Monday, April 30, 2018

PPT’s "Hamlet" - Regal, Elegant and, Thanks to Shakespeare, Eloquent

Matthew Amendt as Hamlet Credit: Courtesy Phnoto

With the darkening of the lights and the first of twelve loud bongs on an unidentified clock that sounds a lot like London’s Big Ben, the audience attending Pittsburgh Public Theater’s staging of "Hamlet" is brusquely transported from their everyday world to a quite different place and time. The effect is immediate and almost takes your breath away.

Whatever baggage you bring to the theater seems trivial by comparison to the lofty language and chilling scenario that follows. Shakespeare wastes no time conjuring up the chills as a pair of castle sentries on midnight watch encounter a ghost, an imperial one that was once king, now the victim of a regicide At blame, or so it appears, is his own brother, who not only inherited his throne, but also his widow.

As the title character, Matthew Amendt is angst-possessed, even before he too is witness to the regal specter. After all, he recently lost his father, and his mother wasted little time wearing widow’s weeds before wedding the new heir to the throne. It’s something that troubles him to the core.

Early in my theater-going obsession, I tried to get tickets for every Shakespeare play that came along. For the last decade or so, however, I barely encountered the Bard, partly out of a lack of opportunity, partly because of the effort it takes me to work my way through text. Fortunately, I have been keeping a record of every play I’ve seen for decades and recently checked my list to see how many Hamlets I’d seen previous to the one now getting a staging at the Pittsburgh Public Theater

The count came to three, and I have to admit that the one at the Public, the fourth, is not only the most memorable but one of the, shall we say, purist I ever witnessed  Director Ted Pappas can take pride in his valiant effort to guide the cast in what happens to be his final drama as PPT’s producing artistic director.

PPT's Producing Artistic Director Ted Pappas
The entire evening runs as smoothly as clockwork with the talented cast exiting from one area of the stage only to have other characters  emerge from an alternate area,. giving the play a seamless and unbroken momentum.

Even those unfamiliar with the plot will probably remember some of the most famous quotes taken from the play starting with "Brevity is the soul of wit."  And who hasn’t heard Hamlet’s oft-repeated "To be or not to be" or "To die, to sleep, perchance to dream - ay there’s the rub. For in this sleep of death what dreams may come."

Naturally, the success of the play rests on the shoulders of its lead character and Amendt is certainly up to the task. Anxiety and distress are etched on his face, and his outrage over recent events is both palpable and kept on a slow simmer until they build in heated intensity. His feigned madness grows out of his inner turmoil, his soliloquies come off as sharp and insightfully authentic, his sense of satire is biting and ruthless and nothing feels over acted or artificial.

Some of his greatest moments occur with encounters with Ophelia (gorgeously played by Jenny Leona), his playful sarcasms thrown at the elderly Polonius (with magnificent work by Matt Sullivan), his witty castigation in which he rebukes his supposed friends, Rosenkrantz (Allan Snyder) and Guildenstern (Luke Halferty) and the magnificently directed scene in which he nearly dispatches King Claudius, caught in a vulnerable moment at prayer.

As the villainous king, David Whalen keeps his transgressions under wraps, coming off as wise, temperate and benign in true Machiavellian fashion. As his paramour/wife, Gertrude, Caris Vujcec unravels with majestic artistry, showing a believable emotional descent from her safe and secure position as queen to harried mother and ultimately as victim to her husband’s nefarious plots.

The graveyard scene provides a welcome respite of comic relief as well as a chance for Tony Bingham to shine in a impressive character role. Andrew William Miller as Hamlet’s steadfast ally and confident, Horatio, is sober and a calm in the storm, while Monteze Freeland manages to inspire disdain in a short period of time as the loathsome priest  attending Ophelia’s burial.

Amendt manages to carry his acting wizardry all the way to the end in the play’s climactic scene where he duels with the impetuous, Laertes (Paul Terzenbach) matching sword blow for sword blow of engaging combat enacted under the tutelage of fight director, Randy Kravitz.

Credit James Noone for a stunning minimalist set made up of a series of arched-over columns emblazoned with golden torchettes and a massive chandelier that creates a classic tone for one of the Bard’s best known masterpieces. Also impressive are the sumptuous costumes designed by Gabriel Berry and evocative music and sound designs of Zach Moore that gilds the one of the most stellar productions I’ve seen at the Public in recent memory.

Truly a moving and  rewarding experience, this "Hamlet" is one not-to-be missed. There may be something rotten in Denmark, but in Pittsburgh "Hamlet" is as vibrant as it gets.

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of "Hamlet" is at the O’Reilly Theater in downtown Pittsburgh through May 20. For tickets, phone 412-316-1600 or

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Note the Dates - May 17-20 EQT Children's Festival

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announces that the EQT Children’s Theater Festival will be held May 17-20, 2018 in the Cultural District in Downtown Pittsburgh. Fostering imagination through high-quality professional theater performances from around the world, attendees can enjoy six featured performances, hands-on activities, and a variety of family-friendly art and music at various indoor and outdoor venues. The cultural experiences offered throughout festival performances can be enjoyed by all ages. Single tickets for the featured performances went on sale to the public on Thursday, February 15th, 2018.

“Every year, the EQT Children’s Theater Festival provides the setting for new and exciting featured artists from around the world to inspire creativity through the arts,” shared Pamela Komar, Director of Theater, Music and Youth Programming and Executive Director of the Citizens Bank Children’s Theater Series and EQT Children’s Theater Festival at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. 

“The heart and soul of the festival is to encourage discussion and create an opportunity for families to have meaningful conversations. The entire line-up of ticketed performances is interactive—audiences will be delighted to have opportunities to participate during the shows like never before. Everyone’s senses will be delighted as they feel like they are a direct part of the festival magic. Rain or shine, with both indoor and outdoor events, the festival is an easily accessible and rewarding way to spend your time.”

The 32nd EQT Children’s Theater Festival features performances from Italy, Scotland, Canada, the United States, and Australia. The festival offers shows and activities for the youngest theater goers from six months of age to special shows and activities for kids and teens ages 7 and up. In the festival performance of The Young King, five local performers will be selected to act alongside the internationally acclaimed Slingsby Theatre Company from Australia. Audiences will go on journeys of exploration, taking part in interactive performances that showcase authentic music and traditions from around the world.

The Young King Credit: Courtesy Photo

For the fifth year, the EQT Foundation will serve as the lead and title underwriter of the Children’s Theater Festival. As the charitable affiliation of EQT Corporation, the nation’s largest producer of natural gas, the EQT Foundation provides educational opportunities for children, as well as adults, values the development of livable communities, and is committed to the preservation of natural resources. Established in 2003, the EQT Foundation prides itself on being a responsible corporate citizen and invests in programs that promote an understanding of culture and heritage.

“The EQT Foundation is honored to return as underwriter of the EQT Children’s Theater Festival, an exceptional event that brings international performing and visual artists to the region for our children to experience first-hand,” said Charlene Petrelli, President, EQT Foundation.  “We are proud to share these outstanding arts and educational programs with our region’s youth and provide opportunities to promote awareness of global cultures, as well as local heritage.  The EQT Children’s Theater Festival never disappoints with its array of extraordinary events for the enrichment of all attendees.”

For 32 years, the EQT Children’s Theater Festival has brought the community the diversity and culture of international arts and entertainment without having to leave the Pittsburgh area. The festival has featured performing artists from around the world, spanning six continents, and is known for presenting unique, globally-inspired arts, music, one-of-a-kind installations, premiers and free hands-on activities for all ages. 

The festival serves as a gateway for children of all ages to experience professional performing arts programming that inspires, challenges, educates, and stimulates respect for and an understanding of other cultures in an entertaining and enlightening way. The festival is presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Featured Ticked Performances
All ticketed performances will take place in the Cultural District. Single tickets for the featured performances go on sale February 15th, 2018. For tickets and information, please visit, call 412-456-6666, or visit the Theater Square Box Office at 655
Penn Avenue. Groups of 10 or more, please call 412-471-6930 or visit: For a full description of each featured ticketed performance, including performance times, please visit

Panda's Home Credit: Courtesy Photo

PANDA’S HOME by Compagnia TPO
Ages 4+ | 50 Minutes
Venue: Trust Arts Education Center, 805-807 Liberty Avenue
This enchanting and interactive performance allows young audience members to take a journey to ancient China, following the footprints left by a panda. The panda’s “house” is in a forest as large as all of China.  In this imaginary journey, audience members will explore China’s stories, tradition, and culture.  Along with the panda, children discover and interact with the five elements of nature:  wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.  They’ll encounter bamboo forests, fireworks, kites, and more.  In this sensory and interactive experience, the stage comes to life with innovative projection, colorful images, and playful sound.  The performers and audience members will come together in this unique and immersive journey of imagination that extends beyond language and cultural barriers.

Poggle Credit: Courtesy Photo

POGGLE by Barrowland Ballet
Ages 6 months – 4 | 40 minutes
Venue: August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Avenue
Vince is a boy who wants to explore the forest but is too scared to go on his own. One day, Vince meets Poggle, a friendly woodland creature, and together they go on an adventure through the forest where they discover the magical, musical tree.  This warm-hearted, sensory performance uses live music, clapping rhythms, and comedy to engage the youngest audience members in an imaginative and adventurous exploration.  

The Rainbow Fish Credit: Courtesy Photo

THE RAINBOW FISH by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia, Canada
Part of the Citizens Bank Children’s Theater Series
Ages 3-8 | 50 minutes
Venue: Byham Theater, 101 Sixth Street
The Rainbow Fish will delight even the youngest child with his silver scales and heart of gold in this show based on the award-winning book about the beautiful fish who learned to share his most prized possession. From the same company who brought The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny to Pittsburgh, Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia brings The Rainbow Fish to life with their enchanting and magical puppetry.  * A sensory-friendly performance, which will include reduced sound levels and gentle lighting, is scheduled at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, 2018. 

THE YOUNG KING by Slingsby Theatre Company
Part of the EQT Bridge Theater Series
Ages 7+ | 70 minutes
Venue: Trust Arts Education Center, 805-807 Liberty Avenue
What kind of King would you be? A naïve boy raised in the countryside is discovered to be heir to the kingdom.  Treasures and privileges are laid at his feet, but at what cost to others?  The achingly beautiful and tender language of Oscar Wilde joins the intimate and magical world of the internationally acclaimed Slingsby Theatre Company from Adelaide, Australia.  Journey in wonder to a land of challenging choices and rich rewards. 

United States
All Ages | 50 minutes
Venue: August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Avenue
Join two-time GRAMMY® award-winner Terrance Simien and his accomplished band for a unique and powerful musical experience informed by traditional and contemporary influences that has become the signature sound of Louisiana. Zydeco, the indigenous music of the black and multiracial French-speaking Creoles of South Louisiana, is infectious, inviting and smile-inducing.  In Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience, audiences will take a multicultural tour of the world with this blend of zydeco, roots, rock, New Orleans, funk, soul, world, and reggae-flavored sound.  Audience members will feel the spirit of Creole country and the joy of zydeco with this engaging and inspiring performance.  Plus, don’t miss your chance to sing along to Terrance Simien’s song “Gonna Take You There” from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog!

Sunjata Kamalenya Credit: Courtesy Photo

United States
All Ages | 60 minutes
Venue: August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Avenue
Sunjata Kamalenya is a completely interactive show celebrating the greatest hero of West African legend, Sunjata Keita, the first mansa (king) of the ancient Empire of Mali.  This 13th century epic tale takes place in a magical world filled with sorcery and enchantment.  A wandering hunter comes to the village of Farrakoro and makes an unbelievable prediction that a boy who is crippled and his outcast mother will overcome all odds to deliver their nation from an evil sorcerer.  This beautiful tale follows their struggles and the strength they discover from their faith in each other.  Authentic music, costumes, and scenery invite you into this modern Mandé village where the jelimuso (storyteller) guides your journey as you sing, dance, and act alongside professional actors and musicians in a truly unique and immersive experience. 
Sensory-Friendly Performances Schedule

The Rainbow Fish will be the featured sensory-friendly performance during this year’s festival. This performance will take place at the Byham Theater on Saturday, May 19th at 2:45 PM.   
The festival grounds and featured performance venues are fully handicap accessible. ASL interpreters are provided for featured performances upon request when requests are made at least 10 business days in advance. For information and questions, please call (412) 456-6666.

Other accessibility offerings include:
ADA-compliant cable covers are used throughout the outdoor pop-up spaces, where applicable.
Guide animals are welcome in all festival locations.
Large-print programs are available at information booths.
Sensory-friendly performances.For more on accessibility, please visit

Festival Logistics
The festival grounds will include a variety of food options and vendors, visual art programming at local galleries, free hands-on activities, and free outdoor performances. Festival hours are 10:00 AM-2:00 PM on Thursday, May 17 and 10:00AM-5:00 PM on Friday, May 18 – Sunday, May 20, 2018.
Information booths will be open during festival hours providing information, tickets and merchandise. Each featured performance venue will have staff on-site 60 minutes prior to show times.

Tickets and Information
Tickets are $9 for featured performances. Multi-show packs are available and offered for as low as $6 per show! Flex Vouchers from the Citizens Bank Children’s Theater Series and EQT Bridge Theater Series are honored for all ticketed events taking place during the festival, but must be redeemed in advance of the performance. Visit, call (416) 456-6666, or pick up tickets in person at Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue. For groups of 10+ call (412) 471-6930, or visit

Parking and Transportation
Reserve parking vouchers in the heart of the Cultural District at Theater Square Parking Garage. A limited number of vouchers will be held for festival visitors each day. To reserve your parking voucher, call 412-456-6666 or visit the Box Office at Theater Square.
There are plenty of ways to make travel to the festival as convenient and comfortable as possible. For information about parking lots and garages in the Cultural District, visit This site shows real-time parking availability in over 20 downtown parking lots with parking inventory updates every 30 seconds.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Give the Gift of Nature on Mother's Day

Nothing says, "I Love You, Mom!"
like a year full of natural beauty.

Membership to Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is a
unique and memorable gift that provides
free admission year-round to the Garden.

Membership includes discounts on distinctive
gift shop merchandise - including plants - as well as
free or discounted classes, programs, and access to gardens participating in the American Horticultural Society's reciprocal admissions program throughout North America.
Give the Gift of Nature - Learn More Here

Is Mom already a member of the Garden? You can extend or renew her membership for her. What a lovely surprise!
To choose this option, contact Jean at or 412-444-4464.

Join us on Mother's Day for fun family activities and a lovely walk through the Garden - free for members! Click here for more information.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Byhalia, Mississippi - Rosemary’s Baby with a Southern Twist

Erika Cuenca and Virginia Wall Gruenert Credit: Heather Mull

From the moment you lay eyes on set designer Adrienne Fischer’s remarkably authentic and detailed construction of a poor White domicile in Northern Mississippi you’re pulled into the ambient mood of the play.

Adding to the authenticity of the theatrical experience that envelopes and engages the audience and keeps it there is the work of five actors, each of which are given their moment to shine by playwright, Evan Linder. Even the break at intermission doesn’t puncture the mis en scene sensibility of this intriguing comedy that comes with an emotionally wrenching ending.

Yes, I did Google Byhalia to see if the town was genuine and not just some artistic construct. With a population of around 1,300 residents, Byhalia lies 28 miles southeast of Memphis and has a racial divide of about 50 percent Caucasian, 45 percent African-American, a relevant stat that helps explain some of the play’s social and racial relationships which are surprisingly tolerant and .amicable considering the racial discord present elsewhere in contemporary America.

Things hadn’t always been this harmonious. In 1974, a young, 21-year old, unarmed  Black man was shot and killed by a police officer, setting off the longest boycotts of White businesses by Blacks in Mississippi history. At the moment, things seem to be quite neighborly with two of the play’s White characters enjoying a close friendship with African-American counterparts.

One interesting factoid about the town that has little to do with the play other than a brief mention is that famed Mississippi writer William Faulkner, died in Byhalia at the age of 62 on July 6, 1962. Google says he was born on September 25, the same day as mine but, of course, in a different year. This, by the way has nothing to do with the play, but does give me a bit of satisfaction sharing the same birth anniversary with the famed writer.

With this small tidbit of information about Byhalia out of the way, Linder’s play is more about forgiveness than racism. It opens with Laurel (Erika Cuenca) and her mother Celeste (Virginia Wall Gruenert) exchanging barbs. Celeste has been a house guest for a little too long awaiting the birth of her first grandchild, and the two women are obviously on edge and getting on one another’s nerves.

Brandon Meeks and Erika Cuenca Credit Heather Mull
Not taking Celeste’s visit all that well either is Jim (Brandon Meeks), Laurel’s pot-smoking, unemployed husband who’s undeniably head-over-heels in love with his spouse. Laurel shares the same sentiment and both husband and wife keep saying that each are part of one another’s plan. But, as you may have heard, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And do they ever!

The early scenes that pit the three protagonists together are wittily fun to listen to as they maneuver through their tawdry household baring their fangs with controlled diligence. As the oldest character in the play, Celeste has more of the Bible Belt mentality than the others, but it comes with some cheeky foul mouthed patois when provoked. Wall Gruenert allows her character to evoke some of the entrenched sentiments of Jim Crow era but in a much more benign way.

As Laurel, Cuenca, on the other hand, is more contemporary in outlook - and more libertine than you’d expect from her wholesome appearance. When it comes to social convention, her brakes seem to be in need of an adjustment and lead to a situation that threatens to break up her marriage. Despite her errors of judgment and marital faux pas, she maintains a guiltless demeanor and bravely struggles to preserve what she most cherishes, despite the overwhelming odds set in her path.

As Jim, Meeks is easy-going and laid back. His winning personality and charm are part of his Cracker demeanor, but once the birth of his son raises questions of his paternity, he can rage with the best of them.
It’s the infant that causes the disruptive chaos that not only threaten to rupture the familial bonds between mother, daughter and husband but also the strong friendships the married couple have with two African-American Byhalians.
Lamar K. Cheston and Hope Anthony Credit: Heather Mull

As Karl and Ayesha, Lamar K. Cheston and Hope Anthony give impressive performances that are important components of the play. Cheston is playfully comic as Jim’s best friend and later sympathetically indignant when he’s rashly accused of betraying his bonds of brotherhood. Anthony shows a lot of spunk, sass and intelligence in her role of Ayesha, standing up for what’s important to her - the life she’s managed build with her husband in the post-Jim Crow South.

In Byhalia, Mississippi, friendship and family clash with infidelity, betrayal and deep felt emotional wounding. Yet, for such seemingly heady agenda, there’s plenty of comedy and a plot that arcs in the direction of and climaxes in sentiment that bring a lump to the throat.

If good writing, a splendid set and a wonderful quintet of actors isn’t enough in the way of assets, add in some astute and shrewd direction by Ingrid Sonnichsen.

After viewing "Byhalia, Mississippi," you probably won’t want to live there. But a short two hour visit by way of a Carnegie Stage production is a worthwhile travel adventure you might just want to take.

An off the wall production, "Byhalia, Mississippi, is at the Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street in Carnegie, through May 5. For tickets, phone 724-873-3576 or

August Wilson Play Opens Friday at Playwright' s Historic Hill District Home

Monday, April 23, 2018

Fogo de Chao Brings a Bit of Gaucho to Pittsburgh

Outside the Restaurant Credit: Bill Rockwell

Before the April 23 opening of Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian Steakhouse, in Downtown Pittsburgh I got to attend the preview dinner held a few days before. Housed in what once served as the sax Fifth Avenue department store on Smithfield and Oliver, the restaurant is a carnivores mecca. Seventeen different meats are brought to table on skewers and patrons are invited to sample all of them. There's also a salad bar with more than 60 items, some of them rare and exotic like hearts of palm and dragon fruit.

You can read more of my experience that evening by going to, then clicking on the "Shaker" tab.

In the meantime here are some of the photos photograoher Bill Rockwell took at the preview dinner.

A Section of the Salad Bar

The Marketplace also has a feijoada bar where you can make your own version of Brazil's national dish.
Add caption

The restaurant interior is chic and classy with tables comfortably spaced 
Grasping the Sliced Meat with Silver Tongs

You can assist your gaucho/server by grasping the sliced meat with the tongs positioned at each place setting
Add caption
I love the way the skewered meats arrive seriatum with nice interludes in between so as not to overwhelm the diner.

The Bar

A great place for Happy Hour, the bar overlooks Oliver Avenue.

Dessert Anyone?

It's hard to pick just one, but my personal favorite is the Tres Leches Cake.

PBT Celebrating Centennial Birthdays

Dancers in "West Side Story Suite" Credit: Duane Rieder

PBT celebrates the 100th birthdays of collaborators Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein with three company premieres. The theatrical West Side Story Suite samples iconic songs (with dancer vocal debuts!) and Tony-winning choreography from the duo’s groundbreaking musical (1957) and film. PBT also debuts in Robbins’ first ballet and claim to fame: Fancy Free (1944), an early Bernstein collaboration that inspired the Broadway hit On the Town. Rounding out the program is a more rarely seen Robbins masterwork: his classical In the Night (1940), which sets romantic pas de deux for three couples to four Chopin nocturnes.

·         "West Side Story Suite"Choreography: Jerome Robbins
·         Music: Leonard Bernstein

·         "In the Night"
·         Choreography: Jerome Robbins
·         Music: Frédéric Chopin

·         "Fancy Free"
·         Choreography: Jerome Robbins

·         Music: Leonard Bernstein

May 4-6: Don't miss the PBT premieres of UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free, a centennial tribute to iconic collaborators Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein. At the Benedum Center in Doiwntown Pittsburgh May 4 - 6. GET TICKETS HERE

Here are five things you should know about Jerome Robbins, the dance icon behind PBT’s season finale production of UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free:

1. He started young. Jerome Robbins was just 24 years old when he began choreographing his first ballet and claim to fame, Fancy Free, which later inspired the Broadway hit On the Town. At the time, Robbins was still dancing as a founding company member of Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) and had to create the ballet on the fly – between stops, on the tour bus and in hotel lobbies. Fancy Free was an instant sensation, sparking 22 curtain calls at the time of its premiere. In the ballet Robbins and Bernstein (and designer Oliver Smith) capture a moment in wartime New York that they – and the original audience – were all living in. Smith’s spare and wistful set design and Bernstein’s jazzy score create an atmosphere that is – to this day – undeniably American. Robbins’ first try at professional choreography signaled his genius for natural, spontaneous movement that adeptly reveals character and relationships.

2. He was an iconic choreographer in ballet…Following his choreographic debut at American Ballet Theatre, Robbins joined New York City Ballet and quickly ascended to the post of associate artistic director, working alongside George Balanchine. With the exception of brief sabbaticals, Robbins worked with NYCB from 1949 until his death in 1998 and created many of his great works there. Among the more than 60 ballets he created during his career are Fancy Free, Afternoon of a Faun, The Concert, Dances At a Gathering, In the Night, In G Major, Other Dances, Glass Pieces and Ives, Songs, which are in the repertories of New York City Ballet and other major dance companies worldwide. His final ballets include A Suite of Dances created for Mikhail Baryshnikov (1994), 2 & 3 Part Inventions (1994), West Side Story Suite (1995) and Brandenburg (1996).

3. And on Broadway. In addition to his work in the ballet world, Robbins is world renowned for his work as a director and choreographer in theater, movies and television. His Broadway shows include On the Town, Billion Dollar Baby, High Button Shoes, West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Miss Liberty, Call Me Madam and Fiddler on the Roof. His last Broadway production, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (1989), won six Tony Awards including best musical and best director.

4. He is an icon in dance with the awards and accolades to back it up. In addition to two Academy Awards for the film West Side Story, Robbins has received five Tony Awards, including best choreography for West Side Story, five Donaldson Awards, an Emmy Award, the Screen Directors’ Guild Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Robbins was a 1981 Kennedy Center Honors Recipient and was awarded the French Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur.

5. He worked with one of our own. PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr remembers Jerome Robbins as exacting, intuitive and genuinely genius. Over his three decades with American Ballet Theatre, first as a principal dancer and then as the company’s ballet master, Orr worked repeatedly with Robbins – in the studio as a dancer and later as a repetiteur for his works. “I’ll never forget Jerry’s genius for the details that make a masterpiece,” Orr said. “Fancy Free, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. I had the privilege of learning one of the sailor parts from original cast member John Kriza and dancing the role for many years with ABT. We plan to do Jerry proud with this program.”

And to think: In the 1930s, Robbins intended to study either chemistry or journalism at New York University until the Depression depleted his family’s ability to support his education. It was then that Robbins returned to his early aptitude for music, dancing and theatrics. The rest is Broadway and ballet history.

Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble Coming to W & J Saturday Evening

Kulu Mele African Dancers Credit: Kulu Mele

Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble will bring an evening of traditional/folkloric West-African and Afro-Cuban dances to Olin Fine Arts Center at Washington & Jefferson College on April 28 at 7:30 p.m. The group’s performance includes celebratory, sacred, spiritual and ritualistic dances, accompanied by live traditional drumming. Kulu Mele also performs contemporary American hip hop, exploring the development of dance genre, tracing its lineage from traditional to contemporary. Tickets are $12 for general admission; $10 for adults age 60+ and for non-W&J students; and $7 for children age 12 or younger.

Traditional Dance Credit: Kulu Mele

More information about the group is available at: and additional ticketing information is available here: Please call 724-223-6546, Monday-Friday, noon-6 pm to reserve tickets. The box office will be open on April 28 from noon until show time.

New Hazlitt Theater Hot List

Presented by Carnegie Nexus
April 26-27

Birdie is a multimedia performance with live video, film fragments, scale models, 2,000 mini animals, and three performers tackling this messy world with wit, criticism, and an unfailing commitment to humankind. In this extraordinary production, Birdie manages to actually perform a migration: a movement between the mirages of two worlds—one confounded by war, displacement, human smugglers, and ecological devastation, and one that enjoys civil society, sanitary conditions, renewable resources, and a common welfare. What connects the two is an unstoppable journey of migrants and the ceaseless movement of all that exists.

Witness as the border between stage and screen, word and image, Hitchcock’s The Birds, and the game of golf dissolve before your eyes.
Winner of the Silver Lion Award for Innovation in Theatre at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

The Diary of Anne Frank
Presented by Prime Stage Theatre
May 4-13

The production of this timeless classic brings to life the spirit of a young girl, Anne Frank, as she voices her belief in a world caught up in conflict, prejudice, and confinement. “In spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” Prime Stage honors Holocaust survivors, Righteous Gentiles, Rescuers and their families.

Friday, May 11th at 8:00
Saturday, May 12th at 1:00
Saturday, May 12th at 8:00

A New Brain
Front Porch Theatricals
May 18-27

A New Brain is a joyful and touching musical about making the most out of life. When a neurotic, frustrated composer is confronted with a life-threatening medical challenge, he finds comfort and healing in his craft, friends, and strangers. TICKETS

The New Hazlett Theater is located in Allegheny Center on Pittsburgh's North Side. Detailed driving and transit directions on our website.
On-street parking in Allegheny Square is available at no cost after 6pm Monday-Saturday and all day Sunday. Paid parking is available in the Allegheny Health Network garage for evening events and weekend matinees.
The paid lot costs $7 (cash only) and closes one hour after the performances.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Subscribe to PBT by April 27, Skip the Handling Fee

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Join PBT's subscriber family to access the best savings, VIP seats and exclusive benefits.  Choose three ballets for as little as $81, and skip the handling fee when you subscribe by April 27!

PBT's newly announced 2018-2019 Season features a brand-new production of The Great Gatsby, a reunion with Dance Theatre of Harlem, the PBT premiere of Jiří Kylián’s Sechs Tänze (Six Dances) and so much more.

Subscribe by April 27, and Save!

Groups 8+ Save up to 50%
Reserve your tickets today! Call 412-454-9101 or email

Mozart in Motion with the PBT Orchestra
Oct. 26-28, 2018 - Benedum Center
Experience Mozart's music as muse for three works by dance icons George Balanchine and Jiří Kylián. Balanchine considered Mozart's Divertimento No. 15  one of the finest ever written, and he named this majestic neoclassical ballet after its spirited score. Kylián's Sechs Tänze, set to Mozart's Six German Dances, is a comedic clash of the classical and contemporary, sophisticated and absurd, peppered with powdered wigs and dry wit. By contrast, Kylián's profound Petite Mort juxtaposes the slow movements of two Mozart piano concertos with powerful dancing that integrates baroque dresses, fencing foils and black silks to striking effect. Subscribe now!

Choreography: George Balanchine & Jiří Kylián
Music: W.A. Mozart's  Divertimento No. 15, Six German Dances, and piano concertos in A Major KV 488 (Adagio) and C Major KV 467 (Andante)

The Nutcracker
Nov. 30-Dec. 27, 2018 - Benedum Center
A winter wonderland awaits at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker ! It's Christmas Eve in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh when a mysterious gift sparks a wondrous adventure. Journey to a Land of Enchantment filled with swirling snowflakes, waltzing flowers and exciting dances set to Tchaikovsky's glorious score. Five lavish scenes, dozens of dancers and over 150 costumes make this one of Pittsburgh's most cherished holiday traditions. Subscribe now!

Choreography & Staging: Terrence S. Orr
Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

The Great Gatsby with the PBT Orchestra
A new production by Jorden Morris
Feb. 8-17, 2019 - Benedum Center

Rediscover the revelry and recklessness of the Roaring '20s in Jorden Morris' poignant restaging of The Great Gatsby.  In the summer of 1922 a romance rekindles between two of the Long Island elite: married Daisy Buchanan and the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Morris brings F. Scott Fitzgerald's drama to live with emotive dancing, an original Carl Davis score, and cinematic sets that draw audiences into Gatsby's exclusive soirees. At the heart of this story is a man who, beneath the glitz and glamor, sees love as his guiding light to the American dream. Subscribe now!

Choreography: Jorden Morris
Music: Carl Davis

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre + Dance Theatre of Harlem
In partnership with the August Wilson Center for African American Culture
March 15-24, 2019 - August Wilson Center

When Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem joined forces in 2017 for a sold-out run at the August Wilson Center, the Post-Gazette called it "a pas de deux of voluminous proportions." Audiences called encore. In March, the companies will reunite for a mixed repertory production, including a collaborative staging of Stanton Welch's Orange, a multifaceted contemporary ballet set to music by Antonio Vivaldi. Subscribe now!

Choreography & Music: Mixed repertory

The Sleeping Beauty with the PBT Orchestra
May 10-12, 2019 - Benedum Center - Mother's Day Weekend

The Sleeping Beauty  ranks among the great story ballets - a tour de force of classical choreography and fairy-tale charm driven by a magnificent Tchaikovsky score. The tale comes to life with storybook scenery, glittering costumes and pristine choreography, which many consider the gold standard for classical technique. Audiences of all ages will revel in a suite of delightful dances by Princess Aurora and Prince Desire, six fairies and storybook characters like Puss 'n Boots, White Cat and the Bluebirds. Subscribe now!

Choreography: after Marius Petipa
Staging: Terrence S. Orr
Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

Decades Rewind - Music from 60s, 70s and 80s at Byham May 5

Decades Rewind Credit: Windows Photo Gallery

Decades Rewind is set to perform their audience favorite theatrical concert at the Byham Theater, 101 6th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, on Saturday, May 5, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.  This event is presented by Decades Entertainment.  

Tickets (starting at $44.50) are available at these Pittsburgh Cultural Trust official ticket sources: online at, by calling 412-456-6666, or in person at Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue.  Groups of 10+ call 412-471-6930, order online at, or email  

Decades Rewind is a national touring concert, dance party, and theatrical performance all wrapped up in one blockbuster show celebrating the hits of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – America’s most prominent decades in music history.

The medleys feature a wide array of legendary songs including hits by ABBA, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Tina Turner, Chubby Checker, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Prince, Bon Jovi, and many others.  The “jump out and grab you show” is accompanied by three larger than life screens and visuals that instantly transport viewers to each decade with images from that time’s headlines and pop-culture.

Decades Rewind was created by the show’s keyboardist, Peter Gatti, and drummer, Mark Blinkhorn.  Gatti owns and operates Studio G, a high-end studio used by many local and national artists in the Tampa, Florida area.  Studio G is also the home of, an internet based radio station. Blinkhorn is a retired firefighter from the Sarasota Florida County Fire Department and now tours full time with Decades Rewind.
Decades Rewind Credit: Windows  Photo Gallery

Gatti said, “Decades Rewind was created to transport our audiences back to the days of the best memories of their life. Guests always tell us that they remembered their first dance, their first kiss, their first love, during our shows. Music is so powerful and it’s really amazing to see how people are moved throughout our show.”  When you come to a Decades Rewind show, you have to bring your dancing shoes!

Other members of the Decades Rewind band include Music Director and vocalist Al Owen, Ashley Renee (vocals), Coya Jones (vocals), Jimmy DeLisi (guitar), Frank J. Edmondson III (vocals), Lisa Larkin (vocals), Patrick McKenzie (trumpet), Calvin Jones (vocals), Monica Cox (vocals), Ryan Redden (saxophone), Jeff Stoddard (bass guitar), Jimmy Blount Jr. (trombone), choreography by Desmond Boone, Colin Gatti and Malita Smith (dressers),  and the extraordinary costumes were designed by Debra Bokelbreg of the Cirque du Soleil family. 

With over 100 costume changes, 10 medleys featuring 60 songs, Decades Rewind is an unparalleled, interactive multimedia musical experience that will have you jumping out of your seat and singing along.  This IS the story of your life.

For more information, please visit DecadesRewind DecadesRewind DecadesRewind

Friday, April 20, 2018

Warre’s Warrior Reserve Port - A Lauded Dessert Wine for Under $20

Sandeman, Graham’s, Taylor, Croft and Warre’s are just some of the great names in Port, that famous sweet dessert wine fortified with brandy that hails from the Duoro River Valley of Portugal.

Warre’s, however, does have a distinction none of the others can claim. It’s the oldest mark of Port in the world, shipping its product since  the 1750s. Its founding dates even further back, to 1670, which makes it the first British Port company established in Portugal.

The Warrior label sources its grapes from two of the finest estates in the Duoro - Quinta da Cavadinha and Quinta do Ritero Antigo. Perhaps playing with the name Warre, the winemakers have branded the name Warrior on the casks of Warre’s finest Reserve Ports sine the earliest days of the firm.

For a wine that has earned 90 points with both the Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits and taken home silver medals consistently at the International Wine Challenge, it comes with a remarkably reasonable price of $19 (SRP) or $17.99 through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

At a recent tasting, I found the wine to have a dark red color with a fruit forward bouquet of berries, cherries and spice. On the palate, the wine is big. bold  and full-bodied, pleasantly rich, sweet and complex with flavors of fig, mulberries, blackberries, plums  and a hint of cedar. Nicely balanced, the Warrior has medium and smooth tannins, and the finish is long lasting and lingering.

Of course, the wine can be enjoyed by itself, especially after a meal, but it also pairs with nut and chocolate desserts as well as soft, strong-flavored cheeses.

Washington Symphony Orchestra to Make Magic with Abracadabra

Music Director Yugo Ikach 

Symphony to Make Magic at Trinity High School
Catch “Abracadabra” before the 16th Washington Symphony Orchestra season
disappears on May 5
Prepare to be amazed as the Washington Symphony Orchestra wraps up its
2017-2018 on May 5 with “Abracadabra.”

“There is a mischievous element to this program,” said Principal
Conductor and Music Director Yugo Ikach. “We’ve focused on music that
sounds magical or music that was inspired by magic.

“Abracadabra” will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. The concert will
take place at Trinity Area High School, 231 Park Avenue, Washington.

Included in the program will be Mozart’s “Overture” to The Magic Flute,
Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and “Uranus, the Magician” from Holst’s
The Planets.

Another classical piece featured in the program will be “Aquarium” from
Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.

“’Aquarium’ sounds magical when you listen to it,” said Ikach. “Magician
Howard Mincone is going to wow people with a routine using glass orbs
during the symphony’s performance.”
Add caption
Another professional magician, Doc Dixon, will also be on hand to share
his talents. Dixon has garnered attention through his recent appearance
on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

For the second time this season, the WSO will be playing the music of
John Willams with the Harry Potter Symphonic Suite. It is interesting to
note that music from Harry Potter was featured at the first WSO concert
in 2002.

Also included in the program is a special trumpet solo by Ryan Fulton,
“Trumpet Concerto in Eb” by Franz Joseph Haydn. Fulton, a senior at
Canon MacMillan High School, is the winner of this season’s WSO Young
Artist Competition.

Tickets for Abracadabra start at $17 and can be purchased online at, by calling 1-888-71-TICKETS, or at the following locations:
Citizens Library, the Peters Township Public Library, and the WSO Office
in downtown Washington (WSO Office by appointment only, call
724-223-9796 and leave message). 

For further information about the symphony, visit or connect with the WSO on Facebook ( and Twitter (