Saturday, February 14, 2015

Roving Pittsburgher Report, "Beauty and the Beast" of Smorgasbord of Elegance and Style

Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Beauty and the Beast of Smorgasbord of Elegance and Style

by Good News Reporters, Joanne Quinn-Smith and
Anaiyah Thomas

A quiet Saturday afternoon, little girls in party dresses, monkeys dancing on stage and a beauty and a BEAST, oh my! Beauty and the Beast had in all, five scenes and 92 costumes designed by Jose Varona.  The costumes alone were a high point of the overall performance adding tremendously to its style, and vibrant sense of whimsy, fantasy and stagecraft.

What a smorgasbord of visual elegance and style.  The beginning of the ballet was ensemble performances by very effective might looking stags complete with horns and beautiful graceful nymphs and other Forrest Creatures.

I am telling this review from my six year old granddaughter Anaiyah's point of view.  When I asked her what she liked best about the ballet, she said, the monkey dance and the bluebirds.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

 At first she was worried that The Beast was going to be very scary but when she actually saw him come onto stage he had the desired impact of getting her to feel just a little sorry for him.

She was on the edge of her seat most of the time and while other young children were asking why there was no talking and singing, her precocious six year old self, got the sense of the story even without words.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

For my personal preference I loved the rosebushes co-ordinated to match the scenery and loved the humor brought to the stage by Beauty's sisters, Olivia Kelly and Maris Grywalski.  I found them very under appreciated.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

Anaiyah's favorite scene was however when the Beast (Prince) and Beauty came out in their long capes and crowns.  And always she loved the pas de deux.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

Once again the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater stars and corps, costume and set designers have put on another production of grace and style and grandeur.  

Only selfie in existence of grandma Joanne Quinn-Smith and
partner reviewer granddauther Anaiyah Thomas
Joanne Quinn-Smith, publisher, host of PositivelyPittsburghLive with PPL Kidz Korner partner reviewer granddaughter Anaiyah Thomas known for being six year old fashion police and precocius six year old symphony and ballet reviewer.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Even Russian Politics in 1866 Can Be Funny, A Review of "Prussia, 1866"

Even Russian Politics in 1866 Can Be Funny, A Review of "Prussia, 1866"

by Megan Grabowski, Good News Reviewer

During the Seven Weeks War, in 1866, a Prussian victory meant many in the Kingdom praised the leaders who paved way for a new state. The Prussian parliamentary influence over the separation of Prussia from Austria and Germany, aided in revolutionizing the principals of the Enlightenment movement.  The social, political, economic and cultural changes encouraged a rapid growth of free thinkers, including women.  These women recognized the occasion to ride the coattails of this Enlightenment, and introduced many of the ideals we identify as fundamentals of feminism.
Prussia: 1866 is written to reflect the primal period of feminism.  

 Playwright Gab Cody vividly captures the essence of the time; the political atmosphere as well as the socio-economic status and religious diversities which commonly gauged the moral compass of females during the depicted time.  Prussia: 1866 offers the audience a twist, telling the story in the manner of comedic farce.

Young Friedrich “Fritz” Nietzsche, played by Drew Palajsa, is studying in the home of his mentor Heinrich Von Klamp, a famous poet, novelist and political force. Fritz is having an affair with Klamp’s wife Mariska, a young seductress played by Laura Lee Brautigam.  Rosemary, played by Cody, is a major influence in the women’s movement and Klamp’s writing assistant. Rosemary exercises her values by interjecting them into Klamp’s popular writing.  Hayley Nielsen stars as the meek, protestant servant, who often draws out laughs from the audience by quoting her father’s interpretation of women, marriage and religion.  Before the end of the play, she too finds herself intertwined in the domestic love triangle. 

 Sam Turich portrays the American Delegate and Rosemary’s secret husband.  The comedic timing between Cody and Turich is noteworthy during the translation scenes.   Another slapstick moment worth mentioning is the hilarious cacophony of absurdity in a final scene; books fly across the stage and the men rapidly undress in the name of Naturalism.  Throughout the performance the characters sexual prowess, interlaced with romanticism, witty dialogue and a mildly bawdy tone had the audience howling in their seats. Furthermore, I would not be submitting an honest review if I failed to mention the brief but instrumental nude scene. Knowing ahead of time there would be nudity in the production, I assumed at some point I would find myself staring at an actor’s breasts.  Without giving any more details away, kudos to Cody for sticking true to the feminist motives that layer this amusing performance. 

Premiering on stage of the Rauh Theater this period piece is enhanced by the talents of Cathleen Crocker- Perry, costume designer, who ensures the cast is dressed in apparel reflecting the time and tone in an authentic style.  Additionally, because the story takes place over the course of just one day, scenic designer Stephanie Mayer- Staley utilizes tall shelves filled with books, long drapes, elegant chaise and pillows as well as multiple doors, for the purpose of burlesque style humor; characters run amuck, wild witticisms frequently soar across stage and characters scheme to manipulate and entrap one another. 

No real background in world history or philosophy is necessary to enjoy Prussia: 1866, just a sound sense of humor and an instrumental respect for funny women and the men who love them.  This is a great show for a date night. 

"Prussia: 1866" runs from February 5 through February 22, 2015.  Information on ticket sales and show times can be found here

 Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Roving Pittsburgher Report, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Lovely’ to see Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Production of My Fair Lady?

‘Wouldn’t It Be Lovely’ to see Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Production of My Fair Lady?

By Megan Grabowski

Benjamin Howes as Henry Higgins and Kimberly Doreen Burns as Eliza Doolittle

 Have the winter doldrums set in?  ‘Wouldn’t it be Lovely’ to lose yourself in the transcendence of a classic musical production?  This
can be done by taking a trip to Pittsburgh’s Cultural District and attending a showing of Pittsburgh Public Theaters My Fair Lady. 
The unforgettable musical score by Lerner and Lowe is just what the soul needs as a pick me up during a long dreary Pittsburgh winter.  From the overture through the final number the lightheartedness of the music fills the O’Reilly Theater with instant warmth of familiarity and enduring notes.  Audience members will have no difficulty transcending everyday strife and the drudgery of work and familial obligations to lose themselves in 1912 London.   The captivating cast of characters charms the audience with the carefree musical score and heartwarming rags to riches story.

First row left to right: John Little, Kimberly Doreen Burns, Susan McGregor-Laine, Benjamin Howes

It took a handful of lines before my mind adjusted to the eruption of cockney accents on stage but Eliza Doolittle, played by Kimberly Doreen Burns, easily glides between two worlds; one the disenfranchised flower- girl, the other, a lady who manages to jump beyond the bourgeois class and directly into the upper echelons of society by means of rigorous training provided by linguist Henry Higgins, played by Benjamin Howes and Colonel Pickering, portrayed by John Little. 

 Left to right: Benjamin Howes, Kimberly Doreen Burns, John Little

A bet is made between Higgins and Pickering.  Within six months’ time the professor of phonetics will transform Miss Doolittle from gutter girl into a respectable aristocrat.  The final test will be to pass her off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball.  The compassionate
Colonel and the harsh Higgins get right to work, drilling Miss Doolittle night and day, around the clock, until her phonetics become articulate and proper.  Miss Doolittle, physically and mentally exhausted, finally reaches her turning point when she annunciates, “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain” with exaggerated long A’s.  This scene is most memorable as two highly recognized songs, ‘The Rain in Spain’ as well as ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ follow each other in a succession of musical sweetness.

Center: Bill Nolte

What is so special about My Fair Lady? After all, it’s the classic story retold over and over throughout theater, film and literature,
the underprivileged gets a lucky break and a taste of the good life through some type of alteration.  It’s a feel good story, with some old- fashioned humor which further enhances its’ charm.  If the audience is not familiar with the era or not ready to lose themselves in the manner of the musical, some lyrics could cause a raised eyebrow or two, such as the in the songs, ‘I’m an Ordinary Man’ and ‘A Hymn to Him’.  Not for a moment does this stop me from humming along to the catchy melodies, or admiring the wonderful harmonizing of the ensemble.  Burns voice is delightful, whether
singing as a proper lady or as the poor street peddler. The supporting cast, specifically Joe Jackson as Freddy, Bill Nolte as Alfred P. Doolittle and Terry Wickline as Mrs. Pearce are strong characters who effortlessly carry the show from scene to scene with their seasoned vocal talents and skillful theatrics.  The costumes are stunning; rich hues, parasols and ascots boost the mood of the depicted occasions. It is a fun evening of escapism.

 Directed and choreographed by Ted Pappas, well acquainted with Pittsburgh winters, he chose a cheery musical that will surely seize the spirit and, if for just a few hours, take our minds off the snow and bleakness waiting outdoors.

‘With a Little Bit of Luck’, you will make it to the Pittsburgh Public Theater for a performance of My Fair Lady. The show runs from January 22 through February 22, 2015 at the O’Reilly Theater.

Tickets can be purchased here

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.