Lerner & Loewe with
The Pittsburgh Symphony Pops! and
The 42nd Street Tour

Also see Ann's recent review of Much Ado About Nothing

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conductor by Marvin Hamlisch, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, and a fine slate of guest performers are bringing the musical work of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe to the stage of Heinz Hall. Featuring songs from Brigadoon, Camelot, Gigi, and My Fair Lady, the concert presents some of the most beautiful music from 20th century musical theatre.

Providing vocals and limited staging are soprano Teri Hansen (The Boys from Syracuse), tenor J. Mark McVey (Les Miserables), baritone Brad Little (The Phantom of the Opera), local actor Jeff Howell, and 10 year-old Rocky Paterra of the Pittsburgh CLO Academy.

Highlights include Little and Hansen singing "Almost Like Being in Love"; McVey's "I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean,"If Ever I Would Leave You" and "On the Street Where You Live"; young Paterra's sweet "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" (surrounded by little girls from the the CLO Academy), and Howell's hilarious drunken "Get Me to the Church on Time."

The symphony sounds wonderful, suited so perfectly as they are for the Heinz Hall stage, and the choir adds depth and richness to the presentations. Hamlisch intersperses interesting related anecdotes between songs, including quotes from Alan J. Lerner. Hamlisch also makes a plea for continued (and increased) support of the Pittsburgh Symphony as they have projected a deficit approaching $1 million for this fiscal year [this situation has been slightly alleviated by a recent pledge by Acusis of $225,000 over the next three years, as announced]. Though Hamlisch makes no attempt to hide his love and devotion to the city of New York, he also sincerely expresses his affection and pride for the city of Pittsburgh, its orchestra, and the concertgoers in the area. He seems to really love conducting the Pops orchestra and the crowd certainly returns that love.

Next up for the Pops is a concert with Tony Orlando and his Las Vegas band, beginning November 14. For tickets and more information on all symphony events, call (412) 392-4900 or visit www.pittsburghsymphony.org.

42nd Street

The revival tour of 42nd Street has arrived in Pittsburgh. The show that was a hit in its first production on Broadway, which opened in 1980, was revived last year, a mere 12 years after the original closed. It seems everyone was ready for its return as the show was nominated for 9 Tony Awards and won two. A big dance show with a typically thin '30s film plot built around the songs of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, the success of 42nd Street thrives on the execution of synchronous mass tap dancing and production values. Randy Skinner, a vital assistant to original choreographer Gower Champion, has added new choreography for the revival and has restaged the production. Mark Bramble's revival direction also is used.

Like the Busby Berkely-choreographed film the musical is based on, 42nd Street champions the underdog, for whom happiness is never more than an act and a half away. Peggy Sawyer has just arrived in New York City from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and she's a super dancer and signs like an angel (oh, and she's really sweet and pretty, too). She is lucky to get a spot in the chorus, and eventually lands in the lead after leading lady Dorothy Brock has a slight mishap. By show's end, Peggy has charmed everyone and has won the heart of the man of her dreams.

As Peggy Sawyer, Catherine Wreford fulfills all of the requirements: dancing and singing like a leading lady, and being pretty and sweet. She really comes into her own when she replaces Brock and is able to add some sophistication to her show-within-a-show (Pretty Lady) performance. Blair Ross plays Dorothy Brock as the diva with a heart of gold (she really wants some of the anonymity and simple life that Sawyer has, so the big replacement neatly pleases all). Ross lends her deep, clear voice to classic songs "You're Getting to be a Habit With Me" and "I Only Have Eyes for You."

Julian Marsh (played by Patrick Ryan Sullivan) is "the greatest director on Broadway," but he really needs a hit. He is driven to this end, and Sullivan portrays him with over the top drama. Vocally, Sullivan delivers on his share of the title song as well as the well known "Lullaby of Broadway." Pretty Lady's juvenile lead is Billy Lawlor (Robert Spring), and he goes for Peggy right off. Unfortunately, Spring is not a strong enough actor or singer to shine in this production. Supporting roles are played well, with the highlight being the performance of Patti Mariano as Maggie Jones, Pretty Lady's playwright. Mariano is extremely funny and charming as well as a great singer - she is the standout in this tour cast.

This production seems to be a pale representation when there isn't a big dance production number going on. Something is missing in the overall tone - everyone is dancing, singing, and smiling for all they're worth, but the result is not the feel good musical 42nd Street should be. The lackluster painted backdrops are relied upon too often, making the overall set design a disappointment. Production numbers "We're in the Money" and "42nd Street" temporarily make up for for the thin production values, but aren't enough to carry the whole show.

42nd Street runs through October 13 at the Benedum Center. More information can be found at BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.

-- Ann Miner

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