Just like real estate signs and orange highway cones, Musical Theatre in the Pittsburgh area comes into full bloom in the summer months. While there are dozens of musicals scheduled, for this piece we are focusing on five from smaller companies that are worthy of any serious musical theatre fans attention. All five have their roots in motion pictures or became movies; the modern classic Grease, the new musical The Bridges of Madison County, and three hidden gems- Grey Gardens, Heathers the Musical, and Little Miss Sunshine. All five are from companies with strong reputations and feature intimate venues that give the audience an up-close and personal connection with the story and characters. We didn’t forget the Pittsburgh CLO’s seventy-second season with six musicals check them out in a separate post here.
Here are this year’s five “not to miss” in order of opening dates.
The Bridges of Madison County is based on the best-selling novel and motion picture of the same name which opened on Broadway in 2014. It tells the story of Franchesca Johnson, a beautiful Italian woman who married an American soldier to flee war-torn Italy. She looks forward to a rare four days respite by herself on her Iowa farm when her family heads to the 1965 State Fair. A ruggedly handsome, National Geographic photographer, Robert Kincaid, pulls into her driveway seeking directions, and what happens in those four days may alter the course of Francesca’s life forever.
Carnival has cast several Pittsburgh CLO veterans including Carolyne Nicolian as Francesca and David Toole as the photographer Robert. Rounding out the cast is Daniel Krell as her husband Bud, along with Jason Michael Swauger and Katy Williams as Francesca’s neighbors. The show was the winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Score and Best Orchestrations, this sweeping romance asks “What if …?”
The Bridges of Madison County by Carnivale Theatrics runs June 29th to July 8th, at the New Hazlet Theatre. For tickets visit http://www.carnivaletheatrics.org/.
The Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont presents Grease, which is among the world’s most popular musicals. It first appeared on Broadway during the 1971/72 season. I don’t think it is possible to have grown up in America and not know of Rydell High’s senior class of 1959: the “Burger Palace Boys” and “Pink Ladies.” Head “greaser” Danny Zuko and new (good) girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to relive the high romance of their Summer Nights and treat us to the now classic 50’s sound.
Grease at the Apple Hill Playhouse has performances July 12th to 21st. For tickets visit http://www.applehillplayhouse.org/#/2018/mainstage/grease
Grab a second look at look at the joys and anguish of high school with The Summer Company production of Heathers the Musical. The show is the darkly delicious story of Veronica Sawyer, a brainy, beautiful teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful and ruthless clique at Westerberg High: The Heathers. But before she can get comfortable atop the high school food chain, Veronica falls in love with the dangerously sexy new kid J.D. When Heather Chandler, the Almighty, kicks her out of the group, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and kiss Heather’s aerobicized ass…but J.D. has another plan for that bullet. This dark comedy has murder, blackmail, and ghosts of Heathers past along with suicidal ideation all wrapped up with a red scrunchie.
Heathers the Musical by the Summer Company is Directed by Justin Sines with performances at The Genesius Theater, on the campus of Duquesne University, July 26th through August 12th. For tickets visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com
Front Porch Theatricals is excited to present Grey Gardens, based on the documentary film of the same name. It is a tragic, frequently funny, and utterly unforgettable musical about the lives of two legendary women from an upper-crust New England family. Act One begins at the grand 1941 engagement party of stunning and spirited Edie Bouvier Beale “Little Edie” Beale to handsome Navy man Joe Kennedy, Jr., hosted by Edie’s mother, “Big Edie.” The engagement never happened and so the delusions and illusions begin.
The second act launches the narrative into the overgrown, cat-riddled, and bug-infested estate in 1973, where the two Edies live, alone. “Big Edie” is now bedridden, and “Little Edie” grows more eccentric by the day, haunted by dreams of love and success, long since dashed. The show weaves documentary text with imaginative speculation, as the musical documents the journey of the Beales from royalty to ruin. All bearing witness to the Edie’s dysfunctional relationship.
Robyne Parrish will helm Front Porch Theatricals production, which runs from August 17th to 26th at the New Hazlett Theatre. For tickets visit https://www.showclix.com/event/grey-gardens
Little Miss Sunshine is an outrageously funny and surprisingly touching musical based on the Academy Award-winning film. The Hoover family has seen better days. Richard, the father, is a floundering motivational speaker. Grandpa’s been kicked out of his retirement home, and Uncle Frank’s been dumped by his boyfriend. Moody teenager, Dwayne, has taken a vow of silence, and overextended mom, Sheryl, can do little more than slap on a smile. But, when the youngest Hoover, energetic Olive, enters a regional children’s beauty pageant, the family thinks that their luck could change and embarks on a cross-country trek, chasing the coveted title of “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Little Miss Sunshine by Little Lake Aug 30 to Sept https://www.littlelake.org/little-miss-sunshine-the-musical
These five shows and all the other musicals in the area should keep any serious ‘Burgh theatre nerd in their happy zone through the long hot summer. Enjoy!