance when she holds her coldness.  Her pain is felt in realization.  She’s the only character who stops rhyming.  She transcends trope for humanity very well.

Shining within the trope though are the comedic duo of Iris Beaumier and Lea DiMarchi, whose chemistry in spinning the speed and timing of their characters’ spoofiness really lends itself to the slapstick usually reserved for male parts.  It’s important that they shine so silly, that these actresses also play uppity men in a cheap drag as well.  It’s the energy, I feel, of these two actresses that makes the momentum of this play feminist.  Its comic heels are set upon women’s timing.

That isn’t to denounce Singer, though.  He mesmerizes with his ability to play the villain.  Comic chops that very much reel and succor at the loose ends of opportunity.  Every bit of silence is met with a glance and every bit of smug tirade is met with a smirk.

And finally John Clay III’s Horace exudes a very exciting frankness which carried so heartily a great theme of Molière’s play that is then subverted in Lyons and Holm’s adaptation.  This is the idea that earnest and honest passion is deserving of true love.  It’s a certain amount of entitlement that’s shoved in the face by the adaptation.  It’s a bizarre subversion because it takes what it wants of the original and leaves the rind to rot on stage.  This is nuanced by the very thing that makes this play unique: it’s palpable postmodern imagery.

Media Designer Sylvie Sherman and Scenic Designer Trent Taylor created such a masterful commentary on the frivolous embracing of wealthy imagery.  As I’ve said before, the entire play is laden with knock-offs: photoshop, green-screen, karaoke, midi-made muzak.  The posh decadent cheapness of gilded furniture in an era where we seem to be in the throes of a rich man’s ego representing the cultural more of success.  Would we forget that Molière’s audience at the Palais-Royal represents an aristocracy with cultural values needing not only the insightful critique of theatre, but perhaps the revolutionary candor of a societal revolt?  Even the satire sometimes needs to be satirized when the reality is too absurd.

I’ll give it to this fine ensemble which tied the comedic chops and absolutely astonishing command of verse into followable and electric banter.  I’m not sure this play delivers the insightful call-to-arms, riot-grrrl style it promises.  For instance, nary a riot grrl song is included.  Tsk tsk. Though, I do believe within its creepy critique of wealth culture and wannabe ego-driving; it hits on another nerve: disgust.  Like so much that this play critiques, examines, and glorifies: it powerfully substantiates the idea that, in this reality-tv, society of the spectacle-cluttered culture right now: stupid can be smart and we love what we hate.  This is banality on ecstasy.  I hope they can stage it at Mar-A-Lago sometime soon.

Wife U closed Friday night April 28, 2017. For more information about the Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, click here. 

 

The Summer King – The Josh Gibson Story

Summer King

It was truly a “gala” occasion in the long history of Pittsburgh Opera, at the Benedum last evening, when the much publicized and widely heralded The Summer King – the company’s first ever “world premiere” – was performed for the first time. With music by Daniel Sonenberg, set to a libretto that is a collaboration between the composer and Daniel Nester and Mark Campbell, the opera tells a necessarily condensed version of the life of Josh Gibson, referred to by many in his day as “the black Babe Ruth.” Today he is remembered at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but in his lifetime, like all African-Americans, was barred from a place in the Major Leagues. Christopher Hahn, General Director of the company, who has proven on previous occasions that he is not shy when it comes to taking the great risks inherent to the production of new, contemporary works, is to be especially congratulated on his latest – and greatest – innovation, as a work never heard by anyone before is indeed a giant leap to lofty heights.

The composer and the librettists were on hand, as was a large and very enthusiastic audience, and Mr. Sonenberg possibly received the greatest ovation of the evening when he was coaxed to the stage at the conclusion of the performance. He well deserved it, as his orchestration of the piece is rich, full, exquisitely colorful, and carries the action on the stage quite vividly and with a masterfully arranged appropriateness, finely honed to each of the many scenes which make up the opera. Antony Walker and the remarkably gifted instrumentalists of the orchestra had a field day (no pun intended) in bringing the vibrant and enchanting score to life.

Gibson’s tragically short life fits operatic treatment like a glove. The opera encapsulates not only key events in his career and sad decline, but is a reflection on an era; an unenlightened era of segregation in our own backyards, when sharply defined division permeated far beyond the sandlots. The work is well staged and makes effective use of creative media and lighting effects.

Summer King1

The action takes place in two acts of multiple scenes, beginning with men reminiscing about Gibson in a barber shop about a decade after his death. The action then fades back to 1930, when his wife Helen tells him in a Homestead park of a pregnancy she ultimately would not survive, then progresses over the period leading to his death at 35 in 1947. This is the time of Gibson’s career as a stellar hitter for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, and when his regular “jook joint” was the long gone, legendary Crawford Grill in the Hill District, where he meets his girlfriend Grace after she hits on the daily number by playing his batting average of 440. Encouraged by a reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier, as well as Grace, he considers trying to break the “color barrier,” by aiming for the Major Leagues. A meeting is arranged with the Washington Senators, but the story is simply a humiliatingly cruel ruse to appease the African-American press. Gibson heads south of the border, with a few of his teammates and Grace, since race is not an issue in the Mexican League, where he plays for the Rojos del Águila de Veracruz, is crowned “The Summer King,” and enjoys tremendous but brief success, as Grace is anxious to return to Pittsburgh – since the Second World War is over, and her husband will soon be home.

Back in Pittsburgh, talk of integration in the Major Leagues begins to appear as just over the horizon, as indeed it was, but by this time Gibson is drinking heavily to self-medicate excruciating headaches, hallucinating about his late wife, and having one-sided, imaginary conversations with Joe DiMaggio. He is visited by his old friend Sam Bankhead, who tells him that Jackie Robinson will join the Dodgers, before Josh drifts in and out of delirium and reflections on his lifetime, then dies.

The very large cast faces a daunting task in interpreting the vocal line of the opera. The voices parts are difficult, oddly rhythmed, and fragmented declamation of recitative from the beginning until the fourth scene of the second act. Occasionally a hint of melody suggests sustained singing is about to happen, but it rarely does. Alfred Walker, whose large repertory encompasses the major baritone roles in Richard Wagner’s epic music-dramas, made his Pittsburgh Opera debut in the title role. He is a world-renowned singer quite capable of handling the demands of the score, and his acting was charmingly amusing in the few light moments of the story, and powerfully dramatic through the rest. He made an engaging picture, and it is difficult to imagine that he could have achieved a greater success in the role. Much the same may be said of Denyce Graves, also making her local operatic debut, as Grace. She, too, is a top notch singer of international acclaim, and her rich mezzo-soprano voice was in fine condition and a true thrill to hear. She was a delight to the eye in the period costumes of the era. She and Mr. Walker were at their best in the fourth scene of the second act, which allows them the best opportunity to display their abundant vocal abilities.

Another singing part that stands out vividly is the character of Wendell Smith, of The Pittsburgh Courier, which was sung by Sean Panikkar, a former Resident Artist with the company who has gone on to make a name for himself with most of the American opera companies and on international stages as well. His pure tenor voice rang out resoundingly in the role, and he acted the part in a highly engaging manner. Other newcomers to Pittsburgh who stood out in the crowd were Kenneth Kellogg, in the baritone role of Sam Bankhead, and the lyric soprano Jacqueline Echols, as Helen Gibson.

Summer king2

For the rest, it must suffice to say that tenors Martin Bakari (as Scribe and a “Trash Talking Player”), Terrence Chin-Loy (as Double Duty Radcliffe), Robert Mack (as Judy Johnson) and Norman Shankle (as the Elder Barber and Gus Greenlee) made their local debuts; current Resident Artists Brian Vu (as Calvin Griffith), Eric Ferring (as Señor Alcalde), and Taylor Raven (on the program as “Girlfriend”) made the most of their brief opportunities; former Resident Artists Phillip Gay (as the Younger Barber and Cool Papa Bell), Kyle Oliver (as Dave Hoskins), and Jasmine Muhammad (as Hattie) return for these performances; Pittsburgh native Ray Very did triple-duty (as a Radio Announcer, Branch Rickey and Clark Griffith), Gregg Lovelace was on the program (as Broadway Connie Rector), and George MiloshRobert Spondike and Scott Cuva made a brief, entertaining appearance as Mariachi singers.

As usual, the singers in the magnificent Pittsburgh Opera Chorus, under the direction of Mark Trawka, were a prominent and very successful feature of the evening. Such a large group of singers keeping time and tune in such difficult music was a truly remarkable accomplishment. In the curiously constructed epilogue/prologue combination which ends the opera, the children’s chorus, which gradually builds into the full chorus, provided some of the most beautiful music of the performance.

Whether the opera will go on to other venues, only time will tell. But it is certain that The Summer King is a major milestone in local operatic history, and the remaining performances deserve capacity audiences.

For tickets, performance dates and times, a complete synopsis, and much more, visit Pittsburgh Opera.

Special thanks to Pittsburgh Opera for the two complimentary press admissions.

The “Artistic Team” for The Summer King  –

Conductor, Antony Walker; Stage Director, Sam Helfrich; Set Designer, Andrew Lieberman; Costume Designer, Kaye Voyce; Lighting Designer, Robert Wierzel; Media Designer, Darrel Maloney; Wig and Makeup Designer, James Geier; Assistant Conductor, Glenn Lewis; Chorus Master, Mark Trawka; Associate Coach/Pianist, James Lesniak; Assistant Director, Frances Rabalais; Stage Manager, Cindy Knight.

Photography: David Bachman