Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Become a Deadhead in One Night, Review of Music of Jercia and the Pittsburgh Symphony

How to Become a Deadhead in One Night,

Review of Music of Garcia and the Pittsburgh Symphony

by Pittsburgh Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

I am not sure how I missed Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead when he was alive but I was curious enough to see how the Pittsburgh Symphony would mesh with Warren Haynes on lead vocals and guitar from Government Mule.  Well I have always been a Pittsburgh Symphony fan but I think the combination has converted me to a Deadhead also.
I sat next to a baby boomer who is a symphony fan and her 32 year old son who is a Grateful Dead aficionado.  Thanks to Mike G I have a picture of Warren Hayes’ Guitar and many of the song titles.  Not being a diehard fan before the concert I knew songs but not titles.  So thank you Mike G. 
The show started off memorably with Don’t Cry, Scarlet Begonias and ShakeDown.   Then the repertoire mellowed out with Walk Me Out in the Morning Dew and High Times.  High Times is from Workingman's Dead the fifth album by The Dead.  It was recorded in February 1970 and originally released on June 14, 1970.

I wouldn’t have thought that the whimsical Uncle John’s Band would fare well with the symphony, but what a greatly meshed piece.  Days Between on the other hand was perfect for the symphony.  Standing on the Moon was another selection perfectly suited to highlight Warren and the Symphony. 

If u did not know the story of Patchwork Quilt, Warren wrote the song about Jerry Garcia, The Original Release Date: December 17, 1999 and the song has had resurgence since Jerry’s death.  But the Grateful Dead music and the Pittsburgh Symphony both legendary will all go on. What a night of culture and nostalgia and great guitar music melded with the

In 2004, Warren Haynes was named to the Rolling Stone magazine list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time at #23. He was joined on the list by fellow Allman Brothers Band guitarists Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, and Derek Trucks.

Warren is well known for the annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam which draws many well known musicians, who play until the early morning hours. The Jam is a benefit for Habitat for Humanity, and is known as one of the best shows in the country.

Warren told us from the stage about how the Symphony and Grateful Dead tribute got started:   I got a call from the Jerry Garcia estate saying that they were interested in doing some symphonic shows — “Jerry Garcia’s music with a symphony and some special guest artists. And they wanted to know if I was interested in being the first one, and I said absolutely, I would be honored to do that. So that’s the way the whole thing started.

Kudos to the Symphony! What a way to lure a new audience into culture.  It was interesting to see the diehard fans in their tie die shirts and shorts right along with the avid symphony fans, all enjoying the music of Jerry Garcia through the mastery of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Warren Haynes.

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster, blogger, author  and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher.  Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal.  But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide.   Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers.  PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

CLO's The Phantom Entertains

The Phantom
The Pittsburgh CLO’s production of Kopit & Yeston’s Phantom combines enough of the drama of the more well-known Andrew Lloyd Webber version of the love story to be reminiscent yet is unique enough in its handling of the story to stand apart.

Based on the Gaston Leroux novel “Le Fantome de L’Opera”, Arthur Kopit’s book and the theater version provides more of a character study into the back story of the why of The Phantom.  In the K&Y version, The Phantom is more humanized and has a name, Erik.  While he skulks backstage, on the catwalk and in the underbelly of the famed Paris Opera House, his character is portrayed with more sensitivity, evoking empathy rather than horror.  His story, revealed in the second act, provides insight into a much more likeable, even playful character.  The K & Y version is essentially more accessible to the audience.

I did take issue with one aspect of the second act revelation of Erik’s story – not the story itself, but on relying on the ballet convention a la “An American in Paris” or “Oklahoma”; it felt a tad trite for my taste, a less than novel treatment to expose how the legend of The Phantom came to be.


Another departure from the more popular ALW version is a broader cast, with effective use of the ensemble, and without the need for the more dramatic special effects that characterize the better known variation.  I found that I preferred it.  The music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, while less recognizable, were still effective to weave the story of the young ingĂ©nue, Christine Daee.  Initially relegated to the wardrobe department, she rises to the position of lead under the tutelage of Erik, unbeknownst to the conniving and controlling La Carlotta, the quintessential diva.  Despite her lack of talent, Carlotta (Donna Lynne Champlin) is the feted queen of the Opera House, due solely to her husband’s wealth and the currying of well chosen benefactors who continue to support the opera despite repeated failures of the productions.  This production has a fair bit of humor mixed in the dialogue, giving the audience even more entertainment and causing me to comment at intermission that I preferred it over the noir version that I had seen numerous times.

Christine and The Phantom

The lovely soprano of Erin Mackey as Christina melodiously blends with Ron Bohmer’s (The Phantom) tenor.  Veteran Jaime Ross as Gerard Carriere, the former Opera House manager, is credible as Erik’s mother’s married lover and subsequent protector of Erik.  You feel his emotional tug of war as he at last reveals his parentage and performs the ultimate paternal act in the final scene.
Christine and Philippe
The character of Philippe de Chandon (Bryant Martin) first discovers the talents of Christine and urges her to develop her voice with vocal training.  He becomes smitten with his discovery, leading to a jealous reaction on Erik’s part.  Thus spins the love story between two unlikely characters, the beautiful Christine and the disfigured Erik.

On opening night, the audience responded well to the production, delivering a standing ovation to the cast.  If you get the chance to see this alternate production of the Phantom, do take advantage of the opportunity while it is in town.  The show runs through June 30, 2013 at the Benedum.

Photo Credit:  Matt Polk

Reviewed on behalf of Positively Pittsburgh Live! Magazine by Joyce Kane.  Joyce  is the owner of Cybertary Pittsburgh, a Virtual Administrative support company, providing virtual office support, personal and executive assistance, creative design services and light bookkeeping.  Cybertary works with businesses and busy individuals to help them work 'on' their business rather than 'in' their business.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kenny G and the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops

Kenny G and the Pittsburgh Symphony

JoAnn R. Forrester,  Empress of Biz.

Oh what a night…what a weekend for Pittsburgh it was.  Music, arts, sports, foods, people all around downtown Pittsburgh.  It felt like it was one big  happening…and it was!  To put it mildly it was a blast to be downtown and to experience all the "happenings."  I went to several events over the weekend and I am still humming  and tapping my toes ready to burst out of song at any moment.
Saturday. I saw  Kenny Gee play superbly with the Pittsburgh Symphony.  The man is amazing, his ability to hold notes and make his soprano  saxophone talk is legendary.  I could go on and on about his skill…but we all know that.  And we all know that the Pittsburgh Symphony is world class and their Pop series are exciting and vibrant.  In fact sport fans…you want to back a winning team?   I suggest you become Pittsburgh Symphony fan. They never disappoint.  They always put on a winning performance.
I enjoyed the concert for many reasons…not only for the music…but for the easy interaction that Kenny G has with the audience and the musicians.  This man is not only gifted with musical talent, he is technically brilliant and has the ability to hold notes  longer than anyone . In fact he has set the world record for the longest notes held…45 minutes!

In 1997, Kenny G earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for playing the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone. Using circular breathing, Kenny G held an E-flat for 45 minutes and 47 seconds at J&R Music World in New York City.[16]  Wikipedia

  Kenny is also gifted with the ability to connect with the audience and bring his love of  Jazz to you .  His chatter with the audience and his musicians, the conductor are all designed to bring you in and feel like you are his special friend and he is only entertaining f you.  

To sum it up…Kenny is a master story teller with words and music.

Roving Pittsburgher Good News Reporter, JoAnn Forrester is the Host of "Empress of Biz, Reinvent in Rugged Times," a business Talkcast syndicated on PPLMag, Pittsburgh's First Internet Radio and TV Network.  You can hear JoAnn and Business friends every Thursday at 9 AM on the TalkShoe network or archived later at:  Jo Ann is also a regular business tip columinist at the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Other Desert Cities Explores the Extremes in Family Dynamics

Other Desert Cities

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of “Other Desert Cities” is a study in family dynamics of polar extremes.  The first act unfolds on the morning of Christmas Eve following a family tennis match. The patriarch, Lyman Wyeth and his wife, Polly, are presented as old guard Republicans, conservatives of the far right; their children, Brooke and Trip, are clearly political adversaries, young liberals of the self-righteous left.

John Patrick Hayden (l) with James DeMarse
Shortly into the first act, we get an inkling of a tragedy that helped to define the tensions in the family that go beyond politics.  As the story unfolds, we hear of an older brother, hero to Brooke, embarrassment to Lyman and Polly, whose anti-war, drug abusing, cult leanings drive a wedge into family loyalties.  Brooke, an author, reluctantly admits that her latest oeuvre is a memoir that presents her version of her brother’s disappearance and probable suicide after a bombing at a military recruiting center leaves one dead.  Is it accurate?  Maybe.  Is it romanticized? Probably.  Is it the last ingredient in the estrangement stew with her family?  Most definitely.

Extremes in politics, mental stability, familial loyalties, emotional swings, economic status and value-systems mark the dialogue, which is often adversarial yet laced with humor.

Pilar Witherspoon (l) and Helena Ruoti
The acting is dynamic; the characters larger than life.  There is familiarity with them, yet strangeness.  The shifting alliances allude to the dynamics that face all families.  Lyman, a former actor turned politician turned ambassador turned man of leisure (or is that man of torment?), is brilliantly portrayed by James DeMarse.  His loyal wife, suggestive of Nancy Reagan, is a bit more strident in her opinions and pronouncements.  Polly (Helena Ruoti) and her former screenwriting partner, her sister Silda (Susan Cella), were successful with a series of movies, the Hillary chronicles.  Silda and Polly, originally from Texas, may bear a family resemblance and similar upbringing but they are polar opposites on other characteristics.  Silda is recuperating from a recent stint in rehab at her sister’s home.  She reluctantly and sarcastically accepts the situation that her life has become, intermixing wisecracks with self-deprecation.  The comic relief is tinged with sorrow – or perhaps guilt - with her role in her nephew’s downslide from upper middle class trust fund baby to societal pariah.

l to r Helena Ruoti, Susan Cella, John Patrick Hayden, Pilar Witherspoon
Brooke (Pilar Witherspoon) is a distraught, freelance author who lives on Long Island, as far away geographically and emotionally as she can be .  She eschews financial help from her parents, preferring to go it alone on a more modest scale that her parents struggle to understand.  Her emotional history is unveiled.  The audience hears of her being institutionalized with hints of the instability rooted in her childhood.  Her brother, Trip (John Patrick Hayden), a reality TV producer, provides some evenness in contrast to Brooke’s uber emotionality.  He, of all of the characters, seems to be the one with the least baggage.

The setting of the living room with its stacked stone fireplace reflective of the colors of the desert as a backdrop to the open fire pit is reminiscent of old Hollywood, Rat Pack era.  You expect to see Frank and Dean stroll in the sliding glass doors.  The name dropping of the California elite who are the quintessential representatives of the sixties and seventies, bridge the fantasy with reality.  The elegance of the crystal decanters and tumblers are in sharp contrast to the ruggedness of the walls, the silk and Pucci of the older generation to the jeans, shorts and T shirt of the younger.

PPT’s playbills, in addition to listing the cast and creative staff bios, season sponsors and advertisements, provide some context for the work that is presented.  For “Other Desert Cities”, the audience is treated to a match game of political contrasts (Al Franken in the same quiz as Shirley Temple Black) as well as descriptions of the individuals and venues that are the name dropped references, the likes of Totie Fields, Dinah Shore, the Brown Derby and Mrs. Annenberg.

 “Other Desert Cities”, where families put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional.  See if you recognize traits of your own.

“Other Desert Cities” is the final production in the 2012-2013 season for PPT.  It runs through June 30 at the O’Reilly Theater.

Photo credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater
Reviewed on behalf of Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine by Joyce Kane.  Joyce  is the owner of Cybertary Pittsburgh, a Virtual Administrative support company, providing virtual office support, personal and executive assistance, creative design services and light bookkeeping.  Cybertary works with businesses and busy individuals to help them work 'on' their business rather than 'in' their business.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kretutzer Sonata 10, Penguins 0

The Kreutzer Sonata
Pittsburgh Irish Classical Theater 10…Penguins 0
JoAnn R. Forrester
Empress of Biz, Listen, Learn& Prosper
S. I. Business Associates

Saturday night the Pittsburgh Penguins played and lost.  But a sure winner also played, The Kreutzer Sonata, presented by the Pittsburgh Irish Classical Theater “PICT” claimed a definite score a 10 in my playbook. 

The play written by Nancy Harris takes a tale by Leo Tolstoy and weaves it into a mesmerizing “thriller” of marriage, lust, love, jealously, sexism , dark black humor and murder.   It’s your classical marriage fate of many “He said he loved me, then treated me awfully and expected me to stay madly in love" marriage tale.   

The play opens up on a train, and with the main character, Pozdynshev, superbly played by Martin Giles, starting a conversation about music and quickly weaves into a tale of his life, first as a single man who is from the upper class where manners count more than character or morals.  He regales us with his conquests and prowess and brags about his callous treatment of women.  Then he confides how he Pozdynshev falls in loves with a beautiful young lady…a virgin of course, their marriage, their children, 5 in 8 years, his distaste and boredom with her, yet still possessing the pride of ownership.    His wife is never called by her given name…she is his property and therefore exists because he allows it.  We actually never hear her name.  After 8 years of marriage and five children his wife starts to shed her mantle of dependency and emerge…and thus lays the foundation of her murder. 

Martin Giles played the part so well…that at times I wanted to get off my seat and walk on stage and slap him.  Which since this was not a hockey game…I did not do.  But then isn’t that the sign of a great actor, that he can create a character that you love to hate or you want to jump up and say, “How stupid can you be?”
Martin Giles gets progressively better, never disappoints!
The staging of the set is spare and lean using video and music to convey all that is needed to take you to a different time and place.  There were times in the play that even though director Alan Stanford  had told you there was only one actor, you thought that someone, his wife or the lover would bound onto the stage. 

 The play hardly seemed like a monologue at all with the beautifully performed violin and piano music in the background performed and taped specifically for Kreutzer Sonata.  Violinist Juan Jaramillo and Pianist Alaine Fink create the perfect backdrop to a spellbinding play.  And sound and music composer Elizabeth Atkinson created  the perfect soundscape. 
Book yourself into this play and enjoy being quickly gripped into its clutches and only released when the last word is spoken.   PICT gets a full 10-- make sure you go and watch this winner.


Roving Pittsburgher Good News Reporter, JoAnn Forrester is the Host of "Empress of Biz, Reinvent in Rugged Times," a business Talkcast syndicated on PPLMag, Pittsburgh's First Internet Radio and TV Network.  You can hear JoAnn and Business friends every Thursday at 9 AM on the TalkShoe network or archived later at:  Jo Ann is also a regular business tip columinist at the Pittsburgh Business Times.