Friday, March 25, 2016


A modern Opera …
Gertrude Stein and Alice Tobias
The “Talk” of Paris
Music by Ricky Ian Gordon, Libertto by Royce Varvrek
2425 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
 “Presented by the Pittsburgh Opera”
Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters
 Reviewer:  JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz,  

Pittsburgh has many jewels in its cultural crown. One of the brightest jewels is the Pittsburgh Opera.
Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas
The 77th season began with the Pittsburgh premiere of 
Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27.  Spotlighting larger than life novelist, poet, playwright, and Pittsburgh native Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas27 will delight you with Ricky Ian Gordon's "tuneful score" and Royce Vavrek's "quick-witted libretto." 
 The production of 27 was held at the Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, located at 2425 Liberty Avenue in the Strip District.  This is an amazing well designed renovated space that is the ‘”training ground” for the next generation of Opera Stars.  The building and the resident artist program alone deserves its own review.  What a sparkling jewel in our cultural scene crown. 
I was mesmerized by the production of “27”, the life and times of Gertrude Stein and Alice Tobias and their influence on the development of 20th century arts.  I thoroughly enjoyed score of Mr.  Gordon, evoking jazz, foxtrot and musical theater. 
 The opera “27” is in five acts and portrays the life of Gertrude Stein and Tobias from 1910 to 1946.  It demonstrates their influence and impact on the world of art through their stimulating art challenging Parisian saloon.   It was fascinating to watch Gertrude and Alice living in pre War World I  Paris creating a saloon that hosted the emerging 20th century painters, Picasso and Henri Matisse . 

Gertrude and Alice created their own world excluding those who did not accept them including   Gertrude Stein brother, Leo Stein.  Who left 27 rue de Fluerus, when Alice Tobias became a permanent part of the household.  Gertrude and Leo never spoke again. 

World War I comes and goes with all its hardships and sacrifices.  After World War I Gertrude and Alice host emerging writers of the “Lost Generation” such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the photographer Man Ray.  This period sandwiched in between two World Wars is lived at a frenetic pace with all are trying to make up for the upheaval and destruction of the past war.  Meantime the Great Depression is on horizon and the drums of war start to beat softly and then louder and louder until they thunder and burst on the world stage and War II erupts. 

 World War II brought a drastic change to Gertrude Stein.  Her goal for her and Alice to be safe causes her to do what is “necessary” to be “safe” and survive occupied France.  After the war the end come quickly for guilt consumed Gertrude Stein.  The last act features Alice Tobias and Picasso as they say goodbye, pack and send Picasso’s picture of Gertrude Stein to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the resident artists as they delivered this Pittsburgh premiere of “27” I was impressed with Laurel Seerdjian (mezzo-soprano) portrayal of Gertrude Stein and Adelaide Boedecker (soprano) as Alice.  Their duets together conveyed great warmth, affection and devotion to one another.  The men, Adam Bonanni, (tenor) Matthew Sciollin (bass baritone) and Brian Tobias (baritone) were versatile and in good voice in their many faceted roles.  The Pittsburgh Opera’s Residence artist program is a boon to Pittsburgh and to Opera.   All those in this production of “27” are on the path to artistic success.   

It's a good bet for your money to support and enjoy the Pittsburgh opera.  If you have never attended the opera, you might start with The Barber of Seville, opening on April 2.  

Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on
JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT™ cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Bridges of Madison County Harlequin Romance or Arthur and Guinevere?

Bridges of Madison County 

Harlequin Romance or Arthur and Guinevere?

The Bridges of Madison County that opened at the Benedum in Pittsburgh last night has the steaminess of a Harlequin Romance Novel touched with tragic illusions that date back to stories like Lancelot and Guinevere and serenendipitous lovers trapped by a chance meeting between passion, reality and honor.From a slow background start the musical wends its way through the audience's emotions like a rollercoaster between comedy, lust, broken dreams and soulful duets.  Stripped to their private thoughts, even the men in the audience would have to admit that the show tugged at their hearts and returned them to a chance encounter, a furtive one night stand or a glimpse into "what might have been."

This two time Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical by composer Robert James Waller has evolved from a bestselling book by Pulitzer Prize Winner Marsha Norman  to a movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood to a Broadway musical is the stuff of housewives fantasies and romantic tragedies with local color, historic flashbacks and comic relief episodes.   

The Daily News hails as “one of Broadway’s best scores in the last decade.” It's easy to see why.  Although there are no "Oklahoma" catchy tunes that stick in your head they certainly will rap you in their magic while you are there.  There is one show stopper at the end though and both I and my theater partner wished we could have given him a standing ovation for it. With his rendition of "When I'm Gone" Charlie (David Hess) goes from mealy mouthed comic episodes to leading man status and that is one song that you wish was just a bit longer.

The performance of Francesca ( Elizabeth Stanley) was of course stellar even though as a granddaughter of immigrant Italians on both sides of the family I found her Italian accent a bit wanting, but her voice could transport you to the outer limits of heaven.  The real star of the show though is Robert (Andrew Samonsky).  His "The World Inside a Frame" truly creates a picture.  Also the chemistry between he and Francesca did not need shirtless scenes to be steamy and electric even from row P in the orchestra.

Norman also has created a pair of comical neighbors, Marge and Charlie (Mary Callanan and David Hess). Marge spies on Francesca and her “hippie” Photographer guest through binoculars and tries to engage her passive husband Charlie jealous speculation; their banter is humorous and finally the results are homespun and touching.  Marge also has a huge musical moment along with the Radio Singers in "Get Closer."  While part of the stage is "filled" with Francesca and Robert dancing Marge has her own vicarious experience. For the chick flick or chick theater followers Robert with his superior height to Francesca has an enticing way of wrapping his tall body around Francesca.

The great thing about this show is that fantasies and reality both are all part of life and the interjections of all types of music from country to almost operatic and blues with athletic dancing and movement of scenery really made this show come to life in the theater.  From housewife to construction worker, business women, traveler or handyman everyone can relate to that one moment that "might have been."

 Don't let this be a "might have done" in your life but DO SEE  "The Bridges of Madison County playing at the Benedum on 7th St in Pittsburgh through Sunday March 13, 2016.  Tickets start at $26.00.   

Additional Info and Tickets here

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. 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. 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.