Monday, February 29, 2016

The Savoyards Present "The Pirates of Penzance"

    The Pittsburgh Savoyards begin a new calendar year of honoring the timeless operatic collaborations of Gilbert and Sullivan by preparing to open The Pirates of Penzance. Brought to life by Stage Director Sean Lenhart and longtime Savoyards Music Director/Conductor Guy Russo, the production is set to run Mar. 4-6 and 10-13, 2016 at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall at 300 Beechwood Ave, Carnegie, Pa 15106 

    Adult general admission tickets will be $25 each at the box office, with discounted admission available for children, students and seniors.  Those who order tickets by Mar. 3 can take advantage of the special early bird discount. Local non-profit organizations have the opportunity to apply for limited blocks of free tickets to any of the performances.  Interested organizations can direct inquiries to or call 412-734-8476. If the number of applications exceeds the amount of available tickets, non-profits with an educational mission will take precedence.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Bach Choir Continues Season Theme of Core Values: Work Ethic by Featuring Works of Three Prolific Composers

    Continuing the season theme about the importance of hard work and the rewards that can result, the Professional Core members of the Bach Choir will present a special concert featuring music of some of the most prolific composers in history.

    Much like those who labored to build Pittsburgh and who are the backbone of the city's reputation for grit and persistence, J. S. Bach, W. A. Mozart and Johannes Brahms are known for their diligence and phenomenal musical output.

    Featuring some of the most beautiful works from the pens of these masters, CORE Value: Work Ethic includes Bach’s motet Jesu, meine Freude, Mozart’s stunning Missa brevis in B, and Six Love Songs selected from Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes op 52.

    These concerts will be presented in the lovely Elsie H. Hillman Auditorium at the Kaufmann Center of Hill House 1825 Centre Ave, in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. on March 5 and 4 p.m. on March 6. .

    Tickets are available in advance on Showclix, and at the door on the day of performance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hocking Hills Eco-Tours Include Rock Adventures

Rock Adventure in Ohio's Hocking Hills

        A leading sustainable tourism expert has just launched a Hocking Hills guide service that will prove to travelers that nature rocks! Beginning April 1, Hocking Hills Ecotours/High Rock Adventures will introduce visitors to the wonders of Ohio's stunning Hocking Hills region via packages that combine nature programs with high-adventure elements like rock climbing and rappelling. Operating on pristine private land filled with amazing rock features, including rock halls, squeezes, tunnels and scrambles, adventures can be booked at
     High Rock Adventures offers three different eco-adventure tours varying in length from 75 minutes up to 2.5–3 hours, with prices starting at $30/person. While leading visitors through mammoth rock outcroppings and squeezes, sometimes with the assistance of stationary ropes, knowledgeable guides will reveal fascinating details on regional history and geology, share local legends, and engage guests in this diverse forest ecosystem. On-site natural sandstone rock climbing and rappelling adventure packages are also available for all skill levels. Cliff heights range from 35 feet to nearly 100 feet. Climbing and Rappelling tours include instruction and gear, starting at $80/person.
     All adventures enable visitors to truly enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Hocking Hills in an intimate and interactive, yet safe way, while taking extreme care to protect the area’s rock formations, fauna and flora. Throughout the year, High Rock Adventures also will host night hikes, special educational events, and tours and workshops that focus on edible and medicinal plants and forest survival skills. Detailed lodging and travel information is available at
    "We can’t wait to introduce visitors to these life-changing outdoor experiences," said Hocking Hills Ecotours/High Rock Adventures Co-owner Steve Roley, who brings decades of tourism development and teaching experience to travelers, having served as the program coordinator for Ecotourism and Adventure Travel at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. "The incredible landscapes of this property really showcase the rock formations and natural beauty that make Hocking Hills such a remarkable destination," Roley added.
A Hocking Hills Eco-Adventure

    Located 40 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio's Hocking Hills region offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make every day feel like Saturday, with plenty of free activities. The area boasts a wide variety of affordable lodging, from camping, cabins and cottages to hotels and inns. In addition to hiking trails, parks and forests, the Hocking Hills is the Canopy Tour Capital of the Midwest, with more than 50 ziplines offered via three distinct guide services. Unique gift and antique shops, canoeing, horseback riding, golf, spas and more add to the allure of the Hocking Hills as the perfect place to unplug. Complete traveler information, including lodging, is available at or 1-800-Hocking (800-462-5464).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Oscar Preview at Washington and Jefferson College - Live Action and Animated Short Subjects

Scene from "Stutterer"

    Washington and Jefferson College in Washington is rolling out its red carpet again for its annual Hollywood soiree! Come to the  Olin Fine Arts Center, 285 E. Wheeling Street in Washington  Feb. 26-27 and see the nominated films for both Live Action and Animated short subjects, then root for your favorites during the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 28! Awards-season attire, photo ops, grand entrances and entourages optional!
Tickets are $12 per person, and one ticket covers the events on both Feb. 26-27. Tickets can be purchased by calling Olin Box Office at 724-223-OLIN (6546). Want a sneak peak? Check out the trailer for the Oscar Shorts at

*Two FREE tickets with W&J Id. Call the box office Monday - Friday, noon to 6 p.m., until show time on day of show, or after noon this Saturday. More FREE tickets available for immediate family and parents.

Scene from "Sanjay's Super Team Photo Credit: Sanjay's Super Team

ANIMATED SHORTS (Running Time: 86 minutes)
Sanjay’s Super Team – dir. Sanjay Patel, USA, 7 minutes
World of Tomorrow – dir. Don Hertzfeldt, USA, 17 minutes
Bear Story – dir. Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 11 minutes
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – dir. Konstantin Bronzit, Russia, 16 minutes
If I Was God
The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse
The Loneliest Spotlight
Catch It (
*The animated short PROLOGUE is NOT suitable for young viewers. The film will be screened as the last entry in the Animated program, at the very end, and will be preceded by a parental guidance title-card. The film features graphic illustrated violence and full male nudity. Please be aware of this when promoting the program.

\"World of Tomorrow"
LIVE ACTION SHORTS (Running Time: 107 minutes)
Ave Maria – dir. Basil Khalil, Palestine/France/Germany, 15 minutes
Shok – dir. Jamie Donoughue, Kosovo/UK, 21 minutes
Everything Will Be OK – dir. Patrick Vollrath, Germany/Austria, 30 minutes (NOTE: this video does not have subtitles, and will be replaced in the next day or two. Apologies.)
Stutterer – dir. Benjamin Cleary, UK/Ireland, 12 minutes
Day One – dir. Henry Hughes, USA, 25 minutes
Live Action- Friday, February 26, 2016 at 7:30
Animated- Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:30

“Oscar” is a trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Omnimax Film Celebrates 100 Year Anniversary of National Park Service

Reenactment of John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt’s camping trip in Yosemite Valley to discuss the future of a National Park system. Courtesy of MacGillivray Freeman Films. Photographer: Barbara MacGillivray

       National Parks Adventure, a new giant-screen film experience from MacGillivray Freeman Films, opened at Carnegie Science Center’s Rangos Omnimax Theater on Friday, Feb. 12. The film, shown on Pittsburgh’s biggest screen, commemorates the U.S. National Park Service’s 100-year anniversary through breath-taking images of America’s natural treasures.
    To celebrate the film, the Pittsburgh community is invited to share photos on social media from their own national parks adventure. Submitted national parks photos will be shown on the Omnimax dome before the film begins. Photos may be submitted during the entire run of the show on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the hashtag #MyNationalParksAdventure and must publicly tag Carnegie Science Center’s account (@CarnegieSciCtr on Twitter and Instagram; @Carnegie Science Center on Facebook).   National Parks Adventure takes audiences on the ultimate off-trail adventure into the nation's awe-inspiring great outdoors and untamed wilderness.
    Moviegoers will soar over red rock  canyons, hurtle down steep mountain peaks, and explore other-worldly realms found within America’s most legendary outdoor places. Along the way, the film becomes at once an action-packed celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service and a soulful reflection on what wilderness means to us all.
Sunrise in Yosemite Valley looking onto El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks.
Courtesy of MacGillivray Freeman Films. Photographer: Barbara MacGillivray

“National Parks Adventure captures the stunning beauty of our wild places and reminds us these landscapes are an essential part of the human spirit,” narrator and Academy Award® winner Robert Redford said.
    Filmed in more than 30 national parks across the country, this immersive film follows world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker, adventure photographer Max Lowe, and artist Rachel Pohl as they hike, climb, and explore their way across America’s spectacularly wild and beautiful places – including Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Yosemite, and Arches – revealing a tapestry of natural wonders that will inspire the adventurer in all of us. National Parks Adventure celebrates the majesty of our national parks and treasured landscapes while highlighting the importance of protecting them. 
Conrad Anker and Rachel Pohl climb up the El Matador route on Devils Tower National Monument.
Courtesy of MacGillivray Freeman Films. Photographer: Michael Brown

“There are 408 national parks in our country that many families have not been able to explore,” director Greg MacGillivray said. “Our hope is that National Parks Adventure will encourage our audiences to discover the beauty and sanctuary of these American treasures, which belong to every one of us.”  National Parks Adventure is a family-friendly film with a runtime of 43 minutes.  For more information about National Parks Adventure at Carnegie Science Center, including showtimes and a trailer, visit

Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" Given a Rock Transformation

Filter Theatre's "Twelfth Night" Photo Credit: mark garvin

        The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is pleased to bring Twelfth Night to the Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Pittsburgh, PA, this February.  Part of the Cohen & Grigsby TRUST PRESENTS Series, Twelfth Night will be performed on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.  Tickets start at $20 and are available, by phone at 412-456-6666 or in person at the Box Office at Theatre Square, 655 Penn Avenue.
    Twelfth Night, originally written by William Shakespeare in 1601, is a play “full of magic and transformation, loss and reconciliation,” said Simon Reade, Filter Theatre Producer and author of Dear Mr Shakespeare: Letters to a Jobbing Playwright.
   Filter Theatre, in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, transforms this age old Shakespearian comedy into a condensed, fast-paced play complete with a rock sound and atmosphere. “The stage for their version of Twelfth Night is more reminiscent of a rock gig than a straight play, strewn as it is with sound equipment and musical instruments,” Paul Taylor, theatre reviewer for the UK’s Independent newspaper.
    “Filter’s lo-fi, 90min remix of Shakespeare’s comedy infects the audience with the play’s celebratory spirit of madness from the start…You leave feeling slightly changed yourself.” – The Metro.
    This explosive new take on Shakespeare’s play is sure to enchant all with its Shakespearian foundation but modern, alternative approach. All are welcome to attend.

Sandy Foster and Dan Poole in "Twelfth Night" Photo Credit: Mark Garvin

    “One of Britain’s best and boldest devising companies” – Metro
    Filter has been creating innovative, exciting theatre since 2003. Filter’s unique collaborative language explores the interaction between sound, music, text, and movement, in a desire to make stories that awaken the imaginative senses of an audience. Working out of a real sense of trust, and retaining a robust emotional honesty and playfulness, the company creates new works of original theatre, as well as dynamic incarnations of existing texts. To find out more about Filter Theatre visit
    The Royal Shakespeare Company (also known as the RSC) is based in Stratford-upon-Avon and produces an inspirational artistic programme each year, setting Shakespeare in context, alongside the work of his contemporaries and today’s writers. Visit for more information.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Just in Time for Easter City Theatre Stages "Sister's Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go to Heaven?"

Kimberly Richards in "Sister's Easter Catechism" now at City Theatre

         City Theatre hopes you are not planning to give up laughter for Lent. Kimberly Richards returns as the unforgettable Sister in Maripat Donovan’s spring edition of the Late Nite Catechism series: Sister’s Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go To Heaven? This limited-engagement, Pittsburgh premiere City Event is more fun than an egg hunt and more ham than Easter dinner, running February 17-March 20, in the Lester Hamburg Studio.
            Celebrate the Easter season with Sister as she answers the time-worn questions of the season like “Why isn’t Easter the same day every year like Christmas?” and “Will My Bunny Go To Heaven?” Part pageant, and wHOLY hysterical, this latest of the sinfully funny Late Nite Catechism series unearths the origins of Easter… bunnies, eggs, bonnets, baskets, and, of course, those yummy Peeps. Classroom participation is a must, so don’t forget to wear your Easter bonnet and join Sister for this seasonal treat!
    Since 2005, the Late Nite Catechism series has entertained audiences in Pittsburgh with its hilarious and educational take on the Catholic faith. In that time, Ms. Richards has collected nearly $369,000 for Catholic motherhouses through post-show donations and by punishing wayward audience members, whose venial sins include arriving late, chewing gum, and wearing low-cut blouses.
    Kimberly Richards brings Sister's Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go to Heaven? to City Theatre, where she has given 761 performances (but who’s counting!) as Sister since 2005. Born in Green Tree at St. Clair Memorial Hospital, and baptized at St. Margaret of Scotland, Ms. Richards grew up in Oakland, California, graduating from Holy Names High.
    Richards launched her versatile career over 40 years ago — actress, aerialist, choreographer, comedienne, dancer, director, illusionist. Her experience includes a USO tour of Asia, and hanging from a rope at 60 feet without a net at Circus Circus for two years. Her acting credits include two of San Francisco’s longest running hits, Bar None and Beyond Therapy, as well as dozens of other productions.             
    Richards has won an Outstanding Performance Award, two Drama-Logue awards, and three Dean Goodman Choice awards. In 2012, she originated the role of Barbara in the North American premiere of the one-woman play Big Pants and Botox, and performs it across the US and Canada. Her directing credits include Waiting for Godot, The Trip to Bountiful, and numerous other plays. In 2009, she directed the world premiere of Pulp Scripture, which swept the San Francisco Fringe Festival, winning eight awards including “Best New Comedy.” Her most recent choreography credits include the San Francisco Playhouse production of Abe Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party (with Tom Segal), winning Best New Play of the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival.
     In other SFP work, Richards won the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award of “Best Choreography” for My Fair Lady in 2012, and has since received multiple award nominations for three other SFP musicals: Into the Woods, Promises, Promises, and Company! Since 2001, she has regularly toured the continent starring as Sister in all seven hit installments of the one-woman Late Nite Catechism comedy series.
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: February 17-March 20, 2016
Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Audio Description and Open Captioning: Sunday, March 13 at 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)
412.431.CITY (2489) or

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Blue Man Group Photo Credit: Lindsey Best

    After six successful years on the road, BLUE MAN GROUP will circle the United States one more time prior to taking the theatrical tour worldwide.  Audiences can catch the wildly popular, award-winning BLUE MAN GROUP when they return to Pittsburgh. 
BLUE MAN GROUP will play at Heinz Hall from February 23 through February 28, 2016, 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.
    Tickets ($26-$72) are available for purchase by calling(412) 392-4900, visiting the Heinz Hall Box Office, (600 Penn Avenue) or online at  Groups of 10 or more may call (412) 471-6930, email or visit
BLUE MAN GROUP is a season special part of the 2015-2016 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Symphony, and Broadway Across America.      For more information about the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, please call (412) 456-6666 or visit
    BLUE MAN GROUP is comedy, theatre, rock concert and dance party all rolled into one.  The BLUE MAN GROUP theatrical tour showcases classic Blue Man favorites, along with brand new content.  Now approaching their 25th year of creativity, this artistic group is continually updating and refreshing Blue Man shows with new music, fresh stories, custom instruments and state-of-the-art technology.
    “We live in a fast-paced, ever-evolving world.  The Blue Man character is a curious being who explores our cultural norms, our every-day objects, but he sees them with fresh eyes and an innocent perspective.  As the world around us changes, we are constantly inspired to create new scenarios for the Blue Man to explore,” said Phil Stanton, Co-Founder of BLUE MAN GROUP.
    “Plus, we really like to keep things fresh and vibrant.  For almost 25 years, although the content within the show varies, the mission of every BLUE MAN GROUP show has remained the same – to bring the collective audience together with the Blue Men for a euphoric celebration, a heightened state of being alive,” added Co-Founder Chris Wink.
    The trademark of every BLUE MAN GROUP show is a combination of visually stunning multi-media, multi-sensory performance.  The Blue Men are accompanied by a live band whose haunting tribal rhythms help drive the show to its unforgettable climax.

Paint Drum Photo Credit:Lindsey Best

    Across the country, BLUE MAN GROUP has received acclaim. The San Antonio Express-News proclaimed it’s “an exhilarating, thought-provoking, laugh-yourself-silly evening of percussion-heavy rock music, comedy and playful commentary.”  “You’ve never seen anything like it. And, chances are, you never will,” said the Bayou Buzz in New Orleans. The Los Angeles Times called BLUE MAN GROUP “a guaranteed good time” and the popular family blog Macaroni Kid wrote,     “All I can say is GO SEE THIS SHOW! Bring your kids, bring your partner, bring your parents, bring your friends … GO!”
    For the founders of BLUE MAN GROUP, the universal appeal is based on our shared human DNA.  Phil Stanton elaborated, “We say that no matter how high-tech things get, there’s still something human there.  We’ll always need others, always need to collaborate. People still need to come together and look each other in the eye.  Through the Blue Man’s connection with the audience, we hope to encourage this human-to-human interaction, while helping people reconnect with their own sense of wonder and discovery, with their own sense of what is possible in their lives.”
Blue Man Productions
    Blue Man Productions is a global entertainment company best known for the award-winning BLUE MAN GROUP show, performed in 15 countries and seen by more than 35 million people worldwide since 1991.  A dynamic combination of music, comedy and technology, the show appeals to a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds.  It is continually refreshed with new music, fresh stories, custom instruments and state-of-the-art technology.
    The company developed through a creative collaboration among three close friends, Chris Wink, Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  BLUE MAN GROUP now has permanent theatrical productions in Las Vegas, Orlando, Boston, Chicago, New York and Berlin, as well as a North American Tour. In 2016, BLUE MAN GROUP will launch a World Tour.
Blue Man Group Photo Credit: Lindsey Best

   This creative collective is now part of the pop culture zeitgeist.  Beyond the stage show, Blue Man Group has toured the globe with the “Megastar World Tour” rock concert parody, produced 5 albums, including the Grammy-nominated Audio, and contributed to numerous film and TV scores.      They have served as the face of branding campaigns for Intel and TIM/Brasil and appeared countless times on hit shows like “The Tonight Show,” “Arrested Development,” “Ellen,” “Schaag-den-Raab” (Germany,) “WOWOW” (Japan) and “Calderão” (Brazil). 

    Based in New York City, Blue Man Productions has extensive production facilities, recording studios and a 6,000 square foot research and development lab with numerous new creative projects in the pipeline.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Police Drummer, Stewart Copeland, Performs Own Composition with PSO

Guest Conductor Marcelo Lehninger Photo Credit: Michael Lutch

    Percussion moves from the back and takes center stage during the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s BNY Mellon Grand Classics weekend, "Stewart Copeland Debuts," February 19 and 21 at Heinz Hall.
    Brazilian-born guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger, music director of the New West Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles, leads the Pittsburgh Symphony for the first time in a program featuring Stewart Copeland’s Concerto No. 1, "The Tyrant's Crush," and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1.
    Copeland, who is best known as the drummer for super group The Police, will join the orchestra for the performance of his own work. Described as "sparkling, sensual" by the Guardian, "The Tyrant’s Crush" features Copeland’s brilliant drumming plus complimentary parts for the members of the Pittsburgh symphony percussion and timpani sections — Andrew Reamer, Jeremy Branson, Christopher Allen and Edward Stephan — and an array of exotic percussion instruments. The work celebrates the virtuosity of the symphonic percussion section and also shows that the distance between rock drummer and timpanist is not as far as one may think.
    Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 1 as a graduation exercise upon completing his studies at the Leningrad Conservatory. His first work for orchestra, the symphony was an immediate success upon its premiere in 1926.
    The 20-year-old musician became a celebrity at home and abroad in a matter of months. (Each year for the rest of his life, Shostakovich set aside May 12 as the day he celebrated his "birthday as a composer.")
    A pre-concert talk, open to all ticket holders and led by Assistant Conductor Andrés Franco, will occur on stage one hour before each concert. During this talk, Stewart Copeland and the Pittsburgh Symphony percussionists will walk through the array of percussion instruments on stage that will be used in the performance.
     A Youth Chamber Connection quartet will perform one hour before the Friday evening concert in the Grand Lobby. This performance is open to ticketholders. A post-concert party in the Grand Lobby, open to ticketholders, will follow the Friday evening concert. Program notes for the weekend are available online at and on the PSO mobile app the day of the concert.
About the Artists
Brazilian-born MARCELO LEHNINGER is music director of the New West Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles.  For his work there, he was awarded the Helen M. Thompson Award for Emerging Music Directors in 2014 by the League of American Orchestras.  He recently concluded an appointment as associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
     The 2015-2016 season includes Lehninger’s debut with the Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Ft. Worth, Knoxville, Winnipeg and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphonies; the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France; and The Orchestra Now, as well as return engagements with the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Grand Rapids Symphony and Minas Gerais Philharmonic.
    His 2014-2015 season included debuts with the Detroit and Milwaukee Symphonies, and Rochester Philharmonic; and return engagements with the Florida Orchestra and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.  In Europe, he appeared with the Lucerne Symphony, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra and Slovenian Philharmonic, and assisted Mariss Jansons on tour with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
     As a guest conductor in the United States, Lehninger has led the Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, Seattle, National, Jacksonville, New Jersey, Omaha, Hartford, Fairfax and Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestras, as well as the Florida and Louisville Orchestras, Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, New England Conservatory Philharmonia and Bard College Conservatory Orchestra.
    In Canada,     Lehninger has appeared with the Toronto Symphony, and Calgary and Hamilton Philharmonics.  In 2013, Lehninger recorded the work of composer Christopher Culpo for Radio France in Paris, conducting the Orchestre National de France.
     An alumnus of the National Conducting Institute, he made a successful debut with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2007 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and was invited to conduct the NSO again in 2008.
    Lehninger was music advisor of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas for the 2007-2008 season. Placido Domingo serves as artistic advisor for the ensemble, which is composed of 120 talented musicians from more than 20 countries throughout the Americas. In summer 2008, Lehninger toured with YOA and pianist Nelson Freire in South America, conducting concerts in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. He has led all of the top orchestras in Brazil as well as regular guest conducting in Argentina, and previously served as associate conductor of the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra in Brazil.
    Before dedicating his career to conducting, Lehninger studied violin and piano. He holds a master's degree from the Conductors Institute at New York's Bard College, where he studied conducting under Harold Farberman and composition with Laurence Wallach. His mentors also include Kurt Masur, Leonard Slatkin and Roberto Tibiriçá.  A dual citizen of Brazil and Germany, Lehninger is the son of pianist Sônia Goulart and violinist Erich Lehninger.

Stewart Copeland Photo Credit: Shayne Gray

    STEWART COPELAND has spent three decades in the forefront of contemporary music as a rock star, acclaimed film score writer, and composer in the disparate worlds of opera, ballet, world music and chamber music. Recruiting Sting and Andy Summers in 1977, Stewart formed The Police, a rock band that became a defining force in rock music and reunited 23 years later for a 14-month world tour whose success was a testament to the enduring popularity of the band and its music.
     Stewart spent 20 years as a successful film and TV composer, working for the likes of Francis Ford Coppola on Rumblefish and Oliver Stone on Wall Street.  He returned to his drum kit to form Animal Logic with Stanley Clarke and Oysterhead with Trey Anastasio and Les Claypool, meanwhile finding time to win the Archie David Cup with his polo team (on a horse).  Stewart was commissioned to write a ballet for the San Francisco Ballet and his first opera, "Holy Blood and the Crescent Moon" for the Cleveland Opera in 1989.  In April 2011 he wrote a short opera based on the Edgar Allen Poe story "The Tell-Tale Heart," which premiered at the Royal Opera House in London.
     Recent commissions include his score for MGM’s silent film classic, Ben-Hur, which premiered at the Virginia Arts Festival and which will be performed in 2014 with The Chicago Symphony.  His new percussion concerto, "Poltroons in Paradise" was recently performed by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
     In 2015 his new opera, "The Invention of Morel" will premiere at The Long Beach Opera.  Awards include the keys to the city of Milan, The Chevalier of the Order of Arts & Letters (France), five Grammys and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Through it all, a sense of humor and appreciation for his utterly unique career has shone through as he has enjoyed working in a remarkable array of genres.
Andrew Reamer Photo Credit: 

 ANDREW REAMER joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra percussion section in 1989. He was appointed associate principal percussion in 2003 and principal percussion in 2008. He earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from Temple University. Reamer has taught at Duquesne University for 25 years and plays jazz with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra colleagues in The White Tie Group. He has composed a popular collection of etudes for marimba entitled "Reamer’s Elixirs Two-Mallet Fixers" and is an endorser for Zildjian Cymbals, Evans Drumheads and Innovative Mallets.
    He carries on a drum- and stick-making tradition that can be traced to the mid-19th century, and his work and innovations can be viewed at  His custom drums and sticks are used by the most prestigious orchestras and universities throughout the world. Reamer gets around Pittsburgh on a bike, a motorcycle or in a kayak regardless of the weather.

Christopher Allen Photo Credit: Rob Davidson
  CHRISTOPHER ALLEN joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra percussion section in September 1997.  Born and raised on Long Island, he began his serious musical training at the Juilliard School Pre-College division where he studied for four years. He later attended the Curtis Institute of Music, and continued his graduate studies at Temple University.
    During his final three seasons in Philadelphia, Allen performed as a percussionist in the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1983, he was appointed principal timpanist in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra where he remained until coming to Pittsburgh. During two of his seasons in Columbus, Allen took time off to return to performing as a percussionist in the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also spent eight summers playing in the Grand Teton Music Festival — four years in the percussion section and four years as timpanist. Allen currently teaches percussion at Duquesne University.

ed Stephan Photo Credit: Rob Davidson
   Principal timpanist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 2010, ED STEPHAN is recognized as one of the most exciting and dynamic timpanists in the United States. He has been praised for his "strong and multi-faceted playing" as well as his "captivating command behind the instrument."
    Prior to his appointment in Pittsburgh, Stephan held the position of principal timpanist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and before that the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. While in Texas, he appeared twice as soloist with the FWSO and was awarded the American Airlines Distinguished Musician Award in 2006. Stephan began his percussion training at the age of six. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas and a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. He can be heard on numerous recordings with the North Texas Wind Symphony, as well as the FWSO, DSO and Pittsburgh Symphony. While living in Boston, Stephan performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, the New Haven Symphony and the National Lyric Opera. He was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in 2000 and 2001. In recent years, Stephan has appeared as a guest with the Chicago Smphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony and the Dallas Opera Orchestra. He has served as the principal timpanist of the Crested Butte Summer Music Festival and is currently timpanist of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Stephan is in demand as a teacher and clinician. He presents regular masterclasses throughout North America, Europe and Asia. He is a co-host and presenter of the annual Washburgh Timpani Seminar and currently serves as chair of the percussion department at Duquesne University. Stephan proudly endorses Adams timpani, Pearl percussion products, Remo percussion products, Luft Timpani Mallets and Mike Balter mallets.
Jeremy Branson Photo Credit: Dal Lago

    Jeremy Branson is the associate principal percussionist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Prior to his appointment in the Pittsburgh Symphony, Branson was a member of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida, under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. During that time he also played regularly with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Branson has performed under the batons of such conductors as James Conlon, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Andris Nelsons, Leonard Slatkin, Gerard Schwartz, Robert Spano, Michael Tilson Thomas and David Zinman.
    He has performed with notable artists including Emanuel Ax, Sarah Chang, Renee Fleming, Hilary Hahn, Thomas Hampson, Lynn Harrell, Lang Lang, Yo Yo Ma, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Andre Watts. Branson has premiered works by composers such as John Adams, Richard Danielpour, Michael Gandolfi, Philip Glass, Jennifer Higdon, Gyorgi Ligeti, Steven Mackey and Christopher Theofanidis.
    Branson earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Texas State University. He then earned his Masters of Music degree from Temple University in Philadelphia under the tutelage of Alan Abel. During his education, Branson attended the Aspen Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra, National Orchestral Institute, Roundtop Music Festival and the Texas Music Festival.
    When not performing Branson enjoys high adrenaline sports. As of 2015, he holds two world records in wingsuit skydiving in addition to several national records. He also can be found on the ski slopes in the Rockies during the winter whenever he has a few free days. Branson is also an avid endurance runner. Branson is the chair of the Percussion Department at Carnegie Mellon University.

Heinz Hall
Friday, February 19 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 21 at 2:30 p.m.

Stewart Copeland   Concerto No. 1 for Trapset, Three Percussionists and Orchestra, "The Tyrant's Crush"
Poltroons in Paradise
Monster Just Needed Love (But Ate the Children Anyway)
Over the Wall (or up against it)

Dmitri Shostakovich                  Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Opus 10 I.
I. Allegretto - Allegro non troppo
II. Allegro
III. Lento
IV. Allegro molto – Lento

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Stunning Way to Celebrate Presidents' Day

    On Presidents Day at 7 p.m., February 15, Lynne Hayes Freeland will join the ranks of distinguished actors, statesmen and women and other dignitaries who have taken the podium to narrate Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait.”  The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra will perform the concert at the Carnegie Music Hall in Carnegie, and will include several other works in the program.

    The Presidents Day programming will begin with a talk by Ulysses S. Grant
re-enactor Kenneth J. Serfass.  Serfass engaged audiences when he spoke as Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant last April during the Library & Music Hall’s annual Civil War Living History Day.  This year he will be speaking as President Grant.  His talk, “Presidential Recollections” focuses on some of the high points of Grant’s administration: setting reconstruction right, being an advocate for the Freedmen's Bureau and also taking the plight of the Indians into account, along with overseeing the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It is part the Library & Music Hall’s free Second Saturday Civil War Series, and take places in the Lincoln Gallery at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 13

    The ACFL&MH hopes that this year’s concert establishes its Lincoln Portrait concert as a regional Presidents Day tradition.  With a different orchestra and different narrator each year, the program will attract both new and returning audiences.  “It will always be a new experience,” says executive director, Maggie Forbes “to which fans of Copland and Lincoln will return.  “We are certainly thrilled that Lynne and the PYSO said yes to our 2016 invitations!”

    Last year Congressman Tim Murphy narrated the Copland piece, performed by the Allegheny Brass Band. Pittsburgh actor David Conrad narrated for Duquesne University’s Wind Symphony in 2010 when the ACFL&MH re-opened it meticulously restored Capt. Thomas Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).

    The Library & Music Hall” Civil War holdings provide the perfect context for a signature Presidents Day event.  The Espy Post was custom-furnished by Civil War veterans to hold their meetings and house their relics.  Veterans met in the room from 1906 until the last members died in the late 1930s.  The room has been documented by scholars as the most intact GAR post in the country.  Once there were 7,000 from Portland, ME to Portland, OR.

    In February 2015, as part of its Civil War Sesquicentennial programming, the ACFL&MH opened a new permanent exhibit.  The Lincoln Gallery, a rare collection of 100 photographs of Abraham Lincoln from the earliest known 1847 daguerreotype to the only known photograph of the sixteenth President lying in state in 1865, is adjacent to the Espy Post.  In tandem, the Espy Post and Lincoln Gallery make the Library & Music Hall a significant Civil War destination.

     A native Pittsburgher, Ms. Hayes-Freeland began her broadcast career as the producer of the Roy Fox Show on KDKA-Radio. Since joining KDKA-TV2 in 1976, Lynne has held a variety of positions. She was a field producer for the station’s “Evening Magazine” program. In 1981, Lynne moved to the station’s programming department where she created “Weekend Magazine”, produced what was then known as the “Vibrations” program, and directed a variety of commercial efforts. In 1985, Lynne began a five-year stint as the producer of KDKA’s Annual Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Telethon.  She is currently a general assignment reporter known for live, late-breaking reporting for KDKA-TV News. She is also producer/host of “The Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show,” a weekly half-hour show that concentrates on local African American issues.

    “Initially I felt honored to be asked to narrate “Lincoln Portrait.”  Now, as I prepare, I realize it is more of a privilege.  It is a challenge and a stretch, but I cannot wait to use Lincoln’s words, and convey his spirit, from own my viewpoint," said Ms. Hayes-Freeland.

    Craig Johnson, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra is equally enthusiastic.  “The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra is honored to perform Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait in the historic Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. It is a great privilege to work with Lynne Hayes-Freeland who will be reading of excerpts of Lincoln's great documents, including the Gettysburg Address.”

    The Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, was founded in 1945 and is one of the oldest youth orchestras in the country as well as one of the most accomplished. It is comprised of approximately 100 musicians who range in age from 12 to 20, and who became members through highly competitive auditions.  PYSO has performed internationally; their 2104 tour took them to Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg.  The “Lincoln Portrait” concert is under the baton of PYSO’s new Music Director, Francesco Lecce-Chong.

    Copland’s composed “A Lincoln Portrait” in 1942, during the dark, frightening years of World War II. The haunting orchestral score incorporates some of Lincoln’s most stirring oratory, with the narrator reading over the music.   A very short list of “A Lincoln Portrait” narrators includes Gregory Peck, Katherine Hepburn, James Earl Jones, Paul Newman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Cronkite, Tom Hanks, Danny Glover and Neil Armstrong.

    “A Lincoln Portrait” and other works will be performed at 7:00 p.m. on Presidents Day, February 15.  Tickets are $15 in advance/$20 at the door; $5 for children 12 and under.  The performance will be followed by a dessert reception in the Lincoln Gallery, which will also be open from 2-7 p.m. prior to the performance. For tickets or information visit or call 412-276-3456, x.6.  Free shuttle service from the parking lot on E. Main Street is available.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pick of the Week - PBT's "Peter Pan" Flies into Town for 11 Performances

Cast of PBT's "Peter Pan" Photo Credit: Rich Sofranko

        In Jorden Morris’ adventurous "Peter Pan," Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre artists don’t just dance – they fly. Opening over Valentine’s Day weekend, PBT brings back this all-time audience favorite for 11 performances Feb. 12-21, at the Benedum Center.

    J.M. Barrie’s classic story comes to life through awe-inspiring flying sequences and charismatic characters, including a spunky, show-stealing Tinkerbell. Effervescent dancing animates a dreamlike realm where fairies flit through the forest, a crocodile prowls and Peter Pan leads his Lost Boys in an epic battle against the notorious Captain Hook.
    PBT gave Morris’ "Peter Pan" its Pittsburgh debut in 2011 and ranks it among its most popular story ballets. Morris, a former dancer for Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB), choreographed the ballet at the invitation of RWB Artistic Director Andre Lewis. The production received its RWB world premiere in 2006. Morris has created numerous works for RWB and choreographed for companies around the world. He last visited PBT in 2013 to stage the Pittsburgh premiere of his "Moulin Rouge® – The Ballet."

    Drawing inspiration from old movies, history books and illustrations, Costume Designer Anne Armit used the dozens of costumes to build character – giving each pirate individualized tattoos and garb, building an exotic, bejeweled crocodile and crafting unique sets of fairy wings inspired by different butterfly species.
    Reminiscent of fairy-tale illustrations, scenic designs by Don Rutley and Andrew Beck transport audiences through the starry skies of London to the tangled forests of Neverland and the decks of Hook’s Jolly Roger. In addition to Barrie’s story, the duo drew inspiration from the rich colors and fairy-tale quality of paintings by Maxfield Parrish (American, 1870-1966).

    For the original production of Morris’ "Peter Pan," Flying by Foy gave the dancers wings. The same experts have flown theater stars, including Mary Martin, the star of Jerome Robbins’ Broadway "Peter Pan," as well as celebrities like Lady Gaga, Robin Williams, Lucille Ball, Beyoncé, David Letterman, Taylor Swift and Gene Kelly. For PBT’s production, Foy will send a flying director to oversee installation of the flying equipment, conduct an "Introduction to Flying" class for PBT dancers, fit harnesses and solidify the choreography with Mr. Morris and PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr.

    Morris pairs the production with a lush Edwardian score comprised of works by five English composers – Sir Benjamin Britten, Eric Coates, Sir Edward Elgar, Ron Roodwin and Montague Phillips – most of whom were creating and performing music at the time that J.M. Barrie was writing the classic novel. Of his inspiration for the ballet, Morris has said he drew from "the sense of wonder and magic that surrounds Peter and Neverland—the characters and how clear and fantastic they are – the endless possibility of imagination he (author J.M. Barrie) writes about."

    Tickets start at $28, and are available at, 412-456-6666 or by visiting the Box Office at Theater Square. Groups of 10 or more can save up to 50 percent on tickets by contacting PBT’s Group Sales department at or 412-454-9101.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Lecce-Chong,Concert  Conductor

    Join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, February 13 at 8 p.m. and fall in love all over again with the music of Marvin Hamlisch during "A Musical Valentine: The Love Songs of Marvin Hamlisch."
Pittsburgh Symphony Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong leads the orchestra and special guests Doug LaBrecque (well-known as the Phantom of the Opera), Jessica Lea Patty (Cassie in the last Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line"), Anne Runolfsson and the CMU Drama Singers in tribute to the wonderful talents of one of the greatest contributors to music over the last century, Marvin Hamlisch.
    As a composer, Hamlisch won virtually every major award: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes. On Broadway, he wrote the music for the long-running show, "A Chorus Line," "They're Playing Our Song," "Sweet Smell of Success," "Smile," "The Goodbye Girl" and "Imaginary Friends." His more than 40 motion picture scores include the Oscar-winning score and song for "The Way We Were" and his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for "The Sting." This memorable concert will feature music from his vast array of timeless music.
    Tickets are on sale now and range in price from $25 to $85. Tickets can be purchased at the Heinz Hall box office, online at or via phone at 412-392-4900.
About the Artists
    American conductor FRANCESCO LECCE-CHONG has worked with orchestras around the world including engagements with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. With the start of the 2015-2016 season, he begins his new position as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra after serving four years as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO). He will return to the MSO throughout the season for several guest engagements and will make his opera debut with the Florentine Opera. He also will continue as associate conductor of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

    Lecce-Chong has earned a growing reputation and critical acclaim for dynamic, forceful performances, garnering national distinction, including the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and The Presser Foundation Music Award. He has also been featured in master classes with Bernard Haitink, David Zinman, David Robertson and Christopher Seaman, while working with the St. Louis Symphony, National Arts Center Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich.

    As a trained pianist and composer, Lecce-Chong embraces innovative programming, champions the work of new composers and supports arts education. While working with the MSO, he curated and presented the works of both active and lesser-known composers, including two works commissioned by the orchestra, as well as two U.S. premieres. He also helped create the first MSO Composer Institute, providing performance opportunities for young American composers. Lecce-Chong has complemented his programming with a strong commitment to arts education for all ages. In Milwaukee, he provided artistic leadership for the MSO’s nationally lauded Arts in Community Education program — one of the largest arts integration programs in the country — and he continues to be a frequent guest speaker for arts organizations around the country.

    Lecce-Chong is a native of Boulder, Colorado, where he began conducting at the age of 16. He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors in piano and orchestral conducting. Lecce-Chong also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied as a Martin and Sarah Taylor Fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller. He has been mentored by many world-renowned conductors, including Edo de Waart and Donald Runnicles, with whom he continues to maintain a close working relationship.

DOUG LABRECQUE thrilled theater audiences as The Phantom and Raoul in the Harold Prince production of The Phantom of the Opera. In addition, LaBrecque has starred on Broadway as Ravenal in the Hal Prince revival of Showboat, a role he also performed in Canada and Chicago. He was featured in Oscar Hammerstein’s 100th Birthday Celebration on Broadway at The Gershwin Theatre, and toured nationally with Les Miserables. Regionally, LaBrecque has performed leading roles in Candide, A Chorus Line and Man of LaMancha among many others. A graduate of University of Michigan he was also featured in the world premiere of A Wonderful Life, written by Sheldon Harnick and Joe Raposo, and starred in the premiere revival of Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner’s Love Life.

    One of the most prolific concert performers of his generation LaBrecque has been a soloist with some of the world’s finest symphony orchestras including The National Symphony, The Israel Philharmonic (Tel Aviv), The Chicago Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Atlanta Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony, among many others. In the last few years, LaBrecque’s U.S. appearances have included Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Houston Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Dallas Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, The Utah Symphony and with Marvin Hamlisch both at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony, and with the Pittsburgh Symphony.
    In a tribute to Richard Rodgers, LaBrecque recently made his Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist with the New York Pops, the same season he debuted with the Boston Pops. Alongside Jeff Tyzik, he appeared with both the St. Louis and Seattle Symphony’s for their holiday celebrations as well as numerous performances with The Naples Philharmonic. With Peter Nero he was featured in "Broadway Showstoppers," a live recording with Nero’s Philly Pops. Other special engagements have included singing with Carole Bayer-Sager at Feinsteins’s in Manhattan and the Cinegrill in Los Angeles, performing alongside Broadway legend Jerry Herman with the Naples Philharmonic, and appearing onstage with Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch (singing together!) at Hickory Hill, the legendary home of Ethel Kennedy.
    International engagements have included the Korean National Symphony in Seoul, Korea, the Shanghai Radio Orchestra in China, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Vancouver and Calgary Symphonies in Canada, the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra in Rio De Janeiro, the Jerusalem Symphony and numerous return engagements with the Israel Philharmonic. LaBrecque recently appeared in Alba, Italy as the guest soloist in an all-Bernstein concert and returned to the International Music Festival in the Czech Republic.

    JESSICA LEA PATTY is a Broadway singer, dancer, actress and teacher working and living in New York City. She is a native of beautiful Palm Beach County, Florida. Music, singing and dancing were introduced to her at an early age. She studied classical ballet, jazz and modern for 13 years under the direction of Joan Miller at The Palm Beach Ballet Center and attended The Palm Beach County School of the Arts (now Dreyfoos School of the Arts) where she was a dance/theatre major. She discovered her true passion for musical theatre when she when she attended the Broadway Theatre Project under the direction of Ann Reinking.
    Patty was accepted as only one of four incoming freshmen for the BFA Musical Theatre Program at Florida State University. After graduating with with honors, she toured North America with Cats & Fosse for two years, and then made the big move to NYC. She hit the ground running landing a role in Northshore Music Theatre's production of West Side Story where she received her Equity card. Five months after moving to the city, the dream came true when she made her Broadway debut in The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman.
    In 2006, Patty was cast in the Broadway Revival of A Chorus Line, where she began understudying the roles of Diana, Sheila and Judy. Shortly after, Maggie was added. Then a year after joining ACL, Patty was chosen to be the Cassie Alternate, performing the role every Sunday. ACL was followed by the original Broadway companies of 9 to 5 The Musical, understudying the role of Judy Bernly, The Addams Family as the Flapper Ancestor & understudying Morticia (originated by Bebe Neuwirth) and Wednesday Addams, The People in the Picture understudying the role of Red, and most notably understudying and performing the title role of Eva Peron in the Broadway revival of Evita alongside Ricky Martin and Tony Award winner
Michael Cerveris.
    Since Evita, Patty has performed in two productions for the City Center Encores! series, ...It's Superman     and The Most Happy Fella as well as the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists series starring alongside Broadway veterans and under the direction of Tony Award-winning, Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated David Zipple.  In fall 2015, Patty was featured in the NY Philharmonic production of Show Boat that aired on PBS.
    Patty is now using her 17 years of professional experience to guide others in their passion for theatre and dance. She teaches workshops and classes for many organizations in NYC like the Broadway Artists Alliance, Broadway Workshop and Broadway Classrooms, and is currently subbing at Broadway Dance Center for their theater dance classes. She also taught her workshops for major universities and theatre festivals across the country.

ANNE RUNOLFSSON is one of those rare artists whose unique versatility has allowed her a distinguished career not only in the theater but also in recording studios, intimate cabaret spaces, and concert halls throughout the world. The New York Times proclaimed, "Ms. Runolfsson has a flexible virtuosity, between ethereal melodiousness and piercing big-moment resonance." While the LA Times has called her, "A savvy and thoughtful performer."

    She recently completed a two-year run on Broadway as the tempestuous diva, Carlotta Giudacelli in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, the longest running show in Broadway history. Hal Prince referred to her performance as a "revelation." Prior to that, she made an absolute splash in Victor/Victoria as standby to Dame Julie Andrews and Liza Minelli. She performed the title role more than 120 times to great acclaim and went on to recreate the role in the national tour, which began in Seattle and Houston.

    Other Broadway and national tour credits include the role of Gretta Conroy in James Joyce’s The Dead, Fantine in Les Miserables, Roxane in Cyrano — The Musical, Lili in The Secret Garden and Aspects of Love. Off-Broadway and Regional credits include Listen to My Heart (Studio 54), Rags, Jack’s Holiday, Cather County, A Little Night Music, Showboat and Funny Girl. She has appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall (with Tenor Jose Carreras), The Kennedy Center, Town Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, The National Theater in Iceland, Rainbow and Stars, The Russian Tea Room, Bay Street Theater, The Pump Room, The Cinegrill, The 92nd St. Y and with The National Symphony, The Philly Pops, The Boston Pops, The Jerusalem Symphony, The Orchestra of St. Lukes, The National Symphony of Canada, The Hong Kong Philharmonic, The Cincinnati Pops, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, The Buffalo Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Indianapolis, Toronto, Milwaukee, Utah, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Columbus, San Diego, Colorado, Minnesota and St. Louis, among many others. She was awarded the MAC award (Manhattan Association of Cabaret) for Best Female Vocalist, and was a Drama League Honoree for her work in Cyrano — The Musical.

    Her many recordings include the international cast album of Les Miserables, Listen to My Heart, Broadway Musicals of 1933 and her solo debut recording, At Sea, which was critically acclaimed nationwide and can be purchased at She is the proud mother of Tess Adams, who has already made her Broadway debut in Les Miserables, and has sung with the National Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the Boston Pops and the Seattle Symphony.

    The CMU DRAMA SINGERS are all undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious School of Drama. They are a combination of musical theatre and acting majors. They come from all over the country, and are directed by Claudia Benack, a member of the faculty since 1997. The group consists of seniors Ben Mathews, Caroline Pluta and Kelsey Tarantino. The participating juniors are Iris Beaumier, Hanna Berggren and Victoria Pedretti. The sophomores are Jimmy Brewer, Jada Mayo, Kevin Paul, Kyle Pitts and Jordan Plutzer. Freshman Patrick David rounds out the group.

    PITTSBURGH MUSICAL THEATER (PMT) is a nonprofit organization committed to providing quality, affordable musical theater to the Pittsburgh region, educating youth in the arts and employing and developing local talent. Pittsburgh Musical Theater was founded in 1990 with the vision of creating a regional musical theater company committed to quality productions of the best of Pittsburgh's own professional talent at a price affordable to all residents, especially children and families. As a nonprofit performing arts organization, the mission expanded to include a strong commitment to education, training, and outreach programs through the Richard E. Rauh Conservatory. Pittsburgh Musical Theater produces performances at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh's Cultural District, the New Hazlett Theater and Gargaro Theater. Pittsburgh Musical Theater also provides acting, singing, and dance classes for students at its arts education center, the Richard E. Rauh Conservatory – in the belief that the arts are for all!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

"Guys and Dolls" - Gamboling Galore? - You Betcha

Joel Hurt Jones (Nathan Detroit), Quinn Patrick Shannon (Nicely Nicely Johnson), Gavan Pamer (Benny Southstreet) Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater

    Anytime you put two contrasting subsets of characters in the same pot - or plot, you’re bound to end up with some interesting results. This is especially true for "Guys and Dolls," the 1950 hit musical in which a pack of craps shooting, racetrack junkies, grifters  and their molls cross paths with a band of ardent Christian crusaders intent of saving souls and vanquishing sin.
The potent synergy that results when the those who inhabit the shadowy world of petty street hustlers and ingrained gamblers encounter loftier folk intent on reform is what gave "Guys and Dolls" its popular appeal and propelled the Jo Swerling/Abe Burrows written opus (with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser) skyward. "Guys and Dolls captured the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and took home five Tony Awards that same year.
Based on the short stories of Damon Runyon which capture so well the colorful underbelly of New York street life in the 1930s, the musical was successfully adapted for film and enjoyed numerous stage revivals both in New York and London. Currently, it’s getting an inventive and highly polished staging at the O’Reilly Theater Downtown by Pittsburgh Public Theater.
In the elevator, I managed to hear PPT artistic director, Ted Pappas, who directs and choreographs the show, say that "Guys and Dolls" is one of his favorite musicals. His enthusiasm for the work certainly shows with its super-charged, high-energy production in which no staging elements seem to have been compromised.
Not only is the cast copious by most standard, it’s decidedly talented as well. The eight-piece orchestra, while out of sight, plays with an impressive bravado, on cue tempos and rhythms and impeccable musical artistry that gives a lustrous support to both the singing and dancing.
Capturing the Runyonesque mood, there is a certain cartoonish quality to the characters who only seem to parody real life, but accentuate the show’s inherent comedy by doing so. The colorful zoot suits and chorus girl outfits designed by Martha Bromelmeier are the perfect match for the New York-ese patois that’s such an integral part of the characterizations.
The catalyst for the play’s meeting of contrasting points of view, life styles and ethical outlooks is the unlikely romance between debonair high roller, Sky Masterson, and the high-minded, goodie two-shoes, Sarah Brown, one of the evangelizing mission stalwarts.
Rather than experiencing a relationship that sparks spontaneously, the meeting of this romantic duo has more devious, manipulative roots. It’s the result of a $1,000 bet Masterson makes with crap shoot organizer, Nathan Detroit, that he can woo and win the heart of the scrupulous lass.
As Masterson, Charlie Brady has the suave charisma needed to portray the show’s alpha male character, but it’s his strong, melodious singing voice that stood out most in his performance. As Brown, the pert and lovely, Kimberly Doreen Burns, shows an initial reluctance to succumb to his repeated advances, but beneath the surface there’s a smoldering attraction that erupts during a day trip with Masterson to Havana, my personal favorite scene in the show.
During her short Cuban adventure, Brown lets down her hair and gets a taste of a more devil-may-care perspective fueled by a sip or two on a rum infused, dulce de leche. Adding even more beguiling elements to foster her temporary transformation, set designer, Michael Schweikardt, makes the best use of his versatile, semi-circular, mid stage structure that serves as the anchor for the opening street scene then rotates 180-degrees to evoke other locales, including the seductive Havana restaurant bar in which Brown enjoys her foreign adventures.
The bar is also the setting for Pappas’ best choreographic effort when he creates a fiery, erotic  tango-rumba-samba-type dance performed by two accomplished dancers who show as much costume-lite skin as talent.

Kirsten Wyatt (Miss Adelaide) Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater

As Brown, Burns shows off her robust singing voice in the following scene when she solos in "If I were a Bell." However, Kirsten Wyatt gets my vote for the winner of the production’s award for comedy and most-finely tuned characterization. Her Miss Adelaide dominated every scene she was in. She spoke her lines with a humorous adenoidal tone and didn’t let her air head persona stand in the way of touching hearts with her vulnerabilities and the disappointments of her 14-year engagement to Nathan Detroit.
Speaking of which, Joel Hurt Jones captures his character’s leadership qualities as head of the local clan of ne’er -do-wells, able to bully them into doing his bidding, but also prone to cowering in front of formidable adversaries like Big Jule (Jerry Gallagher), whose initial entrance onstage is one to look out for
Abetted by some of Pappas’ nifty choreography that has the ensemble moving en suite in some captivating maneuvers, Quinn Patrick Shannon as Nicely-Nicely Johnson brings down the house in his animated rendition of  "Sit Down, You’re Rockin the Boat."
In a supporting role, Tony Bingham gets the performance’s biggest laugh with the look on his face and the way he enters the mission hall expecting to crash into a crap game but instead getting treated  to a prayer meeting.
Dare I say that the evening’s biggest disappointment was the slew of songs penned by renowned composer, Frank Loesser. I’m sure it’s theater blasphemy to say there wasn’t one in the bunch that I particularly cared for. Oh, except for the lyrics to "Marry the Man Today." Even though all the songs are all well presented, that still didn’t prevent me from missing what swarms of theater-goers before me heard that had them rhapsodizing about the score.
(left to right) Mara Newbery, Stephanie Maloney, Quinn Patrick Shannon, Larry John Meyers, Sharon Schaller, Andrea Weinzierl
Considering the production’s polish and high quality effort, that doesn’t prevent me from saying, for a delightful evening of quality entertainment, PPT’s "Guys and Dolls" is a sure bet.
"Guys and Dolls’ is at the O’Reilly Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh through February 28. For tickets, phone 412-316-1600 or visit