The stage production of Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast" will be at Heinz Hall April 3-8, 2012, as a presentation of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Symphony and Broadway Across America.

The musical takes it's cue from the animated film’s Academy Award-winning team of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, with additional music by Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice; the book is by Linda Woolverton. Creators of the original Broadway production are together again for this new touring production, directed by Rob Roth and choreographed by Matt West, with costume design by Tony winner Ann Hould-Ward.

“We have remained very close as a team over the years of producing the show around the world, and it has been so much fun getting together to re-explore and re-invent the
show for this new NETworks tour," Roth said in the press release announcing the show.

Showtimes are Tuesday, April 3, 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, April 4, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, April 5, 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Friday, April 6, 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, April 7, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 8, 1 p.m. Tickets: $20-$77 at 412- 392-4900 or www.TrustArts.org.

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Today is the final day to see the first run of “The Gammage Project,” the new play about the death of Jonny Gammage during a traffic stop on Route 51 and its impact on race and police-citizen relations in Pittsburgh. At a talk-back last night afer the play at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, it was suggested that the play will live on.

GammageProjectPlaywright Attilio “Buck” Favorini said there has been discussion about using the play in high schools and creating a curriculum around it, and that Mark Clayton Southers, who directed the play, has suggested annual readings. Mr. Favorini answered questions from the stage with former City Councilman Sala Udin, now president and CEO of CORO Pittsburgh; Anthony Krastek, an attorney in the Commonwealth’s Office of the Attorney General who prosecuted the first two trials for officers accused in Mr. Gammage’s death; and the Rev. Richard Freeman, pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church and President of PIIN.

Rev. Freeman followed Mr. Udin in saying the play should be used as part of police training, where it is needed to educate those who face life and death decisions and "who need to start actiing like adults."

Also in attendance last night were members of the Gammage family; Judge Robert Colville, the D.A. at the time three officers were tried in the death of Mr. Gammage; and Jordan Miles and his mother, Terez; Jordan was a student at CAPA when he was stopped in his Homewood neighborhood and beaten by three white police officers.

The play is at the August Wilson Center is at 1 p.m. today
; read Chris Rawson’s review at post-gazette.com. Read more about the Black & White Reunion, “building bridges to end racism in Pittsburgh,” at www.blackandwhitereunion.org.

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Yale Rep play praised for channeling August Wilson

Tuesday, 14 February 2012 04:19 PM Written by

A Bloomberg News theater review of Yale Rep's "Good Goods" had enough local flavor that I thought I'd pass it along:

Yale Repertory Theatre is where August Wilson began his unmatched cycle about life in a black enclave of Pittsburgh. Those 10 plays unselfconsciously shifted between realism and ghost story, tall tale and religious experience.

Christina Anderson, whose “Good Goods” has just opened at the Rep, has some Wilson coursing through her veins.

Good Goods is the name of a family-owned dry goods store in a rural outpost somewhere in the deep South. Truth (the wonderful Marc Damon Johnson) cares for the place founded by his adoptive father, now dead.

Stacey is the prodigal, the owner’s birth son, who has come back after years on the road as an entertainer with Patricia (de’Adre Aziza). Patricia also shows up, with Sunny (Angela Lewis) a sweet girl she met on the bus. Rounding out the company is Wire (CMU's Kyle Beltran, seen in Pittsburgh in the touring company of "In the Heights"), with whom Truth shares a secret.

Much of what transpires on James Schuette’s beautiful homespun set is the poetry of unsung lives unfolding in places barely drawn on any map. But when an accident in a nearby factory takes the life of a neighbor, his soul invades Sunny’s body and some hell breaks loose. A place we think we may know becomes as exotic as a distant world.

Anderson, abetted by Tina Landau’s assured direction, is a voice to reckon with. Lewis, most recently seen in “Milk Like Sugar” at Playwrights Horizons, is memorable as the possessed Sunny. Tugging at her bindings and growling imprecations, Lewis is bottled ferocity in a knockout performance that makes a trip to New Haven eminently worthwhile.

“Good Goods,” through Feb. 25 at 1120 Chapel St., New Haven, Conn., 203-432-1234; www.yalerep.org.

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This blog is a good place to file a minority report, i.e. a mini-review that disagrees with the one already published in the real newspaper. Still, time flies, and I’ve only done it once or twice. And now I want to write a bit about a play where I generally agree with what’s been published. Bob Hoover’s review of Eric Burns’ “Mid-Strut” is a fine job. But I want to have a say, anyway.

Certainly the subject matter – love and marriage and mortality, all seen at mid-age – is one of great interest to those of us of mid-age or more. We know something about these things. And much that Burns writes has the tang of wit and truth. He’s definitely a writer.

I also like the course that the story takes. It’s not predictable but it’s not too far-fetched, and the ambiguity at the end gives you something to debate, if you’re lucky enough to have someone to debate with, which “Mid-Strut” suggests you probably should. I admit I don’t understand Burns’ thing about majorettes, but I had the misfortune of going to an all-male prep school, so they were just a distant dream.

I enjoyed myself. And yet I missed something. Like Bob, I think the short-fall is in characterization, especially in the magical interloper, Jack Allison. I don’t believe him.  For me, he’d work better if he were either more grounded in specifics or more frankly magical, like Cary Grant in “The Bishop’s Wife.”

Which brings me to casting. I especially like John Shepard’s Jack McGruder and Maggie Carr’s Sarah, his daughter – whatever specifics the characters lack, the actors supply dimension. Wendy, the central character, is a tougher challenge, since she’s the one we’re supposed to care about. Cary Anne Spear works valiantly to fill her in.

Then there’s Bob Turano (once Bob Koch, back when he was a young Pittsburgher, opening our eyes to Mamet), an actor I’ve always enjoyed. He’s deadpan and sardonic, capable of ironic comedy or dark anger. But the saintly Jack Allison is a stretch, especially since he’s written just as a man with a mission, not with the personality and background that make that mission plausible.

And although I’m always glad to see Phil Winters on stage, I don’t see the need of his character, the doctor.

Well, you don’t go to a theater critic to get a play fixed, just to hear what one member of the audience made of it. As I say, I had a good time, even though it felt contrived.

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I was on KDKA-TV this morning for my usual Thursday gig, when I try to cover the highpoints of current theater in four or five minutes – impossible, of course. So I gabbled lickety-split about “Jesus Hopped the A Train” at barebones (take note: ends this weekend!), “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at Kuntu (ends Feb. 4) and “Through the Night” at City (ends Feb. 5).

(You can watch me on KD -- click this link. Ignore the headline that comes up and the short commercial, and there it is.)

Although I didn’t say it, because maybe it sounds like a downer, it occurred to me that all three are . . . tragedies. (You thought I was going to say African American, right? More about that later.)

Well, “Through the Night” isn’t quite a tragedy, but it’s poised right on the edge of tragedy, with a 50-50 chance of . . . no, I don’t want to give that away. But you know how “Ma Rainey” ends, right? With Levee and Toledo posed like the Pieta at mid-stage? (Or they would be if Slow Drag didn’t obscure the ending with an unnecessary cross right by them, blurring that essential final image.) And the ending of “A Train,” which has by then whipsawed us through several unforeseeable turns of event/character/fate, certainly registers as tragic to me, though I might get an argument from someone religiously bent.

And then there’s God, in all three. He/she features very much in “Ma Rainey” (in absentia, says Levee), and one of the characters in “Through the Night” is a preacher, much concerned with the deity. But God is right at the center of “A Train,” where the two central characters debate his/her nature and existence.

So the three plays speak to each other in different ways. Good plays always do, but this trio could almost have been chosen with each other in mind.

And yes, two of the plays are black, while “A Train” features one black character and two Hispanic. In the old days you might have chalked this up the imminence of February, aka Black History Month, as it used to be called (or is it still?), an invention of political correctness that also had a whiff of ghettoizing about it.

Now, I think it’s just a coincidence: three strong plays at the same time.

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Joan Marcus
Christian Borle, right, with Adam Chanler-Berat in the off-Broadway production of "Peter and the Starcatchers."
Back in November, when I was interviewing Broadway musical star (by way Fox Chapel) Christian Borle about the debut of "Smash," the NBC show about the making of a Broadway show, he was agonizing about not coming to Broadway.

At the time, he said he didn't think he would be able to reprise his role as Black Stache - a young Captain Hook - in the Peter Pan prequel "Peter and the Starcatchers."

"Right now as it stands I'm heartbroken that it's not going to work out because that was one of the most special things I've ever done in my life," he said.

No more fretting - Playbill.com reported and NBC confirmed today that Borle will get to join in the fun when the musical comes to Broadway in the spring.

Borle, a Tony nominee for "Legally Blonde" (and shoulda been one for "Spamalot") was nominated for a Drama Desk Award during "Peter's" off-Broadway run.

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Billy Porter at a Times Square taping of Seth Rudetsky's radio show.
City Theatre confirmed that Broadway veteran and recording artist Billy Porter (left) will choreograph the new rock musical “POP!,” featuring “Rent” star Anthony Rapp as Andy Warhol in its world premiere May 5-27. On Monday, Jan. 23, City will hold open auditions to fill the roles of members of Andy’s Factory.

To sign up for a half-hour slot in the open call from 4 to 8 p.m. at 1300 Bingham St, South Side, call 412-431-4400 ext. 463 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Auditioners are asked to prepare 16 bars or one verse of a favorite pop song to be sung a capella or with City’s accompanist. “We are looking for all types, ages and ethnicities with big voices, and big personalities,” the audition notice says. “Wear your finest ’70s glam and belt out your best number and who knows … you might just find your very own 15 minutes of fame!”

Those who make the cut will be asked to return on Thursday, Jan. 26, for an  audition with the “POP!” creative team, including director by Brad Rouse.

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Theater bests of 2011

Friday, 06 January 2012 04:25 PM Written by

Call me Janus, the deity who looks foward and backward, hence January. The looking back means celebrating the best of 2011 Pittsburgh theater. We've done it twice: on Dec. 22, we listed the Top Ten shows of 2011, along with another dozen and a few more to remember.

Then on Jan. 4 we named Laurie Klatscher the Post-Gazette's 2011 Performer of the Year, along with selecting the top ten in the four acting categories, plus directors, designers, etc. If you missed those articles, take a look.

That was also the subject of my usual Thursday appearance to talk theater on KDKA-TV's Pittsburgh Today Live. Here's the 6 1/2 minute clip (prefaced by a 30 second ad -- and don't let the "Firest Destroys Forward Township Home" headline deter you. Trust me!).

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