We all know that one of Pittsburgh's treasures spread around the world is musical theater talent, and now a group called Musical Theatre Artist of Pittsburgh -- or MTAP -- is putting the seeds of the musicals of the future on the map at home.
It was SRO for the first Hot Metal Musicals showcase Monday night the Cabaret at Theatre Square, where 18 songs representing 14 in-the-works musicals and songs by theater artists were performed by versatile artists who made the night a performance concert:
Lisa Ann Goldsmith, currently in Pittsburgh CLO's "Boeing Boeing"; Justin Lonesome, most recently in PICT Classic Theatre's "For the Tree to Drop"; Natalie Hatcher, who works behind scenes at City Theatre when she isn't onstage; Eric James Davidson, a regular at Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park, Little Lake Theatre and other local companies; Missy Moreno, who has appeared with Chicago's Second City and is currently touring schools in Pittsburgh CLO's "The Next Galileo" (more on that soon); Leon S. Zionts, a veteran theater performer seen on stages all over the area and a producer of Front Porch Theatricals; and soprano Eva Rainforth, who performed her own song from the show she is working on, "Me, Myself and Others." The song is title "I Once Dated a Man," and it's a hoot.
The night of comedy and tragedy, history and contemporary relationships got off to a strong start with "Pretend" from "Off With Her Maidenhead," a musical by Amy Claussen (book and lyrics) and James Rushin (muisc) that deconstructs the myth of the Disney Princess. There's a financial crisis solved when a nunnery is turned into a brothel ... you get the idea.
Next came the soaring title song from Joe Domencic's "The Next Galileo" is about a girl who channels Galileo and her own independent spirit to explore the possibilities of science. The musical is in full production as part of Pittsburgh CLO's Gallery of Heroes, a program that takes its 50-minute mini-musicals to Western Pennsylvania schools to educate and enlighten students about great historical figures. This one seems to educate and inspire. (More info at PittsburghCLO.org.)
There were several themes that began to emerge rom selection of songs -- European history among them, food and relationships another. "Kiss the Cook" by actress Laurie Klatscher and the "Moscow McDonald's Waltz" from the marquee-defying "The Magical Moscow McDonald's Miracle of Love" by Frank Gagliano and James Rushin were representative of the humor and emotions on display.
Some names who began here but are working elsewhere also were represented in the mix. Fox Chapel's Michael Mitnick has been making a name on stage and screen, including the screenplay for "The Giver," and with Will Connolly and Kim Rosenstock is writing "Fly By Night," described in the program as a "darkly comic rock fable." The musical was represented by the song "Cecily Smith."
The writing team of Kooman and Dimond, whose "Judge Jackie Justice" made its debut at the CLO Cabaret, was represented by work-in-progress "The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes," about a man who is living in a musical and wants to get out -- or does he?
There was the crowd-pleasing "Back to the Burgh," an anthem for expats by Laura Lind, with lyrics such as, "I get weak in the knees when I hear Pittsburghese," and much more. The accompaniest for the night, keyboardist-composer Doug Levine, is writing a musical with Marcus Stevens titled "Eastburn Avenue," which was represented by the song "Let It Be Me," sung by a daughter who is now her mother's caretaker.
MTAP is led by Stephanie Riso, working with Jeanne Drennan and Steve Cuden. They pulled togther an over-too-soon 90-minute program that left me hungry for more.