Friday, October 30, 2015

Renowned Mezzo Pairs Arias with Americana at Carnegie Carnegie Hall Concert

Marianne Cornetti is recognized internationally as one of the leading Verdi mezzo-sopranos in the world. She has appeared as Amneris in Aida, Azucena in Il Trovatore, and Eboli in Don Carlos. She has performed at Teatro alla Scalla in Milan, Covent Garden in London, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Metropolitan Opera and many others. And the Pittsburgh "Post-Gazette" named Cornetti’s November 2005 debut at Carnegie Carnegie Hall “one of the top ten classical performances of the year.”

Executive Director Maggie Forbes acknowledges that while Cornetti deserves all the credit for that accolade, the Music Hall showcased her beautifully.  “We are forever grateful to Marianne for putting our gem of a venue in the spotlight that night. ”Despite having performed in the world’s most storied opera venues, Cornetti has a soft spot for the Music Hall.

“It will be such a PLEASURE to perform again in one of Pittsburgh's jewels, the Carnegie Carnegie. I especially love singing in this theatre because it is so warm and intimate, allowing me to communicate to each audience member on a one to one basis!”

The Library & Music Hall is thrilled that Marianne Cornetti is returning to its stage.  Marianne Cornetti: The 10th Anniversary Concert takes place on Sunday, November 1 at 3:00 p.m. The concert will be Cornetti’s third appearance in the Music Hall, located at 300 Beechwood Avenue in Carnegie.  She also performed here in October 2010.

“Clearly, we cannot go more than five years without the magnificent Marianne gracing our stage,” says Forbes.  “Her voice is a thing of wonder in our Hall.  And her warm and magnetic personality is the perfect match for the kind of organization that the Library & Music Hall is.”

Ms. Cornetti, who will be accompanied by pianist James Lesniak, has put together a program custom made for Carnegie Carnegie Hall.  The first half of the program includes selections from the classic opera repertoire with arias by Gounod, Saint-Saens, Wagner, Mascagni and, of course, Verdi. 

The second half of the program is pure Americana with the medley of Old American Songs by Aaron Copland, as well as songs from Kiss Me Kate, An American in Paris, and My Fair Lady and other beloved show tunes.

Concert tickets are $75 for reserved seats in the orchestra and $50 for open seating in the balcon. and are available at

If you'd like to listen to and see Brian Edwards' scintillating  interview with Ms. Cornetti on Burghvivant, go to

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

THE ELEPHANT WRESTLER- Part of India in Focus

    The contradictions of modern India, with its iPhones and ancient gods, come alive in this outrageously funny and heartbreakingly beautiful romantic thriller. A poor chaiwallah (tea seller) has his life changed forever when a young girl is abandoned at a busy railway station and brings the place to a standstill with the beauty of her singing.
    This two-day engagement at the August Wilson Center in Downtown Pittsburgh  is at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 30 and 31. Tickets are $25 and may be reserved by phoning 412-456-666 or online at
    The Sydney Morning Herald picked Guru of Chai (aka The Elephant Wrestler) as “one of the theatrical highlights of 2010” and the NZ Listener named it their “Feel-good Production of the Year.”
    “Honestly this is such a remarkable and beautiful piece of theatre I cannot recommend it highly enough” – Hawkes Bay Today.

“This is a piece of absolute enchantment... Jacob Rajan is extraordinary... We were in the palm of his hand for every second of one of the tenderest, most life-affirming shows...” – The Scotsman, Edinburgh.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Joan Armatrading in Concert at Byham Theater Wednesday Evening

Vocalist Joan Armatrading

    The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust welcomes three-time Grammy nominated singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Joan Armatrading, as she continues celebrating with audiences her first solo performance world tour and last major tour through 2015.  Ms. Armatrading will perform in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 7:30 p.m., at the Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, with special guest performance by Marti Jones & Don Dixon. This concert is presented by 91.3 WYEP and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
    “She’s a gutsy performer with soul who exudes a down-to-earth charm that has endured across more than 40 years. Her fans adore her and with such a fantastic solo show, it’s easy to see why she’s still selling out venues after all this time.” –The Bristol Post
    Ms. Armatrading’s 2014-2015 concert dates in select cities throughout Europe and the U.S. are part of her first ever solo world tour, as well as her final major tour, with North American dates set through 2015.  The artist shared, “I will never retire but this will be the last major tour that I will undertake. For the first time these concerts will be me solo on stage playing the guitar and piano and singing.  I want these concerts to be a special lively interactive one to one experience. I have absolutely enjoyed the last 42 years of performances but now, with my final major tour, I want to capture a unique memory for both myself and the audience.”
    Regarding her solo tour, The Argus raved, “Without the backing band she has traditionally toured with, Joan’s raw emotional power and poignant beauty shone through.”  The Broward Palm Beach New Times hailed, “Her ability to blend rock, reggae, blues, and balladry is only part of the reason she remains such a singular performer. Add to that a still vibrant vocal — one that easily shifts from the gruffest growl to a soaring soprano — and a knack for menacing guitar licks and it’s clear Armatrading’s still capable of dazzling diversity.”
    Tickets ($45-$65) can be purchased in-person at the Box Office at Theater Square, 655 Penn Avenue, online at, or by calling 412-456-6666. Call 412-471-6930 to purchase 10 or more group tickets.
    Ms. Armatrading grew up in a musical family, taking her first musical steps on her mother’s piano. When Joan saw a guitar for sale in a pawn shop, she begged her mother to barter for the instrument. She taught herself to play and began writing her own music by the age of 14.
    From there, her music career began to blossom, and what a bountiful career she has had. Joan signed on to Cube Records in 1971, and released her debut album, “Whatever’s For Us”, the following year. After signing on to A&M in 1974, her career saw a plethora of memorable songs – “Love and Affection, “Down to Zero”, “Drop the Pilot”, “Me Myself I”. In December of 1998, she released the album, “Lullabies With A Difference”, in support of PACES, a charity for children with Cerebral Palsy.
    In addition to winning the Ivor Novella Award, Joan has been nominated for three Grammys and a Brit Award. She holds countless gold, platinum, and silver discs, and has received a prestigious Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), becoming one of the only few female artists to ever do so. She has also performed for Nelson Mandela, been given the key to Sydney, and earned a BA Honors degree from Open University for studying history while on tour.
    Over the years, Ms. Armatrading’s music has ranged from Pop, Blues, Folk, Reggae, and Jazz. In 2003, “Lovers Speak” was released, featuring an album where Joan played every instrument but the drums. In 2007, Joan released “Into the Blues”, which debuted at #1 on The Billboard Blues chart. Her 20th CD, a jazz laced album called “Starlight”, was released in 2012.
    Marti Jones and Don Dixon have been performing together, off and on, for over twenty years. This longtime partnership has resulted in an intimate stage rapport as well as the seamless blending of two of the most distinct voices around today. With over two hundred songs in their collective recorded catalogue, you never know quite what to expect when they hit the stage, but rest assured their performance will feature thoughtful lyrics and heart-felt singing.
    Marti Jones release her first solo album, “Unsophisticated Time” (A&M), in 1985, which was produced by Don Dixon. Jones and Dixon later married, and Don has produced all of his wife’s albums since. Marti released two more albums for A&M in the 1980s, featuring artists such as Marshall Crenshaw, Mitch Easter, The Uptown Horns as well as others. Ms. Jones’ most recent album, “Lucky Stars: New Lullabies for Old Souls,” which was released in 2008, features six vocal songs and five instrumentals, credited to both Jones and her husband.
    Don Dixon started out playing and recording in his teens with a band called, ARROGANCE. Dixon went solo in 1983 and has released nine CDs. His writing, production, and session credits include REM, Hootie & The Blowfish, Counting Crows, Joe Cocker, Mary Chapin Carpenter and more.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Abby Mueller as Carole King Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Tony & Grammy Award-winning Broadway hit BEAUTIFUL—THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL, about the early life and career of the legendary and groundbreaking singer/songwriter, will make its Pittsburgh premiere at the Benedum Center for one week, October 27 through November 1, 2015 with performances Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

 “Carole King might be a native New Yorker, but her story of struggle and triumph is as universal as they come – and her music is loved the world over,” producer Paul Blake said.  “We know that audiences throughout the country will embrace this show just as Broadway and London audiences have.”

With a book by Tony® and Academy® Award-nominee Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni and choreography by Josh Prince, BEAUTIFUL features a stunning array of beloved songs written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil.  The show opened on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre (125 West 43 Street) in January 2014, where it has since broken all box office records and recently became the highest grossing production in the Theatre’s history.

Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll.

But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice. BEAUTIFUL tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history.
Ben Frankhauser as Barry Mann and Becky Gulsvig as Cynthia Weil Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation.  BEAUTIFUL features a stunning array of beloved songs written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, including “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend” and the title song.  

Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased online at  To charge tickets by phone, call (412) 456-4800, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from Noon – 4:00 p.m.  Orders for groups of ten (10) or more may be placed by calling (412) 471-6930. To purchase tickets in person, visit the Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Richard Maxwell / New York City Players:" The Evening"

"The Evening" by Richard Maxwell

    The Warhol partners with the New Hazlett Theater to present The Evening by
playwright-director Richard Maxwell, who The New York Times recently referred to
as “perhaps the greatest American experimental theater auteur of his generation.”
The Evening is considered the first installment of a Divine Comedy-inspired triptych
that features signature Maxwell elements such a minimalist aesthetic and live music.
    This performance contains adult subject matter and strong language. This
performance was commissioned by the 2014 Spalding Gray Award and supported in
part by an award through the National Endowment for the Arts.

Friday, October 23, 2015 at 8 p.m.
New Hazlett Theater (North Side)

Tickets $15 / $12 Members & students; visit or call 412-237-8300

    For additional insights go to and

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pick of the Week - Pittsburgh Ballet Kicks Off 2015 Season with Trio of Landmark Ballets

A Scene from "Western Symphony" Photo Credit: Duane Rieder
    Today, when I opened an email from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre I was shocked to hear of the passing of Loti Falk Gaffney, PBT’s founding board chair.
I had the pleasure of first meeting Mrs. Falk Gaffney at a time when she was married to industrialist and philanthropist, Leon Falk. I was just starting my writing career as a contributor to the "Pitt News," the student newspaper at the University of Pittsburgh. Assigned to write a piece on the ballet, I got to visit the PBT offices, where I first encountered Mrs. Falk Gaffney.
    I remember her sweet disposition, but most of all, that she had the most lustrous blue eyes I’d ever seen which gleamed and sparkled as though made of chiseled sapphire. I also recall taking two copies of the issue in which my article was published, scrolled them up, tied them with a red ribbon and sheepishly presented them to Mrs. Falk Gaffney and then PBT artistic director, Patricia Wilde.
    Both ladies accepted them graciously, and Mrs. Falk Gaffney even invited me to learn more about ballet by perusing the PBT library.
    On another occasion, I went backstage at Heinz Hall for a ballet performance one snowy winter’s evening and again saw Mrs. Falk Gaffney and her sparkling blue eyes. After we exchanged a few words, I left, and as I opened the door onto Penn Avenue, I was greeted by a big crash of thunder. Lightning in the dead of winter? Ever since, I always thought of her as having an "electric" personality that lie underneath her calm, cool demeanor.
This weekend, a video tribute to this most remarkable women produced by WQED will be play in the lobby of the Benedum Center before the performances and during intermission, and all three performances will be dedicated to her memory.
    Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre kicks off its 2015-2016 season with a triple bill program featuring world-class choreographers George Balanchine, William Forsythe and Jiri Kylián. Mixed Repertory #1 – featuring Balanchine’s "Western Symphony," Forsythe’s "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" and Kylián’s "Sinfonietta" – takes the stage Oct. 23-25, at the Benedum Center.
     "These are iconic choreographers who changed the face of modern-day ballet," said PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr. "Each took a new approach to the traditional vocabulary to explore the boundaries of the human body and innovate on the classical aesthetic. This is an important step forward for our repertory and an energy-charged program for our audiences."
     The program samples three distinct approaches to classical technique. The mood moves from the rollicking "Western Symphony" to the high-octane "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated" and the free-spirited "Sinfonietta." The PBT Orchestra will accompany "Western Symphony" and "Sinfonietta" under the direction of guest conductor Benjamin Pope of the Royal Ballet of Flanders. "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated" is set to electronic music.
     Single tickets start at $28 and are available at, by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting the Box Office at Theater Square. Groups of 10 or more can save up to 50% on tickets by calling 412-454-9101 or Show times: 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23; 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25.
Mixed Repertory #1:
  "Western Symphony"  featuring the PBT Orchestra
    George Balanchine’s high-spirited "Western Symphony" ventures into the frontier of classical ballet and American folk dance. With the women in frilly frocks and the men in kerchiefs and cowboy hats, the scene is a dusty Old West town where folks are ready for a night on the town. Balanchine commissioned American composer Hershy Kay, who orchestrated a symphony in four movements inspired by popular folk tunes, including "Red River Valley," "The Gal I Left Behind Me" and "Goodnight, Ladies."
    Despite its backdrop, "Western Symphony" is, in essence, a classical ballet. Rooted in traditional ballet vocabulary, the choreography alludes to the formations and gestures of American folk dance with playful twists on classic steps. According to Kay, Balanchine commissioned the score following a visit to Wyoming, and many recall his fascination in American themes and penchant for western apparel. The work is non-narrative, but does move through a series of vignettes fueled by charismatic lead couples.  From flirtatious one-upmanship to romance and whimsy, Balanchine develops character and charm but is sure to "let dance be the star of the show."
Scene from "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" Photo Credit: Duane Rieder

"In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" 
    Electronic music drives  William Forsythe’s thrilling "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated."  The Guardian called this "the work that changed ballet forever… a high-voltage shock to the world of ballet that would spread far from the stage of the Opera Garnier."
The dancers feign a detached attitude, but the technique demands exacting, intensely physical execution. Forsythe describes the work as "a theme and variations in the strictest sense. Making use of academic virtuosity, it extends and accelerates these traditional figures of classical ballet." The minimalist set imparts a futuristic vibe. Yet, in a subtle a nod to the opulence of the Paris Opera where it premiered, two golden cherries hang – in the middle, somewhat elevated – from center stage.

"Sinfonietta" featuring the PBT Orchestra
Scene from "Sinfonetta" Photo Credit: Duane Rieder
 The mood turns to elation with Jiri  Kylián’s free-spirited "Sinfonietta."A work in five movements, "Sinfonietta" is a sweeping ensemble ballet inspired by Leoš Janácek’s score of the same name. "The sound of trumpets resounds in the air and a green field and blue sky beckon. Exhilaratingly, a flock of figures is released into space. These are, in fact, male dancers leaping on stage and they gallop in circles like wild horses. This dynamic image is the key to Jir? Kylián’s exultant choreographic style in Sinfonietta," wrote New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff in the ‘90s.
     Featuring signature double duets and bold, evocative movement, the work strives to visualize the spirit of the "modern, free Czech." "Sinfonietta" was one of the Czech choreographer’s first works to meet resounding success in America. Kylián calls the work one of his most "innocent and spontaneous," choreographed in short order at a time of transition for Nederlands Dans Theater.
    According to Kylián, "The audience, which was present at the premiere in Charleston USA in the summer of  1978 was unable to hear the last "Fanfare" of the music, because they already stood on top of their chairs, cheering and throwing their program books into the air. This was the moment that totally changed NDT."
    About the Choreographers: 
    Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine (1904-1983) is widely regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in ballet. Referred to as "the father of American ballet," Balanchine created more than 400 works found in the repertoires of the world's major ballet companies.
Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián served as Nederlands Dans Theater artistic director for more than 20 years and continues to choreograph for the company today. He has created 72 ballets for NDT, and his entire body of work includes 92 creations for companies, including Stuttgart Ballet, Paris Opera, Swedish Television and the Tokyo Ballet.
William Forsythe, who is regarded as one of the most important current choreographers, danced with the Joffrey Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet, where he was appointed resident choreographer in 1976. After serving for 20 years as director of Ballet Frankfurt, he founded an independent ensemble, The Forsythe Company, in 2005.

Monday, October 19, 2015

City Theatre’s "The Night Alive" Taps Into Irish Story-Telling Tradition

(L-R): Rod Brogan, Hayley Nielsen, and Ciaran Byrne in THE NIGHT ALIVE by Conor McPherson
Photo Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover
Most people are aware of the line made popular by the late Yogi Berra that "It ain’t over till it’s over." But in Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s dark comedy "The Night Alive," it’s not over even when it’s over.
At the end of the City Theatre’s opening night presentation, I felt comfortable that I got the last scene - even though I wasn’t 100 percent sure it really was the last scene. It ended just like the series of previous set of episodes in a total stage blackout and could have easily segued comfortably - and extended the plot - further into the night.
But when the lights came back up and the actors took their bows, my interpretation of what I just saw solidified in my mind. That is until my theater companion came up with a startling but equally plausible explanation.
Seeking validation of my own version, I canvassed about ten people who stayed for the after theater party and got a divided consensus. What made it even more fascinating is, when I asked the production’s "directing observer," Vince Ventura, for his opinion, he came up with an even more interesting construction, one he said that came out of a previous staging of the play at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.
I was quite frustrated that I’d missed the alternate explanations and had settled for the easy first  conclusion. The post-play canvassing of the audience brought to mind the tale of the three blind men who held on to different parts of an elephant. The one who held the tail thought it a rope; the one the leg, a tree trunk, the one the ear, a hand fan.
So much for the fun of deciphering a multi-faceted ending by a stealthy playwright. Now that we’ve considered the end, how about the beginning? And that would be set designer, Tony Ferrari’s apt mise-en-scene creation of a down-and-out Dubliner’s shabby living quarters - a mix of dingy furniture and miscellaneous items cluttered about that would probably fetch no more than a dollar each at a neighborhood yard sale.
The single set is initially animated by Tommy (Rod Brogan), a divorcee who tries to eke out a living doing odd jobs with the aid of a presumably  aging van, and Aimee (Hayley Nielsen), a woman of ill repute who is showing all the bloody signs of having been battered by her beau.
You might wonder about the motivation behind Tommy’s rescue of the waif and his offer to recuperate in his domicile. My take is that he’s a Good Samaritan with honest intentions and nothing to steal except for a hidden cache of money secreted away under a floorboard. In fact, Brogan’s Tommy is a saintly figure, warm-hearted and benign, with a halo that doesn’t slip even once during the course of the evening.
Nielsen’s portrayal is also palatably unique. She shuns the cliched aura of a toughened, street-worn, brassy hooker and takes a softer, more docile approach to the role. As the two misfits try to get to know one another, the story line undulates with considerable humor, and is made even more colorful with the entrance of Doc (Ciaran Byrne), Tommy’s odd job assistant who’s devoted to his partner but somewhat weak in the head. The two reminded me a bit of the relationship between the two main characters in Steinbeck’s "Of Mice and Men," though the comparison is somewhat feeble in that Doc is much more mentally capable than the novel’s counterpart.
The delightful Noble Shropshire stokes the comedic coals even more with his crusty, cranky cantankerous rendition of Maurice, Tommy’s uncle and landlord who lives directly above his nephew’s dank dwelling.
Just when you settle in for an evening of light-hearted enjoyment, McPherson abruptly jolts the senses with the entrance of the menacing Kenneth, Aimee’s psychopathic swain, played convincingly by Brendan Griffin, whose good looks belie the terror-inducing, troubled soul that lies just beneath the surface. As a vehicle for the playwright’s emphasis on just how fragile and tenuous the human condition really is, Griffin as Kenneth is a visceral catalyst capable of sparking flares of frightening realism
City Theatre’s artistic director Tracy Brigden helms this quintet of superlative actors as director of the opening work of the theater’s 41st season. It’s a wise start to a promising season. And then there’s that provocative ending.
"The Night Alive" is at the City Theatre on Pittsburgh’s South Side through November 1. For tickets, phone 412-431-CITY (2489) or visit website
Note: City Theatre is staging a benefit dinner at the Casbah Restaurant, 229 S. Highland Avenue in Shadyside from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22. The five course meal with wine pairings will be prepared by chef Eli Wahl, costs $125 per person and will be held on Casbah’s lower level, which has no elevator service. For reservations, phone Dianne Duursma at 412-431-4400, ext. 278.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pay-What-You-Can Performances at City Theatre

(L-R): Rod Brogan, Hayley Nielsen, and Ciaran Byrne in THE NIGHT ALIVE by Conor McPherson
Photo Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover

City Theatre Company is introducing a series of Pay-What-You-Want performances throughout the 2015/16 Season. The first of these events will take place on Saturday, October 17th at the 9:00 p.m. performance of Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive.  A limited number of Pay-What-You-Want tickets will be available two hours before the show and patrons can contact the box office in advance to check on availability. These performances will be followed by a late-night salon and happy hour in the theatre’s Gordon Lounge.
“This season we are focusing on new ways to open our doors to audience members,” says City’s Managing Director James McNeel. “During each of our six main stage productions we will offer at least one Pay-What-You-Want performance followed by a late night salon. These opportunities ensure affordability for all patrons and provides a forum for folks of all walks-of-life to come together as a community and enjoy high-quality, professional theater.”
The characters in Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive might well take advantage of the program themselves. This darkly comedic Irish yarn follows Tommy who has made a mess of his life: he’s living low in Dublin, just getting by on odd jobs, and doing his best to avoid his wife and kids. But when he rescues a mysterious woman, an escape out of the squalor becomes possible – if only they can shake their checkered pasts. This award-winning play ripples with humor and heart and wrestles with the complicated task of being human.
In addition to the Pay-What-You-Want night, the run of The Night Alive will also feature post-performance discussions with the cast and designers on Sunday October 18 and 25 following the 2 p.m. matinees; accessible performances on Tuesday October 27, 7:00 p.m. (ASL Interpretation) and Sunday, November 1, 2:00 p.m. (Open Captioning & Audio Description); and a performance by acclaimed singer/songwriter Mark Dignam as part of City’s Greenroom Young Professionals Night on Friday, October 23.
The Night Alive is directed by City’s Artistic Director Tracy Brigden and features Rod Brogan, Ciaran Byrne, Brendan Griffin, Hayley Neilsen, and Noble Shropshire. The creative team includes Tony Ferrieri (scenic design), Robert C.T. Steele (costume design), Andrew David Ostrowski (lighting design), Elizabeth Atkinson (sound design), Catherine Moore (fight choreography), and Sheila McKenna (dialect coaching).

Ciaran Byrne as “Doc” in THE NIGHT ALIVE by Conor McPherson
Photo Credit:  Kristi Jan Hoover

Saturdays at 9:00 p.m. on the following dates:
October 17, 2015 – The Night Alive by Conor McPherson
November 21 and December 5, 2015 – Sunset Baby by Dominique Morriseau
January 30, 2016 – Some Brighter Distance by Keith Reddin
March 19, 2016 – Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason
April 23 and May 7, 2016 – The Last Match by Anna Ziegler
May 21, 2016 – The Lion by Benjamin Scheuer
City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)
$36 to $61 (discounts available for students, seniors, groups, and military personnel)

412.431.CITY (2489) or

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Tunnel Vision" Opens at Off the Wall Theater

Lisa Ann Goldsmith and Elizabeth Ruelas in "Tunnel Vision" Photo Credit: Heather Mull

    Off the WALL Productions opens its 2015-16 season and celebrates the return of playwright Andrea Lepcio (Looking for the Pony) with the world premiere of her play Tunnel Vision.  A multi-layered celebration of the Feminine, Lepcio examines many of the daily challenges women face as well as those issues that are, typically, solely female:  the struggle to balance motherhood with the desire to have a career, the stigma that comes with not choosing the traditional path assigned our gender, the hypercritical judgment we place on ourselves in comparison to our female peers, the difficulty we find in truly loving ourselves and the fear that sometimes comes in loving each other.
  Directed by Melissa Maxwell, a New York based director who specializes in new play development. Melissa and Andrea first met and teamed up to collaborate on "Tunnel Vision" in 2008 as members of New Perspectives Theatre Company developmental workshop: Women’s Work.
Notable credits include: last year’s world premiere of four-time EMMY winner, Judy Tate’s "Slashes of Light," for which they became WAMCO Collaboration Award finalists, American Slavery Project’s "Unheard Voices," developed to give voice to the nameless souls buried at NYC’s African Burial Ground (,  the American premier of scientist Carl Djerassi’s (invented contraceptive pill) "Taboos."
  Written by Andrea Lepcio - Directed by Melissa Maxwell
Featuring Lisa Ann Goldsmith and Elizabeth Ruelas
  Performance dates: October 16-17, 22-24, and 29-31 @ 8:00 PM.
 Matinees: October 18, 25 @ 3pm
Tickets: $ 5.00 - $ 40.00

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pittsburgh Opera brings back "Nabucco"

Babylonian ruler Nabucco (Mark Delavan) orders the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, to the horror of the Israelites Photo Credit David Bachman

    "Nabucco," the opera that made Verdi famous, hasn't been seen in the region since 1973..
    Thankfully, Pittsburgh Opera opens its 77th season with a grand, traditional production of   Nabucco on the Benedum Center stage on  October 10, 13, 16, and 18, 
    Nabucco brings a fusion of epic scale and intimate family drama to the Benedum Center. Pittsburgh favorite Mark Delavan (seen here as Falstaff 2009, Scarpia/Tosca 2012, and Rigoletto 2013) stars as the troubled monarch, and rising star Csilla Boross takes the fiendishly difficult role of his treacherous daughte,r Abigaille, in her Pittsburgh debut. Music Director Antony Walker conducts the Pittsburgh Opera Orchestra and Chorus; Bernard Uzan is director and co-designer of the traditional set and its projections.
    NABUCCO is the opera that made Verdi famous, and rightly so: the world saw his genius at work in this appealing early opera, and the famous Hebrew slaves’ chorus “Va, pensiero” is still sung by those who yearn for peace. Director Bernard Uzan, a recipient of the Giulio Gari Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, created this moving production that features a series of projections depicting the Jews in exile through the ages – and bringing to mind current events such as the exodus of refugees from Syria and other countries.
     NABUCCO also calls for a skilled supporting cast, and it includes including former Resident Artist and Metropolitan Opera regular Oren Gradus as the Israelite priest Zaccaria, Raymond Very as Ismaele, and Resident Artists Laurel Semerdjian, Matthew Scollin, Adelaide Boedecker and Adam Bonanni in the roles of Fenena, High Priest of Baal, Anna, and Abdallo, respectively. There is also a large chorus presence required for NABUCCO, and the Pittsburgh Opera Chorus has been in rehearsal with Chorus Master Mark Trawka since late August.  
Three facts about NABUCCO
1.      Nabucco is the Italian name for King Nebuchadnezzar II. However, Nabucco is a composite character, based on several Babylonian kings, and the opera is also a commingling of Biblical episodes from the books of Jeremiah and Daniel.
2.      Nabucco established Verdi as a star composer. The opera was a huge success after its premiere, and Verdi commented that "this is the opera with which my artistic career really begins. And though I had many difficulties to fight against, it is certain that Nabucco was born under a lucky star.”   
3.      Several sopranos famously refused to sing the difficult role of Abigaille, including Leontyne Price and Dame Joan Sutherland.

    The story, in brief
    In the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, the Israelites pray for help against Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), the King of Babylon, who has attacked the city. Zaccaria, their high priest, enters with Nabucco’s daughter, Fenena, whom the Hebrews hold hostage. He reassures his people that the Lord will not forsake them. As the Israelites leave, Ismaele, nephew of the king of Jerusalem, is left alone with Fenena, who helped him escape from imprisonment in Babylon. Their conversation is interrupted by Fenena’s half-sister, Abigaille, with some Babylonian soldiers. Abigaille tells Ismaele that she can save his people if he will return her love, but he refuses. The Israelites rush back into the temple in a panic, and when Nabucco enters with his warriors, Zaccaria confronts him, threatening to kill Fenena. Nabucco orders the destruction of the temple.

The Israelites (PIttsburgh Opera Chorus & Supernumeraries) mourn for their homeland on the banks of the Euphrates River, in the famous chorus "Va, pensiero". Photo Credit: David Bachman

    Nabucco has appointed Fenena regent while he is away at war. Abigaille, back in the royal palace in Babylon, has found a document saying that she is not the king’s daughter, but the child of slaves. Foreseeing a future in which Fenena and Ismaele will rule together over Babylon, she swears vengeance on Nabucco and Fenena.
    The High Priest of Baal arrives with news that Fenena has freed the Israelite prisoners. As a result of Fenena’s treason, he offers the throne to Abigaille and spreads a rumor that Nabucco has died in battle. Ismaele enters and the priests accuse him of treachery, but Zaccaria announces that he has been pardoned for saving a fellow Israelite – the newly converted Fenena. An officer warns Fenena that the king is dead and her life is in danger. Before she can escape, the High Priest of Baal proclaims Abigaille ruler. She is about to crown herself when Nabucco snatches the crown from her, faces the crowd and declares himself not only their king but their god. For this blasphemy, a thunderbolt strikes him down. A triumphant Abigaille takes the crown for herself.

    In the Hanging Gardens, the Babylonians hail Abigaille as their ruler. The High Priest urges her to have the Israelites killed, but before she can give the order, a disheveled Nabucco wanders in. Abigaille dismisses the crowd. Alone with Nabucco, she tricks him into signing the death warrant for the Israelites. He asks what will happen to Fenena, and Abigaille replies that she too must die. When Nabucco tries to find the document proving Abigaille’s ancestry, she produces it and destroys it. Nabucco pleads in vain for Fenena’s life.
On the banks of the Euphrates, the Israelites rest from forced labor, their thoughts turning to their homeland.

    Fenena and the Israelites are led to execution, and Nabucco can only watch, as he has been imprisoned by Abigaille. Desperate, he prays to the God of Israel for forgiveness, pledging to convert himself and his people. His sanity restored, he forces open the door and summons his soldiers to regain the throne and save his daughter. The Israelites are about to be executed. Nabucco rushes in and stops the sacrifice. Abigaille takes poison and dies, confessing her crimes and praying to the God of Israel to pardon her. Nabucco announces his conversion and frees the Israelites, telling them to return to their native land and rebuild their temple. Israelites and Babylonians are united in praising God.

Meet the Artists of NABUCCO
Tuesday, October 13
Immediately following the opera, in the Benedum Center’s Lower Lobby
Ticketholders for the Tuesday, October 13 performance of NABUCCO are invited to gather in the Benedum Lower Lobby immediately following the performance for interviews with General Director Christopher Hahn and the stars of the opera. This event is free to all Tuesday performance ticketholders.

Brown Bag Concert, “Getting to Know You”
Saturday, October 17 – 12:00 p.m.
George R. White Opera Studio, Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters (2425 Liberty Avenue)
At the first Brown Bag concert of the season, our Resident Artists sing some of their favorite arias and ensembles. These casual, one-hour concerts feature our Resident Artists in the George R. White Opera Studio at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters. Guests can meet the performers afterward. Free and open to everyone; no RSVP required. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. For more information: (412) 281-0912 or  

Tickets to NABUCCO start at $12, with all performances at the Benedum Center, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District. For additional information, videos, musical samples, cast biographies, and the full story of NABUCCO, visit To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666, visit Theatre Square Box Office, or visit 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

PHILADANCO Returns to August Wilson Center

    A few years ago I attended a PHILADANCO Dance performance at the August Wilson Center with several friends. None of us had ever seen before  the company, short for Philadelphia Dance Company,  and didn't know quite what to expect.
    Boy were we blown away! Their performance made my top five dance performances - ever-  and sits at the top of  my favorites list among such august company as  Pilobolus (most any performance they do) and Martha Graham's "Five Sinatra Songs."
    Naturally I was elated to see that the company from Philly will be back in town this Friday at 8 p.m. at their old stomping grounds - the intimate and comfortable August Wilson Center theater. I advise any one - whether an old dance aficionado or Tersichorean newbie to catch the performance. If it's anything like the one I saw previously, you'll be in for a rare treat.
    Here's what the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has to say about the company: "Across the nation and around the world, PHILADANCO is celebrated for its innovation, creativity and preservation of predominantly African-American traditions in dance. Founded in 1970, PHILADANCO has a legacy of breaking barriers and building bridges across cultural divides, consistently performing for audiences representing an amalgamation of people from diverse communities."
    Celebrating Joan Myers Brown and her recent biography, "The Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina," PHILADANCO has never been more vibrant than in its 45th year! Brown, founder of PHILADANCO and recipient of the 2012 National Medal of Arts for her cultural contributions, couldn’t be more proud of her company. They have represented the U.S., Pennsylvania and Philadelphia as artistic ambassadors around the world.

    Tickets for this event start at $20 and are available by phoning 412-456-6666.

Monday, October 5, 2015


The Pittsburgh Savoyards’ zeal for the collaborative musical works of Gilbert and
Sullivan burns undiminished as it prepares to open its 78th season with Iolanthe (or, the Peer and
the Peri), now in rehearsal.
    Stage Director Robert Hockenberry and Music Director/Conductor
Guy Russo bring this musical gem to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library Music Hall in Carnegie,
Pennsylvania on October 9-11 and 15-18, 2015. All performances except Sundays begin at 8:00
p.m.; Sunday performances begin at 2:30 p.m. Adult general admission tickets will be $25 each
at the box office, with discounted admission available for children, students and seniors. For
more information, go to or call 412-734-8476.
    This classic comic operetta from 1882 is the seventh of the fourteen collaborative works
by lyricist Sir William Gilbert and composer Sir Arthur Sullivan. Pittsburgh Savoyards
    President Michael Greenstein (who also performs in the production) declares this one to be his
favorites out of all of them. “Iolanthe features some of Sullivan’s best music, and I still get chills
from some of it,” says Greenstein. “To me, this is the shining moment in their collaboration in
which Sullivan’s passion for emotional reality found its perfect balance against Gilbert’s love of
topsy-turvy situations and social satire.”
Lords Fighting Over Phyllis
 Iolanthe offers the tale of young Strephon, an Arcadian shepherd who, twenty-five years
before, was the child of a forbidden marriage between a fairy (Iolanthe) and a mortal. This
young man, who is half a fairy (down to the waist), loves Phyllis, a shepherd lass who returns his
affections. Phyllis is a ward of the Lord Chancellor of England, however, who refuses his
permission for the lovers to wed and has designs on marrying Phyllis, himself.
    Misunderstandings accumulate as England’s House of Lords pit their high station and haughty grandeur against the fairies’ simple honesty and passion for true love. Spoiler alert: everyone
lives happily ever after, and thanks to The Pittsburgh Savoyards’ full pit orchestra, you will hum
your way out of the theater.
    As usual, this production will feature some of the finest amateur and professional musical
talent in the greater Pittsburgh area, with a cast of so many new and returning stars that many
roles have been double-cast to accommodate them all. If you want even more value for your
theatrical dollar, come on opening night to wine and dine yourself with the cast at a free
reception upstairs from the Music Hall, following the final curtain.

Strephon and Fairies
   The fun does not end there! Also featured this season will be “Frederick’s Birthday
Party,” an opportunity for the public to join the company for a relaxed evening of music, food,
fun and special prizes (January 2016), and Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous masterwork The
Pirates of Penzance (March 2016). Come join the Pittsburgh Savoyards in their 78th Season of
making Pittsburgh proud to be British.
    As part of its community outreach mission, The Pittsburgh Savoyards invites local
nonprofit organizations to apply for a limited number of blocks of free tickets to Iolanthe.
Interested organizations should send correspondence to, or
call 412-734-8476. Nonprofits with an educational mission will be preferred, if applications exceed available tickets.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


 “Satisfy Your Senses” at the sixth annual Delaware Wine and Beer Festival, set for Saturday, October 17 in Dover, DE, will offer unlimited samplings of 100+ varieties from the First State’s breweries, wineries, distilleries, meaderies and cideries.

    “Satisfy Your Senses” is the theme of the 2015 Delaware Wine and Beer Festival, set for Saturday, October 17 at the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover.  New this year is unlimited samples of not only wine, beer and spirits, but also hard cider and mead.
     Participating breweries:  3rd Wave Brewing Company, Delmar; 16 Mile Brewing Company, Georgetown; Argilla Brewing Company, Newark; Bellefonte Brewing Co., Bellefonte;; Big Oyster Brewery, Rehoboth Beach; Blue Earl Brewing Company, Smyrna; Twin Lakes Brewery, Greenville; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton; Evolution Craft Brewery Co., Salisbury, MD; Fordham/Dominion Brewing Company, Dover; Mispillion River Brewing, Milford; and Yards Brewing, Philadelphia, PA.
    Participating wineries: Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford, PA; Fenwick Wine Cellars, Fenwick Island; Great Shoals Winery representing T.S. Smith Orchards, Bridgeville; Harvest Ridge Winery, Marydel; Nassau Valley Vineyards, Lewes; and Pizzadili Winery & Vineyards, Felton.
    Participating distilleries: Beach Time Distilling, Lewes; Delaware Distilling Company, Lewes; and Painted Stave Distillery, Smyrna.
     Participating cideries: Rebel Seed Cidery, Marydel.
     Participating meaderies:  Brimming Horn Meadery, Milton; and Delaware Meadery, Wilmington.
    “Also new this year is the Food Truck Challenge for Charity,” said Cindy Small, Executive Director of Kent County Tourism, the nonprofit organization that organizes the festival.  “Festival-goers will vote on 12 participating eateries in the categories of best entree, best dessert and best appearing set-up, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Food Bank of Delaware.”  Trophies will be awarded.
     The following restaurants, eateries and food trucks will be serving up everything from barbecue to crab cakes and cupcakes: Abbott’s Grill, Milford; Food Bank of Delaware, Milford; Frankfurt Bakery & Deli, Dover; Jerk King Caribbean Cuisine, Smyrna; Hass' on the Go, Dover; Maple Dale Country Club, Dover; The Pretzel Gang By Milford Community Parade, Milford; Mojo Loco, New Castle; Taste of Texas BBQ, Newark; The Frozen Farmer, Bridgeville; The Polish Connection, Wilmington; The Roaming Raven, Newark; The Wandering Chef Catering Cart, Newark; and Where Pigs Fly, Dover.
     Other highlights of the event include:
Delaware Homebrew Championship and awards ceremony;
Two live bands, 33 &1/3 and Perception, performing all day;
Official festival cake cutting by Frankfurt Bakery & Deli
 50 artisans and vendors selling their wares, tax free;
Beer-lympics by Mispillion River Brewing and keg tossing competition by Fordham & Dominion Brewing;
Beer mug and wine glass painting classes by Uncorked Canvas Parties;
Wine, beer and food pairing demonstrations;
Overnight lodging package that includes two festival and two Sunday brunch tickets;
Sunday Brunch on October 18 at Harvest Ridge Winery;
 “History of Delaware Brewing” book signing by author John Medkeff; and
Delaware Farmers Market in conjunction with Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Advance tickets for the event are $35 per person and $10 for designated drivers through October 14.  Tickets at the gate will be $40.  The event will be held at Delaware Agricultural Village and Museum, 866 N. DuPont Highway in Dover from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Comfortable shoes, blankets and chairs are suggested.  For more information or to purchase advance tickets, visit: or call 800-233-5368.