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.

Stage 62 Goes to Camelot, Neverland, and More!

stage62_logoCommunity. This is the word that best characterizes a local nonprofit theater company that traces its inception back to 1962, when it began as an adult education theater project that morphed into much more. Taking residence at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, Stage 62 is an all volunteer-run company that strives to provide the community with quality theater for all ages that is affordable.    This year’s season will feature the plays, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Monty Python’s SPAMALOT” and “Anne.” The children’s musical, “Pinkalicious” was also part of the company’s season but closed in mid-February.

This year’s season will feature the plays, “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Monty Python’s SPAMALOT” and “Anne.” The children’s musical, “Pinkalicious” was also part of the company’s season but closed in mid-February.

A typical season for Stage 62 usually includes a musical in November; a show for children’s audiences in February; a drama/comedy in May and a musical peterstarcatcher300x300in July, according to the company’s website. However, Stage 62’s members play a huge role in the selection of production titles.

“We are completely member-driven, so our membership actually gets to vote on the productions that we do,” Christopher Martin, president of Stage 62 said. “We look for submissions from our group and outside our group. …We take those specific shows to our playwriting committee, and they decide what they think will be best for the organization. [They choose] two shows per slot and vote from there.”

Because volunteers are the backbone of Stage 62, cost and the interest it will attract from the community also heavily influences the selection of production titles.spamalot300x300

“We have to balance what we think will make money and what will be exciting and engaging for our audiences and volunteers,” Martin said.
The members of Stage 62 also try to choose show titles that the company’s volunteers and directors have an interest in producing.

“We sometimes would have something picked but not have someone who had a passion to do the show,” Martin said. “We always try to have a core staff or director in mind for the show.”

Once a season has been narrowed down and show titles have been selected, the artistic direction and vision for the production and how it will be interpreted, is left up to the director.

annie300x300Stage 62’s upcoming production, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is based on a novel by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson and provides the back story of the well-known children’s movie character, Peter Pan.

“One of the reasons we like the show is it is simple,” Martin said. “A lot of it is done with simple props and imagination.”

For its summer show, Stage 62 likes to put on a “fun-rousing” musical, and that’s where “Monty Python’s SPAMALOT” comes in, a musical comedy  adapted from the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Goofy comedies tend to equal success for Stage 62, according to Martin, and the Monty Python title the company selected for this season fits the bill.

For the fall, Stage 62 typically selects a classic film, and “Annie” is about as classic as it gets. With the permission of The Tribune Media Services, Inc., the musical “Annie” is based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie and will be presented through a special arrangement with Music Theatre International.
Stage 62 has a reputation of providing audiences with stage productions that are well-executed, interesting and fun and accessible to the broader public, and that’s exactly what you will get with the company’s 2017 season lineup.
“Peter and the Starcatcher” opens May 11 and runs through the 21st, followed by “Monty Python’s SPAMALOT,” which premieres July 20, and “Annie,” set for November 9.

For tickets and more information about Stage 62, visit their website,

Winter Preview 2016

Snowflake 6
A letter from the Editor

To our beloved readers,

The countdown has begun; there are just 21 days left until the first day of Winter and we have put together a preview sure to prepare you for a holiday season of new and exciting theater experiences. Even though things start to slow down in the winter, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained during the cold, dark evenings as Pittsburgh’s warm theater community invites you to step in from out of the cold and catch a show. There is plenty of holiday themed fun and even a few new plays to choose from this Winter season!

Beyond this preview, stay tuned for continuous coverage of Pittsburgh theater. We will be checking in with local companies, some new to the scene and some seasoned veterans. We will also continue to introduce you to the people that make up Pittsburgh’s vibrant theater community through our artists spotlight series.

On a business related note, we are officially a legal entity (LLC) recognized by the government (AKA the IRS, OMG!). Remember, if you would like to sponsor the site or purchase advertisements on the site, contact

Again, we want to thank those of you that have and continue to support us through your donations to our previous fundraising campaign, 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.

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.

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!

#5 – Eugene Onegin by Undercroft Opera: Usually sung in French, 10 year oldOneginPoster Undercroft Opera will be presenting this Tchaikovsky masterpiece in Russian as a concert. Originally premiering in Moscow in 1879, this story of unrequited love and regrets was last produced in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Opera in 2009. Undercroft, a company known for giving performers “opera-tunities”, brings many opera veterans to the stage in this one night only event. Last seen in the Pittsburgh Savoyards’ production of Gianni Schicchi,  Eugene Onegin will bring Ian Greenlaw and Katie Manukyan together on the stage once again. For tickets and more information, check out Undercroft’s website here. 

#4 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Cup-a-Jo Productions: On the heels of their innovative 404501_10150601331240797_648691161_nproduction of Titus AndronicusCup-a-Jo brings us another twist on an old classic. A not-so-fun night of drinks with new colleagues turns dark and disastrous in the late Edward Albee’s absurdist drama. Starring company founder Joanna Lowe and Brett Sullivan Santry, Cup-a-Jo will drag us into an immersive universe complete with signature live music and of course, cocktails. Literally set within a living room, this production will give audiences “ultimate uncomfortable voyeuristic experience” says Lowe. Dates and more details to come, but for more information about Cup-a-Jo, click here.

#3 – The Lion in Winter by PICT Classic Theatre: The classic Christmas tale of King Lion-Final-WebHenry II and his dysfunctional family weaves through politics, conspiracies, and ruthlessness. The cast includes Pittsburgh favorites like Karen Baum and Tony Bingham, even PICT’s Artistic Director Alan Standford graces the stage as Henry himself in the company’s third production in their new space at the Union Project in Highland Park. As always, PICT is “committed to the creation of high-quality, professional thought-provoking theatre of substance” and we’re confident this production will be no different. The Lion in Winter begins previews Thursday December 1, for tickets and more information click here. 

#2 – Lungs by off the WALL: In the second production of their Mainstage scaled_256series, off the WALL brings us more of the quick-witted dramas the company is known for with Duncan MacMillan’s Lungs. On a mostly bare set, no costume changes, and little accoutrements, Sarah Silk and Alec Silberblatt will force audiences to focus on the important themes of the text, rather than superfluous theatrics in this production. This two person drama takes us on a ride over the course of a relationship as they battle with questions about their families, their aspirations and each other. Opening December 2 at Carnegie Stage. For tickets and more information, click here. 

#1 – The Royale by City Theatre: City Theatre continues to uphold its mission YT17-Feature-The-Royaleto be Pittsburgh’s home for new plays with their January premiere of The Royale. Known for writing and producing television shows like Sons of Anarchy and Orange is the New Black, Marco Ramirez’s Broadway debut play The Royale is inspired by the true story of turn of the century boxer Jack Johnson. DeSean Terry plays Jay “The Sport”Jackson in this drama about fighting more than just the other person in the ring. Jackson has eyes on the heavyweight championship but with the racial tension of 1905 that might be easier said than done. The Royale runs on City Theatre’s Mainstage January 21 – February 12. For tickets and more information, click here.

While we’ve got you, check out our Top 5 Musicals you don’t want to miss here!

In the mood for something a little more festive? Claire rounded up the Top 5 Holiday shows for you here.

Throughline Theatre Company has gotten a new Artistic Director! Meet Sean Sears here.

Speaking of new things, check out one of Pittsburgh’s newest theater companies, Jumping Jack Theater.

Curious about something a little more than theater? Check out Jason’s articles featuring slowdanger and The Space Upstairs.

Even Attack Theatre is loosening some screws in their upcoming show Unbolted.

We’ve been pretty busy this fall too! In case you missed anything, here are some highlights of the last three months:

Between Riverside and Crazy at the Pittsburgh Public Theater

Three Days in the Country by Kinetic Theatre

The Music Man by Stage 62

12 Angry Men by the McKeesport Little Theater

How I Learned to Drive by the Duquense Red Masquers

Salome by the Pittsburgh Opera

To Kill a Mockingbird by Prime Stage Theatre

Giselle by the Pittsburgh Ballet

Barefoot in the Park by The Theatre Factory

Prometheus Bound: A Puppet Tragedy at the Irman Freeman Center for Imagination

Pride and Prejudice by Steel City Shakespeare

Trial by Jury & Gianni Schicchi by the Pittsburgh Savoyards

The River by Quantum Theatre

The Toxic Avenger at the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret


The Music Man

the music manStage 62‘s The Music Man presents a caliber of talent that surpasses the status quo of community theater. This rhythmic masterpiece, made up of sweet melodies, a lively story and charming characters is a slice of American pie. The production boasts a wide range of music styles, dance ensembles, comedic moments and romance. This is a performance the whole family can enjoy. There are opportunities for performers of all ages to shine and Stage 62‘s rendition rises to this challenge.

The performance begins with the orchestra playing the overture. The sound swells the theater, traditionally designed for concerts, permitting the acoustics to resonate. Having never seen The Music Man before I enjoyed the prelude of familiar tunes realizing just how many songs I recognized. The story unfolds quickly, partly due to the tempo of the first 3 musical numbers, Rock Island, Iowa Stubborn and (Ya Got) Trouble, and the superior delivery of dialogue by con man ‘Professor’ Harold Hill (Andy Folmer) the fast- talking traveling salesman. Hill’s scam; convince parents their sons will keep out of trouble by joining in a band. Hill sells instruments, uniforms and music materials, promises to offer instruction and direction to the boys, then once the supplies are delivered and payment collected, he’ll skip town before anyone catches on. Arriving in River City, Iowa Hill learns the townsfolk are not very friendly. He determines the best way to earn the confidence of parents is to gain the assurance of the local music teacher/ librarian, Marian Paroo (Becca Chenette). She too is cold and stand-offish but luckily, for Hill, Marcellus Washburn (Chris  Martin) a former ‘associate’ turned straight, is living in River City. Washburn agrees to help Hill launch his scheme and escape town without a hitch. Things go, more or less, as Hill intends; except for the few residents who question his credentials, a young boy in need of a father figure and a blossoming romance that quickly changes the path of Hill’s plan.

Harold Hill (Andy Folmer) and Marian Paroo (Becca Chenette)
Harold Hill (Andy Folmer) and Marian Paroo (Becca Chenette)

If you’re familiar with The Music Man you won’t be surprised to learn this is a 61 person cast. Director Rob James successfully incorporates all elements necessary for a seamless production and choreographer Devyn Brown manages to keep the shows momentum flowing with movement. Two memorable dance numbers, Marian the Librarian and Shipoopi, showcase the abundance of talent from supporting cast members Chris Martin, Adam Speers as Tommy Djilas and Alex Ficco as Zanetta Shinn. Other highlights include, the harmonizing Quartet and the ladies Pickalittle (Talk-a-Little) song and dance. There’s a lot of theatrical zeal from each character especially the budding talent of cast members Alexa Speicher as Amaryllis and Elliott Bruno as Winthrop, who appear poised and confident in character despite their young age.

Amaryllis (Alexa Speicher), Winthrop (Elliott Bruno), Amaryllis (Hannah Post)

A strong supporting cast and a dynamite ensemble can carry a show a long way but The Music Man demands veteran performers to fill the shoes of Professor Hill and Marian Paroo. Andy Folmer as Hill is a big presence on a small stage, a virtuoso of voice, he consistently maintains savvy delivery of both dialogue and song. Becca Chenette is a genuine Marian. Her voice is lilting and strong. A seasoned vocalist she exudes sweetness and sentimentality while singing the beautiful ballads.

Stage 62‘s performance of The Music Man is lively and fun. It has all the elements of a classic American musical. The costumes are bright and represent a time and place that accentuate the extensively detailed set. Highlights of the show included the expertly executed speak- song, Rock Island the highly energetic Ya Got Trouble, the notable Seventy-Six Trombones and the endearing Till There Was You .

Special thanks to Stage 62 for complimentary press tickets. The Music Man runs at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall (ACFL& MH) Carnegie, PA through November 20th. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Photos courtesy of Amber Smith.

5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Fall

At last, our hot and humid dog days of summer are yielding to fall, bringing with it quite an interesting range of offerings for musicals in the Steel City this season. We’ve got a bit of everything from the spectacle of Tommy, The Who’s rock opera, at one end and to the simplicity of The Fantasticks with just piano and harp at the other. Then there a not so normal family in Next to Normal, and a not so normal setting for a musical, the waste dumps of New Jersey for the Toxic Avenger. If you are looking for a more traditional show there is the classic Music Man with its Seventy Six Trombones.

The Pulitzer Prize winning Next To Normal opens at The Theatre Factory in net to normalTrafford on September 16th, and runs through October 2nd. This powerful rock musical grapples with a mother’s bipolar disorder in a suburban family. Dad is barely holding himself together, the daughter searches to find her place in the world and the son has a secret. Yes, this show will make you laugh and cry as the family struggles with not being quite normal. In addition to the Pulitzer this show deservedly received Tony’s for best score and orchestrations.

Those of us who are New Jersey transplants will feel right at home with The Toxic Avenger at the CLO Cabaret, September 22nd through December 18th.  This rock musical is based upon the movie of the same name. The hero is out to save New Jersey but along the way he falls in love with the town’s blind librarian. (Perhaps she can’t see the town needs to be saved.) 13920592_10153878214136696_6619933184213095285_n

Evan Ruggiero, the one-legged tap dancer, who fought cancer and went onto appear on American Idol, stars in the title role. This laugh out loud musical horror-comedy has something for everyone. It was the winner of the 2009 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. Here in the ‘burgh, you can eat and drink during the show and enjoy “Hot Toxic Love”, “Thank God She’s Blind” and “Evil is Hot”.  What could be better than that?

Young love triumphs in The Fantasticks at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre, September 29th through October 30th. The Fantasticks is the worlds longest running musical and Ted Papas will bring his own directorial take to this beloved classic. Sophisticated yet simply staged this is the story of two fathers scheming to bring their son and daughter together in this sweet and FANTAS2831perfect musical.  It features classic songs like “Try to Remember” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain”. If you are a fan of musical theatre, the legendary Fantasticks has to be on your “must see” list of shows. In New York, the show plays in a very intimate black box type of theatre. It will be interesting to see it performed in a three quarter thrust stage at the O’Reilly. “The Fantasticks is the show that convinced me, 50 years ago, to spend my entire life in the theater. The Public’s new production is my way of saying ‘Thank You’ to all the actors and designers who have blessed me with their talent, imagination, and joy.” says Artistic Director Ted Pappas.

tommyOakland will rock to The Who’s Tommy at The Pittsburgh Playhouse’s Rockwell Theatre, on October 21st through October 30th. This iconic Tony and Grammy Award winning rock opera tells the story of a special young man from a troubled background who overcomes long odds to triumph. It is a sensory-defying masterpiece of passion and wizardry that features now iconic rock tunes including “Pinball Wizard’, “I’m Free” and “See Me, Feel Me”. Huntington, Of note, West Virginia’s Michael Cerveris received the 1993 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for creating the role of Tommy in the original Broadway production.

The Music Man marches on to Stage 62 in Carnegie, from November 10th through 20th. Head to a simpler time when traveling salesman and con artist the music manProfessor Harold Hill convinces the people of River City, Iowa to form a kid’s band to counter the evils of the pool hall. The Professor meets and falls for Marion, the librarian, complicating his scheme. Classics songs “(Ya Got) Trouble”, “Till There Was You” and “Seventy Six Trombones” make for a foot stomping handclapping time with all that brass in this multiple Tony Award winning musical.

From classic show tunes to rock opera there is something for every musical theatre fanatic this fall here in the ‘burgh. Checkout our other fall previews for even more musicals.

One thing this town has got is range!

Check out the rest of our 2016 Fall Preview here! Follow along with our autumn adventures with the hashtag #FallwithPITR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Jesus Christ Superstar

gfhsersrtA man, rises to power from nothing, gaining hundreds of thousands of followers along the way, whose fame and status eventually became the center of controversy for his inseparable fate with the unity and peace of his nation.

Yes, some would say this man challenges the faith of many. No, as much as it sounds alike, I’m not talking about any presidential candidate from this heated election season. And yes, this is a story we all know by heart.

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar tells the journey of Jesus during his final week, from his arrival all the way to crucifixion, with a focus on the evolving relationship between him and his loyal apostle Judas Iscariot. Originally started as a concept album with a Broadway debut in 1971, this audience-favorite sung-through musical is now the newest production at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie, PA, only this time the real superstar is its theatrical company, Stage62.

Mary Johnson-Blocher as Judas

If heaven has a rock band, Duquesne graduate Jeff Way is certainly the lead singer of the gang. Playing the title role with a sensational voice, Mr. Way took the audience on a hero’s journey fueled with passion and emotion–his solo number “Gethsemane” in Act II was sincerely moving and full of halo. But you see, Jesus isn’t the only rock star you’ll meet. Musical theater powerhouse Mary Johnson-Blocher conquered the role of Judas–a role that’s traditionally played by male actors–and proved that she’s the real cherry-on-top within the first ten minutes of the show. Her portrait of Judas’s conflicted journey was the moving momentum of the story, and her final betrayal scene at the end of Act I was easily one of the spine-chilling moments of “all time’.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a show about memorable characters. And the amazing casts at Stage62 delivered these characters gloriously. Nina L. Napoleone plays the beautiful Mary Magdalene with a voice of clearance and color. Jeff Danner plays the evil High Priest Caiaphas on a rich bass tonality that will give you goosebumps every time he sings. Larissa Jantonio’s Annas, another traditionally male role, is genuinely wicked and full of sharp edges. And finally, just like all the other Stage62 productions, every single ensemble number in the show is a highlight and deserves all the applause of the night.

Jeff Way as Jesus
Jeff Way as Jesus

Behind this innovative production is the creative mind of singer and performer Seamus Ricci in a directoral debut at Stage62. Through the revolutionary casting choice of having female actors playing traditionally male roles, Mr. Ricci perfectly captured the diversity of talents that are deeply rooted in the Pittsburgh theatre community and gave this timeless musical a fresh and revitalizing look. Due to the sung-through narrative nature of the show and its vast variety of characters, at certain scenes the staging might feel a bit overwhelming if the audience is not familiar with the plot, but overall the dramatic texture is never lost. Throughout the night a recurring theme of “”emerge”, “encompass” and “contrast” will lead the audience through this constantly changing journey of power and faith on stage, and when the house suddenly becomes an extension of the stage with an atmospheric choral build-up, you can just feel the tension in the air!

Supporting the storytelling is the Orchestra, lead by Music Director Thomas Octave, playing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s electrifying rock score faithfully live on stage, and elevating the sound of the show to a heavenly level. Angela Essler’s choreography brings home the biggest surprise of the night with a dosage of great energy and star-dust–in the number “Herod’s Song” in Act II where King Herod, played by IUP student J’Quay Lamonte Gibbs, totally brought the house down with a bombshell performance that eventually became one of the biggest show-stopping moments of the night.image

But a story is never really alive without its theatrical counterpart. Jeremy Eiben’s costume design masterfully incorporates the modern clothes into the ensemble’s costumes with an abstract twist and gave this ancient account a 21st century make-over. Garth Schafer’s lighting design beautifully reflects the pulse of the story and set the base line of all the emotions. But the biggest bone-chilling and most surreal moment has to go to the end of the show, when a gigantic cross literally erects on stage and the entire scene of crucifixion, accompanied by a hauntingly realistic sound design by Soundcolor Productions, is being replayed in front of the audiences’ eyes, you just can’t help but wonder, is this still theater, or are we actually traveled back in time?

After the show I had a small chat with the director Mr. Ricci himself, and naturally we both agreed that the timing of bringing back this ALW classic now couldn’t be more perfect. With so much chaos and hatred and violence and senseless acts happening around the world everyday now, people desperately need a beam of hope and faith to keep us steady and strong. But the themes presented in Jesus Chris Superstar are more than just hope and faith. The show is also about power worship, about moral conflict, about betrayal, and mostly importantly, about abandonment and returning home.

No matter where we stand, the direction we are walking to is always the same. So why not walk together? But sometimes walking in life still feels like a shot in the dark. A wise man once said, “happiness can be found, even in the darkest of the times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”. Perhaps this time, Jesus Christ Superstar is the only guiding star we will need to get through the thunderstorm, and come home to the light.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall until July 31st. For tickets and more information, click here.

Special thanks to Stage 62 for complimentary press tickets. Photos courtesy of Image 42.

Summer Preview 2016

Summer LogoA Letter from the Editor

To our beloved readers,

As most of you know, Pittsburgh in the Round has been working over two years to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the local theater community. In that time, we have operated solely on a volunteer basis to bring you coverage of the theater scene we are so passionate about. In an attempt to create a more sustainable entity that can provide more for our readers and the theater community as well as keep up with its fast growth, we have become an official fiscally sponsored project of New Sun Rising! Among the many doors this opens, we may now accept tax deductible donations that will help us grow and better serve our community. If you or your organization are interested in donating to our cause, check out our donation page here.

With this announcement, we decided to launch our first annual Summer Preview which should keep you entertained until the leaves start to turn. There is a lot happening this summer and we don’t want you to miss a thing! We would love to hear from our readers and follow along with your Summer theater adventures so keep in touch with us on our Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram using the hashtag #SummerwithPITR.


Happy Summer,

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

Looking for some quality entertainment this summer beyond frequenting your neighborhood swimming pool? Luckily this season is full of opportunities to catch some local theater and we have put this guide together to make sure you don’t miss a thing! Every year, Pittsburgh’s theatre community gets bigger and bigger, with companies pushing the limits from ASD friendly performances to classic story adaptations. And this year is no different. If you’re curious about what this summer has to offer, then we’ve got you covered! Let’s start off with the Top 5 shows we’re looking forward to most this summer.

#5 -Venus in venusFur at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. Producing Artistic Director Ted Pappas says “New plays with exciting actors and edgy themes are a big part of what we love to produce at The Public. Venus in Fur is one of the best.” A play within a play adaptation of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs, David Ives introduces us to director/writer Thomas in the throes of attempting to find an actress to play Wanda von Dunayev in his play of the same name. Eventually an actress named Vanda shows up to audition in her best dominatrix get-up and “the erotic seduction of power takes center stage and the rules of domination are forever reversed.” according to PPT’s website. Just make sure you’ve got a babysitter for the night; you aren’t going to want your kids to see this! Venus in Fur plays at the Pittsburgh Public Theater with previews starting June 2nd.

News Primer 2
Andreas O’Rourke as Dracula bound in chains. Photo by Joseph Stammerjohn and Eyes to the Sky Films.

#4 – Rage of the Stage Players’ latest adaptation, Bloody Hell A play inspired by characters in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Adapted by artistic director James Michael Shoberg. Rage of the Stage is known for their dark reimaginations of classic stories and Bloody Hell makes no exceptions. Shoberg says “Bloody Hell is the final installment of my “Old London Series” of plays based on Victorian novels set in a dystopian future (following Hooked and Oliver Twisted). Though it was inspired by characters from  “Dracula,” the story has many surprises and twists and turns which will make it an entirely new experience for our audiences. Bloody Hell features a large cast of some of Pittsburgh’s most talented character actors, and they couldn’t be more excited to originate such unique roles in this world premiere play. It’s also been my great pleasure to direct this gifted and enthusiastic ensemble. They certainly do my writing justice. I definitely believe this dark, edgy Rage of the Stage Players’ production is a live summer event that’s not to be missed!”  Bloody Hell plays at the McKeesport Little Theater starting June 24th.

#3 – The Hound of Baskervilles from Kinetic Theatre thobBased on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 novel of the same name, we follow the infamous Sherlock Holmes as he solves a mystery with murder, a family curse, and a dog! “The script for the show is by the British comedy troupe Peepolykus (people like us, get it?). Fans of John Cleese, Michael Palin, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus will recognize the mad, deadly serious, and uniquely British hilarity that ensues when three fearless actors re-tell a favorite story: improvising props, costumes, and scenery and playing all the roles themselves. Our stellar cast consists of local favorite David Whalen as Holmes, reigning Post-Gazette Performer of the Year James FitzGerald as Watson, and Connor McCanlus as the Baskervilles. This will be a real summertime romp – fun for the whole family!” says Artistic Director Andrew Paul. The Hound of Baskervilles plays at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre starting July 21st.

#2 – The Birds at 12 Peers An adaptation of the 1963 classic Alfred HitchcocThe Birds Text-1k movie of the same name, based on the Daphne du Maurier’s short story, The Birds by Conor McPherson is a story of survival, paranoia, and well, birds. Directed by artistic director Vince Ventura, he’s “proud to present the Pittsburgh premiere of this tense, disturbing, thriller.  With an amazing technical team, and a new location for 12 Peers Theater, in the Studio Theatre at the Cathedral of Learning,” Ventura promises not to disappoint, “Conor McPherson is one of our generation’s best playwright, and most of his major works have been loved by audiences in Pittsburgh.” The Birds plays at the Studio Theatre in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning starting August 4th.

#1 – WordPlay at Bricolage2016-WordPlay web copy Storytelling is one of the oldest, simplest forms of theater, so why wouldn’t WordPlay be the thing we’re looking forward to most this summer? Hosted by Alan Olifson, whom you might also know for hosting Pittsburgh’s Moth StorySLAM. “The August WordPlay comes at an exciting time for the show as we start exploring new creative partnerships with some of the best writing and musical fixtures in the city. So our eleventh(!) show promises to be one of our best.” says Alan. Bricolage is still accepting story submissions for their August show and their November show! And anyone can submit a story, you don’t even have to be an actor! Even our writer Isaac has told a story for WordPlay! WordPlay goes down August 26th and 27th at Bricolage!

If musicals are your cup of tea, check out Drake’s special on the musicals he’s most excited about here.

Would you rather see a variety of plays all at once? Then you might want to see what’s in store for the upcoming Theater Festival in Black and White at Pittsburgh Playwrights or the next 10 Minute Play Festival at City of Asylum.

Need more insight on what else is in store for us this summer? How about some season previews?

Or maybe an Artist Spotlight of City Theatre’s artistic director Tracy Brigden is more your speed. She’s finishing her 15th season with City!

We also checked in with Little Lake Theatre to see what they’re up to since their major administrative changes!

Did you miss Mother Lode back in January at off the WALL? Well, you’re in luck. They’re doing another round from June 2nd to June 4th and here’s Megan’s review from the previous production!

Did you miss out on any of our reviews in May? You’re in luck, here’s a list of what we published in the Merry Month of May.

How about our coverage of the Fringe Festival? And don’t forget about the group of locals taking Dani Girl to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!

Another big thank you goes out to our readers and supporters. Without you this wouldn’t be possible! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram! Keep track of all the fun using the hashtag #SummerwithPITR

5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Summer

“Curtain up! Light the lights!” “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Yes, sing up and dance away, the summer theater season is finally here! As the breezy spring days quietly drift away into those dreamy summer nights, the Pittsburgh theater scene is also heating up for another great three months full of beautiful music and soulful stories. Whether you are already relaxing out in the sun, or listening to the Hamilton album for the fifteenth time, chances are you’re gonna want to see a show or two this season.  So as we prepare for another jam packed summer here at Pittsburgh In the Round, let’s all take a moment together and look at the line-up of this year’s musical productions right here in the Steel City, and dig into the five shows that you definitely don’t want to miss this summer!

Damn Yankees LogoFirst up, we have Damn Yankees opening up the season with a swing at Benedum Center from July 5th to 10th. Presented by Pittsburgh CLO as part of its annual summer musical season, this muscular musical comedy surely sets to bring America’s favorite pastime back to the stage again.

Originally based on the book The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop, the show features a book by Wallop and George Abbott, with music by Richard Adler and lyrics by Jerry Ross. Just in time for baseball season, the story focuses on Joe Boyd, a loyal baseball fan who transforms into a star slugger by making a deal with the devil. He later tries to lead his home team Washington Senators to victory in a pennant race against those “damn Yankees”. Premiered on Broadway in 1954, this musical is one of the first two shows the legendary Bob Fosse choreographed, and eventually it took home 11 Tony Awards that year, including the Best Musical. With Pittsburgh CLO’s usual summer production style of promoting local artists and talents, a dose of Pittsburgh pride and freshness is destined to be added to this timeless story. Tickets and more information about Damn Yankees can be found here.

Next, from July 21st to 31st at Stage62 gfhsersrtin Carnegie, PA, we have Jesus Christ Superstar, another Broadway classic with music and lyrics by audience favorites Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Building upon the success of its recent production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, this sung-through rock opera projects to be another thought-provoking, socially and politically relevant show.

As a parallel analogy to the rise of contemporary celebrity and fame worship, the show depicts the final days of Jesus and highlights the interpersonal struggles between Jesus and Judas, as well as Judas’s psychological development for his final betrayal. Directed by Stage62 veteran Seamus Ricci, with music direction from Thomas Octave and choreography from Angela Essler, this production also sets to break the conventional casting boundaries by bringing in female actors to play some traditional male roles, such as Judas (whom will be played by Point Park alumnus Mary Johnson), and hence form a new conversation of theatrical presentation giving this aging story a fresh modern look. An innovative production of a timeless musical, this one you definitely cannot to miss! Tickets and more information about Jesus Christ Superstar can be found here.adw Still can’t get enough of Rock ‘n Roll? Well worry no more, there is another rock opera coming to town this July! Produced by Alumni Theater Company, punk rock band Green Day’s less-revived sung-through rock opera American Idiot will make its way to the stage at New Hazlett Theater from July 29th to 31st, bringing another blast of energy and excitement to this already too hot summer season.

americanidiotOriginally released as a concept album in 2009 and them followed by a Broadway stage adaptation in 2010 (in which the idea was inspired by the success of no other show than Jesus Christ Superstar,  which also had a concept album prior to its stage debut), the story of American Idiot echoes as a commentary response to the cruel realities of the post-9/11 era by tracing the journeys of three dissatisfied young men whose life paths were heavily intertwined with the themes of war and love. With a mission to “create bold theatrical work that gives fresh voices to the experience of young urban artists”, Alumni Theater Company is surely going to surprise everyone with the biggest hit in town! For tickets and more information about American Idiot, click here.

adsfaewNext up, from August 18th to 28th, we are going to take a small trip with The Summer Company down the rabbit hole and learn about A History of American Film, in the brand new Genesius Theater.

With a long-overdue Broadway premiere AmerFilmBookin 1978, this hilariously brilliant musical comedy by Christopher Durang with music by Mel Marvin is possibly the best way Hollywood could clash with Broadway, in a down-to-the-earth over-the-top parody of every American film cliché from silent film era all the way until the present. Think about The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) funny, but only this time with films and Hollywood jokes! Directed by John Lane, one of the founding producers of the company, the five stereotypical leading characters and nearly sixty supporting characters in the story will be divided and doubled among the entire cast, just like how it was done in Hollywood from the 30s to the 40s. And because there is no original cast recording or that much of revival information to fall back on, the audiences surely will find this one a surprise! But just in case you’re still not sure, well, Mr. Lane himself said it the best, “If you like movies, little known musicals, and outrageous comedy–this show is for you!” Tickets and more information about The History of American Film can be found here.

unnamedfloydLast but certainly not least, as part of its ‘American Dreamers” series, we have Front Porch Theatricals presenting Floyd Collins, another beautifully moving musical with gripping drama, at New Hazlett Theater from August 26th to September 4th.

With a book by Tina Landau and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel (the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rodgers’s grandson who wrote the score for last season’s The Light in the Piazza), the story follows the life and death of a cave explorer Floyd Collins and reflects the journey of a true hero of its time, sort of like the “Alexander Hamilton” of Central Kentucky in the 1920s if you will. From the creative mind of Point Part alumnus Rachel Stevens who is currently also directing The Spitfire Grill, this musical promises to engage Pittsburgh audiences at a new level with a revolutionary story and a soaring score that will resemble the spirit and history of our own city, while featuring some of the newest and best talents in town. “A burning passion that has been on the producers’ minds since the company’s inception”, this is one of those star-studded, quality-guaranteed Front Porch Theatricals productions that you just simply cannot miss! Tickets and more information about Floyd Collins can be found here.

Go see a musical this summer!

Check out the rest of our 2016 Summer Preview here! Follow along with our summer adventures with the hashtag #SummerwithPITR on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Would you like to see more articles and reviews like this from Pittsburgh in the Round? Then help us out and donate to our indiegogo!




Assassins lays bare the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act historical “revusical” that explores the dark side of the American experience. From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, writers Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman bend the rules of time and space, taking us on a nightmarish roller coaster ride in which assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

For tickets and more information, click here.



Assassins lays bare the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act historical “revusical” that explores the dark side of the American experience. From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, writers Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman bend the rules of time and space, taking us on a nightmarish roller coaster ride in which assassins and would-be assassins from different historical periods meet, interact and inspire each other to harrowing acts in the name of the American Dream.

For tickets and more information, click here.