“Curtain up! Light the lights!” “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Yes, sing up and dance away, the summer theater season is finally here! As the breezy spring days quietly drift away into those dreamy summer nights, the Pittsburgh theater scene is also heating up for another great three months full of beautiful music and soulful stories. Whether you are already relaxing out in the sun, or listening to the Hamilton album for the fifteenth time, chances are you’re gonna want to see a show or two this season. So as we prepare for another jam packed summer here at Pittsburgh In the Round, let’s all take a moment together and look at the line-up of this year’s musical productions right here in the Steel City, and dig into the five shows that you definitely don’t want to miss this summer!
First up, we have Damn Yankees opening up the season with a swing at Benedum Center from July 5th to 10th. Presented by Pittsburgh CLO as part of its annual summer musical season, this muscular musical comedy surely sets to bring America’s favorite pastime back to the stage again.
Originally based on the book The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop, the show features a book by Wallop and George Abbott, with music by Richard Adler and lyrics by Jerry Ross. Just in time for baseball season, the story focuses on Joe Boyd, a loyal baseball fan who transforms into a star slugger by making a deal with the devil. He later tries to lead his home team Washington Senators to victory in a pennant race against those “damn Yankees”. Premiered on Broadway in 1954, this musical is one of the first two shows the legendary Bob Fosse choreographed, and eventually it took home 11 Tony Awards that year, including the Best Musical. With Pittsburgh CLO’s usual summer production style of promoting local artists and talents, a dose of Pittsburgh pride and freshness is destined to be added to this timeless story. Tickets and more information about Damn Yankees can be found here.
Next, from July 21st to 31st at Stage62 in Carnegie, PA, we have Jesus Christ Superstar, another Broadway classic with music and lyrics by audience favorites Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Building upon the success of its recent production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, this sung-through rock opera projects to be another thought-provoking, socially and politically relevant show.
As a parallel analogy to the rise of contemporary celebrity and fame worship, the show depicts the final days of Jesus and highlights the interpersonal struggles between Jesus and Judas, as well as Judas’s psychological development for his final betrayal. Directed by Stage62 veteran Seamus Ricci, with music direction from Thomas Octave and choreography from Angela Essler, this production also sets to break the conventional casting boundaries by bringing in female actors to play some traditional male roles, such as Judas (whom will be played by Point Park alumnus Mary Johnson), and hence form a new conversation of theatrical presentation giving this aging story a fresh modern look. An innovative production of a timeless musical, this one you definitely cannot to miss! Tickets and more information about Jesus Christ Superstar can be found here. Still can’t get enough of Rock ‘n Roll? Well worry no more, there is another rock opera coming to town this July! Produced by Alumni Theater Company, punk rock band Green Day’s less-revived sung-through rock opera American Idiot will make its way to the stage at New Hazlett Theater from July 29th to 31st, bringing another blast of energy and excitement to this already too hot summer season.
Originally released as a concept album in 2009 and them followed by a Broadway stage adaptation in 2010 (in which the idea was inspired by the success of no other show than Jesus Christ Superstar, which also had a concept album prior to its stage debut), the story of American Idiot echoes as a commentary response to the cruel realities of the post-9/11 era by tracing the journeys of three dissatisfied young men whose life paths were heavily intertwined with the themes of war and love. With a mission to “create bold theatrical work that gives fresh voices to the experience of young urban artists”, Alumni Theater Company is surely going to surprise everyone with the biggest hit in town! For tickets and more information about American Idiot, click here.
Next up, from August 18th to 28th, we are going to take a small trip with The Summer Company down the rabbit hole and learn about A History of American Film, in the brand new Genesius Theater.
With a long-overdue Broadway premiere in 1978, this hilariously brilliant musical comedy by Christopher Durang with music by Mel Marvin is possibly the best way Hollywood could clash with Broadway, in a down-to-the-earth over-the-top parody of every American film cliché from silent film era all the way until the present. Think about The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) funny, but only this time with films and Hollywood jokes! Directed by John Lane, one of the founding producers of the company, the five stereotypical leading characters and nearly sixty supporting characters in the story will be divided and doubled among the entire cast, just like how it was done in Hollywood from the 30s to the 40s. And because there is no original cast recording or that much of revival information to fall back on, the audiences surely will find this one a surprise! But just in case you’re still not sure, well, Mr. Lane himself said it the best, “If you like movies, little known musicals, and outrageous comedy–this show is for you!” Tickets and more information about The History of American Film can be found here.
Last but certainly not least, as part of its ‘American Dreamers” series, we have Front Porch Theatricals presenting Floyd Collins, another beautifully moving musical with gripping drama, at New Hazlett Theater from August 26th to September 4th.
With a book by Tina Landau and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel (the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rodgers’s grandson who wrote the score for last season’s The Light in the Piazza), the story follows the life and death of a cave explorer Floyd Collins and reflects the journey of a true hero of its time, sort of like the “Alexander Hamilton” of Central Kentucky in the 1920s if you will. From the creative mind of Point Part alumnus Rachel Stevens who is currently also directing The Spitfire Grill, this musical promises to engage Pittsburgh audiences at a new level with a revolutionary story and a soaring score that will resemble the spirit and history of our own city, while featuring some of the newest and best talents in town. “A burning passion that has been on the producers’ minds since the company’s inception”, this is one of those star-studded, quality-guaranteed Front Porch Theatricals productions that you just simply cannot miss! Tickets and more information about Floyd Collins can be found here.
Go see a musical this summer!
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