That Time of the Year

toyWe are at the Lamp Theatre in Irwin for the final dress rehearsal and a preview of Split Stages production of That Time of the Year which begins its two-day run tonight. Split Stage Productions co-owners Rob Jessup and Nate Newell, who produced last season’s production of Cabaret, have teamed with Director Matt Mlynarski in this musical revue featuring 25 all-original Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s songs.

The songs, with lyrics by the ASCAP award-winning team of Laurence Holzman & Felicia Needleman, and music by seven different composers, range from group numbers, that highlight the joys and anxieties of the holiday season, to ballads about the meaning behind both holidays.

The show has a cast of five community theatre veterans; Victoria Buchtan, Megan Lloyd Harding, Brittany Teague, Zakk Manella, and Josh Reardon with music direction by Andrew DeBroeck. That Time of the Year’s songs range from rock to blues, and jazz, with an opportunity for the cast to show off their voices in their best cabaret/show tune style.

The challenge for any theatre company, particularly a relatively new one, is to find a show that isn’t already produced in the area or isn’t a Christmas cliché. Those “visions of sugar plum dancing in their heads” always don’t reflect the reality of our modern holiday season.

In That Time of the Year, Holzman & Needleman’s songs include Angelo Rosenbaum with Reardon as Angelo. Buchtan has a raunchy Stay Home Tonight as Mrs. Claus who has other plans for Santa Christmas Eve. Other titles include Rock ‘n’ Roll Hanukkah (Mannella & Reardon), Little Colored Lights (Tague), Mama’s Latkes (Harding), People with Obligations, Calypso Christmas, They All Come Home (Harding), Wong Ho’s China Garden, Miracles Can Happen, and That Time of Year. You can see this is no White Christmas!

This production has the potential to capture the warmth and humor of America’s multi-faith holiday season. As presented, it is just another yet different cliché for the holidays.

That Time of The Year plays Friday and Saturday, December 15th and 16th at 8 pm with a 2 pm matinee on Saturday.  For tickets click here. 

Thanks to Split Stage for the sneak peek at final dress Thursday.

Split Stage Wraps a Successful Third Season, Announces an Ambitious Fourth

Split Stage Productions, co-owned by Westmoreland County’s Rob Jessup and Nate Newell just wrapped up a successful third season of three shows; Spring Awakening, Carrie and Cabaret.

Rob and Nate saw untapped potential for an innovative addition to the community theater circuit in Westmoreland County and founded Split Stage just over two years ago.

Spring Awakening brought Director Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre, Choreographer Aaron Cook and Music Director Ben Bedenbaugh to The Theater Factory in Trafford; both a new creative team and a new theatre for Split Stages. Carrie was staged at the Apple Hill Playhouse, a creepy old barn just perfect for a Halloween show. The season closed with Cabaret, it was their first full musical at the newly restored Lamp Theatre in Irwin.

Rob credits the willingness of these new locations for “Welcoming Split Stages with open arms. From holding dates to opening both front doors to the community and back doors to the theater’s resources.  We couldn’t ask for better venue partners.”

I asked about the challenge of keeping your loyal audience while moving to different theaters in different towns.  “What might have caused some push back from regulars turned to a surprising upside along with new audience members welcoming an edgier than usual fare at their neighborhood theater. They became Split Stage followers from show to show.“

Split Stage’s mission is to bring to the Westmoreland County area quality, high caliber theatre with top-notch production values to an ever-expanding audience. Rob and Nate’s long-term goal is to produce works that continue and grow upon that tradition.

Toward that end, they have just had their “not for profit status” confirmed and obtained their IRS 501c3 certification yet still keeping one foot planted on the edge and the other firmly on the commercial side.

Season three carries on the tradition, but grows the season to four productions. Here is what’s on tap:

chicagoFirst up is a production of the original 1976 version of Chicago produced in association with Westmoreland event producer Kelley Simon, it plays at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg June 2nd and 3rd. Jim Mikula directs, Laura Wurzell choreographs and Eric Barchiesi is Music Director. Mandie Russak (seen in Cabaret as the MC) plays Roxie Hart and Victoria Ashley (from Spring Awakening) is Velma Kelley.

side showSide Show plays October 6th to 14th at the Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont. Rob envisions that the side show experience begins as soon as you park your car. There will be jugglers, knife throwers, and other surprises. Side Show is a musical by Bill Russell (book and lyrics) and Henry Krieger (music) based on the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who became famous stage performers in the 1930s. Side Show is slated to be directed by Jim Scriven.

that time of yearThat Time of Year is this year’s holiday show playing December 15th to 17th at the Lamp Theatre in Irwin. It’s not a sappy Christmas musical, but a more realistic depiction of the holiday season. Jim Scribin directs this musical revue of 25 all-original Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s songs run the musical gamut from show tunes to rock, blues and jazz

last 5 yearsThe season closes with the musical The Last Five Years. It plays at the intimate Theatre Factory stage in Trafford January 26th through February 3rd.

This is an emotionally powerful and intimate musical about two New Yorkers. Jamie and Cathy are both in their twenties and fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The show uses reverse storytelling; Cathy, is a struggling actress, who tells her story in reverse while Jamie, a rising novelist, reveals his story chronologically from when they first met.  The two characters play opposite of each other and are only together on stage once, at their wedding, in the middle of the timeline.

Split Stage co-owners Rob Jessup and Nate Newell present an ambitious fourth season for focused on bringing top-notch theatre to the Westmoreland County area. Season three’s selections are diverse and engaging. Consider taking in a show or two brought to you by a talented group of theatre folk.

For tickets and more information about what Split Stage Productioins has to offer, click here. 

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