The cast of the CLO Cabaret premiere of "Altar Boyz," Sept. 24-Dec. 20, will be Pittsburgh CLO alumni Mike Greer as Luke and Mason Alexander Park as Mark, as well as newcomers Michael Brown, Carter Ellis and Javier Manente. 

More on the cast, via Pittsburgh CLO:

Michael Brown (Matthew) is a recent graduate from Point Park University with a BFA in Musical Theatre and Dance minor. His favorite Pittsburgh credits include: The Wind in the Willows (Otter), The Boy Friend (Tony Brockhurst) and, most recently, A Grand Night for Singing (Comic Juvenile).

Carter Ellis (Abraham) is also a recent Musical Theater graduate from Point Park University. His recent credits include Urinetown (McQueen) and The Producers (Leo). As a native of Kansas City, he has also been seen on the KC Starlight Stage in productions such as Cinderella and Xanadu.

Michael Greer (Luke) is a Pittsburgh CLO veteran whose credits with CLO include The Full Monty (Keno), Les Miserables, 42nd Street, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Legally Blonde. Other credits include You Say Tomato, I Say Shutup! (Jeff Kahn) at the Denver Center, Shrek The Musical (Big Bad Wolf) at North Shore Music Theatre, Miss Saigon (2010 Tour), Beauty & the Beast (Gaston), Footloose (Willard) with Pittsburgh Musical Theater and Jesus Christ Superstar at Kansas City Starlight. Up next is Guys & Dolls at PPT.

Mason Alexander Park (Mark) was last seen at the Cabaret as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, and at the Benedum as the first male countertenor to regionally play Miss Andrew in Pittsburgh CLO's Mary Poppins. He was introduced to Pittsburgh CLO through the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, during which time he was featured on PBS's reality series "Broadway or Bust." He recently performed at the Kennedy Center in D.C. as the 2013 Presidential Scholar in the Arts for Musical Theatre, which featured him in the PBS documentary, "Becoming an Artist". He can also be seen on other shows such as "iCarly."

Javier Manente (Juan) is making his Pittsburgh CLO debut. US credits: In the Heights, The Boy Friend, Oklahoma!, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Honk! and the world premiere of 21 The Musical. Argentina credits: Spring Awakening, Rent, Locos Recuerdos and Grease, among others. Mr. Manente is a current senior musical theatre student at Point Park University.

Adam Cassel (Understudy) makes his Pittsburgh CLO debut and as he returns to 'Raise the Praise' with the "Boyz." After graduation from Brown University, Adam joined the National Tour of "Altar Boyz" as Abraham. He then joined the National Tour of Hairspray (IQ) and was honored to be a part of the tour's closing company.

The Story

The Altar Boyz are on a mission from above to put the "pop" back in piety, wooing legions of bingo hall and pancake breakfast fans throughout their "Raise the Praise" tour. Next stop? Pittsburgh! The musical parody about a heavenly boy-band features songs such as "Girl You Make Me Wanna Wait" and "Jesus Called Me On My Cell Phone."

Performance Schedule
Wednesdays 7:30pm
Thursdays 1:00pm* & 7:30pm * Thursday matinees–10/29, 11/19, 12/17
Fridays 7:30pm
Saturdays 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays 2:00pm

Tickets: Individual tickets go on sale July 13. Tickets start at $34.75 at CLOCabaret.com or 412-456-6666.

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Staged readings for the 2015 National Playwrights Conference begin this week at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Wateford, Conn. The conference will develop eight new plays, selected from a pool of 1,300 submissions.

Jane Kaczmarek (Lois on "Malcolm in the Middle"), Tony Award- and Olivier Award-winning Michael Beresse (director/choreographer of "[title of show]") and Tony nominee Reed Birney are cast in the Wendy MacLeod new play "Slow Food." Songwriter Duncan Sheik and playwright Steven Sater ("Spring Awakening") are reunited in the development of "No One's Sonata," with a cast led by Laila Robins and Frank Wood and directed by O'Neill artistic director Wendy C. Goldberg.

"These eight new plays come to us at a period of remarkable success for the National Playwrights Conference. Seven projects developed over the last few years will premier during the 2015 and 2016 off-Broadway seasons, at Atlantic, Roundabout, MCC, Women's Project Theater, and Manhattan Theatre Club," said Ms. Goldberg in a statement.

The play "End of Shift" is a reunion for director Daniella Topol and Pittsburgh actor Nick Lehane ("This is Our Youth" on Broadway), who worked together on Quantum Theatre's "The Electric Baby."

The full slate and casting for 2015 National Playwrights Conference, July 1-25:

"Leftovers" by Josh Wilder, directed by Reginald Douglas. Synopsis: In inner city Philadelphia, an abnormally huge dandelion has grown through the sidewalk in front of the house of Jalil and Kwamaine, two brothers who are waiting for the arrival of their father. Leftovers tells the story of the brothers as they figure out their journey to discovering the reality of their dreams. A poignant, poetic, gritty play full of family, magic, and Cliff Huxtable.

Casting: Starla Benford, Eric Berryman, Christopher Livingston, Morocco Omari, Jefferson A. Russell, Vladimir Versailles.

"Good Ol' Boys" by Joe Waechter, directed by Mike Donahue. Synopsis: Three Southern businessmen rent a hunting cabin for a weekend of shooting some guns, drinking some beer, and hopefully finding the mysterious giant deer that lurks in the forest. When one of the men brings his son along, things take a turn for the worst. Secrets bubble up to the surface, and with all that testosterone, all that camouflage, and all those bags full of guns, someone's bound to get hurt.

Casting: Andrew Garman, John Kroft, Paul Niebanck, Stephen Barker Turner.

"End of Shift" by Jenny Connell Davis, directed by Daniella Topol. Synopsis: It's the end of a long day washing dishes at the Spurwink Country Kitchen, and friends-for-life Jesse, Ben, and Max are on a mission to create a fitting memorial to their fallen hometown hero. But when the prettiest girl in town shows up on their doorstep, everything the boys know about love, life and loyalty gets called into question.

Casting: Michael Angarano, Reyna De Courcy, Nick Lehane, Alec Shaw, Erin Wilhelmi.

"No One's Sonata" by Steven Sater, directed by Wendy Goldberg, music by Mahler and Beethoven, reimagined by composer Duncan Sheik; music direction by Benjamin M. Rauhala. Synopsis: Can we mediate our family pain with language? Can music help relieve us of our past? On a mound of broken glass, grown children gather -- to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their Viennese immigrant parents, and to try and bridge the distance that they feel from their father's death.

Casting: Kieran Campion, Laila Robins, Kristen Sieh, Amy Spanger, Frank Wood.

"Cardboard Piano" by Hansol Jung, directed by Liz Diamond. Synopsis: Northern Uganda on the eve of the millennium: The daughter of American missionaries and a local teenage girl steal into a darkened church to seal their love in a secret, makeshift wedding ceremony. But when the surrounding war zone encroaches on their fragile union, they cannot escape its reach. Confronting the religious and cultural roots of intolerance, Cardboard Piano explores violence and its aftermath, as well as the human capacity for hatred, forgiveness and love.

Casting: Segun Akande, Deonna Bouye, Mattie Hawkinson, Terrell Donnell Sledge.

"Halftime With Don" by Ken Weitzman, directed by Giovanna Sardelli. Synopsis: Retired NFL player Don Devers has had over forty surgeries, experiences violent outbursts, and relies on a blizzard of yellow Post-It notes lining barcalounger in order to offset his ravaged memory. When a long-time fan appears at his doorstep, Don seeks to salvage his life with a single act of heroic self-sacrifice.

Casting: Cassie Beck, Scott Drummond, Michael Gaston, Makela Spielman.

"Nomad Motel" by Carla Ching, directed by Bart DeLorenzo. Synopsis: Alix lives in a cramped motel room with her entire family. Mason lives alone in an empty house while his father runs jobs for the Hong Kong Triad. When both of their parents disappear, Mason and Alex develop an unlikely friendship, struggling to survive on their own. A play about Motel Kids and Parachute Kids living at the poverty line in a land of plenty.

Casting: Nadia Bowers, Shahine Ezell, Ruy Iskandar, Nelson Lee, Gabriella Rhodeen.

"Slow Food" by Wendy MacLeod, directed by Kent Nicholson. Synopsis: A vacationing couple celebrates their anniversary at a Greek restaurant in Palm Springs - but will the marriage survive the service? As a needy waiter insinuates his way into their meal - and their lives - the couple examine their past and their future together. A tender, uproarious comedy that delves deeply into what we hunger for.

Casting: Michael Berresse, Reed Birney, Jane Kaczmarek.

For more information, visit www.theoneill.org, call 1-860-443- 5378 ext. 213 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Point Park University's Conservatory Theatre Company has announced five productions for the 2015-16 season, which opens Oct. 16 with the musical "Into the Woods" and concludes in March 2016 with Kander and Ebb's "Chicago."

Other productions are Henrik Ibsen's family drama "The Wild Duck"; the dark comedy "Our Lady of 121st Street" by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis ("Between Riverside and Crazy"); and Lydia Diamond's adaptation of the Toni Morrison novel "The Bluest Eye."

Season subscriptions are available now; single tickets go on sale Sept. 8; 412-392-8000 or visit www.pittsburghplayhouse.com.

The 2015-16 season at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland:

Into the Woods
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Zeva Barzell, musical theater coordinator for Point Park's musical theater program
Friday, Oct. 16 – Sunday, Oct. 25; preview Oct. 15
Rockwell Theatre

The Wild Duck
By Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Shirley Tannenbaum, former head of acting at Point Park
Friday, Nov. 6 – Sunday, Nov. 22; preview Nov. 5
Studio Theatre

Our Lady of 121st Street
By Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Steven Wilson, Point Park grad, director, actor, educator and Pittsburgh native
Friday, Dec. 4 – Sunday, Dec. 13; preview Dec. 3
Rauh Theatre

The Bluest Eye
By Lydia Diamond, based on the novel by Toni Morrison
Directed by Monica Payne,founder of Theatre Lumina, a company devoted to cross-cultural collaboration and international exchange
Friday, Feb. 26 – Sunday, Feb. 28 & Thursday, March 10 – Sunday, March 13, 2016; preview Feb. 25
Rauh Theatre

Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, book by Ebb and Bob Fosse
Directed by Jack Allison has directed at most of the major regional theaters in the United States and across Canada and Europe
Friday, March 18 – Sunday, March 27, 2016; preview March 17
Rockwell Theatre



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The cast of "An American in Paris" performs at the Tony Awards. (AP image) 

I ran into Pittsburgh CLO executive Van Kaplan at intermission of the season-opening production of "Mary Poppins," exhausted after a weekend that included the CLO's annual gala, with Billy Porter as the feature guest, and then of course the Tony Awards, which was an all-day into early-morning event on Sunday.
Kaplan, a co-producer of 12-time Tony nominee "An American in Paris," said he is good friends with the producers of best musical winner "Fun Home" and sat with them at the morning's dress rehearsal.
"And if you have to lose, it's better if it is to your friends," he said, adding he had sent along his congratulations.
"An American in Paris" took home four Tonys, for set design, orchestrations, choreography and light. The cast's after-Tony party at the lower level of Rockefeller Center was packed with well-wishers from Pittsburgh. "It went until they kicked us out around 2. We rocked the night away," Mr. Kaplan said.
When I suggested that comparing the two shows was like comparing apples and oranges, he said, "Apples and asparagus, as [his wife] Mary Jane says."
He added that "An American in Paris" had a great week at the box office before the Tonys and tickets continued to sell well afterward. Tweets like ""Still can't get over about how perfect @AmericaninParis’ performance on the Tony Awards!!!" lit up the Twitter-verse after Tony nominees Robert Fairchild, Leanne Cope, Max Von Essen, Brandon Uranowitz and the company of "AAiP" performed a medley from the show at the Tony Awards.
Two days earlier, Tony-winner Christian Borle (below), of Fox Chapel and Carnegie Mellon, was at the podium in the media room, moments after his win for "Something Rotten!," his second Tony in hand, when "AAiP's" performance was live on a screen beside him. I asked him if it seemed that Pittsbugh's theatrical exports were  being celebrated even more than usual at the Tonys this year, including the new CMU/Tony award for Excellence in Theatre Education.
He said, "There's something in the water in Pittsburgh" that produces so much talent, and he pointed to the screen as an example of Pittsburgh's presence at the Tony Awards. "You know, I couldn't get arrested by Pittsburgh CLO when I was there, so I have mixed feelings about this," he said, then he added, "But I'd like to go back now." As he left, he looked back at the monitor and realized the number had ended. 
"I missed 'An American in Paris'," he said with regret.
Borle goes back to eight shows a week on Broadway, while Kaplan is now immersed in the just-begun Pittsburgh CLO season. Asked when he could relax, Kaplan thought for a second and said, "August."
The CLO season ends Aug.16, with touring shows "Kinky Boots," starring Tony-winner Billy Porter, and "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella."
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The company of "An American in Paris" has been named winner of the ninth annual award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus, presented by Equity's Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (ACCA), according to Playbill.com.
The award is "the only industry accolade of its kind to honor the distinctive talents and contributions made by the original chorus members of a Broadway musical," the ACCA's press release said.

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The Drama Desk Awards ceremony Sunday was a great evening's entertainment on Sunday night (I DVRed "Game of Thrones," of course), with the off-Broadway musical "Hamilton" and the Broadway play "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" walking away as the big winners.

Watching the live stream, courtesy of Theatermania.com (you can replay it here), 

Bob Crowley was a winner for the gorgeous and innovative set design of "An American in Paris" and Christopher Wheeldon won for choreography after "Hamilton's" Andy Blankenbuehler received a special award for his work. Robert Fairchild also broke "Hamilton's" streak by taking best actor in a musical.

Fairchild, a ballet dancer making a stunning Broadway debut, an artist and war veteran caught up in the romance of post-WWII Paris, a role originated in the movie version by Hollywood legend and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly. For his acceptance Sunday, Fairchild began, "Gene Kelly, you are an incredible inspiration and the reason I am a dancer."



When winning "Hamilton" director Thomas Kail came to the podium, he thanked his grandfathers -- including his maternal grandfather in Pittsburgh, who sold scrap metal -- for helping him get there.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," with six Drama Desk Awards including best play, led a British invasion that included Dame Helen Mirren's best actress win for "The Audience." Other lead acting awards went to Alex Sharp for "Curious Incident" and Kristin Chenoweth for "On the Twentieth Century." Top revivals were "The King and I" and "The Elephant Man." Christian Borle won for his supporting role in the musical "Something's Rotten!"

Another winner is one to watch for: Benjamin Scheuer's "The Lion" won best solo performance; it's already on City Theatre's schedule for the 2015-16 season.

For predictors of the Tony Awards, it wasn't a big help in the musical categories. "Hamilton" is not eligible for the Tonys this year; the show begins in previews at the Richard Rodgers Theater on July 13. And "Fun Home," tied with "An American in Paris" with 12 Tony nominations, was a big winner against other competition when it was still off-Broadway last season. 


Watch for the PG's predictions, courtesy of Chris Rawson and yours truly, in Wednesday's Magazine section.

Photos by Getty Images
Top: Robert Fairchild with his "An American in Paris" co-star, Leanne Cope.

Below: "Hamilton" director Thomas Kail (far right), with composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and music director Alex Lacamoire.


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Getty Images


The first group of performers have been announced for the 69th Tony Awards, airing live June 7 on CBS. Tony Award-winners Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth will host the 2015 ceremony for the first time, live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The performancses from Tony-nominated shows and performers will include: co-host and nominee Chenoweth and the cast of "On the Twentieth Century," nominees Brian D'Arcy James, Christian Borle, Brad Oscar and the cast of "Something Rotten!," nominee Chita Rivera and the cast of "The Visit," nominees Kelli O'Hara and Ken Watanabe and the cast of "The King and I," as well as the casts of "On the Town," "Fun Home" and "An American in Paris."

Other shows that weren't nominated also will be represented. Those include: Vanessa Hudgens and the cast of "Gigi"; Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammer and the cast of "Finding Neverland"; and Tyne Daly along with the cast of "It Shoulda Been You."

More performers and presenters will be announced at a later date. 

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"Fun Home," the new musical that tied "An American in Paris" with 12 Tony Award nominations, has annouced a 2016 national tour that will be restaged  for proscenium theaters. 
Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name, Pulitzer finalist "Fun Home" introduces us to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories of her dysfunctional family – her mother, brothers and volatile, brilliant, enigmatic father.
The tour of "Something Rotten!" also is likely to hit the road for the 2016-17 season, according to Theatermania.com. Previously announced tours of nominated 2015 shows include "An American in Paris," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," "The King and I" and "On the Town," the latter with Tony-nominated star Tony Yazbeck heading out on the road.



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I just got an update on Mark Clayton Southers (above), head of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, who suffered a leg injury in a car accident while driving with his wife Neicy on Monday. Eric Smith, PPTC's production manager, said he is recovering after surgery and doctors are trying to get him to rest, which is not an easy thing for the energetic theater leader and family man. He will undergo further tests to be sure that he suffered no further injuries in the accident. I'll keep you posted.

The current run of "Fences," which opened Saturday, is expected to continue as scheduled. Read Chris Rawson's review here

Photo of Mark Clayton Southers on the set of "Fences" is by Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette.

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"Glee's" Tina, Jenna Ushkowitz, and "Guiding Light" stars Kim Zimmer and Robert Newman are among the featured players announced for Pittsburgh CLO’s 2015 summer season. Here's the rest:

MARY POPPINS, June 9 - 21
Lindsey Bliven joins Pittsburgh CLO for the first time in the title role of Mary Poppins. Her credits include the National Tours of Mary Poppins, A Chorus Line, Oklahoma! and The Wizard of Oz.  In addition, she appeared as Mary Poppins at The Walnut Street Theatre and Music Theatre Wichita.  She holds a BFA in Musical Theater Performance from The University of Oklahoma, Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre.

David Elder returns to Pittsburgh CLO as Bert after starring as Don Lockwood in Pittsburgh CLO’s 2014 critically-acclaimed production of Singin’ in the Rain.  Mr. Elder previously appeared in the Broadway productions of Curtains, 42nd Street; Kiss Me, Kate; Titanic; Once Upon a Mattress; Beauty and the Beast; Damn Yankees and Guys and Dolls. He recently starred as Bert at The Walnut Street Theatre and Music Theatre Wichita’s productions of Mary Poppins where he showcased “a big, broad smile that draws us into the wonder of this show!” – Kansas.com

Mason Park first burst onto the small screen in Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” and has amassed a multitude of impressive credits in his young career spanning television, film and stage.  He was introduced to Pittsburgh CLO through the National High School Musical Theater Awards, during which time he was featured on PBS’s reality series “Broadway or Bust.”  Mr. Alexander is making his Pittsburgh CLO debut in the roles of Miss Andrews, Miss Smythe and Queen Victoria.  He is currently a student at Point Park University and is the founder of P.A.R.K. Productions.

GYPSY, July 10 – 19
Robert Newman returns to Pittsburgh CLO to play Herbie after appearances in The Full Monty and A Little Night Music. He has guest-starred on several television shows including “Homeland,” “N.C.I.S.,” “Criminal Minds,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Santa Barbara,” “General Hospital” and his celebrated role as Josh Lewis on “Guiding Light.”  Mr. Newman has been nominated for four Soap Opera Digest awards for his role as Josh Lewis. In addition, he was nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

Amanda Rose last appeared on the Pittsburgh CLO stage as Betty Schaefer in Sunset Boulevard and returns to Pittsburgh in the role of Louise.  She previously starred as Nessarose in the Broadway and National Touring production of WICKED in addition to her work on the National Tours of Doctor Dolittle and Oklahoma! Ms. Rose has starred in productions for Walnut Street Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, Fulton Theatre, Ogunquit Playhouse, Sacramento Music Circus and Goodspeed Opera House in addition to many others throughout the country.

Kim Zimmer makes her Pittsburgh CLO debut as Mama Rose.  She is best known for her role as Reva Shayne on CBS’s “Guiding Light,” for which she won four Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama.  She also appeared on “Seinfeld,” “Babylon 5,” “University Hospital,” “Santa Barbara,” “Designing Women” and countless other television shows.  Her work in the theater includes the National Tour of WICKED and countless regional roles.  She joins her former co-star on “Guiding Light,” Robert Newman, in this American musical masterpiece.

THE WEDDING SINGER, July 24 – August 2
Kirsten Scott is a Pittsburgh native and Carnegie Mellon University graduate who counts among her many credits Broadway roles in Jersey Boys, Big Fish, Follies and Hairspray.  She returns to Pittsburgh CLO as Holly after appearing in Curtains in 2010.     

Matthew Scott charmed audiences last summer as Emmett in Pittsburgh CLO’s Legally Blonde The Musical.  He now returns as Robbie to join his wife Kirsten Scott, in the cast of The Wedding Singer. Mr. Scott appeared in the Broadway productions of Sondheim on Sondheim, Jersey Boys, A Catered Affairand The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in addition to regional roles in Beaches, Company, The Light in the Piazza, Sunset Boulevard (Pittsburgh CLO, opposite Liz Callaway), among many others.

Jenna Ushkowitz is making her  CLO debut as Julia, the role first made performed by Drew Barrymore in the film “The Wedding Singer.”  Ms. Ushkowitz began her career on the set of “Sesame Street" and went on to appear in episodes of “Reading Rainbow,” “As the World Turns,” and many other TV series before making her Broadway debut in The King and I in 1996.  Ms. Ushkowitz returned to Broadway in Spring Awakening in 2008 alongside future co-star Lea Michele before they both hit it big on in the Fox television show “Glee.” 

Tickets and further info: pittsburghCLO.org or 412-456-6666. 

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