Next Broadway series lines up 'Pippin,' 'Newsies,' 'Motown,' 'Mormon'
March 10, 2014 10:06 PM
Cast members of "Motown the Musical" perform "Dancing in the Street" at the Byham Theater.
CMU grad Corey Cott , star of "Newsies" on Broadway, sings "Sante Fe" from the show during the PNC Broadway Series announcement at the Byham Theater March 10.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Newcomers to Pittsburgh "Pippin," "Newsies" and "Motown the Musical" jump out from the crowd in the 2014-15 lineup for the PNC Broadway Across America series, while "The Book of Mormon" is set to say "Hello" again.
The musicals all remain on Broadway marquees as they send out touring companies, with the first three launching this fall.
Also new to the series are "Dirty Dancing" and this year's holiday-season show, "Irving Berlin's White Christmas." The 2014-15 season opens Oct. 28 with a new production of "Annie" (not the one that closed recently on Broadway) and includes a lavish "Phantom of the Opera," plus two season specials: the return of "The Book of Mormon" and "Disney's Beauty and the Beast."
Bringing "Mormon" back in September -- quicker than any previous touring show's return -- was a no-brainer. In March and April of last year, it broke the two-week box-office record for Pittsburgh's Broadway Series, in tickets sold and grosses, said Paul Organisak, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's vice president of programming.
"The demand remains incredible," he added.
"Newsies the Musical," a production based on a movie, has been drawing New York crowds since opening March 29, 2012. The Broadway show stars Carnegie Mellon alumnus Corey Cott, who with performers giving tastes of "Pippin," "Motown the Musical" and "Beauty and the Beast" took part in a music-filled introduction to the season at the Byham Theater Monday night.
Mr. Cott stepped off Broadway for one night to talk up the Harvey Fierstein-Alan Menken-Jack Feldman musical and belted "Santa Fe," the first-act finale from "Newsies." The musical is inspired by the true story of a labor dispute that pitted New York City newsboys against William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.
"It's a fabulous show and there was a lot of talk it might not tour. It's such a big production and it has a huge cast, so we got the word on this one pretty late," Mr. Organisak said of landing the Disney musical.
"Newsies" is directed on Broadway by Jeff Calhoun, who attended then-Richland High School.
The group performing Motown hits at the Byham last night included five Temptations, a Diana Ross and a Berry Gordy, the founder of the record label that ruled the 1960s.
Temptation-for-the-night Khris Davis was excited to learn that the 1998 TV movie about the group was filmed in Pittsburgh. "I watched that DVD until it burned up and I couldn't watch it anymore," he said.
Syndee Winters, who took the lead on "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," said, "There's something so magical about the Motown music and the journey that it takes you on. From the very beginning to the very end, the audience is with us the entire time."
Also represented last night was director Diane Paulus' Cirque-themed Broadway revival of "Pippin," Stephen Schwartz's musical about Charlemagne's wayward son that won four Tonys among its 10 nominations, including best musical revival and actress in a musical for CMU's Patina Miller. Stunts by a team of acrobats and a vocalist as Leading Player wowed an audience packed with Pittsburgh Cultural Trust patrons.
"What I love about Diane Paulus, even with '[The Gershwin's] Porgy and Bess,' she was able to strip it down and get to the essence it so often lacks," Mr. Organisak said. "Whether it's the characters or the story in 'Hair' or 'Pippin,' that's the magic of what she does. It felt so amazingly fresh."
"Irving Berlin's White Christmas" is reimagined from the movie that starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. The stage show played Broadway's holiday season in consecutive years, 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Mr. Organisak said he's been after the show for a holiday offering since it began touring.
The 2014-15 season concludes with "Dirty Dancing," the faithful stage version of the popular 1987 film that includes hits such as "I Had the Time of My Life."
The production has been touring the United Kingdom, where audiences have embraced the very American coming-of-age romance.
"Unlike some movies, this one lends itself to theater. If you loved the movie, you'll love the musical," Mr. Oganisak said.
While "Pippin" was winning best revival at last year's Tony Awards ceremony, "Kinky Boots" was winning best new musical. "Kinky Boots" launches it's tour in the fall, with "Rogers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" on its heels. Pittsburgh CLO is a co-producer of both "Kinky Boots" and "Cinderella," so those shows might be on their way soon, too.
For now, there's magic to do, as they say in "Pippin." Or as the Temptations might put it, "Get Ready 'Cause Here I Come."
PNC Broadway Across America -- Pittsburgh 2014-15 season
• Oct. 28-Nov. 2, 2014: "Annie" (Benedum Center).
• Nov. 18-23, 2014: "Irving Berlin's White Christmas the Musical" (Benedum).
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