A visit with the Jersey girls of 'Jersey Boys'

Sunday, 09 September 2012 08:16 AM Written by

When you're watching "Jersey Boys," take your eyes off the guys who play the Four Seasons for some of the time and watch the Jersey Girls:- Natalie Gallo, Kaleigh Cronin and Rachel Schur.

The talented young women who play 50 roles among them --  moving in and out of the lives of the Four Seasons as friends, lovers, fellow singers and family -- took a few folks on a tour of their lives backstage on Friday. Each of those characters wears a different outfit and many require wigs, so any visit to the Jersey girls starts with the outfits.

The girls stood within a circular wardrobe case with a few of the outfits pulled off the racks, plus shoes (how do they move in those heels?) and accessories bagged and marked for each number. Natalie, a New Castle native joyfully staying with her family while the show is in town, showed us how she gets in and out of a short, beaded lilac dress for her quickest change that she estimates at 18 seconds. What from afar might look like a purple robe that she wears as Frankie Valli's first wife, Mary, is a lovely print with aqua embroidery at the sleeves and collar. The detail on this and other outfits, including beaded, sequined white mini dresses that sparkle for all the girls, is amazing.

In the wig room, the girls are asked about wearing the looks of the 1960s. "My mother says I look just like my grandmother," said Kaleigh, a Carnegie Mellon graduate from Providence, R.I. With all the potential for things going wrong with wigs, clothing and accessories coming off and on at lightning speed, the Jersey girls said there have been no wardrobe malfunctions to speak of. Natalie and Kaleigh have been on  the road for about a year while Rachel -- a Floridian who attended a pre-college program at CMU -- joined the tour more recently. There have been no pranks backstage, the girls say, then Kaleigh is reminded of a hotel room that was covered in toilet paper. "The boys," she said.

Natalie lamented that most of the people she knew at Point Park are probably gone, but she asks about Sheila McKenna, and was thrilled when I told her she's not only in charge but directing and performing (I hope you saw her in multiple roles in City Theatre's "Monster in the Hall"). She hadn't seen the expansion of the school on the Boulevard of the Allies just yet, what with eight shows a week and fitting in all the family time. 

Leaving the backstage area and emerging from a Benedum elevator, Natalie was greeted by an arrangement of roses that reached toward the ceiling like a beanstalk. It was from a childhood friend and it practically brought her to tears. One of the joys of the road is coming home.


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QuantumPosterNo, we did not leave Quantum Theatre's "Ainadamar" out of the Fall Arts Guide theater listings because it's considered to be a chamber opera -- it was a regrettable omission. And the misspelling in the Off the Record title, which is "Off the Record XII: Reassess This!" -- unforgivable! And The Theatre Factory is opening with "Little Shop of Horrors."

Those and other tweaks and corrections have been made in the PG's online stage guide.

Please keep the additions, subtractions, tweaks and corrections coming to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and we will continue to update as shows are added or changed.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Dig out those leg warmers and headbands — "Flashdance" is coming to Broadway. Producers said today  that the stage adaptation of the 1983 hit movie about a working-class Pittsburgh girl with dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer hopes to boogie into New York in August 2013.

Sergio Trujillo, the choreographer of "Jersey Boys," "The Addams Family" and "Memphis," will direct and choreograph "Flashdance — The Musical."

It features a book by Robert Cary and original screenplay co-writer Tom Hedley, music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Cary and Roth. The film starred Jennifer Beals.

Producers say it has been "substantially rewritten and completely restaged" following its short-lived debut in London in 2010. A separate company will begin a national tour Jan. 1, 2013, in Pittsburgh.


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Prop 8 play '8' gets reading at CMU

Monday, 20 August 2012 07:57 PM Written by

Carnegie Mellon University will host a one-night reading of "8," a play chronicling the historic trial in the federal constitutional challenge to California's Proposition 8. The performance by CMU School of Drama students will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, in the University Center's McConomy Auditorium. Tickets are free; students may obtain two per person with a valid ID and the public may obtain one per person. Tickets must be picked up in advance at the University Center Information Desk.

For more information on the Carnegie Mellon performance, visit http://www.drama.cmu.edu/. For details on the project, follow "8"on Twitter: @8theplay or on Facebook.

In March, George Clooney and Brad Pitt led an all-star reading of "8" in Los Angeles.

RoryOMalleyCMU grad Rory O'Malley ('03), a Tony nominee in "The Book of Mormon," played Gregory Herek, a psychologist testifying for the plaintiffs. O'Malley is a founder of Broadway Impact, a grassroots organization dedicated to marriage equality that co-presented the L.A. reading. He was instrumental in bringing the show to Pittsburgh through his affiliation with Broadway Impact.

Here are details about the play and the CMU reading from the press release that came today:

The play was written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and American Foundation for Equal Rights founding board member Dustin Lance Black."8" recounts the Federal District Court trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown), the case filed by AFER to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay and lesbian Californians of the fundamental freedom to marry. Black, who penned the Academy Award-winning "Milk" and "J. Edgar," based "8" on trial transcripts, first-hand observations and interviews with plaintiffs and their families.

The story for "8" is framed by the trial's historic closing arguments in June 2010, and features the arguments and testimony from both sides. On Feb. 7, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a landmark decision upholding the historic August 2010 ruling of the Federal District Court that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit concluded: "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort."

Throughout 2012, AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing "8" for free to colleges and community theaters nationwide to spur action, dialogue and understanding.

"8" premiered on Broadway Sept. 19, 2011, at the sold-out Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City. The West Coast premiere reading was at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on March 3, 2012, in Los Angeles, which featured an all-star cast led by Brad Pitt as U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, and George Clooney and Martin Sheen as plaintiffs' lead co-counsel David Boies and Theodore B. Olson.

"People need to witness what happened in the Proposition 8 trial, if for no other reason than to see inequality and discrimination unequivocally rejected in a court of law where truth and facts matter," said Black, an AFER founding board member.

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"Kinky Boots," the new musical starring Pittsburgher Billy Porter, has an opening night on Broadway: April 4, 2013, at the the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th St. Based on the 2005 film that was inspired by a true story, the musical boasts a book by Harvey Fierstein, a music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, who also directs. Previews begin March 5, 2013. The show will prep for its Broadway run Oct. 2-Nov. 4 in Chicago.

BillyPorterLolaTony nominee Stark Sands of "American Idiot" co-stars with Porter, who most recently came home to work with City Theatre as a choreographer for the Andy Warhol musical "POP!" and starred in "Angels in America" at New York's Signature Theatre. "Kinky Boots" marks Lauper's Broadway debut. A free mp3 download of Lauper singing the beat-heavy "Sex Is in the Heel" from the show is available at the show's website.

In "Kinky Boots," Charlie Price (Sands) inherits his father’s shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of Lola (Porter), a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible.

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Corey Cott has gone from Carnegie Mellon to Pittsburgh CLO to Broadway leading man in "Newsies" in a flash -- or should I say, a "Smash." Tony-nominated Jeremy Jordan, who had the role of Jack Kelly in the Disney musical theater production, will play his final performance Sept. 4 at the Nederlander Theatre, then move into a full-time job on the second season of NBC's musical theater show "Smash."

Cott became the Jack Kelly alternate earlier this month, just weeks after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama. "Newsies," directed by Tony-nominated Jeff Calhoun, a Richland High School alum, won Tonys for best score and choreography.

The New York Times arts blog quoted Cott as saying he was offered roles in a national tour of the musical "Wicked" and the off-Broadway musical "Bare," while also planning to test for the television series "Glee," but chose this role "because Jack is a great character that I'd be really, really proud to play, and because it's pretty incredible to make my Broadway debut in a memorable leading role."

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Having arranged for tickets to something called "Strata," I got email directions:

“The experience starts when you purchase your tickets. You are in the experience now. As we only take 10 people every half hour we rely on time to keep the flow. Arriving early or late at the secret location can disrupt levelworks readiness. Look out for the special e-mail that you will receive tomorrow. It will give you all the important information you'll need, including your five basic survival tips. We look forward to serving you in your Refitnessing needs.”

“Refitnessing needs”? “Survival tips”? “Levelworks readiness”? As you see, this is either some pompous cult scam or a parody thereof. Fortunately, unless I’m missing some deeper level of iConsciousness (another word they like), it's the latter, an elaborate, more than life-sized travesty of a consciousness raising-mental therapy-goofball experience, with all its pseudo seriousness.

01Strata0812It’s fun, a very entertaining hour and a half wherein a large company of 20-some actors, with technical support to match, create an imaginative playground, or, if you prefer, rabbit hole. It's backed by a dozen writers-directors, who’ve worked for a year. The producer is Bricolage, using in-kind donations from much of the Pittsburgh arts community, to create what they call an “immersive urban adventure.”

That label will do as well as any other. After meeting your contact on a designated Downtown street corner, you enter down a back alley and are processed by an attractive, no-nonsense functionary. You fill out a form, sort of. You meet a file clerk straight out of Lewis Carroll. I remember an eccentric elevator operator. If you listen carefully, you’ll realize nothing makes much sense, but maybe you aren’t listening well enough.

Somewhere in there you’re separated from whomever you entered with and proceed from one room to another and floor to floor, taking a solo path created by the numbers you’re given, conducted with crisp efficiency from this one-on-one experience to that -- sensual, irrational, lightly physical, titillating, funny, confusing and more.

Everywhere you go, the attendants speak to you with unnerving familiarity. I was chastised for trying to take notes. They’re good.

It’s something like a dream. It’s also reminiscent of the wonderful Teatro de los Sentidos from Barcelona, brought here four years ago by the International Festival of Firsts. They sent us through a dusty bookshop into a cross between some not-so-Grimm middle European fairy tale and sensory therapy. “Strata” is somewhat cheerier than that, more American, with more pseudo-efficient bustle and a touch of “Brave New World.”

Eventually you climb a long glowing staircase (I thought I was being reborn) and emerge – surprise! – into a lounge, to share a drink (on the house) and mingle with other survivors and, if you’re lucky, some of the operatives, looking now not quite so commanding or glamorous, just friendly.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

But I can’t wait to go back and I hope the unseen powers that chart each course will give me an interesting variant and maybe also a few of those I encountered before – say, the file clerk and the master sergeant on the basketball court. And what about the girl with the golden hair? -- I didn’t hear a word she said the first time through.

Did I emerge refitnessed? Was my iConsciousness polished? You’ll have to ask those who’ve noticed that extra bounce in my step . . . .

-- Chris Rawson

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Think the Pirates and Diamondbacks were intrepid to play through the thunder, lightning and rain last night? They've got nothing on the cast of Quantum Theatre's "The Golden Dragon" and the Ladies Night audience that say through nature's light show and about 20 minutes of pouring rain to reach the emotional conclusion.

I had my own umbrella and many more were handed out to audience members who squirmed a bit in their seats but weren't about to leave as long as the show went on. The actors even bounced around bobbing wooden pallets, attached to the concrete walkway over Lake Carnegie in Highland Park (above, during a rehearsal), where Quantum had created stands on the shore. 

Dragon2The cast -- Gregory Johnstone, Aidaa Peerzada, Curtis Jackson, Catherine Moore and Mark Conway Thompson all did their best to ignore the conditions. Peerzada, in particular, was in the spotlight as the rain came pouring down, and kept going, and going, and going ...

I worried that perhaps lightning could endanger the actors, with their wired headsets, but admired their spirit -- and that of audience members who remained -- to reach the end of the play.

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