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Publish date:11-06-2014 11:45:00

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Roving Pittsburgher Report: A Resounding Musical Pastiche of Not-To Be Forgotten Hollywood's Good Guys and Bad Guys by the PNC Pops

Review of _
Heroes and Villains at the Pittsburgh Symphony 
From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Hank Walshak

Heroes and Villains
A Resounding Musical Pastiche of Not-To Be Forgotten
Hollywood's Good Guys and Bad Guys by the PNC Pops
Hank Walshak

Even the most demanding film buff had to be pleased with Heroes and Villains, Conductor Lucas Richman's October 18 pastiche of film-music nostalgia. OK, to be more specific, the 18 pieces on the Heroes and Villains program carried me back to Hollywood's depictions of the good guys and the bad guys in films.

Lucas Richman via Pittsburgh Symphony blog
What was not to like? The opening piece, Rossini's Finale to the William Tell Overture, launched long-forgotten memories of that good guy, the Lone Ranger. The program's conclusion, The Imperial March by John Williams from Star Wars, recalled the frightening presence of that bad guy, Darth Vader, from Star Wars.

Musical master, Richman, lived up to his conducting  and recording reputation for film scores like the Academy Award nominated, The Village,As Good As it Gets, Face/Off,  Se7en, Breakdown, The Manchurian Candidate, and Kim Kittredge: An American Girl. In 2010, at the request of John Williams, Richman led the three-month tour of Star Wars in Concert.

To add to our pleasure, Richman introduced each piece and flavored his articulation with descriptions of the many artists he˜d worked with over the years.

The PNC Pops was in ultra-fine fiddle, if I may say so, playing a variety of musical memory rousers. These included not-to-be-forgotten masterpieces like the Parade of Champions from Ben Hur, the Love Theme from The Godfather, and music highlights from Rocky.   I remembered how Bernard Herrmann's slicing and chilling Narrative for String Orchestra from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.frightened me away from taking showers, but for a short time only.
Sheena Easton, vocalist

The highpoint of Heroes and Villains came in the presence and vocal mastery of Sheena Easton. I loved her rendition of Nobody Does It Better by Marvin Hammlisch from The Spy Who Loved Meand Bill Conti's For Your Eyes Only from the movie For Your Eyes Only.

A six-time Grammy nominee in the US, Easton is a two-time Grammy Award winner, winning Best New Artist in 1981 and Best Mexican-American Performance in 1985, for her duet with Luis Miguel on the song "Me Gustas Tal Como Eres". And let's not forget that she's sold more than 20-million albums and singles worldwide.

Heroes and Villains presented my first opportunity to listen to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Student Chorale, whose members include young men and women vocalists in grades 10 and 12 and college singers.

What a treat it was to hear their youthful voices interpret John Williams's pieces”Battle of the Heroes from Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Dry Your Tears, Africa, from Amistad. Under the Direction of Christine Hestwood, these young men and women touched my heart with their professional, vocal accompaniment.

One segment in particular of Heroes and Villains caught my attention--the Overture to Tarare" by none other than Antonio Salieri, contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Before this, I had never experienced Salieri's music on a symphony program. Herr Mozart, I thought, would have been amazed beyond measure had he witnessed this. Truly!

By:  Hank Walshak
Good News and Cultural Reporter
Hank Walshak, Founder and President of Walshak Communications, Inc., helps experts to be read, be heard, be seen, and be known. He assists experts in creating and delivering expertise-related content to differentiate themselves as experts.
He empowers experts to creatively articulate themselves and to stand out in the scarce space vis-Г -vis their competitors in the markets they serve. He is adept at helping executives and business owners communicate their ideas in ways that energize and stay with their audiences.


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Publish Date: 10-30-2014 16:04:00

"Sleeping Beauty" Ballet a Sleeping Giant

Review of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre 45th Season Opening Ballet

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

This past week-end the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater opened its 45th Season with a stunning performance of Sleeping Beauty, telling the
story of Princess Aurora and her enchanted slumber. My six year old granddaughter and I watched this classic fairy-tale come to life as more than 150 dancers in the world famous score was performed by The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra under the direction of guest conductor Martin West. In our humble view it rivaled the performances of much larger ballet companies.  With all the special effects and beautiful period costumes, my granddaughter said, "It's like a movie."

What an engaging ballet couple, Julia Erikson as Princess Aurora and Noralan Abougaliev as Prince Desire.
We especially enjoyed the fairy solos in the first act accompanied by the men of the corps de ballet. What strong and mesmerizing performances.  We often don't realize that ballet artists are real athletes.  This is particularly emphasized in the famous Rose Adagio, performed by Aurora and her four suitors, showcases the strength and control of the ballerina through a series of impressive balances and promenades.  Just the length of time Julia held he poses with grace and seemed to do it with such grace and ease was phenomenal to watch.
The orchestra, playing Tchaikovsky's historic score under the baton of guest conductor Martin West, this Sleeping Beauty truly could feed the soul of any arts enthusiast.  Ballet is so much more exciting with a live orchestra out front and center.   
photo by Rich Sofranko.
Artists: Amanda Cochrane & Yoshiaki Nakano. 
As a grandmother it is important to me that children who attend this ballet are introduced to many Tchaikovsky classics such as Garland Waltz used as the tune for Disney's Once Upon a Dream.

The Sleeping Beauty features scenic and costume designs by David Walker, who evokes a 17th century theme with the regal columns and gold finery of the palace that frames the story. Costume styles include the intricate classical tutus of the fairies, elaborate robes of the courtesans and the jeweled snakes and spiders of Carabosse's costume. I wondered at not being able to see some of the leg movements in the flowing robes but the overall effect was spellbinding.  Stage effects also enhance the atmosphere, especially with the entrance of Carabosse, whose carriage arrives onstage in a swirl of fog and thunder accompanied by her ghouls. I was particularly impressed with the sheer curtaining, barely discernible that was part of the scenery that set the mood with several acts.  We are so blessed in Pittsburgh with what his ballet theatre can produce in a relatively small city and with I am sure not the resources of bigger city corps.
Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's
'The Sleeping Beauty.' photo by 
Rich Sofranko

Anaiyah Thomas loving
the ballet
We missed the Act III cameos by Puss N Boots because a two and a half hour performance is a bit much for a six year old.  She hung in there as long as she could and then told me she was tired and wanted to go home and go to bed, not without regret.  But as we reached the wide expanse of the lobby and while waiting for our cab, she utilized the entire front lobby to imitate the ballerinas flying movements, even using her cocktail sweater as a prop, dancing from end to end of the empty lobby accompanied by the orchestra which we could hear in the lobby.  I think my granddaughter will be dancing around our houses for some time to come although I am sure not as freely as she did in the grand lobby of the Benedum as the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre played on for Act III of Sleeping Beauty.

 Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster, blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the Get Your Google On Gal. But better known as Techno Granny„c to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh's First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 


Publish Date: 10-30-2014 06:18:00

The Power of Prophecy
 Betrayal, Assassination, Guilt and Revenge

Directed by Alan Stanford
PICT Classic Theater
JoAnn R. Forrester, Review

Macbeth, one of Shakespeare's shortest and darkest plays was first
David Whalen as Macbeth
staged over five hundred years. It's insights into the human character and the thirst and consequence of greed and power still ring true.
The play Macbeth depicts the tale of a brave Scottish General, Macbeth and his wife Lady Macbeth, who become consumed by a prophecy of glory and power based on the prediction of witches heard shortly shortly after a major victory and promotion.  This prophesy grabs him, twists him and turns into a murderous and paranoid man who retains his power by eliminating all those he  perceives as a threat. 

Lady Macbeth passion for power is ignited when she reads the witches prophesy in a letter from her husband.   She sees herself as Queen of Scotland and what is a little murder or two to get what has been prophesized.  She is his eager partner in the royal murder and cover up.  Unexpectedly her conscience raises it head.  Lady Macbeth is gripped in remorse and guilt, and is driven to commit suicide to escape her pain. 

The witches
Macbeth, the Scottish Play is a play that is a great challenge to those who embark on it.  It is the one that actors desire and dread.  David Whelan, as Macbeth, is masterful and he passes the actors test.   Lady Macbeth, played by Gayle Pazerski is accomplished as Lady Macbeth who quickly is gripped by the witch's prophecy and moves to incite her husband to strike while it is the opportune time.  Remind me never to be the guest of anyone who has the name Macbeth.

Alan Stoppard is a great director and has that touch that brings the theater alive, whether it is drama, comedy or tragedy.  One of his unique touches was how the witches are portrayed.  They weave an eerie spell of magic with  sinuous movements and their multi layered costumes weave a spell of first they are there and then they are not.

 The Charity Randall Theater captured my imagination with its dark gray vaulted ceiling setting the scene as medieval Scottish castle.  The use of mist to portray the mysterious atmosphere worked well.  The costumes at first seemed drab to me and I wanted to see more color and splendor.  But it worked and forced me and I believe the actors to project their character.  The choreograph scenes of the battles and murders with mist, drums and lighting conveyed the dark murderous times.

I am fascinated by English, Scottish and Irish history.  I revel in reading about the time when the sword and the pike often settle the score and decided who will reign.   It is a bloody ruthless time that we in the US find difficult to understand.  After all, we believe in the peaceful transfer of power and fight our battles at the polls.  Of course, if we are honest, we would admit we now use character assassination to accomplish our drive and thirst for political power.  And unfortunately wars are still fought to gain and keep power today.  Regardless of the reasons we have wars today; it is still based on Shakespeare's reading of the human character. 

As one of my British friends would exclaim, Good show    I suggest you make the time to see PICT'S Macbeth.  It is first rate theatre.  We are so fortunate to have this first rate Theatre Company with us. Go, enjoy and be immersed in murder and intrigue at its finest. 

Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on
JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT„c cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.


Publish Date: 10-27-2014 16:59:00

A Triple Play with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
by Helene Vidovich and Martin Thomas

Pittsburgh Dance Council of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust started their 2014-15 season on October 11th featuring three commissioned works performed by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Aspen has a population near 7,000 -- it makes sense that they would combine efforts with Santa Fe to field a dance troupe. Both were mining towns in the Rockies and as distances go out West, not really very far from each other.
The first two sets were sparse. Black/white lighting, with the use of spotlights and
Courtesy of Company
shadowing, made things appear and disappear right before our eyes. This stage effect leads us into the depths of the dancers' creativity. The third set, awash with color, used bold lighting changes behind fabric to create the atmosphere. It is amazing what can be accomplished with good lights and a scrim, or two, or three. As the old Vaudeville adage goes, It packs flat and plays big. It does. .and did.
The Byham Theater is a beautiful place to watch a show, but from where we were sitting, the sound could use some adjustment. Again, the metallic and electronic sounds were so loud we needed earplugs. When the violins started, they were much softer and difficult to distinguish over the sound effects. In the first piece, Square None by
choreographer Norbert De La Cruz III, the music ranged from industrial sound effects that were thundering loud on the bass, to cellist and strings, and Handel Oratorio. The synthesized music on the second piece, Beautiful Mistake by choreographer Cayetano Soto, reminded Martin of Josquin des Prez. The third one Heart(s) pace by choreographer Ezio Bosso, was a minimalistic piece for strings that had more dissonance then the second -- quite the type of music you would associate with modern dance.
Courtesy Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Three separate choreographers provided a what will they do next anticipation between sets.  The dancers were five women and six disparate men who worked together to become a unit while creating drama and tension. Costuming showed their physiques and accentuated their movements. They exhibited the strength of gymnastics and the grace of ballet intermingled with modern dance movements. The stories they revealed seemed intricate and complex. This provoked a lively discussion all the way to New Kensington on our ride back from "dahntahn" Pittsburgh.

Martin Thomas, Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Videographer
Helene Vidovich, Freelance Cultural Reporter, Graphic Designer, Videographer


Publish Date: 10-25-2014 16:13:00

40 Years of Theater; PPT's 2014 season opens with an American classic:  The Glass Menagerie.

Review by Megan Grabowski

Fall has officially arrived in Pittsburgh.  This means, the Pittsburgh Public Theater (PPT) is opening their doors for another season.   On October 9, 2014 I stepped inside the wide windowed atrium of the O' Reilly Theater on Penn Avenue anticipating an evening of escapism at its' finest.   This performance of the Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie will surely clutch the strings of the collective hearts of Pittsburghers- expressly those who have supported the success of the PPT since its inception 40 years ago.  Yes, that's right; this is the 40thanniversary of the PPT.   What better way to commemorate the achievements of the theater than by producing, Menagerie, mirroring the theater's first season.  

The evening began when  Producing Artistic Director, Ted Pappas, bestowed upon the eager audience an honorable introduction, which included a gracious recognition of PNC and their long withstanding commitment, not only to the achievements of PPT  but to the arts as a whole in our region. Then the lights dim-
The show begins with an overview of the period by Tom Wingfield, played by Fisher Neal. Neal, a
Fisher Neal as Tom and Lynne Wintersteller as Amanda.
seasoned actor is making his Pittsburgh debut in Menagerie.  Williams writing is a vessel for Neal's eloquence. His voice grants the audience a glimpse into the lives of his family in 1937.  As narrator, Neal reminds us, with the reflective and introverted tone, utilizing the intellect of a poet, that this story is not real; it is a memory and intended to be interpreted as such.  The show proceeds with the remaining characters, Cathyrn Wake, as Laura Wingfield, Lynne Wintersteller staring as Amanda Wingfield and Jordan Whalen cast as Jim O'Connor. Each actor shares with the audience a moment in time, a snap chat of memory and most unfortunate, the immense cruelty and weight of disenchantment that can accompany said remembrances. 

Cathryn Wake as Laura and Jordan Whalen as Jim.
The plot, centers on Laura, a painfully shy and childish young woman.   She suffers from a defect causing her to walk with a pronounced limp. Tom, Laura's brother, is obliged to play the role of family man since their father left 16 years prior.  Amanda, Tom and Laura's mother, is a loquacious Southern woman who possesses a parenting style which is nearly suffocating both them both.  Amanda cannot accept her children for who they are. Tom, a poet at heart, works a dead end job in a warehouse, forced to, ˜rise and shine' day after day, in order to earn a meager wage.  Laura suffers from disillusionment and appears perfectly content to live without ambition.  She spends her time tinkering with a collection of glass figurines, her menagerie, a tactic used to elude her future and any associations with the outside world.  With no plans and no prospects for life on her own, Laura is at the mercy of her mother.  Amanda is becoming increasingly desperate to secure some manner of care for her fragile daughter.  She schemes, and then introduces Tom to a plan to find Laura a gentleman caller.  Tom invites an acquaintance from the warehouse to dinner.  Amanda, irrationally optimistic, believes this gentleman caller, the dinner guest, is Laura's opportunity to secure a husband. Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller, accepts Tom's dinner invitation; totally unaware of any ulterior motives.

Fisher Neal as Tom
Wintersteller's performance as the high strung and excitable Amanda was unquestionably authentic. Amanda's incessant criticisms of her children followed by over simplified solutions to their shortcomings in rapid and continuous chitchat was as natural as any neighbor. The rate of her dialogue is sometimes disorienting yet entrancing, as lifelike a character to ever stroll a stage.   Neal presents Tom as astute and withdrawn. His character personifies the struggling artist; a visionary who must break free from the familiar order in to enable the growth of his creativity. Neal naturally captures his place amidst the family dynamics through his portrayal of Tom. The arguments that swell between Tom and Amanda provoke a sense that is unique to familial conflict. His cool mannered narration preserves Laura's memory and a minute of the past, for all to take in. 

Wake portrays the meek and innocent Laura.  She is quiet and reserved, and very aware of the future unfolding before her.  Nearly a hermit, she has no goals and no self-esteem.  When Amanda announces Laura is to open the door upon Jim's arrival she is nearly paralyzed. The anguish in her voice as she pleads with her mother not make her open the door is gut wrenching.  Then dinner is served.  Laura is summoned to the table; she collapses in a heap onto the floor.  This moment, Wake's finest scene in the play, produced gasps and compassionate sighs from the audience.   It was during this scene I felt the burden of humanness.  Wake's depiction of Laura awakened the memory referred to in the opening narration- Laura's display of anxiety rings true; it is something primal. Who hasn't, at one time, frozen with fear?  She is petrified; stifled by her own self judgment and inadequacies.    Wake's small stature helps give rise to the young Laura.  Her shakiness, limp and near inaudible single word responses to Jim's inquisition further enhances the model of a weakly young woman. Whatever ails sweet Laura, Wake invokes.

Whalen, cast as Jim O'Connor, the handsome has-bin with natural magnetism, incites Laura.  As a man of many talents, O'Connor excels in reading people's dispositions.  It is this particular skill that he uses to begin coaxing Laura out of her shell.   His voice and gestures communicate a man on a mission; he's going places.  Not just in the role of Jim O'Connor the warehouse worker by day, public speaking student at night; destined for something bigger and better than the warehouse, but as a renowned actor sure to make many more appearances on stage across the country.

PPT's 3rdrendition of The Glass Menagerie reminds us, Time is the longest distance between two places . Pittsburgh in the 1970's, and St. Louis, Missouri in the 1930's couldn't be more different, yet, the expertly attuned direction from Pamela Berlin captures the memory of the Wingfield's troubles through moving dialogue and staging.  The actors make it easy for the audience to suspend their own feelings of disbelief and become swept up into the unfolding drama. But it is Williams's words which give us an honest glance into the enduring complexities of humanity.
  The Glass Menagerie is a classic 20thcentury American drama and can be seen from now through November 2, 2014. Purchase tickets here:

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 09-11-2014 16:01:00

Hopes and Dreams
Review of REP's Of Mice and Men Sept. 5th 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Sept. 08, 2014

It is no secret that we live in a ridiculously fast paced world these days.  And for opening night, September 5th, 2014 of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, there was a pause.  It was a beautiful pause and a challenging one.  Point Park University's The Rep Professional Theater Company has set the bar for the 2014-2015 season for ALL artistic performances in the Pittsburgh area.  And they set it high.

I smiled with sincere pleasure in my heart, chuckled in humor, stirred in quiet disappointment, felt heartbreak, and was moved by a very deep yearning of hope.  One might think that could be sensory overload, but I think that was the genius of Steinbeck and the amazing artistry of this cast.

Set during the Depression in the rolling golden hills of California, we join roaming farmhands George (Jarrod DiGiorgi) and Lennie (Leandro Cano) leisurely camping under the stars on the eve of starting work at a new ranch.  They are an unlikely pair for the times; Lennie Small, a massively sized and strong man with but a wee child's intellect, and George Milton, a practical and witty man who tries to look after Lennie as they work hard to pursue the great American Dream.  As they report to the nearby ranch, the simple story of two men just lookin' for an honest day's work, quickly becomes complicated.

Carlson, Candy, Whit, George and
Copper the Bloodhound
Photo Courtesy: The REP
George and Lennie's brotherly bond and hope for the future of owning their own land someday becomes one of great intrigue, inspiration, and suspect to practically everyone on the ranch.  The ranch superintendant Slim (David Whalen) is accustom to, but still struggles with the lonely nature of the job, and notes the men's loyalty to each other.  Candy (John McManus) grapples with his increasing age and fate to greater degree when a fellow ranch hand shoots his aging hound dog to put it out of its misery.  Crooks (Tommy Lafitte), who lives in the barn where manure is stored because he is black, has such lack of hope for his own future that he thinks of Lennie as being even more stupid than he'd first thought, because of Lennie's wild story that he and George will someday own their own land and live from its plentiful bounty.  The Boss's son Curley (Luke Halferty, a PPU senior) is always looking for a fight, trying to prove his dominance, and looking for his wandering new bride (Erin Lindsey Krom).  And while Culey's Wife says she just wants someone to talk to because she's lonely, all the ranch hands know that she is not only pretty, but a pretty good way to loose their job if seen talking or anything else with her.

The struggles of Lennie's fellow ranch hands are far beyond his understanding.  He, for the most part, is a gentle giant with a simple understanding of life and his surroundings.  What Lennie knows is that he loves to pet soft things like a dead mouse in his pocket, his new puppy, soft fabric, and someday big soft furry rabbits that he'll feed alfalfa, that is reaped from their own land, at their own place complete with a windmill.  He and George's dream will come true if he puts his overwhelming strength to good use and doesn't get in any trouble.  But even, he had a sense that things aren't going to end well when he said, Its mean here.

Now before I get too carried away sounding like a stuffy literary elitist with some profound academic understanding about Steinbeck's work or specifically about his 1937 novel Of Mice and Men, I have a confession.  To the astonishment of a gentleman I spoke with at intermission, I have never read the book.  It felt embarrassing to admit.  In high school the book was required reading for the English honors students, which I was not.  So as we were walking back to our truck, I asked my analytical chemistry professor boyfriend if the point of the work was to challenge the reader/audience member to think about all the very serious social issues the story raises.  During my little literature lesson he responded, Well,  Steinbeck just traveled and wrote what he observed, but because it does depict so many issues, that is why it's so frequently used in the classroom.  BUT because it so vividly depicts them that is why some people want it banned from schools completely.  Now I have some thoughts on that.

Of Mice and Men shows how far we've thankfully come as a society in many ways, but it takes work to maintain progress and there is work still yet to be done.  The will to do that work is displayed best, but not solely by George, in the form of empathy and then a willingness to dutifully respond with action.   Empathy is what has given our society the inspiration to rise above the wrongness of slavery, segregation, and using the terms like nigger and retard.  So if you don't think that teaching empathy in a historically accurate context is a good idea, that's just sad.  We're not talking about 17th century history either.  This is our country's recent past, 50-80 years, as in there are still people around who lived it, and to some degree still do.  Gender inequality, racism, economic disparity, euthanasia, treatment of the aging or disabled, and mental healthcare are all contemporary global and local social issues.

Lennie (Leandro Cano) and George (Jarrod DiGiorgi)
Photo Courtesy: The REP
I'm going to veer back on to course here¦ I got off course because the story is good, as tragic as it is, and the fact that it was performed beautifully.  The set was simple and perfectly so.  Every single cast member WAS their character - living the story.  The superb acting of especially Leandro Cano and Jarrod DiGiorgi gave this stage performance the robustness of a movie amidst the seaming simplicity.  They brought to life their characters and the bond between Lennie and George to show the simple and beautiful notion that hopes and dreams are worth smiling for, even amidst the turmoil of social injustices.  I have not been to a more deserving performance of multiple standing ovations yet in Pittsburgh.

Additional Performances:
Friday, September 5 - Sunday, September 21, 2014  |  Pittsburgh Playhouse - Rauh Theatre

For more information and tickets, please visit

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 08-18-2014 04:54:00

Yanni Brings Agape, "Love" to Benedum 

YANNI: WORLD TOUR 2014August 16, 2014 | 8 p.m. | Benedum Center

Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

Yanni GRACED the Benedum Stage last night with his mesmerizing smile and consummate rapport with the audience who were raucous and appreciative and never faltered in their unity with the performance. The audience was captivated as Yanni took the stage and seemed to say, "Excuse me while I make love to my piano and you can watch and listen as I am accompanied by my 'United Nations' of musicians."

For those few who do not know who Yanni is.  He is a Greek pianist, keyboardist, composer and music producer who has spent most of his adult life in the United States while managing to still travel the world and appear in such historic places as the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, China's Forbidden City, Russia's Kremlin, Puerto Ricco's El Morro Castle and last night, the world famous Benedum in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Yanni photo by Krystal Ann
Yanni continues to use the musical shorthand that he developed as a child blending jazz, classical, soft rock, and world music to create predominantly instrumental works. As this genre of music was not well suited for commercial pop radio and music television, Yanni achieved international recognition by producing concerts at historic monuments and by producing videos that were broadcast on public television.  That was my first experience with Yanni on PBS, "Yanni, Live at the Acropolis," which by the way yielded the second best-selling music video of all time.

I must tell you it is nothing like sitting in an orchestra seat in a theatre as intimate as the Benedum which, Yanni mentioned how cool it was to be so close to the audience and he took full advantage in engaging and interacting with the audience throughout the evening.  At least fourteen of Yanni's albums have peaked at No. 1 in Billboard's "Top New Age Album" category and two albums (Dare to Dream andIn My Time) received Grammy Award nominations.

Yanni photo by Krystal Ann
Yanni's musicians represent 11 different nationalities including England, Germany, Venezuela, Cuba, Paraguay, China, Canada, USA, Russia, Armenia and Greece.  The talents from each member surpass anything you can imagine prior to attending a performance, and they are all brought to you on one stage under the guidance of a true modern day orchestrator.  The first thing you notice about this orchestra is how much fun they are having and the smiles on their faces. 

The music is at once uplifting, calming, romantic and often intensely sensual and erotic. My nephew had not even heard of Yanni when I asked him to attend at the last minute but became an instant fan coming away from the concert slightly hoarse from cheering.

My nephew Josh (an engineering student form WVU) and I immediately zeroed in on Victor Espinola, the harpist from Asuncion Paraguay.   We were amazed at the octaves that his Paraguayan harp was able to reach with its 36 strings and also excited to discover with research that the harp is Paraguay's national instrument.  His World Electronic Acoustic Music brings a blend of flamenco and gypsy style to the music of the Yanni orchestra.

Yanni, photo by Whit Padgett.
About half way through the concert Yanni features Alexander Zhiroff from Russia on the cello.  We decided that we never knew that the cello could issue such sounds and be such "fun."  The solo was an experience in pure, light-hearted amusement.

From amusement to the international language of music,  Samvel Yervinyan, Violinist from Yerevan, Armenia clearly knew how to make his instrument speak and have it understood in any language. He shows all the signs of beginning his studies at the age of 7 and graduating from Tchaikovsky's Music Conservatory, perhaps inheriting Tchaikovsky's penchant for gypsy melody.

From the bigness reminiscent of Tchaikovsky to the sounds of the the violin played by the diminutive Mary Simpson, Violin, Virginia, USA who brings a touch of bluegrass to Yanni's orchestra.  From row E we could see her constant smile and hear her making her violin smile also.  Her hi-lighted performances were both energetic and musically endearing.

Other Hi-lights of the concert:

Yanni describes this song as something he wrote about the learning that took place rather than initial reactions like frustration and anger.

Charlie Adams brought down the house with his drum solo.  We weren't timing it but it seemed at least ten minutes long without a hint of boring the audience.  Charlie with his Steeler t-shirt and "Pittsburgh Coffee" used his high energy stage performance and stamina in what was probably the best drum solo the audience had ever heard.

Yanni, photo by Whit Padgett.

Played with the orchestra bathed in red light, you could feel the agape love that Yanni speaks of in his introduction about his mother knowing about "healing" love.  The music wraps around you like a mother's arms and encourages the audience to at once feel loved and excited to be alive.

This rendition is so LARGE that it makes you feel as though something epic is about to happen not only from the stage but in your life and at times let you languish in the victory. This piece puts you in the mind of running through open fields, ascending the mountain and then triumphantly observing the beauty of the view.

Yanni didn't tell the story but the world knows he was inspired to help protect giant pandas after he adopted a two-month old panda cub at the Chinese Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in October 2011. Yanni was the first western artist to be given the honor of symbolically adopting one of Chengdu's pandas (a privilege reserved almost exclusively for nations, rather than personalities). He named the panda Santorini after one of the most beautiful islands in his native Greece.

Lauren Jelencovich joins Yanni for 'Nightingale' with its oriental theme with her effortless soprano very realistically portraying the song of the Nightingale which Yanni says has the sweetest song of any bird in the world.

The concert was just too full of too much to talk about and after this review is published I will remember more dynamic moments.  I should not neglect to mention outstanding solos by Jason Carder; Trumpet from Arizona and moments of grandeur fromYoel Del Sol; Percussion, Cuba and the duets of Yanni with keyboard player,  Ming Freeman, Taiwan; and also some very unique runs and scales from Gabriel Vivas, Bass from Caracas Venezuela.

There is just not one musician in the group who is not a consummate professional and cannot or has not shown brightly on their own on the international music scene.  I attended the concert under physical duress coming straight from my new daughter-in-law's bridal shower which I had been preparing for three days.  I had told my nephew to nudge me if I fell asleep.  Fat chance!  I arrived exhausted and spent and from the time the orchestra hit the stage began to revitalize.  I left like all of the rest of the audience with a feeling of absolute joy and elation at hearing "art" personified in music with passion, verve, compassion and style.

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster, blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the Get Your Google On Gal. But better known as Techno Granny„c to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh's First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 


Publish Date: 08-05-2014 19:20:00

Family Night at the Symphony is a Home Run
Review of Triple Play the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Aug. 2nd 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Aug. 02, 2014

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra closed their 2014 summer season on Saturday, August 2nd, with a concert entitled Triple Play.  For a baseball loving family, we thought the concert was a home run.  With my partner's children visiting for the summer, this was a great concert to take the whole family to.  It featured opera and operetta overtures in the first third, a stunningly played piano concerto in the second, and for the final third movie music from some of our favorite action blockbusters.  Now I normally report mostly on the music and just a little on the experience, but for this review I will share how fun it can be to take the whole family to the symphony.

We have only been here for a year, so this was the first opportunity to bring the kids to Heinz Hall and it was so fun to see their reaction walking into the beautiful hall.  They were in aw just as we were the first time.  But the most quote of the evening came as we were getting seated.  We had two sets of seats: two media seats fifth row/stage left, and four towards the back/center section/isle seats - still main floor mind you.  First, we got Dad (Mike VanStipdonk), Martin (15), Josie (13), and Quinn (10) seated and then Nina (7) and I proceeded to find our seats.  After we at least located them I asked Nina if she wanted to go back and hang out with the rest of the family until the concert started.  She replied, No I don't think I want to go way back there.  These seats are WAY better.  And with that we now have a seven year old, prime seating connoisseur.  Instead we practiced reading the concert notes, which proved to be very good concert preparation even for her.

Christian Capocaccia
(photo courtesy: PSO)
With a countdown of the side stage doors closing one by one, we were tuning up for our first family PSO experience.  As a result of her pre-concert reading, Nina was able to point out the evil dwarf played by the basses in Glinka's Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla.  Next was one of my favorites of the evening, Franz Von Suppe's Overture to The Beautiful Galatea.  Nina thought she might have been familiar with the third piece, Intermezzo and Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann.  But at its conclusion, said Maybe I know one of his other songs, because I did not know that one after all.  To close out the first section of the concert, the PSO played Rossini's Overture to William Tell.  Guest conductor Christian Capocaccia playfully reminded us that we should also recognize it from many cartoons, like Looney Tunes.  During this piece Nina nudged me and perceptively pointed to the words thunderstorm, countryside, and triumphant return during each of the respective sections.  During the first intermission we met up with the rest of the troops for a leg stretch and work out the wiggles walk.  Quinn noted that he heard lots of cymbals during the Bugs Bunny song.

Xiayin Wang
(photo courtesy: PSO)
Next on deck was Ravel's Concerto in G major for Piano and Orchestra.  As we readied for the second part of the concert and enjoyed a rootbeer barrel, Nina noted how beautiful the pianist Xiayin Wang is and that she studied from another person named Nina (Svetlanova).  Miss Wang played exquisitely.  The program notes used the perfect words to describe each of the movements, the first sparkling, the second graceful, and the third whirling.  Wang's care in how she played each note was stellar and her interaction and balance with the PSO was perfect.  As we got up for the 7th inning stretch (yes, exactly after seven movements) Nina again pointed out how primo our seats were and that we could actually see Miss Wang playing each note even in high heals and a pretty purple dress with sparkly gems.

Reluctantly Nina, shared her great seats with Martin and Josie for the last section of the concert.  Leading off was a Medley from Pirates of the Caribbean by Hans Badelt and then Hans Zimmer's Music from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.  And finally, as maestro Capocaccia pointed out, no movie music section is complete without John Williams.  The concert concluded with Suite from Star Wars including The Imperial March, Princess Leia's Theme, and the Main Title.  Watching the older kids from afar made Mike and me smile to see how engaged they were enjoying the music.

As we were exiting the concert hall we got many compliments on how well behaved everyone was and that we brought them at all.  As a note to other parents who might be thinking this all happened in the twilight zone of perfection¦ the evening was not without little reminders to not have our feet in the chairs or that you can read the program but not whip it around like a fan.  We took potty breaks, exploration walks, and had a piece of hard candy before the show and at each intermission.

There was something for everyone in the family at our night at the symphony.  Other than the music being very pretty and the PSO being really good, the kids noted the hall is beautiful, the 12 chandelers are very sparkely, the main stair case is really old and cool, and the small round red couch in the ladies lounge is so fun.

On the ride home, we went around the car and all shared our favorite pieces from the concert.  Here are the final stats:
Nina (7) Overture to William Tell AND Star Wars: The Imperial March
Quinn (10) Star Wars
Josie (13) Medley from Pirates of the Caribbean
Martin (15)  Music from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
Dad Ravel Piano Concerto and Star Wars: The Imperial March
Miss Stephanie Overture to The Barcarolle and Ravel Piano Concerto

So if you are on the fence about taking your children or grand children to the symphony, our advice is to take them.  It is an experience they will always remember, and you will too.  The PSO has two great series that are extra family friendly PNC POPS! And Fiddlesticks Family Concerts presented by Macy's.  As for our experience, we all thought our evening at Heinz Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was an out of the park home run.

Fiddlesticks Family Concerts presented by Macy's Recommended for children ages 3 to 8
Introduce your children to music at these special Saturday morning concerts with your world-class Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!  During the pre-concert DISCOVERY TIME ADVENTURES, children will have the opportunity to sing, dance, create a take-home craft, meet musicians and listen to stories all unique to each concert.

PNC POPS! Rated E: For Everyone
Welcome to a season of big pictures, accompanied by big sounds. Popular movies, beloved Broadway musicals, animated Disney adventures, successful television shows and award-winning jazz artists take front and center stage in the 2014-2015 season of PNC POPS! It's entertainment for the ages. For all ages.

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 07-24-2014 14:25:00

CATS, Benedum Theater
JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz. 

Elizabeth Stanley as Grizabella
Millions of people have seen Cats since 1981 and have just purred over the Jellicle cats and their salute to immortality.  The performance of this weekend at the Benedum Theatre was purrfect.  The audience was immediately in love with the performance from the very talented Broadway quality cast.  They were singing joyfully and dancing exuberantly.  In a nonstop musical acrobatic, twisting, somersaulting, cartwheeling performance that put permanent paw prints of joy into everyone hearts. 

We all know the  favorites Mr. Mistofeles' and 'Memories'., but
Jenna Nicole Schoen as Demeter, Lily Emilia Smith
as Jellylorum and Ashley Chasteen as Bombalurina
wait what about Old Deuteronomy,  Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, once a real looker and now a faded raggedy cat¦and MaCavity the bad boy cat.  All amazing performances and a musical wonder to see

Andrew Lloyd Weber musical masterpiece will go on forever just based on the music, memorable songs and outstanding  choreography, with the wonderful them of  presenting  the captivating story of the Jellicle cats
My view of the play was fantastic.  We were seated in the Directors Circle, second floor.  Where we could look down at the
Will Porter as Mungojerrie and
Mara Newbery as Rumpleteazer
performance and just soak up the energy that flew up from the stage. Amidst that incredible view I found myself developing a different perspective.  In the midst of all the joy and exuberance I was reflexing on the tales of the cats and their possible human counterparts.  There are people I know who, I could swear their lives were being portrayed right on stage¦for better or worse. 
Ken Prymus as Old Deuteronomy

Hmmm¦.I wonder if anyone asked the shows originators who were the models for your cats?   

Anyways, as always excellent quality from the Pittsburgh CLO and Kudos to all those who work so hard to bring the best of the musical theater to our part of the world.  We are so fortunate to have you.

And as a human being who is owned by Ginger the Cat¦I am instructed to tell you the rating is a four meow rating¦the highest praise a cat will give.

Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on
JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT„c cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.
For more information visit Empress of Biz on


Publish Date: 06-26-2014 04:00:00

Lose Your Blues at Footloose.

Pittsburgh CLO's Footloose.

June 24, 2014

By Megan Grabowski

Pittsburgh's debut of Footloose brings to stage  idyllic, youthful and perpetually  poignant  teenage strife with a musical score that is toe tapping and finger snapping.  So long as there
Stephen Wilde, Christine Laitta, Patrick Cassidy,
 Betsy Lawrence and Jeffrey Howell
are teenagers, there will be rebellion, a question of  authority and a free- spiritedness that teeters between innocence and blind stupidity for years at a time.  This message plays without a hiccup on the stage of the Benedum Center from June 24 through June 29, 2014.

Kristen Martin as Ariel, Dee Hoty as Vi Moore
 and Patrick Cassidy as Rev. Moore
The story begins when an average teen, Ren McCormack, moves from the big city of Chicago, to the small country town of Bomont.  His mother chooses to relocate after her husband, Ren's father, abandons them.  Once in Bomont Ren meets Rev. Shaw and quickly learns about a town law banning dancing.  The no dancing ordinance was passed, 5 years prior, after a horrif accident took the lives of 4  Bomont teens who had been out dancing and drinking.  In the beginning Ren struggles to make new friends but soon gains support from his peers  as he attempts to convince the town council and Rev. Shaw that a ban on dancing is not helping anyone, but rather trapping them in the pain of the past.  

Barry Ivan,  director/ choreographer,  is no stranger to the
Manuel Stark as Ren
Benedum Center and CLO. He is attentive to  what Pittsburghers expect and he undrestands what we have grown to demand from CLO productions.  Musical director, Tom Helm, ensures the audience never misses a beat of beloved 80's  top 40 hits;  Let's Hear it for the Boy, Almost Paradise and of course, the title song, Footloose .  The talented and accomplished orchestra duplicate these well known  hits, originally made popular by the 1984 film Footloose, with the same spunk and charm I recall from the radio play of my youth. Together, Ivan and Helm execute another enjoyable night of musical theater in Pittsburgh.

Manuel Stark as Ren and Kristen Martin as Ariel
From the opening number, I quickly caught on to the obvious cast chemistry, which works wonders  with the tightly synced choreography.   The amount of energy emmeniating from the stage throughout this rendition of Footloose is invigorating.  Lead,  Manuel Stark as Ren McCormack, is a showcase of all around talent from the moment he graces the stage.  In scence 2 when the audience is introduced to the troubled young Ren, his mannerisms, depicting an angst filled teen, are spot on, proving he is an exceptional actor and can offer the audience more than just a good voice- he is the whole package.  This is again evident  in scene 4 as  Stark accomplishs numerous dance combinations while simultaneously displaying an superb vocal range.  Opposite Stark, female lead Kristen Martin as Ariel, the teenage daughter of Rev. Shaw,  continually portrays a relatable and resonant adolescent.  Despite my initial disappointment in her vocal performance during scene 3, The Girl Gets Around , Martin quickly reverses  my impression.  In scence 6, Learning to Be Silent , Martin's performance highlights  the dynamic role she is challenged to play.  I give her much credit for  animating an adolescent  with authentic vigor and impertinence . In Act II scene 4, Ren and Ariel's delivery of Almost Paradise is full of the enchantment I love about musical  theater.  Their presentation  further confirms my initial sense of cast chemistry.

Rusty, played by supporting actor Jessie Hooker, belts out song after song with effortless breaths.  Her strong stage presence and infectious smile light up the stage.   Hooker's  melodious voice and skillful  harmonizing are carried out with ease, most notably  in scene 5, Somebody's Eyes . Hear it for the Boy , another of Hooker's shining moments, is the most memorable musical number from the show.    
A rock solid ensemble is a necessary foundation for any musical.  Footloose's ensemble  is uplifing, talented and vivacious.  Even
Jessie Hooker as Rusty and Billy Hartung as Cowboy Bob
during  the more serious scenes  they keep the audience cheerful and sincerely entertained. 

From the opening scence in a  Chicago night club to the final Footloose number in the high school gymnasium, Footlooseretains its momentum.  The dancing is  fun to watch and  the music encourages the audiene to bounce their knees in their seats.

The show opens with high energy dancing and singing and ends on
Kristen Martin as Ariel and Manuel Stark as Ren
the same note.  A fun performance from start to finish.  Footloose mingles song and dance with a story encompassing the multi- generational  struggles of adult vs. juvenile with a lighhearted mood and just a hint of nostalgia. 
Through June 29, 2014
For  information, on ticket purchase and show times  please visit HERE.
Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 06-11-2014 21:31:00

Waiting for Godot

Samuel Beckett's Sardonic Lament on the 20th Century

PICT Classic Theatre..JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz.

Good theater, a play well acted, leaves an impression with the audience for a couple of hours, or maybe  a day or two.   A great play well acted,  stays on one's mind for days and often leaves haunting lingering questions.   Such as it is with the PICT and their presentation of Waiting for Godot .
James FitzGerald, Martin Giles

 Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot, is  purposefully designed to tease, taunt and torment an audience with its dark humor and confusing plot laced with  sardonic laments of its main characters, Estragon and Vladimir.  Two friends, caught  in their own world of forgetfulness and sometimes shared memories.  They wait...they complain, they wait...they're hungry,they wait...they're bored...they wait.   They wait cemented together in their refusal to break free of the interminable waiting. 
Then aha...a break comes-Pozzo, ( Alan Stanford) the pompous rich man carrying a whip and loaded with the burden of his self importance and Lucky (Ken Bolden),the human mule,dying inch by inch from the lack of expectation.  The interplay between the two created a strong reaction in me.  I wanted to stand up and yell, Stop being his human mule, his jackass,  kick him, bite him, leave him wallowing in his own self indulgence.   Great acting gentlemen. 

Martin Giles, Ken Bolden, James FitzGerald, Alan Stanford
 Our two main characters, Estragon (Martin Giles) and Vladimir (James FitzGerald) play exceptionally well off one another.  They reminded me of a despairing and doomed version of Laurel and Hardy, forever caught in a confusing  no-mans land.  Two friends bonded together for 30 years.  They are at the end of their road, depleted, weak, fading memories and poverty stricken and yet they cling to one another without remembering the rhyme or reason of the bond.   Each act at the end has a slender shred of hope dangled by the young boy (Elliott Pullen)  who appears delivering the message that Godot cannot appear today--but please wait for tomorrow.

Often during the play I found myself wanting to stand up and shout, Hey, wait a minute...what the do you mean by this? What
Martin Giles, James Fitzgerald
do you think audience?  Let's discuss this."  After the play, my friend and I had a lengthy conversation  on the meaning of the play.  We both had different spins on the play and what we thought Samuel Beckett was trying to create.  Was it to whine in despair? Or to explain the last 20 years of war and insanity? Or was it to wail a lament on dire conditions of mid 20th century mankind,  or was it  to challenge , to prod to make us move and examine out lives of quiet desperation?
Kudo's to the PICT, its director, Aoife Spillan-Hinks, and the fine crew for presenting this thought provoking performance of Samuel Beckett's play.  The only thing I wish would have been different, that I  could have stood up and yelled hey and started asking questions of everyone and how the play spoke to them. Aha...maybe next time!

PS¦I just loved that Alan Standford, had to keep his promise of shaving off his famous trademark beard if so much money was raised.  Thank you for your sacrifice and fine leadership of Pittsburgh finest Classical Theater.

Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on
JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT„c cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.
For more information visit Empress of Biz on


Publish Date: 06-10-2014 17:52:00

And the Award for Best Dramatic Backstage Performance Goes To¦
Review of Noises Off, Pittsburgh Public Theater's June 5th 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  June 07, 2014

Upstairs: Garret Long
Downstairs (l to r): Noah Plomgren, Laura Woyasz,
Helena Ruoti, Preston Dyar, Karen Baum
Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Public Theater
For anyone who has ever performed on stage, probably the most memorable moments did not occur on stage, but instead at rehearsals and back stage - where there is typically WAY more drama.  The Pittsburgh Public Theater is wrapping up their 39th season with Michael Frayn's comical farce Noises Off, directed by Don Stephenson.  The O'Reilly Theater was roaring with belly-aching laughter at the opening show on June 5, 2014.

Now most businesses have at least one person that is a pro at stirring up workplace drama.  You know the pretty person who somehow skates by on looks and not much more, the annoying over-analyzer, the dinosaur who is way past their prime and barely contributes, or an egotistical, arrogant, condescending boss?  Well in the world of the arts, specifically theatre, those are ALL practically cast staples only amplified a lot.  Noises Off is a hilarious play full of misinterpretations, innuendo, and big personalities that is a window into the world of live stage acting.  Ok, so it may be slightly over exaggerated, that's what a farce is¦ but really, only slightly.

Foreground: Helena Ruoti and Noah Plomgren
Background: Karen Baum
Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Public Theater
Noises Off is a show in a show.  No, Nothing On is a show in a show with a cast of actors who play actors in Noises¦  No, that's not right either, did the chicken or the egg?  Ok, Noises Off is a funny show in another funny show, in which the cast portrays a cast of actors with big personalities.  Explaining this is like those little Russian doll things, Matryoshkas or Babushkas.

Wait no I've got this¦ in the hilarious show Noises Off a cast of fabulous professional actors (undoubtedly with big personalities) play a troupe of mediocre British actors with stereotypical theater personalities, in Nothing On, a sexy comedic play about characters who, with the tiresome and haphazard orchestration of a sassy house keeper, unknowingly end up in situations that could be misinterpreted and then intertwine the cast into a swirl of humorous and compromising situations.  Whew!  We see the cast of Nothing On attempt a dress rehearsal, then see the same show a month into the tour, from backstage and after the cast has become shall we say more familiar with each other, and then finally again two months out on tour when the drama from backstage really spills over to the front and the wheels come off.  But the show must go on!

Laura Woyasz
Photo Courtesy: Pittsburgh Public Theater
Just to be clear the wheels didn't come off Noises Off.  It was amazing and so much fun.  The intricate choreography of Noises Off to create the impression of not-quite-perfected or mistake-and-accident-prone staging of Nothing On was outstanding.  Characters going into closets then reappearing through the wrong door, plates of sardines remaining in the kitchen when they are supposed to be brought out by one person for a different character to play off of in the next scene in a different room, missed lines, preempted entrances, props breaking on stage, were all carefully choreographed to purposefully seem like the hokey mishaps of an Ed Wood movie or Night of the Living Dead.  If Nothing On was a movie, the guys from Mystery Science Theater would have a field day.

Led by the accomplished director and actor, Don Stephenson, the cast of Noises off was phenomenal.  Noah Plomgren, Laura Woyasz, Preston Dyar, and Garrett Long were all very funny, as they were creatively corralled by the hilarious Helena Ruoti as the house keeper in Nothing On .  The angst of the on stage director trying to coordinate this show was too funny.  Michael MacCauley reminded me of Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live and Portlandia.  The entire cast was so good and so funny!  Noises Off is a must-see, it was so much fun!

Additional Performances:
Show runs through June 29th, 2014 at the O'Reilly Theater

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 06-02-2014 22:38:00

My Favorite PSO Concert!!!
Review of PSO's Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart, and Haydn Concert, June 1st 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  June 02, 2014

I'll lead this review off with the tweet that I sent right after the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Sunday, June 1st 2014 performance.  Today was my favorite @phgsymphony concert of the season!  3 great pieces. Ye-Eun Choi was stunning. Loved Loved Loved Nicholas McGegan!  And, that pretty much sums it up.  In my first PSO concert and review on Jan. 17, 2014 I wrote, Now of course, I should let on that I'm partial to this era of music and the one before it.  So in my opinion Franz Joseph Haydn and his contemporaries of the first Viennese School hit that sweet spot.  So you can imagine my excitement about this concert.  Vivaldi, Mozart, AND Haydn, it was like Christmas morning at the symphony.

Ye-Eun Choi
The concert began with Vivaldi's Four Seasons and got better and better with each concerto.  Violinist, Ye-Eun Choi making her PSO debut played beautifully.  She showcased both energetic virtuosity and lovely lyric lines full of passion.  She is very young and demonstrates the technical capabilities and musicianship that will develop even more with time like a fine wine.  By the middle movement of Autumn the entire ensemble settled into a groove with smiles and acknowledgements to each other that capture the essence and intimacy of chamber music.  The music was gorgeous and full of energy, but it is taken to a whole other level when you can observe sincere enjoyment of the players.  It was fun to listen to and watch Baroque music is fun and makes you want to dance, not like the electric slide, but you know a Gavotte, Minuet or Chaconne!

Nicholas McGegan
The concert was lead by world-renowned conductor Nicholas McGegan, and for the Vivaldi he did so from the console of the harpsichord.  It was a treat to see the work not only played beautifully but also in this configuration that would more than likely have been how it was performed back in 1725.  The only unfortunate thing was that the big, beautiful Heinz Hall kind of swallowed up the harpsichord.  McGegan evoked both the lush swells of passion-filled themes and clean precision, full of energy, from the small ensemble.  More impressive was his ability to quickly lead the shifts from one style to the other at the manic changes characteristic of Baroque music.

The second half of the concert began with a fun and stately Mozart ditty, Chaconne from Idomeneo, Re di Creta.  It showcased several contrasting sections that were each played with due flair.  The featuring of the woodwinds was really quite lovely.  The concert was capped off with Haydn's Symphony #103 in E-flat major and was great.  Beginning with its nickname Drumroll, the work featured a neat timpani part and great wind passages.  A standout was the violin solo in the second movement by concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley.  I love hearing and watching him play; he makes it look and sound so easy.

Did I say I love this style of music?  It makes me feel like Agnes from Despicable Me when she expresses her excitement about the stuffed unicorn, It's so fluffy.  It's just so fun!  The music was expressive and energetic.  I would imagine the rehearsals were fun and productive, and I would have paid to see them too with McGegan's commentary.  The PSO rocked it (Baroque and Classical style you could say they barocked it) and I absolutely LOVED watching Nicholas McGegan conduct!

By:  Stephanie Sue Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 05-31-2014 10:23:00

May Showers Bring "Singin' in the Rain" to the Benedum - Lockwood and Lamont Grace Pittsburgh Stage Once More
Review of Pittsburgh CLO's "Singin' In the Rain" May 30, 2014 Performance
From: Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By: Megan Grabowski  |  May 31, 2014

The opulence of the historic Benedum Center is a perfect venue for Singin' In The Rain. The theater's original mirrors, woodwork and chandeliers recreate the atmosphere reminiscent of that which fans of the romantic team, Lockwood and Lamont, would have sat amid while witnessing the birth of the talkie.

Opening night for the 68th summer musical season of The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, welcomed to stage David Elder as leading man Don Lockwood; Mary Michael Patterson as his true love, Kathy Selden and supporting cast, Ashley Spencer, starring as Lina Lamont, the beautiful actress opposite Lockwood, and Cary Tedder as Cosmo Brown, Lockwood's comedic sidekick. The story begins with Lockwood and Lamont, 1920's Hollywood silent film stars, at the height of their fame and success. In 1927 new technology allowing sound to be placed in film is introduced. The movie studio contracting Lockwood and Lamont, Monumental Pictures, must incorporate sound into their films to stay competitive. For leading lady Lamont, this is a problem. Her diction as well as the tone of her voice does not complement the pretty face her fans adore. Suddenly, Kathy Selden, an unknown girl who dreams of becoming an actress on stage in New York City stumbles into Lockwood˜s life, on the set of his next film and into his heart as a love interest.

Cary Tedder as Cosmo Brown and
David Elder as Don Lockwood
Gene Kelly, Pittsburgh native and star of the 1952 film isn't just a former Pittsburgh resident. He is an iconic Pittsburgher; adopted by locals; part of our regional soul, so filling the role of Don Lockwood on stage in Pittsburgh requires some pretty big shoes. By scene 9, Elder confirms his worthiness for the role of Lockwood, showing off exemplary foot skills as he and Selden dance together with easy fluid motions, singing, You Were Meant For Me . By the final scene of Act 1, the title number, "Singin' in the Rain," has the audience smiling from ear to ear. Lockwood frolics from one end of the stage to the other, swinging from the lamp post with only one arm and lightly dancing up the stairs while carrying an umbrella as rain falls upon the set drenching the floor of the stage and creating puddles for splashing. His smooth voice, ˜singing and dancing' in the rain, create feelings of warmth, and familiarity for the viewers.

Cary Tedder as Cosmo Brown, Mary Michael Patterson
as Kathy Selden and David Elder as Don Lockwood
Tedder, a strong supporting character, has marvelous comedic timing and energy on stage that encourages the audience to laugh freely and boisterously. His timeless jokes add depth to the Lockwood character and reinforce Lamont's mean spirit. In addition, Cosmo dances with boundless energy and is pure pleasure to watch. Spencer's stage presence screams pomp and glamour. During her diction lesson scene the audience howls in laughter. Selden a small town, girl-next-door type with loads of talent receives applause for her operatic and melodious voice in musical numbers such as You Are My Lucky Star and GoodMornin' . One of the most fun scenes in the show, Broadway Ballet , is carefully choreographed to showcase the talents of each cast member.
David Elder as Don Lockwood

The music in Singin' in the Rain is infectious. Every person I passed by in the lobby, stood next to at intermission or rode in the elevator with in the parking garage after tonight's performance was humming various tunes from the musical. Tonight's showcase of vocal talent, dance ability and theatrical execution put a smile on my face. This is a happy and carefree production to celebrate summertime, a timeless show that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

Singin' in the Rain runs through June 8, 2014.
For ticket information visit 

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.  Contact Megan


Publish Date: 05-27-2014 23:48:00

Can't Get Enough of Chris Duarte, The Ultimate Guitarist
Review of Chris Duarte Concert May 18th 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Mike Van Stipdonk  |  May 18, 2014

Sunday evening at Moondog's in Blawnox I reconnected, in a way, with an old friend. Chris Duarte and I aren't really friends, but after over twenty years of seeing him play live (we're talking at least 25 times), I've decided to make him an honorary one. He provides inspiration, companionship, motivation, and good times many of the things I expect from such an individual.

First, though, a bit of history. Looking for our usual distraction from the grind of graduate work in chemistry at Texas A&M University, my usual group of friends and I headed to the Stafford Opera House in downtown Bryan, TX to see House in Orbit, our favorite band from Austin, Texas. Their infectious covers of classic and current songs (for that time), done in a style best described as bluegrass-ska, never failed to make us forget whatever was ailing us that day, week or month. Upon arrival that Friday night, we noticed a very different sound coming from the sound-check, and an unfamiliar name on the board outside the entrance. Chris Duarte. Who? Motivated, I'll admit, by nothing more than a desire to avoid the other club options for the night, I said, why don't we check this out? The cover charge was a reasonable five bucks, and there was something raw and exciting to me about the guitar sounds leaking out from inside the club. So we went in.

If you ask me, some of the best moments in life are those that happen when you chuck the plan and see where things end up. That night, I forgot all about House in Orbit and became a life-long fan of the amazing Chris Duarte. And while I like to think it happened completely by chance, it was probably more a result of my inability to read correctly the weekend's concert schedule. House in Orbit played the previous night. But who cares?

Chris Duarte is a brilliant guitarist, songwriter, and singer originally from San Antonio; but I will always associate him with what was great about the Austin music scene in the early 1990s. Duarte plays in a Texas blues-rock style that reminds most people of another Texas legend, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Whether listening to Duarte's guitar playing or the general style of his original songs, you certainly hear the influence of Vaughan. But you also hear so else, such as jazz influences and whispers of other guitar greats like Johnny Winter, John McLaughlin and Jimi Hendrix (more on that later). If you're a fan of guitar, regardless of what style, devote three hours to Chris' next show (we should all encourage a speedy return to Pittsburgh). You'll walk away a convert. I swear it.

I last saw Chris play in 2009 in St. Charles, MO while with my two oldest kids. Again, quite by accident, he was playing a free show along Main Street. Martin, Josie and I sat on the street curb, just to the side of the stage, for the beginning of his first set. The kids weren't sold at first, but they were patient, listening to my requests of wait for it and you'll see . From the minute Chris started playing, though, the kids couldn't take their eyes off of him. The evening ended with Chris signing his latest disc for them, and talking about how important the creativity of music is to life (He's also a part-time philosopher!)

On Sunday night, Moondogs was a perfect venue for the reunion. Saying that was an intimate is an understatement, as nearly everyone who showed up had a close-up seat. We were treated to over three hours of music by a virtuoso. Backed by Dustin Sargent on bass (guitar), and John McNight on drums, Chris provided a clinic to those who needed to see some good guitar playing and foot-stomping entertainment for those there to hear blues-rock. And, perhaps, others may have, like my first time, experienced their own why don't we check this out? moment?

The first set was devoted to songs that highlighted the great chemistry between Chris and his band and to his talents, both as a guitarist and vocalist. Later, in the second set, he included songs that provided greater opportunity for extended solos. Those are the ones that remind me most what made me a Duarte fan in the first place. On the drive to Moondogs, I excitedly played several songs to Stephanie (The new girl in the ˜burg) to make sure she'd understand what she was about to witness, in case Chris didn't take care of that himself within the first few minutes of the show. One of the songs was Like Eric , off of Duarte's 2003 album Romp. The song, a tribute to another fantastic guitar player (Eric Johnson), perfectly illustrates the level of Chris' talent by revealing his amazing ability to channel the spirit and sound of great guitarists into his own performance. This is one of the most impressive things about the guy. He can announce to you, the listener, who his influences are by crafting songs that integrate, seamlessly, each of their unique sounds.

I remember saying to a friend who joined us that night, He's amazing. He does this one song that manages to blend Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin, with a bit of Duane Allman. These masterpieces leave you saying, Good grief¦is there anything, or anyone, this guy can't do? In return for the impromptu PR work, my honorary friend rewarded me by beginning the first encore with just that song (Azul Ezell, off the Love Is Greater Than Me album). When I slapped my friend on the shoulder as the song ended, all he could do was shake his head. Most likely that was part amazement, and part recognition that he just witnessed a performance by someone that is truly the best at his trade.

After the show ended and the road crew was tearing down the equipment, Stephanie and I made our way to the merchandise table. We selected the Chris Duarte Group's recent 2 CD live disc and made our way to the stage to talk to Chris. After he signed the disc, I told him that this was Stephanie's first show, and the two of them engaged in an interesting discussion about skill and passion and other things that musicians can relate to. I then told him about my first show. I said Bryan, Texas , and he replied with Wow¦Old School. Way back! He then reminded himself that the show was at the Stafford Opera House. We shook hands, and his parting words were, We look pretty good for old guys . I think we do.

By:  Mike Van Stipdonk
Analytical Chemistry Associate Professor
Duquesne University


Publish Date: 05-26-2014 04:57:00

Gene Kelly¦The Legacy
August 23, 1912 to February 2, 1996
An evening with Patricia Ward Kelly
Pittsburgh's Gift to the World of Dance

Hey folks, way before there was "Dancing with the Stars" making an impact on the dance scene, there was
Gene Kelly. Photo courtesy of Gene Kelly: The Legacy,
An Evening with Patricia Ward Kelly.
Gene Kelly, Pittsburgh's gift to Hollywood Dance film musical. 

Gene Kelly, Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly was a dancer, actor, singer, film director producer and choreographer. Kelly was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks and the likeable characters that he played on screen. Gene was born in the Highland Park region of Pittsburgh during the heyday of steel in Pittsburgh and always considered himself the working man's dancer. 

The evening opened up with an opening Film of Gene Kelly top song and dance  routines including, "Singin' in the Rain,", "For Me and My Gal," "It's Always Fair Weather,"  "An American in Paris," "Anchors Away" "The Pirate," Invitation to the Dance Words and Music and "Brigadoon."

Gene Kelly's wife, Patricia Ward Kelly, (1990-1996) was the narrator of the evening and was charming and knowledgeable as she shared the Gene Kelly story and his contribution to the world of film, dance and choreography.    She told their story of their meeting and eventual romance and marriage in an humorous way.  Her description of their May to December romance was touching.  And her devotion to telling his story and preserving his legacy is a gift to all of us.  She clearly tells his story while demonstrating his immense talent through a montage of movie clips.  It is obvious that Pittsburgh is really blessed to have as one of its favorite sons Gene Kelly.  He is one of the 20th century finest artists. His work as a dancer, actor, director and choreographer will forever be a credit to Pittsburgh. 

JoAnn R. Forrester
Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on

JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT„c cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.

For more information visit Empress of Biz on


Publish Date: 05-26-2014 04:37:00


by Carl Bromley

What started as a soft whisper of music turned into a crowd favorite as the lyrics of "Danny Boy" filled the Benedum Theater on Saturday evening.  Sweet voices, seconded by the sweet smiles on the three female singers' faces, placed the audience under a hypnotic spell.  Harmony swirled through the room.  Time stood still. 

But, as in all songs, Danny Boy has both a beginning and end.  The end came much too soon for me.
The percussionists in the Celtic Woman troop made the room come alive, often using silence as an accent to
Left to Right: MГ¡irГ©ad Carlin, Susan McFadden,
Lisa Lambe, MГ¡irГ©ad Nesbitt. Photo by Lili Forberg.
their drum beat and somehow sounding as loud as the drums.  How?  Just by being exceptional at what they do and I'm not the one to figure it all out.  Like everyone around me, including fellow reviewer Joanne Quinn-Smith, I mostly sat back and enjoyed the show or clapped along during a half dozen songs where audience clapping was encouraged.
OMG, the dancing!
If you've never seen Celtic dancing, commonly called clogging, you gotta!
Intricately choreographed and expertly performed, I didn't see a single misstep except the guy who almost danced off the stage and his lady partner pulled him back.  But here's the thing...  I've been around long enough that I knew in a heartbeat the misstep was choreographed.

Ahhhh, nicely done.

Here's what you missed if you weren't there.

CailГ­n Ailinn - DULAMAN

Carl Bromley,  Networker, Publcist, Community Activist
Founder and Co-Owner Local4All
"The PlaceMat Guy"
Idea Guy for Hire for Small Businesses Who Want to Grow


Publish Date: 05-12-2014 04:47:00

A whispered "Wow!"  That was my initial reaction.
Suggested to me earlier in the day in a telephone conversation with the inimitable, irrefutable queen of what Pittsburgh events are happening, Joanne Quinn-Smith of Eventsburgh, I met up with a friend and we entered the free concert "Festival of Bach" at about 7:30 PM.  Within moments we were swept up in the music, with excellent acoustics provided by Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside in their elegant sanctuary.  The ornamentation, inscriptions on stained glass windows, and carved woodwork were such that this church might belong on every list of 'places to visit in Pittsburgh',even without the music.
Since I had mentioned to Joanne earlier of dabbling in music earlier in life, she asked me to 'review' the performance.  In a nutshell and considering this free concert was in a church, I'm giving it a "Wow!" in mezzo forte.  Anything as grand as what we heard should be given respect.
The audience reaction at the end of the performance?  A standing ovation plus applause at triple forte if not more.
A brief glimpse of what we missed and what we didn't miss...

Missed between 10am and early afternoon:
  • "Toccata and Fugue" in D Minor
  • "Concerto for 4 harpsichords" followed by two concertos for 3 harpsichords
  • "Fantasie and Fugue" in G Minor
  • "Selections from Lute Suite" in G Minor
  • Chorale Prelude
  • "Prelude and Fugue" in C Major
and 4 1/2 more hours' worth before my friend and I arrived

What we enjoyed, in progress at approximately 7:25 pm:
  • Prelude and Fugue in E minor (underway when we arrived, nicely done)
  • Flights of Fancy:  A Flurry of Fugues (by the Zephyr Recorder Consort)
  • Chorale and Contata
  • Cello Suite in E-flat Major (by soloist Hannah Whitehead)
  • Magnificat! (punctuation added, separate review follows)
The Magnificat was a blending of voices from five separate Pittsburgh musical groups including:
  • The Bach Choir of Pittsburgh,
  • Chamber Music Pittsburgh,
  • Chatham Baroque,
  • the Pittsburgh Camerata, and
  • Renaissance and Baroque
Bach Choir, couresty

12 hours of THIS music for free?  In a word, magnificent!
Credits:  Coordination by and through the Pittsburgh Music Alliance, Andrew Swenson, General Manager.  Additional information can be found at
And, from the printed program:  The Festival of Bach has been made possible through the generosity of the Fine Foundation, an anonymous donor, and individual donors.  The members of the Pittsburgh Music Alliance would also like to thank the Allegheny Regional Asset District and Heinz Endowments for their sustaining support of PMA over the last three years.  This commitment has made it possible for us to collaborate on many things, and has supported our work throughout the planning phases for the Festival of Bach.  We thank Calvary Episcopal Church and all their staff, for their help and hospitality, and our meda sponsor WQED-FM for helping to spread the word about great music in Pittsburgh.

Carl Bromley,  Networker, Publcist, Community Activist
Founder and Co-Owner Local4All
"The PlaceMat Guy"
Idea Guy for Hire for Small Businesses Who Want to Grow


Publish Date: 05-12-2014 03:00:00

A Blythe Spirit ¦a Haunting Good Time at the PICT Classic Theater
Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester  |  May 11, 2014
A Blythe Spirit, written by the British playwright, Noel Coward in 1941, during the dark days of the German Blitz, is a biting farce about marriage, death, declining morals, infidelity and the traditional British stiff upper lip. Rule on Britannia, Rule on!

The opening scene occurs in the home of Charles and Ruth Condomine, a British upper crust couple who are waiting for their dinner guests, Doctor Bradman and wife. As entertainment for the evening a sГ©ance has been arranged. This sГ©ance of course is being treated as ˜silly thing' with no expectations other than some fun at the antics of the medium, Madame Arcati .

Both Charles and Ruth have been widowed for a number of years and just recently married one another. During the pre-dinner conversation one gets a glimpse of jealously of the first wife Elvira, by Ruth the second wife. Ruth constantly tries to wheedle out of Charles that she is more desirable and attractive and that he loves her more than the first wife, Elvira. Charles manages to somewhat dodge the wheedling and before the conversation becomes nasty the dinner guests, Doctor and Mrs. Bradman arrive and off to dinner they go.

The next scene, that silly little meaningless entertainment, produces one former deceased wife Elvira, who is beautiful, witty, charming and ruthless. The antics between the living wife and the deceased wife are priceless. The snide catty remarks are classic and the women playing the part are superb. It is so much fun watching first wife, Elvira, played by Vera Varlamov and second wife played by Daina Michelle Griffith vie for Charles attention and get him to ˜get rid of the other .

As the play progresses and Madam Arcati, played hysterically by Mary Rawson, is called back to dispatch the unwanted wife it becomes even funnier. She carries on with the right combination of comedic flair and drama¦and the result? Well you have to go and see

One of the characters who almost steals the show, Edith, the inexperienced over anxious to please maid, played by Karen Baum is a comedic delight. She reminds me in many ways of an early Carol Burnett who could make physical comedy so appealing

And let's not forget Charles, (Dan Rodden) the poor besieged husband, who more than holds his own with his dueling wives. A treat to watch!

If you want an evening of haunting good laughter, British style, then you must go and see the PICTS's newest offering "Blythe Spirit." The play is directed by Alan Stanford, a very good director and a wonderful, charming host. May the PICT Classic Theatre continue to thrive and prosper in Pittsburgh!

Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on

JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT„c cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.

For more information visit Empress of Biz on


Publish Date: 04-28-2014 03:40:00

What's Up Doc?
Review of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II Performance April 12th 2014

From: Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester, Host of Empress of Biz  |  April 13, 2014

Saturday night April 12, was FUN! It was a night of wonderful music with lots and lots of laughs and giggles from the usually pretty serious classical music crowd. We were treated to a multi-media experience of What's Up Doc, Bugs Bunny cartoons, witty dialogue and great music by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra very ably led by guest conductor and co-creator of the Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II, George Daugherty.

George Daugherty brings an impressive resume to the Pittsburgh symphony. He is one of the classical music
world's most diverse artists. His 3- year conducting career has included appearances with the world's leading orchestras, ballet companies, opera houses and concert artists. He is also an Emmy Award winning creator and along with his producing partner David Ka Lik Wong created The Bugs Bunny Symphony tradition. He was a delightful host. His dialogue with the audience on the background of the music and cartoons was informative with a whimsical touch. A thoroughly charming man.

One of the things I did not realize, much of the music in cartoons was based on many of the classical composers such as, J. Strauss II, Wagner, Rossini, von Suppe', Smetana, Liszt. Reading the credits from the cartoon was like a trip back in time, Jonny Mercer, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Chuck Jones, and Mel Balanc, the great voice of Warner Bros Cartoon. And of course the lovable wacky cartoon characters of Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Wile E Coyote, Tweety (I Tawt I Ta A Puddy Cat) Bird, Pepe Le Pew and the Penelope Pussy Cat were funny as ever.

George Daugherty
As the music and cartoons play I was flooded with memories of my childhood. A time when I went to the movies and was enthralled by an afternoon of cartoons and cowboy/ space invader monster/Tarzan of the Jungle. It was a simpler and less stressful time; NO cell phones, texting, and NO parents hovering over you, urging you to hurry, to rush from one activity to another. It was a time when I could walk to the local neighborhood show with friends. Go to a shopping district, that were alive and vibrant and filled with friendly people walking on sidewalks, and stopping in their favorite ice cream store, shoe store, grocery store, ladies dress store and buying what they needed. Back then, my neighborhood gave me a feeling of identity and security. If you lived in one of them you know what I mean. Today's suburban sprawl with our mega shopping centers, frantic pace and a life built around the automobile racing from one event to another has taken a lot of that sense of belonging away.

In conclusion the night was delightful fun for young to old. All delighted by the antics on screen and being charmed by the music and conductor on stage¦ a delightful evening¦ and a secret trip back in time when it was all simpler.

Additional Performances:
Sunday, April 13th  |  2:30 PM  |  Heinz Hall

JoAnn R. Forrester
Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on

JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT„c cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.
For more information visit Empress of Biz on

Posted By: Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter,,
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 04-26-2014 16:07:00
Youth is Wasted on the Young . . . George Bernard Shaw

The prolific playwright, critic, novelist and essayist, George Bernard Shaw is featured with the current production of the Pittsburgh Public Theater's British Invasion.  Candida, one of Shaw's earlier works and part of the trilogy penned under Plays Pleasant,  is a study in human relationship's: husband/wife, employer/employee, poet/enabling wannabe (to the poet) paramour, father in-law/son-in-law.  Shaw weaves the playful rhythm, tone and wit of language bred from his native Ireland.  Humor is frequent and the audience appreciates the well-phrased and delivered commentary of the then-current societal mores.  While some elements of the conversations appear dated (the use of cant, for example, was last heard in a long ago class on literature) , the majority of the dialogue transcends time, as appropriate in Victorian England as it is in the 21stCentury Pittsburgh.

In Candida, the audience is treated to a preview of the characters that will be arguably Shaw's most recognizable players from Pygmalion/My Fair Lady.  The dissolute Eugene Marchbanks (Jared McGuire)  is a precursor (at least to this viewer) of Freddie Aynsford-Hill;  Candida's father,  Mr. Burgess (John O'Creagh) is reminiscent of Alfred P. Doolittle, the common dustman with his broad cockney accent juxtaposed with the costume finery of a gentleman after he is thrust directly into middle class morality by Henry Higgins' recommendation, getting to the church on time.  The audience is reminded that in Shaw, one finds a Nobel Prize winner and an Oscar winner, an unlikely and unique combination of tributes held solely by him.
Gretchen Egolf as Candida and David Whalen as Vicar Morell (Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Public Theater)

Candida (Gretchen Egolf), the namesake of the work, is a beautiful woman who is coveted by both her husband, The Reverend James Mavor Morell (David Whalen) and Eugene, the young poet who is clearly enamored with her.  Candida appears to be initially oblivious of being the object of Marchbanks' attentions, almost like a cat playing with a mouse.  Later, we realize she is much more self and situationally aware. 

Gretchen Egolf as Candida and Jared McGuire as Eugene Marchbanks (Photo Credit:  Pittsburgh Public Theater)
Her husband, also initially oblivious, is astounded when his wife demonstrates an insight on his relationship with his trusted assistant and the reason for his popularity as a much sought after orator.  The cast is rounded out by Meghan Mae O'Neill playing the long suffering Miss Proserpine (Prossie) Garnett and Matthew Minor as The Reverend Alexander Mill, assistant to Vicar Morrell.

The play is set in Victoria Park on the outskirts of London at the turn of the 20th century spanning a single day in the study and sitting room of St. Dominic's Vicarage.

Candida is directed by the venerable Ted Pappas and continues at the O'Reilly Theater through May 18th.

This  review of Candida was written by Joyce Kane on behalf of Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine and Roving Pittsburgher.  Joyce is the owner of Cybertary Pittsburgh, a Virtual Assistant service company providing on demand business support services for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and anyone else needing help.  We help businesses work on their business rather than in their business.


Publish Date: 04-14-2014 04:30:00

Magical Inspiration
Review of the PSO's Bolero and the Sorcerer's Apprentice March 14th 2014 Performance
From: Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By: Josh Kurnot  |  March 15, 2014

Walking down the aisle to row k, right in the middle of the orchestra, I notice the grand piano on the forefront of the stage. I wonder what celebrity the orchestra would entertain on their stage that night. Little did I know, some of the world's most powerful fingers were waiting just off stage left. I cannot place the feeling at first while taking my seat, but there is a kind of quiet anticipation lingering in the theater. My only precedence to this performance is the childhood memory of the Disney movie Fantasia. In my ignorant bliss, I sit with my date grinning from ear to ear waiting to reminisce on fond innocent memories from my younger years, but little did I know¦

With due respect, the audience graciously welcomes Maestro Leonard Slatkin to the stage. Prodigy to his parents, the founders of the famed Hollywood String Quartet, Slatkin was born to conduct this very show. The show opened with French composer Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice. This is the familiar tune from Disney's movie Fantasia, and its sounds coming from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's stage are just as whimsical and magical as I remember it as a kid. The simplest theme of the entire show was perfectly and playfully portrayed in this first piece, repetition. The Lucian tale of a sorcerer and his apprentice tell the story of how an apprentice's eavesdropping on the master's incantation to turn a common household broom into a drone for filling the water basin from the well leads the novice to an almost certain demise. The repetition in the orchestra starts low and mysterious as the sorcerer's stern words work in private. It then grows in volume and multiplies seemingly uncontrollably as the apprentice attempts to stop the drone from overflowing the water basin by chopping it in half; only creating yet another. The magnitude of the impending doom on the apprentice is magnificently displayed by the alternating unison of the violin section's two explicit parts. While the bows of one violin part are thrust into the air, the bows of the other part are pulled swiftly back down the opposite direction creating a magnificent but furious dancing effect atop the heads of the entire violin section. Towards the end of the piece, this effect is sustained for so long that I think it would last forever, leaving no refuge for the poor apprentice. Although I don't particularly care for all of the antics of Mr. First Violinist, I found quite a bit of entertainment in the fly away hairs of his bow flailing frantically about during this ferocious first piece. And at the end of it, Mr. First Violinist proudly grasped those few retired hairs from his bow and most triumphantly ripped them right out of their roots.

Michel Camilo
Photo courtesy: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
The next appearance on stage is Michel Camilo. The audience welcomes him with kindly as he takes his seat on the front of the stage at the keys of the grand piano. As Camilo's fingers began to strike the first few notes of his Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, Tenerife , his Latin heritage and Jazzy style are instantly apparent. Camilo's inspiration for this piece is Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. In his own words, My intention was to compose about its great majesty, reflect on the warmth of its people, and portray the vibrant light so full of contrasting texture and color I have always perceived there. The first movement is inspired by a visit to the island's volcano and does an excellent job of personifying this wondrous place giving it absolute strength, a mind of its own, and a heart beat. Matching the strength of this volcano is Camilo's left hand pounding away at the repetitious rhythm that is the heart beat of this beautiful place. The community and warmth of the island's people is found in the echoing rhythms of the symphony orchestra. As the power of the volcano has a rhythm, so do the people who live who live in its shadow. This appearance marks the debut of Michel Camilo's performance with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. At the end of the first act finishing the third movement of Tenerife the crowd exploded with applause and cheers, especially from the balcony. So long did we applaud and cheer, not accepting no for an answer, that Camilo had to feel obligated to end his performance with a little extra personal flair. Not only did he flair, but his fingers fumed as Slatkin, the Symphony Orchestra, and entire crowd listened in awe.

Additional Performances:
Saturday, March 15th | 8 PM | Heinz Hall
Sunday, March 16th | 2:30 PM | Heinz Hall

Written By: Josh Kurnot
 Josh Kurnot is a student of engineering at West Virginia University in his senior year. He loves to visit relatives in Pittsburgh and attends as many cultural events as he can. He is an award winning photographer whose photograpy was featured on PositivelyPittsburghTV in a video, Roving Pittsburgher and Mountaineer Cheerleader, Josh Kurnot Tour the Strip.

Posted By: Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter,,
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 04-14-2014 03:46:00

A Superlative Combination
Review of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Evening with Mandy Patinkin Performance April 5th 2014

From: Roving Pittsburgher and
Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester, Host of Empress of Biz  |  April 6, 2014

On Saturday evening April 5 downtown Pittsburgh was filled with two types of fans, baseball and music. Both type of fans excited and looking for their team to deliver a winning performance. And my team, starring the Pittsburgh Symphony with Mandy Patinkin delivered a superb win. Our star player, Mr. Mandy Patinkin, singer, actor, performer well known for his Broadway roles in Evita and Sunday in the Park with George and beloved for his characters from film and television, such as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride and Saul Berenson in Homeland, the Tony delivered an unforgettable evening of popular song and Broadway Classics.

Mandy Patinkin musical range from baritone to tenor is incredible. His choice of songs demonstrated his amazing range of voice. His charismatic performance had all of us in the palm of his hand. Opening the show slow, easy and whimsical with It's not Easy being Green, he proceeded to deliver 90 minutes of pure Broadway delight with the following On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," Mr. Arthur's Place," Bohemian Rhapsody - dedicated to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," "Anyone Can Whistle," "Sunday in the Park With George" medley, "Rock Island"/"Ya Got Trouble, The Band Played On"/"Marie"/"Once Upon a Time," "Soliloquy," "Sorry/Grateful" and "Being Alive."

Mandy's performance was infused with wonderful personal stories with an easy interplay with the Pittsburgh symphony orchestra. He brings everyone along on his musical journey and personal memories on his career. It was fascinating for me to hear how he started as a teenager, with his first role as Billy Bigelow in "Carousel" and how he evolved and eventually performed with many of the great stars of Broadway.

The evening started with the Pittsburgh symphony led by conductor Fawzi Haimor. They played three selections with Broadway and movie themes: the "West Side Story" overture, selections from "My Fair Lady" and a medley from "Pirates of the Caribbean." I thoroughly enjoyed the symphony and their Fawzi Haimor exuberant and enthusiastic leadership of the symphony.

Hey Pittsburghers! Isn't it great that we have so many fantastic winning choices here in town? And if you wanted to make sure you had a winning outing then it's to the Pittsburgh Symphony you would be going.

JoAnn R. Forrester
Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
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Posted By: Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter,,
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 04-13-2014 12:30:00

"Once" Not Enough, Must See Again!
Review of the Once the Musical's March 11th 2014 Performance
From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  March 12th 2014

From the get-go, Once the Musical had the audience of the Benedum Center captivated and it remained that way the entire performance. Lacking jazz hands, kicklines, hammy acting and spontaneous group song and dance numbers, Once the Musical felt more like an episode of tv sit-com How I Met your Mother peppered with organic radio-worthy music that was somewhere between the style of the Lumineers and Lady Antebellum. It was awesome. I loved it. And you should totally go see it!

Apparently the show is based off of the 2006 movie also called Once, which didn't fair so well at silver screen box offices. Obviously I didn't see it. But I'm telling you the musical is terrific. It is a romantic comedy and romantic tragedy in one. Fresh and set present day;  Witty and tender;  If you've ever loved, been heartbroken, felt loss, or felt giddy anticipation, you'll see yourself in the story and music of Once the Musical. Laughter and tears included.

The very organic and intimate feel of the entire production is initiated 15 minutes before the show begins when audience members can join the cast on stage of the Dublin pub set for drinks and music. As audience members are privately asked to take their seats, the cast continues to play another couple of songs and seamlessly transition into the show. The house lights finally go down a solid 10 minutes into the show as the unnamed Czech Girl enters the pub after hearing the moving voice and guitar playing of unnamed Irish Boy.

The typical romantic story unfolds. Stricken by woes of the heart, Boy swears off playing music; classically trained pianist, Girl has Boy fix her Hoover vacuum, Girl helps Boy piece his life back together; annoyed humoring begets a tentative friendship; friendship begets romantic hopes; but there's always something that complicates things¦ life, commitment, bad timing. I won't give away the ending, but will say true love is powerful.  Equally relatable themes are the importance of family and community:  small family business, loss of a parent, the new life as a widow, struggling to advance professionally.

The content of the show was touching, but how it was delivered was unique as well.  Every character plays an instrument.  Not only are they the cast, but the orchestra too.  And to prove it the pub set is lined with framed mirrors, which showcased the piano playing skills of Girl and brought a dimension to the set that pulled you in more.  To create different scenes great lighting was used and encouraged the imagination of the audience, including when they were on top of the set looking out into the ocean.

The whole experience was a fresh take on "going to a Broadway musical" and it was great.  I loved it so much I came home and downloaded the music on itunes and looked up when the show would be in the cities of my parents and siblings and told them that they had to go.  So I'll say to you too, take a break from kicklines and showtunes, not that I don't love me some traditional musicals, this is a show that you don't want to miss!

Additional Performances at the Benedum Center:
Wednesday, March 12th  |  7:30 PM
Thursday, March 13th  |  7:30 PM
Friday, March 14th  |  8 PM
Saturday, March 15th  |  2 PM and 8 PM
Sunday, March 16th  |  1 PM and 6:30 PM

By: Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014


Publish Date: 03-15-2014 21:50:00
A Journey to the Past, Present and Future

An Iliad, a modern adaptation of Homer's Iliad by Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare, is the time-honored story of the Greek-Trojan war updated with modern language, contemporary references and future implications of the continued horror that is war.

Teague F. Bougere provides an enthralling performance is this one person show.  Alternately actor and narrator, Bougere as The Poet weaves the story of mortals and the gods of Greek mythology interspersed with references to conflicts throughout history up to 2014.  The epic story of Achilles and Agamemnon, Athena and Apollo, Helen of Troy and Hector, Hecuba and Hermes, Paris and Priam, and last, but not least, Zeus is told with an understandable pace, bringing this story with a historic sensibility to a current audience.

Bougere appears dusty and road-weary, then energized by the audience while engaging in easy banter, then repulsed by the dialogue of the classic tale.

The stage of Pittsburgh Public Theater's O'Reilly Theater has been transformed to a quasi-construction site cum battlefield.   The rough-hewn table becomes Paris' bed, then a platform for the recitation of conflicts and wars of far-reaching implications.  The scaffolding/ramparts provide a vantage for the observation of the historic battles from afar, as the majority of the audience experience war.

The Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of An Iliad, a 90 minute show without intermission, plays at the O'Reilly through April 6, 2014.

Reviewed  by Joyce Kane on behalf of Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine.  Joyce is the owner of Cybertary Pittsburgh, a Virtual Business Support business that helps solopreneurs, business owners and individuals work 'on' their business rather than 'in' the business.