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Publish date:11-27-2015 15:12:35

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Publish Date: 11-21-2015 16:35:00

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Review 

Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

by Joanne Quinn-Smith

Lights, action, camera, well 3-D projection and pure entertainment!  That was The Tony Award winner for Best Musical," Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder,"   Benedum through November 22, 2015.  From the very first scene where a snapshot is taken of a group of turn of the century mourners in black to the gay entourage at the end of the performance, the show is pure musical comedy perfection.  "A Warning to the Audience" sets the pace for the entire musical.  "You're a D'Ysquith by Miss Shingle (Mary Van Ardel) and Monty (Kevin Massey)  is even more compelling by the fact that the name is so incredibly hard to pronounce.

The plot portrays the hysterical odyssey of Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family whose only impediment to becoming an earl is eight cousins in front of him.  Add to that one femme fatale,Sibella Hallward (Kristen Beth Williams), his fiancГ and one ingenue, Phoebe D'Ysquith (Adrienne Eller), his cousin (no one seems to care) and you have an instant love triangle amidst the intrigue. Oh and there is the little drawback of possibly getting caught while he engineers their early demise. And all this is done amidst turn of the century proprieties and few scene changes thanks to modern technology that looks somewhere between cartoonish and genius but always delightful and humorous.

The projection designer, Aaron Rhyne adds more than his share of quality to the production with the simulation of skaters falling through ice, a cleric climbing up and falling from a church tower and splattering to the ground, complete with bloody splatter. IN A MUSICAL ON STAGE, the effect is amazing.
Despite the comedy, the musical element of the show from the live orchestra to the performers was excellent.  Some of the crowd favorite numbers,  "Oh, why are all the D'Ysquiths dying?" "I've Decide to Marry You," with the double door scene of Sibella, Phoebe and Monty is a mastery of vocal excellence and staging.  And "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" by Lord Aldelbert and Company is excellently staged and performed.

In addition to John  Rapson as the D'Ysquith heirs (all eight of them) and Massey as Monty Navarro, the cast of A Gentleman's Guide includes Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith and Mary VanArsdel as Miss Shingle.John Rapson has to be the absolute king of musical comedy and of multi portrayal rolls.  What a hoot. Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro is not only a great actor but has an exquisite voice.  

There are also moments of grandeur with the chorus.  Kristen Beth Williams is not only sensuous but has moments of comic genius as Sibella.  Quite frankly there are too many moments of brilliance among all of the characters.  It's easy to see why a Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder is the most celebrated musical of the 2013-14 Broadway season

For additional info and tickets:

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. 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. 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: 11-02-2015 04:36:00

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Season Opener of PBT, an Eye Opener


Sinfionetta pas de deux
Thursday evening October 22, 2015 The Benedum Theater was a buzz with the sound of show.  Swarming the stage were dancers in leotards and leggings, the slender frames of dancers bodies stretching and leaping across the stage with long lean muscles, men and women practicing Pirouettes and an occasional Grand jete across the stage.  The house experimenting with lighting, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater (PBT) orchestra warming up one section at a time for the PBT 2015-2016 full dress rehearsal was open to a select group of press and photographers and I was lucky enough to be invited for a glimpse of the triple bill program which launched Friday October 23, 2015. 
The guests are seated on the mezzanine level overlooking the stage and the pit.  The orchestra warms up, one section at a time, including a full brass section.  The PBT prepares a performance of high energy, emotive and innovative artistic aptitude with a flourish of beauty and grace offering two Pittsburgh premieres Sinfonietta and In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated as well as Western Symphony.   The dancers move across the stage with elegance.  Their bodies twist and bend, twirl and leap with technical fluidity to the sounds of pure romanticism. 

The first number, Sinfonietta choreographed by Czech born JiЕ™Г KyliГn,

introduces the Pittsburgh audience to a ballet with precise footwork, powerful gallops and a sea of green, blue and white dressed dancers who  chase each across the stage to the military music by Czech composer JanГД ek.   Sinfoniettais recognized as one of the 20th century's most compelling orchestras and the PBT dancers mimic the movements of horses and birds with animation, their arms and legs in synchronization with the sound of the brass ensemble. 

The second performance on the bill, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, is executed to the sounds of industrial music, and is often referred to as the work which changed ballet forever.  Choreographed by William Forsythe, a visionary of the dance world, the PBT dancers enter the stage in green and black leotards to a stark stage, a simple black drop curtain behind the jolting movements of the dancers' limbs as they flail in expert timing to the challenging sound of the looping percussion.  The arrangements of the dancers' bodies to the nontraditional music is intriguing and emotionally charged offering audience members an experience teetering on experimental,  while maintaining a steady showcase of professional form and function.

The third and final piece of the evening, Western Symphony is a lighthearted ballet featuring cowboys and saloon dancers.  Sure to be a show- stopping number, Western Symphony, created by one of the

best known names in modern ballet, George Balanchine.  This number is energetic and the dancers are buoyant.   The ballet is set in an old west town,   the brightly colored costumes trimmed in magenta, scarlet, golden yellow and teal add to the jovial nature of the performance.  The music, arranged by upbeat adds to.  The stage comes alive with dancers, twirling to the sounds of the orchestra, originally arranged by Hershey Kay simulates classic American Folk music and transports the dancers into the frontier.  The Western Symphony is the most classical performance of the evening but still manages to integrate the impression of a typical western themed hoedown, with classical ballet. 

As a prelude to the PBT season, this remarkable show will not disappoint.  The tremendous talent on stage combined with the eclectic choice of performances is an invitation for dance enthusiasts to enjoy a program of high artistic quality.

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 10-14-2015 10:07:00

PPT Opens 2015-16 Season with 

A Diary of Anne Frank.

By Megan Grabowski

Pittsburgh Public Theater's (PPT) 2015-16 inaugural show; The Diary of Anne Frank is a highly emotive performance.  Running approximately three hours, the story does not need synopsized.  Most of us, young and old, are familiar with the chronicles of Anne Frank.  She and her family spent two years in hiding during the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands during WWII. The play is based on her diary which was discovered after her death in a Nazi concentration camp.  In her diary she confessed her adolescent thoughts, dreams, fears and desires as well as those pertaining to her persecution because she was Jewish.  Anne's diary was first published in Amsterdam in 1947 and soon became so popular that Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett recreated the accounts as an expressive tribute to her life.  

As the audience we are voyeurs watching, with a strange sense of intuition, the fate of eight people unfold before us.  Producing Artistic Director Ted Pappas has reimagined a time and place from history which allows anyone brave enough to bear witness an opportunity to examine this moment in history. 

The play opens with Otto Frank, played by Randy Kovitz, wobbling up
 Remy Zaken as Anne Frank
the attic stairs, returning to the annex above the warehouse for a final goodbye.   He meanders throughout the historically designed set gently touching items and studying the remains of his last home before being captured by the Nazi's. The set mimics the actual floorplan of the attic space where he dwelled with his wife and two daughters, Anne and Margot.  The stage is arranged with antiquated furniture and bedding which add to the sense of time.  He is accompanied by Meip, a young Dutch woman sensitive to the Jewish cause who assisted the Frank family in securing a hiding place. Her compassion and kindness is exhibited as she escorts Mr. Frank to his family's last residence and gently encourages him to read the discovered diary. Meip is Kelsey Carthew's professional stage premiere. Her supporting role as a connection to the outside world for the household is essential and soul nourishing.  

Meip and Ken Bolden, as Mr. Kraler, each play the part of minor characters yet their presence is felt on stage despite their physical appearances. These characters are the cord which connects the diary entries of a 13 year old girl, relaying everyday life, to the historical events that ultimately generated the possibility of the play. 

Randy Kovitz as Otto Frank, Remy Zaken as Anne Frank and Christine Laitta as Edith Frank
Kovitz an experienced actor of both stage and television is beautifully animated.  His face twists with inconsolable grief as he recites what is written in his daughter's diary.  As the lone survivor of his family, his pain is evident and he shakily speaks his daughter's notes.  The story begins with Mr. Frank reading out loud then the voice of a young girl begins to filter into the theater.  The two voices meet and simultaneously narrate for a moment then only one voice can be heard, that of a young girl.  This ethereal moment reminds us of who the author of the diary really is.  So, the splay continues in Anne's voice, with her words from her ideas, her impressions, and her experiences.  As spectators, our imaginations are instantly transported. 

Zaken's performance as Anne is a poignant personification of a young girl. We witness the pain and frustrations of Anne as she strives for independence from her mother, Mrs. Frank, played by Pittsburgh native Christine Laitta and older sister, Margot played by local performer Erika Cuenca. Despite the living conditions in the attic or the frequent disapproval she receives from the other household members, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, their son Peter and Mr. Dussel, Anne never gives up expressing her own personality.  She laid her head on her father's shoulder when seeking solace and never stops believing in a better world for all. Zaken's rendition of a young girl, sometimes playful, sometime adversarial and sometimes introspective is profound.  She effortlessly conveys the image of Anne as a child in all her moods while continually maintaining the innocence of a child.

Daniel Krell cast as Mr. Dussel, an older gentleman who joins the household half way through their hiding.  He brings the small bit of comic relief a drama of this nature allows.  His frustration toward living in captivity and sharing sleeping quarters with a child are expressed exceptionally well.  His rebukes at Anne's childish behavior are just tolerable because we know he tries to mask his fear behind his intelligence.   Mr. Dussel is not a likable person, but Krell's portrayal is powerful.  Despite his near constant conflicts with Anne, the humanity of his character cannot be denied. 

 As Anne grows and matures she starts to bond more with her sister Margot, with a do-gooder, mother's helper, quiet and studious personality; the exact opposite of herself.   Cuenca, cast as Margot, does not have much to say, but her presence as a strong supporting cast member is made known during the scenes with Anne when she helps her dress and experiment with hairstyles for a ˜date' with Peter.  David Edward Jackson, cast as Peter, the awkward and introverted teen who initially spends his time alone with his cat, eventually becomes an essential confidant to Anne.  His depiction of a young man struggling to make sense of his world is refined and his blossoming interest in Anne as a young woman is an honest transition. Zaken and Jackson make a dynamic couple, telling the world, despite all the hate and fear, there can be love and beauty.  Their relationship is the polar opposite of Peter's parents'.  

Remy Zaken as Anne Frank and David Edward Jackson as Peter Van Daan
Mr. Van Daan played by stage and film actor David Wohl and Mrs. Van Daan, played by veteran Pittsburgh performer Helena Ruoti spend the early part of the show criticizing Anne for her liveliness and sass.   Wohl depicts a nervous and emotionally detached man who as the performance progresses spends more time concerned with cigarettes and money than his own family.  Mrs. Van Daan disgusts the household with her blatant flirtatious acts toward Mr. Frank.  Ruoti is a brilliant dramatic actor.  Her role as a temperamental and pretentious woman appears effortless.  When Mr. Van Daan plays tug of war with his wife's beloved fur with intentions to sell it, she throws a terrific tantrum, flopping across her bed and wailing.  She grips her coat as her husband rips it from her hands.  He hands the coat to Meip with instructions to sell it, and then coolly requests she buy him cigarettes.  This scene, at first, is humorous.  It seems absurd for Mrs. Van Daan to keep the fur, and her reaction to losing it is melodramatic but no one in the audience laughed.  As bystanders, we begin to acknowledge life under the tense circumstances. 

Laitta as Mrs. Frank is the epitome of devoted wife and mother.  Her role as peacekeeper and protector of all is outstanding.  Her expressions of disheartenment by Anne's obvious favoritism toward her father are candid and her struggle to maintain her role as a parent even as the opportunities to do so diminish are conveyed with passion.   

We know the story.  The ending is apparent, (you can't change history).  It is the talent of the cast that truly make this performance worthwhile.  
The Diary of Anne Frank plays through October 25, 2015.  For tickets please visit :

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 10-06-2015 14:49:00

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Diana Ross, 

"In the Name of Love," Don't Stop

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

As a baby boomer, myself I am ecstatic to know that Diana Ross has not stopped performing and has a timeless appeal to multiple generations. Let's not talk about her age.  It was enough to know that each time she came out on stage at the Benedum on Saturday, September 12, 2015, that as she appeared in yet again another astounding costume that she appeared each time to be even more timeless.

Way to rock out an opening!  Diana brought the audience to their feet as she belted out "I'm Coming Out" as en entrance.
A trendsetter, a pacesetter and a legend, her performance was dazzling.  At one point in time, she said, "I feel like I am singing to I phones" and asked that the audience send her the pictures.  She lamented that she was not as thin as she was in the sixties but I am sure that the audience will agree that she looks absolutely flawless.

The color pictures here on the blog, are by Kelli Robbins, my concert partner.  By the time we left the theater and were on our way home in the Lyft, Diana had liked a picture that Kelli had posted on Instagram.

Her encore was emotional and brought the audience together as she sang Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand) and I Will Survive
As Diana continues her "In the Name of Love" Tour we wish her prosperity, love and the fulfillment that she obviously gets from performing.  It was so easy to see that she was thoroughly enjoying herself on stage and the contagion infested the audience.

Set list

1. I'm Coming Out
2. More Today Than Yesterday (The Supremes)
3. My World Is Empty Without You (The Supremes)
4. Baby Love (The Supremes)
5. Stop! In the Name of Love, (The Supremes)
6. You Can't Hurry Love (The Supremes)
7. Touch Me in the Morning
8. Love Child (The Supremes)
9. The Boss
10. Upside Down
11. Love Hangover
12. Take Me Higher
13. Ease on Down the Road (Diana Ross and Michael Jackson cover)
14. Don't Explain (Lady Sings the Blues )
15. Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers cover)
16. Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To?)
17. Ain't No Mountain High Enough
18. I Will Survive  

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. 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. 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: 10-06-2015 12:14:00

Distant Worlds; an Otherworldly Event.

By Megan Grabowski

August 1, 2015, a sultry evening in Pittsburgh.  An audience consisting of primarily Gen X through Gen Z, gathered outside the lavish Heinz Hall home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the Cultural District.  The buzz is absolute anticipation for the long awaited music of the media franchise Final Fantasy (FF).  The repertoire is a revered piece of the 25 year history of the fantasy video game, as well as a free standing esteemed collection of an infinite number of scores and emotionally charged compositions.  

The ambience of Heinz Hall encourages a higher level of respect for the world of gaming than I ever imagined I could hold.  The orchestra situated downstage, warms up as patrons file into the posh red upholstered seats, some dressed in FF cosplay and others dressed to the nine. I quickly realize this will be a performance like nothing I have ever seen before. 

Quietly the Mendelssohn Choir moves into place.  They position themselves tucked behind the orchestra and the large projection screen hanging from the ceiling, fusing into the black curtain, a subtle backdrop creating a mysterious presence on the stage.  Arnie Roth parades onto the stage, under the spotlight, hand in hand with Hitoshi Sakimoto.  Together they bow and the audience and the crowd erupt in cheers.  As the applause subsides, the Prelude begins; next the music flows into another score, Liberi Fatali.  With each set the projector illuminates with images of FF characters, complete with fantastical places, battles and dancing. The assorted edits are date stamped; 1989-12-17, 1990- 4- 7, 2000-7-7 and so forth, highlighting more than two decades of an industrious advancement of the graphics in tandem with the ethereal sounds of the symphony and choir.

Grammy award winning music director Arnie Roth turns to face the crowd.  With sweeping gestures of his arm he waves to the audience, motions to the spectators on the balcony, and then urges the orchestra to stand.  The audience rises to their feet, the hall fills with a roar and whistling and shouting all in praise of the performance about to unfold.  Roth speaks with pride about Distant Worlds.  He expresses his passion for the show when sharing some background:  over 100 performances worldwide in a span of 8 years and always remaining open to new ideas and selections of music the fans would enjoy.  Then with dynamic enthusiasm Roth introduces Hitoshi Sakimoto, best known for his orchestral compositions for FF VII, one of the series most popular games. Sakimoto waves appreciatively and the audience continues to cheer.    

Roth then takes his place at the podium and cues up the orchestra.  A cacophony of sound ignites into the frenzied Victory Theme and The Dalmasca Estersand from FF IX.  We lose ourselves to the Roses of May, and FF XIV, Torn from the Heavens.  The layered sounds of the symphony and the choir create a synergy unique to this place at this time.  The lost score of FF VIII, transcribed for Distant Worlds, Balamb Garden conjures an auditory awakening that transports the listeners' minds directly into the scenes shown before us; a raging battle in a fantastical land or the serenity of airy, grassy plains beneath falling feathers.  Distant Worlds is more than a symphony, it is a full sensory experience.

Next we enjoy the arrangements for FF III, DS Opening, from FF VI, a Character Medley and the 2012 Chocobo Medley, an audience participatory piece which further engages us before intermission and the mad rush to the merch tables.

Returning from intermission we are entertained by the recently composed Battle and Victory Theme Medley, FF VII, Jenova Complete and the FF X, Zanarkand.  Both Jenovaand Zanarkand possess the complementary sounds of the Mendelssohn Choir. Lightning Returns: FF XIII: Light Eternal is a beautiful medley filled with the sounds of mystery, intrigue, discovery and innovation.   Next is the FF IV, Battle with the Four Fiends, which is a great gateway to the Opera, Maria and Draco from FF VI.  Tim Hartman, professional actor of stage and film, narrates the story, The war between East and West   The three soloists; tenor George Milosh, mezzo- soprano Amelia D'Arcy and baritone Skip Napier, operatically share the story or a war, a fallen castle and a surviving soldier, narration by Hartman is interspersed between the various numbers.  The choir joins this distinct performance and the audience's reception is wildly approving.   The evening culminates with the FF Main Theme.  At the conclusion of the final piece, the house nearly simultaneous gets up for a standing ovation.  After the bows cease, Roth returns to the stage announcing an encore number.  Once again rallying the audience into a participatory opportunity- shout it out Roth says and you know when, Sephiroth

A night listening to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is always gratifying.  The Mendelssohn Choir is nothing less than angelic sounding.  FF is engrained into the social stratosphere of our culture.  Together, these melodious elements bring a breath of fresh air into the hearts of FF fans.

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 07-30-2015 23:12:00

Concert Review Diana Krall 

with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

From the candlelit stage sitting at a grand piano the British Columbia native softly peddled songs that reminded one of a young Peggy Lee.

Her opening number, "Just Couldn't Say Goodbye" featured two of her five band members, Stuart Duncan and Guitarist Anthony Wilson.  What talent and such a match to Diana Krall's.

Chris Walden conducted the symphony for Diana's rendition of "Do It Again," what a treat for the audience.

But the piece de resistance of the entire concert was Tom Watts "Temptation" featuring Mr. Duncan, the drummer Kareem Wiggins and even the bass player. Also loved the old movies and clips on the screen behind the symphony, I am sure it was just one more thing to attract and entrance new symphony attendees.

There were other great renditions like "Summer Song,"  "Let's Fall in Love," "Love Letters" and an old standard "The Sunny Side of the Street."  What fun!

For those who remembered the 60's and 70's we were treated to Diana's renditions of "California Dreamin"" and "Operator" by Jim Croce.

Her finale was soulful and haunting, "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars."  

Truly this was a night of romance even with the early symphony performance of Overture to "Le Nozze Di Figaro" from "The Marriage of Figaro" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and "Sicilienne" from Pelleas et Melisande, Opus 80.

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. 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. 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: 07-21-2015 09:34:00

Johnny Mathis Music Made for the Symphony

Review of July 17, 2015 Concert

by Good News Reporter Joanne Quinn-Smith

What a night for dinner and the symphony.  We started off dinner at Alihan's Mediterranean on Sixth St. with shiskabob and seafood raviolis topped with shrimp and baklava for dessert.  Or should I say the Pittsburgh Symphony and Johnny Mathis show for dessert on July 17, 2015. If it were not the PSO Thursday night icons and just a normal concert what an opening band for a performer.  The symphony started the show with three selections:  Henry Mancini's, "The Pink Panther," Cole Porter's
"Begin the Beguine" and a medley of songs from "The Sound of Music."  Such a beginning and then a brief intermission before the star of the show hit the stage and the audience was awe struck before he sang the first note at how amazing he looked for 79 years old and logging over 60 years in show business.

From movie themes to Mathis classics, his performance was flawless.  My cousin said his performance made her want to slow dance all night. When he performed early on "When I Fall in Love," it was easy to see how far back the song took even the men in the audience.  Another Mancini classic, "Days of Wine and Roses" was at the top of the audiences list of favorites and of course "Moon River."

But "It's Not for Me to Say," "Chances Are."  and "Gina" of course made the audience roar with applause.  So it went also with "Secret Love" and "Strangers in Paradise."  Then John hit the stage with his guitar player Gil Reigers for "Misty," "My Foolish Heart," and the much awaited, "Twelfth of Never." For his finale Johnny really showed his range and talent with a medley of Brazilian songs:  The concert ended with a Medley of Brazilian music, "Mas Que Nada",  "Manha de Carnaval" medley of Brazilian music, with Mr. Reigers soloing  and, at the very end, Brazil. His encore was, "You'll Never Know."

On seeing other artists with the Pittsburgh symphony I have always felt, "How nice, the symphony is trying to bring the music to the masses."  But with Johnny Mathis the masses were brought to the symphony and more than any other artists this reviewer has seen perform with the symphony, Johnny Mathis music was made for the symphony and our PSO did it proud.  What a performance and so complementary for the symphony and Johnny Mathis.


Publish Date: 06-02-2015 22:43:00

Roving Pittsburgh Report,  Cocktails and Cuisine, 

A Magical Night in an Idyllic Setting


Kelli Robbins, President Contact One

The judge said: ˜Lady, just because he hurt you, doesn't mean he'll hurt his own kids.' But then, he murdered my little babies.

These words hung quietly in the warm spring air over the hundreds of people gathered for Cocktails and Cuisine , the popular annual fundraiser for Crisis Center North, which was held on May 15th from 6-pm at The Woodlands of Bradford Woods.  Crisis Center North is a nonprofit domestic violence counseling and educational resource center, which has served the community since 1978. Their mission is to empower victims of domestic violence and cultivate community attitudes and behaviors that break the cycle of violence. All monies raised from this event goes toward providing victims of domestic violence the advocacy and support needed to chart a path toward safety and self-sufficiency.

The 8th CCN Cocktails and Cuisine is an exceptional grazing and sipping event with fabulous food from top restaurants, including local favorites such as Bella Frutteto, Wood Fired Flatbreads, John Marshall Catering, Aladdin's Eatery, The Tuscan Inn, Willow and The Walnut Grill. Participants compete for the Best Overall Taste Treat; and the coveted title of People's Choice Award for Overall Favorite. This year's Celebrity Foodie Judges included Christina French, publisher of Table Magazine; Amanda Smith, Talent Competition Winner in the Miss America Pageant 2015;  and Doug Oster, Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Backyard Gardner and co-host of KDKA Radio's The Organic Gardners.

Libations were plentiful and provided by the generosity of sponsors
First Commonwealth Bank; Bird Dog Whiskey; Fuhrer Wholesale; Soergel Orchards; Achieve Realty, D'Andrea Wine & Liquor Imports; State Farm Insurance and Turo Family Chiropractic.

The evening's festivities under the tents included live music from one of Pittsburgh's favorite jazz singers, Antoinette. Jon Burnett, broadcaster at KDKA TV, served as Master of Ceremonies for The Northern Star Awards Presentation. Every year, Crisis Center North recognizes the contributions of key individuals and community groups who support and further the mission of CCN.  This year's honorees included Individual Honoree Lisa Wagner, for her fundraising and community awareness efforts;  Community Award Honoree UPMC Health Plan for their community support and advocacy programs; System Honoree Shaler Township Police Department, for their multiple large-scale projects for education and prevention initiatives, as well as betterment of the criminal justice system; and Lifetime Achievement Honoree Anna Belle-Few, who has provided vision and leadership to CCN for 37 years.

The live auction, hosted by the renowned husband and wife emcee duo, Paul and Beth Kelly of Orlando Florida, included such crowd pleasers as an all expenses paid trip to the Castles of Ireland. Guests also enjoyed an eclectic array of upscale items in the silent auction including jewelry, spa baskets, jewelry, sports collectibles, a barrell of booze, theater tickets and weekend get-away packages.

This much anticipated fundraising event draws celebrated chefs from local caterers and fine dining restaurants throughout the region to compete for
Best Overall Taste Treat and Overall Favorite .

Silent Auction Guests were treated to a wide array of goodies, including spa packages, jewelry, sports collectibles, a barrell of booze, theater tickets and get-away packages.

Wine hosts, John McClay and Scott Vidovich of First Commonwealth Bank, and guests Kelli Robbins of Contact One Communications and Roxanne Buckels of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County enjoy a Chardonnay under the stars.
The early spring Pittsburgh weather could not have cooperated more for the evening's festivities!
A Magical Night!
An idyllic setting!

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Publish Date: 05-25-2015 22:46:00

PPT's Cast of Othello Mesmerizing

by Megan Grabowski

Othello, a poignant conclusion to the Pittsburgh Public Theater's
(PPT) paramount anniversary, is a time- honored and recognized dramatization of humanness. Othello, one of Shakespeare's most emotive and prototypical tragedies, boasts a dazzling cast and is sure to be a performance you won't forget. 

Live theater, especially Shakespeare, is an opportunity to bear witness to the enormous expression of human emotion.  Who is better, at verbally exposing the vast range of humanity, than Shakespeare?   PPT's cast of Othello delivers a near 3 hour account of erroneous relationships heavily laced with all the elements that make a classic tragedy mesmerizing.

Othello's world is filled with deceit and rage, injustice and passions beyond a normal scope. Under the directorial influence of Ted Pappas the cast play their parts perfectly. Initially, it appears the sensational characters are charming but as the story unfolds, they quickly turn to reveal themselves as teetering on the edge of insanity.  The Shakespearean players, Teagle F. Bougere as Othello, Jeremy Kushnier in the role of Iago, Amanda Lee as Desdemona and Jessica Wortham who plays Emilia, Iago's wife and Desdemona's maid appear comfortable in their part and absolutely  in tune with the traditional melodrama. 

Othello begins as Iago and Rodergio, (Christopher Michael McFarland) cunningly expose the recent elopement of Othello the moor and general to the lovely and chaste Desdemona.  By exposing the secret marriage to Brabantio, (Edward James Hyland) Desdemona's father, Iago begins his conspiring manipulation in hope of seeking revenge upon Othello, for choosing Cassio, (Paul Terzenbach), as lieutenant, over him.  The story progresses rapidly as Iago devises a scheme to ruin Othello, in any way possible, as repayment for his slight.  Iago plots retributions, which draw each character into a web of shame and lies and emotional anguish. 

Bougere's performance as Othello's is a powerhouse of uncensored emotional flares.  In the presence of his arousing turmoil I shirked
slightly in my seat as he spread his arms and strut across the stage.  The anguish in his roars and his steady decline into insanity is expertly crafted.  Othello is dark skinned and muscular. His voice is deep and commanding, much like you would expect from a man with military rank and authority.  Bougere uses his physical appearance to bolster his part as Othello. 

Cobb's performance as Desdemona the unwavering devotee, to her lord, captivates. Her final scene, a moment that will not leave my mind, brings the idea of martyrdom to the forefront of my thoughts.  The instant she begins to panic; fearing she may lose her love- I am moved almost to tears.   Cobb keeps her voice steady yet gentle.   Desdemona is not afraid to challenge Othello with her questions. She remains strong even in his weakest hour.  

The guile of Iago and all the characters susceptibility to his deviousness is striking.  Kushnier designs Iago to be dark and manipulative.  His primary role is to inflict pain, both physical and mental, upon Othello and anyone else who might possibly have a
vested interest in Othello's happiness and success. Iago's soliloquies are callous but enthralling.  In the final scene, Iago raises his head and looks out toward the audience, his jaw drops slightly and his lips part as if ready to say speak the final word and I realize I am holding my breath; waiting.   Although, as audience we are not supposed to ˜like' the villain, based on the applause Kushnier received, it is safe to say he was very well received. 

Emilia is not just Desdemona's maid.  They are confidants;   Emilia empathizes with Desdemona over the tribulations of marriage, she is a shoulder to lean on and always has an ear to lend.  Emilia is a protector too, looking out for Desdemona, trying to guide her by offering sound advice.  Wortham plays the part of the level headed maid, but soon enough, we learn she too is a victim of Iago's scheme.  When it comes time for Emilia to confess her involvement, she is an accessory; her exaggerated laments give rise to Wortham's stage status; soaring her from supporting cast to star. 

PPT's cast of Othello draw you in with their embellished gestures, overstated facial expressions and crisp, clear delivery of Shakespeare's poetry.  The stage is sparse but full.  A wooden stage, two benches and two oversized, handsome wooden doors do not allow the audience to make any presumptions about the performance or the performers. There are very few props to move on and off of the stage which keeps the focus solely on the cast. 

Othello is about pure raw emotion.  Good or evil, right or wrong, Shakespeare doesn't worry about the moral so much as that it exists.  Pappas discovered a cast that executes the passion behind the play with precision. Othello will surely be considered one of PPT's most memorable productions. 

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Income Maintance Caseworker at State of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast. 


Publish Date: 04-22-2015 03:00:00

Quest for the Woman He Never Knew
Review of All the Names, Quantum Theatre's April 12th 2015 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  April 14, 2015

With the sound of every eerie gong, the Quantum Theatre's world premiere of All the Names kept the audience moving towards the light, falling deeper and deeper into the life and mind of Senhor Jose. In this adaptation of Jose Saramago's Nobel Prize winning book All the Names, translated by Margaret Jull Costa, we are reminded that everyone has a story. Small objective parts of that story are kept in official records and the rest is in the hearts and minds of those we interact with over time.

He said he must know what happened to her. But it seemed more an obsession. And why her? Of All the Names? As a clerk at the National Registry, he had seen millions of names pass by, including celebrity names and information that he personally documented for hobby. But her file with discrepant and missing information, led Senhor Jose, played by James Fitzgerald, on a tangled investigation. It was a quest that would challenge the square introvert's inner sense of purpose and place in the vast world we live in. Answers led to more questions, and more questions started to cut deep and personal. The line between right and wrong became blurred as he justified abusing his access to official documents and avoided being caught by the stoic Registrar, played by CMU Assistant Professor Cameron Night.

As Senhore Jose's every decision and indecision is weighed out, his conscience is brought to life by actor and writer Mark Conway Thompson. Senhore Jose's conscience is always with him, like a shadow. As his quest grows more complicated and he becomes more emotionally entangled, it becomes hard to tell whether it is he or his conscience that is at the helm. Along his journey he meets two women, both played by Point Park Instructor Bridget Connors. In the course of providing leads for his investigation both women ruffle his square demeanor and challenge his emotional frailness. We see into one of the women's mind by her conscience also being personified, not mistakenly played by the same actor as the Registrar.

Actors playing multiple characters, omnipotent narration, and exaggerated sets that were almost like installation art, skewed the hierarchy of exactly which character's course we were seeing play out. At times the audience spied down on the characters from second floor balcony. We sat across an oversized desk from the Registrar staring down on us, feeling small, inconsequent, and judged, just as Sehore Jose. Other times we were amidst the journey in a huge dark room transformed into a dreary abandoned school, where a cachophony of ghostly whispers chilled the air and walls were covered with names in chalk of those who had been there before including mine now.

We walked amongst file boxes and documents seemingly suspended in midair. It transported the audience to a dream state where the line between reality and imagination blurred. The vastness and somewhat disorganization of the national registry poured over into the turmoil and chaos of the characters consciousness and the boundless ether of Senhor Jose's mind or even one's own. A trippy talking ceiling really brought the threshold of sanity into question. Becoming Senhore Jose, some audience members were instructed to sit, sit in his place to hear investigation testimonies. This world premiere adaptation of Jose Saramago's novel All The Names could not have been so exquisitely brought to life without artistic contributions of several talented people. Quantum's Artistic Director Karla Boos, and Dramaturge Megan Monaghan Rivas, were committed to bringing this complex story to life. Each member of the small cast was intense and commanding. The masterful scenic design in the original Carnegie Free Library by Barbara Luderowski and Narelle Sissons was technically enhanced with lighting effects by Cindy Limauro; fantastic and engaging multimedia projections by Joe Seamans and enriching sound production by Chris Evans and Sarah Pickett.

After staying for the post performance discussion, some audience members shared that they found the work to be akin to Kafka's works, filled with loneliness, inner turmoil, and the repressive confinement of societal convention. Artistic Director Karla Boos shared the inspiration and evolution of bringing this story to stage and it was clear that this project was an original and creative passion. And one that paid off. My friend Sandra, who went to the performance with me, said the real life little lambs were a nice touch. It is not your conventional play, it is absolutely excellent. The show is mesmerizing!

Additional Performances:
April 15th - May 2nd  |  8 PM  |  Heinz Hall
For more information and tickets visit

By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2015


Publish Date: 04-19-2015 11:55:00

Roving Pittsburgher Report, If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It, Slapstick Rule Boeing Boeing

Most people don't realize when they attend Boeing Boeing at the Cabaret Theater presented by the CLO that there was a movie.
Boeing Boeing) is a 1965 American bedroom farce comedy film, based on the 1960 French play Boeing-Boeing, and starring Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. It was released on December 22, 1965, and was the last film Paramount Pictures made with Lewis, who had made films exclusively with the studio since My Friend Irma (1949).
You could see the comic antics of Jerry Lewis and the physical comedy and body language translate into the CLO presentation as Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis roles are recreated by Connor McCanlus (Robert) and Tony Bingham (Bernard.)

Cast of Pittsburgh CLO's BOEING BOEING

Bernard Lawrence (TonyBingham) is a philandering three timing American journalist stationed in Paris, France. A serious womanizer, he has invented a devious system for juggling three different girlfriends: by dating stewardesses who are assigned to international routes on non-intersecting flight schedules.  For some time only one woman has been in the country at any given time! Bernard's romanced are run by a timetable of their landings and departures.
Tony Bingham and Connor McCanlus in Pittsburgh CLO's BOEING BOEING

Much of the real comedy is developed by the machinations his long-suffering, straight laced housekeeper Bertha (Elizabeth Ruelas). She swaps the appropriate photos and food in and out of the apartment to match the incoming girlfriend”none of the ladies is aware of each other's presence in the apartment. They regard Lawrence's flat as their "home" during their Paris layovers.

Connor McCanlus in Pittsburgh CLO's BOEING BOEING

But for those like Bernard operating on the edge of morality, all good things must come to an end.  His foolproof agenda is interrupted when his girlfriends' airlines begin using the Boeing aircraft. These faster flights change all of the existing route schedules and allow the stewardesses to spend more time in Paris. Without warning his three girlfriends will now all be in Paris at the same time. Fair warning at that time and now that it's important to pay attention to the news.  Although with a profession and three fiancГs the audience is left to wonder how he had much time for anything especially the news.

Robert Reed (Connor), a fellow journalist and an old acquaintance, arrives in town and is unable to find a hotel room. He insists on
Connor McCanlus and Amanda Pulcini in
staying in Bernard's apartment for a few days. When he sees Bernard's living situation, he clumsily begins to take over Bernard's apartment, causing even more chaos.

The comedy except for Berthe's adept one liners is slow until the arrival of Gretchen, the German stewardess played by Lisa Ann Goldsmith.  Her lusty, brash German antics seem to challenge all other players to come up to her level of both slapstick and verbal comedy.  But the broad antics that characterized 1950's comedy reins throughout Boeing, Boeing.
Director Van Kaplan managed to get perfect humorous timing, great body language, facial expression and sheer audience delight out of his actors.
The on stage comings and goings remind one of Feydaux's plays which ruled the Theater of the Absurd.
Boeing Boeing has an extended run at the Cabaret Theater through May 10, 2015.  The two gentlemen at my table, my companion and another's husband laughed so hard they had streaming tears.  The wife and I were given to unmitigated belly laughs.  So if mom loves to laugh this would be a great mother's day outing.  It might also be a cautionary tale to individuals who juggle women or men.

Lisa Ann Goldsmith, Tony Bingham and Kelly Trumbull in Pittsburgh CLO's BOEING BOEING

About the Show ONE MAN + THREE STEWARDESSES = NON-STOP COMEDY! This Tony Award-winning swingin' ˜60s farce features Bernard, a wannabe-Casanova, with Italian, German, and American fiancГes, each a beautiful airline hostess with frequent layovers. He keeps one up, one down and one pending until unexpected schedule changes bring all three to Paris and Bernard's apartment at the same time.
Performance Schedule
 Wednesdays 7:30pm Thursdays 1:00pm* & 7:30pm
Fridays 7:30pm Saturdays 2:00pm & 7:30pm Sundays 2:00pm
*With optional buffet at the CLO Cabaret on March 26 and April 23 Tickets Tickets start at $34.75 and are available online at, by calling 412-456-6666 or at the Box Office at Theater Square.

purchase tickets here:

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: 04-01-2015 12:58:00


By Tamar Cerafici

I live in rural New Hampshire. It's a hike to get to anything artsy. So when my friend Bunbury said, When you come to Pittsburgh, we'll go to Carmen, I sort of jumped at the chance.
To be frank, I'm not a fan of Carmen. My mother was a coloratura soprano with a specialty in the Bel Canto style, so I was raised on the works of Donitzetti and Puccini, where the mezzo soprano provides nice support in quartets, and the melodrama is all focused on the woman with tuberculosis. And I can never listen to Carmen without thinking of the Gilligan's Island Hamlet episode. But I was starved for culture so of course I went.

The Pittsburgh Opera's production changed my mind about Carmen. Here is a heroine full of fire and determination, played with dark fervor by Rinat Shaham. Not a hint of a cough in site. Not one asthmatic wheeze. She is a gypsy, used to the company of thieves. This is a character that lives right up to the moment she doesn't.
I guess this production is just different from the many others I've seen, or perhaps I was paying attention. Maybe the deft casting of an intense mezzo and fine actress (Ms. Shaham is both) against a rather aggressive (as opposed to lovesick) Don JosГ underscored the violence that most productions hide.

Michaela fends off Morales
David Bachman Photography

Rinat Shaham +
And this is a violent opera. Don JosГ (AJ Glueckert) is violent man. He tells his lieutenant, Zuniga (sung superbly by Philip Gay), that he joined the army because he got in a fight with a man in his village given his jealous proclivities throughout, one assumes it was over a girl and he was forced to leave. JosГ kills Zuniga to join Carmen and a band of thieves. But I wonder: did he kill Zuniga primarily because the officer had a rendezvous with Carmen? Then I wonder, what if he had to leave his village because he killed his victim in a jealous rage? Little acts of violence permeate Marc Astafan's bleak production, and they all lead to the ultimate act of violence. Carmen's world itself is violent; Carmen's murder seems a fait accompli. JosГ is drawn to her like a moth to the flame: we know somebody's going to get hurt.

While Carmen is all fire and blood, Glueckert's Don JosГ seemed a little pale. Glueckert's tenor is light and seemed out of proportion to Shaham's rich and vibrant vocals. On the other hand, this seems intentional, a result of Astafan's direction and not the lack of vocal skill or quality. His French diction could have been a little crisper, and he could have been more ardent in his more important arias. I applaud his effort to draw sharp contrasts between Carmen and her lover, though.

Escamillo greets the ladies
David Bachman Photography

Morgan Smith +
Speaking of Carmen's lovers, Morgan Smith's Escamillo was the highlight of this production. He is a presence to contend with - the only character that seems to match Shaham's Carmen. They are perfect together. If the Pittsburgh Opera want to bring him back, I can only say: Yes, please. This was his debut performance with the company, and I wonder why it took Christopher Hahn so long to find him. I would listen to him sing the phone book, or even the editorial page of the Tribune-Review. That's how good he is.

Carmen Dances for Jose
David Bachman Photography

Jasmine Muhammad *
The supporting cast was marvelous, but artist-in-residence Jasmine Muhammad gets my vote as a standout. Micaela is a thankless part. All she does is try to save Don JosГ and remind the lost sheep of his fold back home. She is the Greek Chorus to the larger tragedy playing out on stage, and she really has no other job except to remind us that JosГ had some worthy characteristics at one time. She Micaela, not Muhammad always seems a little co-dependent to me. But Muhammad played her character with clarity of voice and urgency that rose above the part. Her Micaela was a woman of purpose.

Gypsies surround Zuniga
David Bachman Photography

On the whole, this Carmen is a production worth seeing. The orchestra and chorus do solid credit to Bizet's music. I would have really like to see a flamenco or two (in that regard, Astafan fell short of the mark). I might have wished a more impassioned Don JosГ. But I understood Astafan's spare style, and appreciated it. Really, this is a spare opera. It is stark and lush at the same time. The Pittsburgh Opera production gets that.

Carmen accepts her fate.
David Bachman Photography

Former Pittsburgher and Environmental Attorney, Tamar Cerafici is author of the book Dominate, How Smart Lawyers Crush the Competition  and the blog Legal Shoe.


Publish Date: 03-27-2015 13:47:00

How I Learned What I Learned;  

An Evening With August Wilson.

By Megan Grabowski

The Pittsburgh premiere of How I Learned What I Learned introduces today's generation of theatergoers to 1960's Black America and pointedly offers Pittsburgher's an intimate moment with Wilson, listening to him tell the tales of growing up poor in an urban ghetto.  Yes, I claim to heave heard Wilson himself speak- his mannerisms; linguistic style and body language  channeled on stage through a great medium, actor Eugene Lee. 

A satisfying continuation of the commemorative 40th season, Pittsburgh Public Theater (PPT) has once again stroked the spirt of Pittsburghers.  How I learned What I Learned, August Wilson's final drama is running for a full month of performances.

The one-man show is an enhancement of Wilson's stories about growing up and coming of age in Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood.  The stories are reminiscent of the types of stories you hear in the corner bar or at parties and I imagine many anecdotes were often shared with his family and friends - but these biographical accounts were not fully conceived in dramatic form until Wilson requested the assistance of Todd Kreidler.   Collaborating with Kreidler, Wilson created a collection of stories for the stage, which mimic many themes commonly threaded throughout his other works.  He addresses social, economic, racial and familial subjects while simultaneously encompassing an audience with the art of storytelling.  How I Learned What I Learned was intended to be performed by Wilson himself.   After the shows initial run in Seattle, Wilson became ill and passed away before having a chance to tour the country as actor.   PPT's performance of How I Learned What I Learned is directed by Todd Kreidler, bringing an emotional depth to the stage that carries on a legacy which will move the audiences at their core. 

It appears to me, native Pittsburghers typically maintain a unified essence of their city, claiming ownership to all things Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol, Fred Rogers, Heinz Ketchup.  Wilson too fits in this list of notables, yet his characters and stories are indicative of you and me; the average guy, living day to day, striving to survive.

The great prodigious energy of August Wilson, pours from the lips of actor Eugene Lee, on stage at the O'Reilly Theater behind a backdrop of 8.5x11 sheets of paper.  He sits on a platform, covered in detritus and litter, perhaps a simulation of the stoop outside Wilson's basement apartment in the mid-1960's.  As Lee enters, the sounds of a typewriter, tap, tap, tapping, spell out the first chapter of the show, ˜My Ancestors'.   For more than 90 minutes Lee stands sits, paces and dances to the tales of Wilson's life, his only props being the stoop, a stool, a desk and a glass of water.  The set is simple yet significant; each story is introduced on the sheets of paper and the ambiance enhanced by lighting changes.  Sometimes music is added to complement a particular subject.  Lee speaks Wilson's stories- his experience with autodidacticism by way of the Carnegie Library, memories of his mentors, recollection of members of the Hill Art Society and frequently his drive to stand toe-to-toe with racism whenever and wherever he is confronted by it. 

The show is racially charged and should it be.  Wilson's account reflects upon a time in America when blacks were struggling to move past our nation's verbal and physical brutality against their race.  Wilson, intellectually understood humanity despite all of the injustices and insults, and does not cast blame. The message Wilson conveys to his audience is matter of fact.  These are stories about growing up black in America in the 1960's.  The way Wilson tells it; that's just how it was.   How did he cope?  How did his friends survive?  How did they overcome?  How did some, inevitably succumb?  We hear about his first few jobs, his time in jail, his friends, the women he loved the music that healed and moved him and the community where he lived.  It is the culmination of these experiences that shaped his art.  Each chapter title is typed letter by letter onto the sheets of paper hanging above the stage, ˜Jail', ˜Coltrane', ˜Hill District 1965', and in conclusion,  ˜How Do You Know What You Know'. 

How I Learned What I Learned completes what is commonly referred to as The Century Cycle .  Wilson penned one play for each decade of the 20th century, 9 of them set here in Pittsburgh.  As a play, How I Learned What I Learned is different.  Lee, incredible in his interpretation of Wilson, never struggles with a lack of energy, despite his 1.5 hour monologue, nor is there dearth in representation of character.  He appears to have resurrected the playwright, granting Pittsburgh a moment in time with August Wilson.

How I Learned What I Learned runs through April 5, 2015.  Ticket information is available HERE

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Income Maintance Caseworker at State of Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast. 


Publish Date: 02-15-2015 01:44:00

Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Beauty and the Beast of Smorgasbord of Elegance and Style

by Good News Reporters, Joanne Quinn-Smith and
Anaiyah Thomas

A quiet Saturday afternoon, little girls in party dresses, monkeys dancing on stage and a beauty and a BEAST, oh my! Beauty and the Beast had in all, five scenes and 92 costumes designed by Jose Varona.  The costumes alone were a high point of the overall performance adding tremendously to its style, and vibrant sense of whimsy, fantasy and stagecraft.

What a smorgasbord of visual elegance and style.  The beginning of the ballet was ensemble performances by very effective might looking stags complete with horns and beautiful graceful nymphs and other Forrest Creatures.

I am telling this review from my six year old granddaughter Anaiyah's point of view.  When I asked her what she liked best about the ballet, she said, the monkey dance and the bluebirds.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

 At first she was worried that The Beast was going to be very scary but when she actually saw him come onto stage he had the desired impact of getting her to feel just a little sorry for him.

She was on the edge of her seat most of the time and while other young children were asking why there was no talking and singing, her precocious six year old self, got the sense of the story even without words.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

For my personal preference I loved the rosebushes co-ordinated to match the scenery and loved the humor brought to the stage by Beauty's sisters, Olivia Kelly and Maris Grywalski.  I found them very under appreciated.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

Anaiyah's favorite scene was however when the Beast (Prince) and Beauty came out in their long capes and crowns.  And always she loved the pas de deux.

Photos by: Rich Sofranko

Once again the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater stars and corps, costume and set designers have put on another production of grace and style and grandeur.  

Only selfie in existence of grandma Joanne Quinn-Smith and
partner reviewer granddauther Anaiyah Thomas
Joanne Quinn-Smith, publisher, host of PositivelyPittsburghLive with PPL Kidz Korner partner reviewer granddaughter Anaiyah Thomas known for being six year old fashion police and precocius six year old symphony and ballet reviewer.


Publish Date: 02-09-2015 11:55:00

Even Russian Politics in 1866 Can Be Funny, A Review of "Prussia, 1866"

by Megan Grabowski, Good News Reviewer

During the Seven Weeks War, in 1866, a Prussian victory meant many in the Kingdom praised the leaders who paved way for a new state. The Prussian parliamentary influence over the separation of Prussia from Austria and Germany, aided in revolutionizing the principals of the Enlightenment movement.  The social, political, economic and cultural changes encouraged a rapid growth of free thinkers, including women.  These women recognized the occasion to ride the coattails of this Enlightenment, and introduced many of the ideals we identify as fundamentals of feminism.
Prussia: 1866 is written to reflect the primal period of feminism.  

 Playwright Gab Cody vividly captures the essence of the time; the political atmosphere as well as the socio-economic status and religious diversities which commonly gauged the moral compass of females during the depicted time.  Prussia: 1866 offers the audience a twist, telling the story in the manner of comedic farce.

Young Friedrich Fritz Nietzsche, played by Drew Palajsa, is studying in the home of his mentor Heinrich Von Klamp, a famous poet, novelist and political force. Fritz is having an affair with Klamp's wife Mariska, a young seductress played by Laura Lee Brautigam.  Rosemary, played by Cody, is a major influence in the women's movement and Klamp's writing assistant. Rosemary exercises her values by interjecting them into Klamp's popular writing.  Hayley Nielsen stars as the meek, protestant servant, who often draws out laughs from the audience by quoting her father's interpretation of women, marriage and religion.  Before the end of the play, she too finds herself intertwined in the domestic love triangle. 

 Sam Turich portrays the American Delegate and Rosemary's secret husband.  The comedic timing between Cody and Turich is noteworthy during the translation scenes.   Another slapstick moment worth mentioning is the hilarious cacophony of absurdity in a final scene; books fly across the stage and the men rapidly undress in the name of Naturalism.  Throughout the performance the characters sexual prowess, interlaced with romanticism, witty dialogue and a mildly bawdy tone had the audience howling in their seats. Furthermore, I would not be submitting an honest review if I failed to mention the brief but instrumental nude scene. Knowing ahead of time there would be nudity in the production, I assumed at some point I would find myself staring at an actor's breasts.  Without giving any more details away, kudos to Cody for sticking true to the feminist motives that layer this amusing performance. 

Premiering on stage of the Rauh Theater this period piece is enhanced by the talents of Cathleen Crocker- Perry, costume designer, who ensures the cast is dressed in apparel reflecting the time and tone in an authentic style.  Additionally, because the story takes place over the course of just one day, scenic designer Stephanie Mayer- Staley utilizes tall shelves filled with books, long drapes, elegant chaise and pillows as well as multiple doors, for the purpose of burlesque style humor; characters run amuck, wild witticisms frequently soar across stage and characters scheme to manipulate and entrap one another. 

No real background in world history or philosophy is necessary to enjoy Prussia: 1866, just a sound sense of humor and an instrumental respect for funny women and the men who love them.  This is a great show for a date night. 

"Prussia: 1866" runs from February 5 through February 22, 2015.  Information on ticket sales and show times can be found here

 Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 02-02-2015 04:50:00

˜Wouldn't It Be Lovely' to see Pittsburgh Public Theater's Production of My Fair Lady?

By Megan Grabowski

Benjamin Howes as Henry Higgins and Kimberly Doreen Burns as Eliza Doolittle

 Have the winter doldrums set in?  ˜Wouldn't it be Lovely' to lose yourself in the transcendence of a classic musical production?  This
can be done by taking a trip to Pittsburgh's Cultural District and attending a showing of Pittsburgh Public Theaters My Fair Lady. 
The unforgettable musical score by Lerner and Lowe is just what the soul needs as a pick me up during a long dreary Pittsburgh winter.  From the overture through the final number the lightheartedness of the music fills the O'Reilly Theater with instant warmth of familiarity and enduring notes.  Audience members will have no difficulty transcending everyday strife and the drudgery of work and familial obligations to lose themselves in 1912 London.   The captivating cast of characters charms the audience with the carefree musical score and heartwarming rags to riches story.

First row left to right: John Little, Kimberly Doreen Burns, Susan McGregor-Laine, Benjamin Howes

It took a handful of lines before my mind adjusted to the eruption of cockney accents on stage but Eliza Doolittle, played by Kimberly Doreen Burns, easily glides between two worlds; one the disenfranchised flower- girl, the other, a lady who manages to jump beyond the bourgeois class and directly into the upper echelons of society by means of rigorous training provided by linguist Henry Higgins, played by Benjamin Howes and Colonel Pickering, portrayed by John Little. 

 Left to right: Benjamin Howes, Kimberly Doreen Burns, John Little

A bet is made between Higgins and Pickering.  Within six months' time the professor of phonetics will transform Miss Doolittle from gutter girl into a respectable aristocrat.  The final test will be to pass her off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball.  The compassionate
Colonel and the harsh Higgins get right to work, drilling Miss Doolittle night and day, around the clock, until her phonetics become articulate and proper.  Miss Doolittle, physically and mentally exhausted, finally reaches her turning point when she annunciates, The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain with exaggerated long A's.  This scene is most memorable as two highly recognized songs, ˜The Rain in Spain' as well as ˜I Could Have Danced All Night' follow each other in a succession of musical sweetness.

Center: Bill Nolte

What is so special about My Fair Lady? After all, it's the classic story retold over and over throughout theater, film and literature,
the underprivileged gets a lucky break and a taste of the good life through some type of alteration.  It's a feel good story, with some old- fashioned humor which further enhances its' charm.  If the audience is not familiar with the era or not ready to lose themselves in the manner of the musical, some lyrics could cause a raised eyebrow or two, such as the in the songs, ˜I'm an Ordinary Man' and ˜A Hymn to Him'.  Not for a moment does this stop me from humming along to the catchy melodies, or admiring the wonderful harmonizing of the ensemble.  Burns voice is delightful, whether
singing as a proper lady or as the poor street peddler. The supporting cast, specifically Joe Jackson as Freddy, Bill Nolte as Alfred P. Doolittle and Terry Wickline as Mrs. Pearce are strong characters who effortlessly carry the show from scene to scene with their seasoned vocal talents and skillful theatrics.  The costumes are stunning; rich hues, parasols and ascots boost the mood of the depicted occasions. It is a fun evening of escapism.

 Directed and choreographed by Ted Pappas, well acquainted with Pittsburgh winters, he chose a cheery musical that will surely seize the spirit and, if for just a few hours, take our minds off the snow and bleakness waiting outdoors.

˜With a Little Bit of Luck', you will make it to the Pittsburgh Public Theater for a performance of My Fair Lady. The show runs from January 22 through February 22, 2015 at the O'Reilly Theater.

Tickets can be purchased here

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 01-24-2015 19:42:00

Let's Get Funky, A Review of Maceo Parker

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

Just attending the Maceo Parker concert at the Byham Theater on January 16 would have been enough to convince you that his fans are an eclectic group ranging from James Brown era boomers to current college students.  I was a accompanied by my nephew Josh Kurnot, 23 year old, Mechanical Engineering Student from West Virginia University.  He had never heard of Maceo and quickly became a fan. Maceo is known as the funkadylic sax of the James Brown Band.  

Now a little education for those of you are not schooled in the music genre called "funk."  It is a genre that originated in the mid
picture by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
to late 1960s when African-American musicians discovered the rhythmic, danceable combination of soul music, jazz and R&B using the strong rhythm groove of electric bass and drums and in, my mind, hi-lighting brass instruments.  Funk uses the same extended chords as bepop jazz, often extending one vamp on a single chord.  James Brown developed the signature "groove" that emphasized the downbeat leaning heavily on the first beat of every measure, funky bass line, drum patterns and syncopated guitar riffs.

Not getting it yet?  Getting funky with these extended vamps will have your head bopping, dancing, dancing in your seats and having fun especially if it is to Maceo Parker's famed alto sax and the amazing trombone of Dennis Rollins who often graces the audience along with Maceo in vocals with his sultry deep baritone.

At 72, Maceo is still the consummate performer. He and his "super band" are the epitome of funk entertainment.  Each is a celebrated musician in his own right making the audience experience delightful for "smorgasbord listening."  Dennis Rollins on trombone, Will Boulware on keyboards, Bruno Speight on guitar, Rodney Skeet Curtis on bass, Marcus Parker (son of Maceo's brother and long-time drumming partner Melvin) on drums, Martha High singing backup and Darliene Parker (Maceo's cousin) singing backup as well.

Darliene Parker adds so much energy and absolute mirth and sex appeal to the backup singing but her solo of "Stand by Me" could almost stand alone along with her scat duo with Maceo on the flute.  Spellbinding!

picture by Josh Kurnot
The band truly is a family affair as some of the performers actually date back to Maceo's stint with George Clinton with his bands Parliament and Funkadelic.  A musician whose resume includes James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Prince, among others, would only bring entertainment giants to the stage.

These musicians perform as though they were born to be on the stage, performing.  And it is obvious they are having a rollicking good time with joking and comical antics.  The show is a musical rodeo that really ropes you in with equal parts of fun antics and exciting musical execution.  We should all have careers where we have as much fun as Maceo's band does. And this translated to the live performance at the Byham.

The entire band stacked one musical showcase of their individual talents on top of each other.   Each band member had an opportunity
picture by Josh Kurnot
to strut their stuff, with at least one if not more opportunities for a solo performance showcasing each of their outstanding talents.

In old-school jazz show fashion, the band led off the night vamping a Latin groove as the back-up singers announced a Funky Fiesta. Soon, Parker took the stage, and the show moved into full-on funk time with Off the Hook, as in the funk is off the hook. It's a Parker concert chestnut, as are Make It Funky (a James Brown number)"Baby Knows" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."  There are also tributes to Marvin Gay and of course Maceo's impression of and tribute to Ray Charles.

Still Maceo's mesmerizing saxophone playing remains the biggest reason to go see his show. Whether in tandem bouts with Boyer or soloing on his own, he retains the style and substance that made him a funk icon. Lest we forget I Got You (I Feel Good)"--James Brown, James can be heard in many recordings shouting, "Maceo, I want to blow." Even James was a fan!  Maceo is fond of saying that his music is 98% funky stuff and only 2% Jazz and he has a book out by the same name:

If you missed the show and you get a chance, please for the memory of your life, don't make the second mistake twice.

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: 01-23-2015 11:10:00

 Learning to LIVE through PIPPIN

A Roving Pittsburgher Review

by Sunita Pandit, Mrs. Cardiology

My husband and I got tickets at the last minute.  Its busy during the week but I thought 'you only live once!' oh what a cliche! Convinced my husband to treat me with 'us' time and off we went... oh my...

Photo by Joan Marcus & Bruce Glikas   Pippin, Kyle Dean Massey
and father John Rubenstein.

Did not know what we were going to see... we are both first generation Indians that are still getting culturally Americanized! While walking from the parking garage to the Benedum I was able to hear a lot of chatter from the audience that had seen the Original Pippin and were all without fail excited at the prospect of seeing the original lead for Pippin arrive here in our very own Pittsburgh to play the part of the father of Pippin...In 1972 the starring role of Pippin was played by a virtual unknown, John Rubenstein.  Now Mr. Rubenstein an actor, composer, director and educator is back as the royal father of Pippin. 

Even as we sat down, the people behind us were commenting the same... We were excited about seeing acrobats... but what we actually saw and experienced was just astounding - a feast for the eyes - a smorgasbord for all of the senses... we had trouble focusing on one performer for long as so much kept happening at the same time. The performers filled the stage inch to inch with color action style all choreographed to timely perfection by Tony Award nominee Chet Walker in the style of Bob Fosse and circus creation of breathtaking acrobatics by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main.

Pippin also has a unique connection to Pittsburgh.  According to Playwright, Stephen Schwartz,  PIPPIN began as a show for the Sotch 'n' Soda club at Cargnegie Mellon University in 1967.  At that time Scotch 'n' Soda produced an original musical every year and he had written songs for two previous musicals. Schwartz had a friend, Ron Strauss, who had an idea to write a story about Carlegmagne's son launcing a revolution agains this father and had begun to write a musical about the idea.  So Schwartz and Strauss collaborated right here in Pittsburgh to create PIPPIN which became the most nominated Broadway show of 2013, won four 2013 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.  

Pippin a journey of self discovery that draws you in to wonder about your own life... And I will never be able to do justice to the performance of the cast in their singing... they all carried strength, clarity, but most important of all all of them were in the 'zone'. I could not help but be drawn in completely... IMPRESSIVE is an understatement... 

Pippin tells the story of a young prince who longs for a life filled with passion and adventure. Aided by an acting troupe headed by the Leading Player, the musical tells the story of Pippin's pursuit of the extraordinary.

And as for the original Pippin -well at this age he has an impressive stage presence and voice - oh I wonder and wish I could have seen him in the original version... I firmly believe that Cirque de Soliel has fierce competition in this troupe!

My husband and I are honored to have witnessed this feat of performance brought from Broadway to the Benedum... allowing us to enjoy such excellence in the comfort of our home town! The show swings through the Benedum from January 20 25, so be sure to grab your tickets for this unforgettable show!

 Sunita Pandit, host of Mrs. Cardiology which is an anchor podcast at is also the practice manager for her husband Santosh Pandit's private cardiology practice in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, she is also the Health Director on the Board of NAWBO Greater Pittsburgh.


Publish Date: 01-01-2015 23:56:00

An Electrifying Performance
Reviewer:  JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz,  

photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze
CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE, presented a spectacular night of entertainment aimed to amaze, awe and make one wonder  out loud   How in the world do they do all the twisting, turning, leaping, climbing, juggling, acrobatic and aerial feat and still be smiling and ready to do more?    The international cast of 30 performers from 12 different countries are extraordinary as they whirl, twist and perform almost impossible feats through 20 acts, and 300 custom changes in a 2 hour production. 

 The show pulls out all the holiday favorites, gingerbread men, Santa Claus, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, snowmen ice men and maidens, and penguins all performing amazing feats to entertain you. So much is going on at one time it is difficult at times to take in all the activity.   Kudo's to all that design, produce and deliver this holiday spectacular.  The only thing I miss is not knowing the names and background of the individual performers and what country they are from.   I think each one would have an amazing story to tell.       

photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Many of the performers have appeared on America's got Talent and although we can't be certain, my companion and I think we recognized Quick Change Artists, Lex Schoppi and Alina, masters of high speed haute couture entertainment.  Also we think we recognized  from America's Got Talent, quarter finalists Donovan and Rebecca although we cannot be sure as there was no program.

CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE is part of a franchise by directory Neil Goldberg, who created the groundbreaking Broadway hits CIRQUE DREAMS and JUNGLE FANTASY. CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE is a cirque show, a Broadway musical, a holiday spectacular and family show all in one! 
photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Great entertainment! Amazing show with fantastic performers whose enthusiasm and boundless energy could produce enough electricity to light up downtown Pittsburgh for a week.  Who needs gas wells?  Just harness the performers of CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE.  Truly an amazing and electrifying performance by all!

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: 12-16-2014 14:06:00

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Highmark Holiday Pops at PSO, Something for Everyone This Holiday Season

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith aka TechnoGranny
Todd Elllison 

Friday evening, December 12, 2014, was incredible as my guest and I sat in the 5th row from the stage and were not only able to listen to wonderful PSO Holiday menu of excitement but also see the expressions on Santa's face. That part was PRICELESS.  Highmark Holiday Pops --what a way to jump start your holiday season, if you haven't attended put this one on your immediate holiday "to do" list. You can still see the Holiday Pops December 20 & 21.
The stage was resplendent with two beautifully designed vintage looking trees and Todd Ellison was in rare form, sporting his clandestine Steeler lining inside his white dinner jacket. His legendary stature was only dwarfed by the amazing 25-foot tree in the Grand Lobby!

It's easy to see why Todd Ellison is "Hailed by the New York Times as one of Broadway's Electric Conductors, --one of the most
Ryan Vasquez
accomplished and sought after music directors working today.  He is charming, energetic, and witty and knows how to connect with the audience.  And the Mendelssohn Choir, well as Todd said, they look great for singing together for over 150 years and sound great also.
The concert started off with a resurgent "wow" with "O Tannebaum" and then the choir delighted the audience with "Three Ships." But the experience was moved into the "supernatural" with the absolutely heavenly rendition of "Ave Maria."  Ryan Vasquez was just signed for his first Broadway musical and it's easy to see why.

Kate Shindle
Then on a lighter note four lovely young ballerinas from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School performed a Musical Snuff Box to Opus 32. This was the most delightful gift of dance that the Ballet Theatre could have given the audience.  It was fresh and Christmassy and made one smile.

We really enjoyed the "high-low" progression of the concert as Kate Shindle's breathtaking voice filled Heinz Hall with "Love is Christmas." There was not a corner of the hall that was not permeated with joy as she sang.

Of course the treat after that with "Bassoon It Will Be Christmas" was both unique and delightfully entertaining as principal Bassoonist Nancy Groves and Bassoonist's Philip Pandolfi and James Rodgers took to the front of the stage. We know the bassoonists are there but featuring them was a stroke of absolute genius and one of the most memorable moments of the entire performance.

And the comic relief of Santa singing the "Christmas Alphabet" hit the bull's eye.  Since he never took off his Santa beard, I am assuming that Christopher Sanders played Santa and he did it deftly with verve and an ebullient Santa style.  His dance antics were right on also.

Finally, what a way to go off to intermission as the Choir filled the hall again with the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah.  What Christmas concert would be complete without it?
After intermission just in case you were beginning to be ready for a lullaby, not so!  A rollicking polka brought the audience back to life with "Trisch-Trasch (Chit Chat) from Opus 214 by Johann, Jr. Strauss.

And what PSO Concert would be complete without a wonderful tribute to the renowned Marvin Hamlisch as Ms. Shindle sang "Chanukah Lights."

Artist Joe Wos
Continuing on the path of "something for everyone" the symphony played a rousing version of "The Night Before Christmas" as artist and cartoonist Joe Wos plied his art on the large screen and the velvet voice of WQED's Jim Cunningham narrated.  This portion of the show along with Santa delighted kids of all ages in the audience.
After that we were again treated to the absolutely edifying voice of Mr. Vasquez in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" followed by Ms. Shindle and Mr. Vasquez in "The Prayer."  The thing that I loved about their rendition is that neither was dwarfed by the other as both are equally strong talents and blended perfectly.
Not finished yet, the stars of the show and the PSO and the choir and Todd Ellis also lead the audience in a traditional sing along.  What a way to finish the evening just before the very traditional "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

As we were leaving the theater the Pops Talk on stage was going on and what do you think was the biggest question, "Where and how did you get the Steeler lining for your dinner jacket?"  Hey it's not the Steelers but this reviewer thinks the Holiday Pops has the chance to be the second biggest tradition during the winter season in Pittsburgh. 

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: 12-14-2014 21:54:00

It's a Privilege to See the Conservatory Theater Company's Performance of Urinetown.

By Megan Grabowski

 A relatively new show, Urinetown opened on Broadway in 2001.  The initial response from theatergoers was overwhelmingly positive; earning Urinetown three Tony Awards in 2002.  More than a decade later, the show continues to incite glowing reviews.  The Thursday December 11 performance of Urinetown by the Conservatory Theater Company was sold out.  I sat elbow to elbow in a seat on the balcony of the Rauh Theater at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  The audience was as eccentric as the story. Students with purple hair in torn jeans were just as abundant in the crowd as the older women in hip length fur coats.  What I didn't realize before seeing the show, Urinetown is a musical rife with potty humor; is a quirky social and political satire that will appeal to individuals with a higher level of awareness or engagement.

The musical takes place sometime in the future, after a 20 year drought has caused a serious water shortage.  In order to combat the water crisis, a ban is placed on all private toilets.  In the fictional town toilets are owned by Urine Good Company or UGC for short, and require a fee to be used.  Two of the central characters, Penelope Pennywise and Bobby Strong work for Caldwell B. Cladwell, President of UGC, a corporation known best for their greed and corruption.  Under Mr. Cladwell's supervision, Look the other way as we run the company as we see fit , Bobby Strong and Pennywise manage Amenity #9, the poorest and filthiest toilet in town.  Early in the show, Bobby's father, Old Man Strong , is arrested for public urination because he cannot afford to pay his admission into the Amenity.  As Old Man Strong is carted off by two police officers, Officer Lockstock and Officer Barrel, to a mysterious place called Urinetown, he yells, Remember me .  Soon after his father's arrest Bobby meets Hope, Mr. Cladwell's daughter, who has come to work for the UGC.  Bobby and Hope quickly fall in love; Bobby is enamored with Hope's ideals to just follow your heart as described in the beautifully harmonized song.  Hope is intrigued by Bobby's honesty when he admits his guilt for not doing more to save his father from Urinetown.  

The story unfolds when rumors of an Amenity price hike spread among the citizens, especially Bobby and the patrons of Amenity #9.  The people who frequent Amenity #9 know they are in big trouble; they can barely afford the toilets for their current charge.  Soon a protest erupts and word of the rally reaches Hope and her father Caldwell B. Cladwell and the others at UGC.   Hope is surprised to learn Bobby is a leader in the revolt but because she is in love with him, she urges her father not to resort to violence.  She pleads with her father to look inside the rioters' hearts.  A truly ruthless corporate rat, Cladwell sings a perpetually catchy tune Don't Be the Bunny, where he compares the citizens of the anonymous town to bunny rabbits, singing,

                   A little bunny at a toll booth
                    He needs a measly fifty cents
                    Our little bunny didn't plan ahead
                    Poor bunny simply hasn't got the bread
                    He begs for mercy, but gets jail instead
                    Hasenpfeffer's in the air
                    As the bunny gets the chair!

By the end of Act 1, Bobby has kidnapped Hope and real trouble ensues.  Act 2 is full of plot twists and surprises.  Main characters die, the revolution is taken over by Hope and t
the true meaning of Urinetown is revealed. 

Although there is an abundance of humor and plenty of laughter throughout the show, Urinetown is not a comedy.  The theme is frighteningly real and the characters, while exaggerated, are none the less authentic.  The lighthearted nature of potty humor helps to balance the seriousness of the plot and the extremely catchy musical numbers, it's a Privilege to Pee, Mr. Cladwell and Snuff That Girl, are weirdly enchanting.

My seat on the balcony allowed me to look directly above the stage onto the loft at the jazz band.  The sweet sounds of the sax and percussion billowed through the theater, setting the mood for the fictional world I was about to enter.  Lights above the stage read, Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health a complete farce from the set design which looks like an alley or a ghetto, with litter strewn on the ground and graffiti scaring the building walls.

Officer Lockstock, played by Luke Halferty, served as the shows narrator.  His stage presence emanated charisma.  His talents appear to be great as he wrapped up Act 1 with a scene summary in slow- motion movements; comical and accomplished expertise.  One of my favorite characters, Caldwell B. Cladwell, portrayed by Taylor Warren offered the audience a spectacular performance.  When I find myself hating the bad guy I know they are doing a good job.  Warren's portrayal of evil entrepreneur combined with his abilities to generate laughter from the audience at just the right times is an indication of his prospects on stage.  The two leading ladies, Tara O'Donnell playing Pennywise and Morissa Trunzo staring as Hope Cladwell deserve recognition.  Whether the sound system in the theater was turned up too high, or the acoustics in the balcony were wonky, the high pitched squeals of O'Donnell made it difficult for me to see her as anything but the screech-er.  Portraying a cold- blooded character requires conviction in unique traits that must be expertly enacted on stage.  

Perhaps it was a directional thing, but de repetitive high pitched squeals did not convey the attitude of a callous supervisor hell-bent on enforcing the rules.  Trunzo, on the other hand, caught me completely off guard.  Her first appearance on stage did not indicate the strength of her voice.  Her harmonizing abilities, specifically in Follow Your Heart, were very lovely.  Her voice perfectly mimics the innocence of her character. Two other characters deserve a special mention. Eddie Layfield, Bobby Strong, a senior at Point Park University offered the audience a brilliant showing of his theatrical abilities, as vocalist, actor and dancer.  His skills were on spot, eliciting laughter from the audience as well as feelings of compassion and regret.  I expect to see his name on many Playbill's in the future.  Additionally, supporting character Little Sally, played by Emma Feinberg portrayed her character as sweet and cute, just like a little girl would be.  She was a wonderful accompaniment to Officer Lockstock, the hard-headed cop forced to the harsh realities of the laws and Urinetown to Little Sally, the simple child, who in fact wasn't so simple.  For a child, Little Sally offered the audience an honest perspective on what it means to be poor, and the real face of the victims of socio-economic injustices. 

Having most recently seen shows at the posh and glamorous Benedum Center, the cozy Rauh Theater was a welcome change.  The history of the Pittsburgh Playhouse radiates through the bones of the performers.  One thing for sure, the Point Park University's production of Urinetown did not disappoint as a professional quality performance.  There are no cocktails at intermission but a nice cafГ that offers soda and tea and coffee.  The affordability of tickets as well as the wide selection of various shows makes this a great theater for date night. 

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 12-06-2014 16:27:00

PPT's World Premiere L'Hotel Brings Life and Laughter

 to the O'Reiley Theater.

By Megan Grabowski

On Thursday evening, November 20, 2014 I traversed downtown to the O'Reiley Theater for my first world premiere. Pittsburgh Public Theaters (PPT) debut of L'Hotel, by Ed Dixon, a unique and intelligent comedy lured a vastly astute audience into the invitingly bright playhouse.  I was merely aware of the shows plot before sitting down in my seat and skimming the program.  That turned out to be o.k., as the actors were so true to character I never once felt I was missing a beat.  The performance of L'Hotel is an all-inclusive dose of culture for Pittsburghers who may not be familiar with all of the artists portrayed in the show.  Theatergoers will be driven to investigate the characters unfamiliar to them after experiencing the dramatists' flair for language and his intimate knowledge of each artiste under the skillful direction of Ted Pappas.
Deanne Lorette as Sarah Bernhardt and Daniel Hartley as Jim Morrison.

The show takes place, today, in the lobby of a posh French hotel,occupied by an eclectic group; Victor Hugo, Isadora Duncan, Gioachino Rossini, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Jim Morrison and the hotel's loyal waiter.  Act 1 begins with the animated and adorable waiter bustling with the hurriedness only a perfectionist server can deliver; setting tables, straightening linens, pouring beverages before the hotel's guests arrive; almost giddy with anticipation.  First to appear for morning cafe is the greatest and best known French writer, Victor Hugo, followed by Oscar Wilde.  The two literary minds sit at different tables and immediately begin to insult one another, a practice that follows the guests throughout the show.  Annoying?  Hardly, as the jabs consistently thrown across the stage between the actors contain brief spurts of biographical detail allowing the audience to collect tidbits of historical truths about the personalities.  

The strings of witticisms are brilliantly crafted. Only a writer schooled in the masterworks of each character could conjure.  The verbal pokes and prods pick fun at each characters iconic flaw, inevitably acknowledging the time period of their lifetime and success. No sooner does the audience begin to wonder why these 6 antiquated artists are dining, clearly they can scarcely tolerate one another, when they answer that through their banter. 

Sam Tsoutsouvas as Victor Hugo, Kati Brazda as Isadora Duncan, Tony Triano as Gioachino Rossini, Deanne Lorette as Sarah Bernhardt, Daniel Hartley as Jim Morrison, Brent Harris as Oscar Wilde, and Erika Cuenca as The Young Woman.
The jests, which skillfully span centuries, incorporate each person's life miseries and awaken the harsh realities of their personal purgatory; confined to L'Hotel.  Together they are doomed to repeat the behaviors and dismal thoughts they harbored during life.  Their connection to one another, each are buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.  Each a celebrity during their lifetime is now condemned to live out eternity as guests in L'Hotel. Much of their time appears to be spent chastising each other, and attempting to validate their own self- worth by talking about how great they are at creating; constantly striving to outdo the other in stardom. 

The arbitrariness of the guests, author Victor Hugo, composer Gioachion Rossini, actress Sarah Bernhardt, dancer Isadora Duncan, novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde and rock musician Jim Morrison, jointly generate a synergy of stereotypical artistic traits; egotism, arrogance and eccentric behavior that produce consistent laughter from the audience.  Despite the cast's woeful reminiscing of being, they unite during the development of a scheme to return one of them back to the land of the living.  The plan is initiated after a young girl visits the cemetery and leaves behind a bouquet of flowers on the grave of an unknown person.  Nothing incites the deceased celebrities more than seeing someone pay homage to a no-body.

The absurdity continues as the cast deliberates messages delivered through the Ouija Board.  Upon Bernhardt's encouragement, the dead guests seek advice from other spirits about how to attain the means for rebirth.  The unusual plot and the sharp dialogue make this show full of energy and genuine entertainment. 

Each actor is undeniably cast appropriately and they work flawlessly together. The waiter, played by Evan Zes has perfected comedic timing.  He charms the audience with his knack for hustle and attention to detail as he strives to meet the needs of his patrons.  His characters warmth and honesty toward life and death emanate on stage and keep the audience grounded.

Kati Brazda as Isadora Duncan, Sam Tsoutsouvas as Victor Hugo, Tony Triano as Gioachino Rossini, Evan Zes as The Waiter.
Sam Tsoutsouvas cast as Victor Hugo portrays a highbrowed spirit who compulsively condescends each guest continually throughout the course of the play.  It is his disturbing reserve of emotion and a deep seeded arrogance which prevents him from fully bonding with any other character. His loftiness inhibits any ability for him to let go of the past and move forward in the ethereal realm. It is his role as a somber spirit, and Tsoutsouvas's deep and sullen voice combined with his depiction of overtly forced self- worth, that permit me to believe he is Hugo. 

Brent Harris portrays Oscar Wilde with the flamboyancy and raunchiness I imagine he would possess if alive today.  Harris mastered the knack of gesturing while speaking, swaggering across the stage in a loud colored suit and retorting Hugo's incessant insults with humor and guile. He spends a great deal of time self- examining his soul while wrestling with his spiritual demons, but it is the moments when Wilde is alone on stage speaking to his long- lost lover with passion and yearning that Harris truly engages the audience.  We listen, quietly, during these solemn moments, laughter subsides; Wilde's pain is nearly tangible.

Brent Harris as Oscar Wilde.
Kati Brazda, sways across the stage, madly flinging her arms about, spinning, brushing the floor with her fingertips.  Brazda overstates Duncan's sadness, her regrets and her revelries through movement; through dance.  Brazda's presence on stage, depicting dancer Isadora Duncan, is enthusiastically exaggerated.  Duncan, although eager to unearth the steps toward reincarnation, also realizes the reality of her place.  She needs confirmation from the world that she is still influential and she attempts to draw this from her cast mates as she sashays across stage in a satin gown.  These eccentricities flow naturally from Brazda and I enjoyed listening to her speak of her time on the stage, communicating through movement. This zeal makes her a perfect accompaniment to Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, played by Tony Triano.  Duncan is patient and kind toward Rossini's naivetГ.  

While Triano plays up the gullible nature of the composer, who despite an appearance of flightiness is sincerely a musical genius Rossini ignores the matter of death altogether. He is a grand lover of life and his ability to produce and create beauty through writing music; he does not like the thought of being dead. Triano is stocky in stature and this adds to Rossini's delight in eating.  Triano conveys Rossini's pride by ensuring he speaks sincerely about his art and ignores most of the zingers Hugo, Wilde and Morrison throw at him.  Rossini never loses sight of his desire to continue composing so he pursues the opportunity to be born again.   

Daniel Hartley cast as Jim Morrison, the musical guile behind The Doors.  Morrison, a sex object even after death, wrecked his career with drinking and drugs and inevitably fashioned his own demise.  Morrison's character maintains the same self- destructive behaviors throughout L'Hotel. His first appearance involves retching loudly off stage, then sauntering on in leather pants, sunglasses, smoking a cigarette and requesting a beer for breakfast.   Morrison does not regret how he lived, but is remorseful that he is no longer alive. Hartley's display of Morrison's coolness and immortal attitude is something the audience can relate to on a number of levels. The role requires Hartley wear leather pants and gyrate his hips while brazenly referring to sexual exploits.  More important is Hartley's responsibility to demand the audience connect with him through reflection. What does it mean to be a celebrity in the 21st century?  Who deserves our revere?  Far too often the world loses a brilliant talent to drugs, alcohol or other negative behaviors.  Hartley's portrayal of Morrison made me question my choice of idols.  Who do I think deserves the fame, fortune and recognition?  

Who do I think will be famous for just 15 minutes?  What do celebrities really want to be remembered for?  What do I want to be remembered for after I die? 

Sarah Bernhardt, ˜the most famous actress the world has ever known' played by Deanne Lorette, is showy, proud, and overly dramatic.  She knows she was a renowned star and doesn't hesitate to remind the others.  She holds steadfast to her reputation as a serious actress and uses her natural inclination toward the theater to lead the Ouija expedition.  She cajoles the remaining cast members with her vivacity to follow her as she contacts spirits, requesting instructions for escape.  Bernhardt insists she is no longer dramatic, but through Lorette's hysterical interpretation we see Bernhardt as an eternal actress on and off stage, in life and after death. 

The young woman, played by Erika Cuenca is refreshing in her grief.  She is real and tormented. She agonizes over modern day difficulties. She speaks from the heart and unintentionally unites the cast in a demented and twisted manner without flinching.  She begs for someone to hear her and Hugo, Duncan, Wilde, Bernhardt, Rossini and Morrison holler back. These traits are the only aspects that impede a complete suspension of disbelief. 

Playwright Ed Dixon, has captured the essence of each character through dialogue and an original concept.  His familiarity of each character is uncanny as he attempts to have them shape the modern day images and ideals of an afterlife. The audience is left with a sense of ease, pondering our long held beliefs. Perhaps the uncertainty is not as frightening as we have thought. Or maybe more so!  Either way, Pappas, Pittsburgh's stage mastermind, seizes the crux of each artist's true being.  Through his impeccable direction 6 characters manage to transcend time and space on the stage of the O'Reiley, offering the audience they type of randomness that really makes a person wonder.  

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.


Publish Date: 12-04-2014 20:57:00

Its Not About Keeping Up with the Jones's, It Is About Utilizing Technology to Grow Your Business
Review of the 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference Nov. 13th 2014

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Nov. 15, 2014

You can watch or read a news story almost daily about a new successful company with a new cool idea that they are bringing to fruition with new and innovative technologies almost daily. And as an aspiring entrepreneur one could hear these stories and say oh the stars just aligned for that new company but how can I get my idea off the ground like that? And how will I ever afford to? How can I keep up with the Jone's company when I am struggling with the current technology to even get in the race? Well the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has the just the right resources to help any company get up and running. On Friday November 13th, 2014 they hosted the 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference to connect entrepreneurs with technology resources to make their business more competitive, efficient, and accessible.

The conference started with a breakfast and opening remarks from SBDC Director Mary T. McKinney, Ph.D.  She shared about her recent trips to the White House to discuss the Small Business Administration's upcoming initiatives. Then she introduced the opening panel speakers. Sue McMurdy of Endeavor Management started the discussion and day off with a very key point, that it is crucial to make sure that your company's IT efforts and endeavors are truly in sync with your overall business strategy. Doing technology stuff for the sake of having new or whatever reason can be in vain and have a negative impact not only on your bottom line, but effectiveness and efficiency operations too. Companies today depend so much on technology throughout their businesses, her advice was to make sure the use and implementation in your company is getting the thought and planning it is due. Jay Markey of Green Seven Technologies provided a great follow-up with the importance of then protecting all of your digital information and the resources available to do so. His advice was not to put all your digital eggs in one basket; Redundancy when it comes to data storage is like an insurance policy. Indigo Raffel of CCI rounded out the opening discussion with ideas to reduce your business's carbon footprint and the advantages of running a green company.

The conference continued with 3 break-out sessions. Attendees could choose from several workshops on e-commerce, social media, e-mail strategies, marketing with technology, software, and search engine optimization. The first one I went to was "How to Build, Manage & Promote Your Own Do-It-Yourself Website" by Joe Polk of Thirteen Ball. There he covered the all of the basic nuts and bolts of how to actually get a website up and running, including going through many of the the service providers and platforms. His personal insight was very helpful as to which companies to use for what and discerning when you need to consult professionals for advanced website design or coding.

The second session I went to was "Compel and Sell: Content and Calls to Action That Get Results" by Dan Droz of Droz and Associates. He had a very engaging and inspiring presentation that gave attendees a very structured and practical understanding about marketing strategies to implement and the motivations that should be behind them. Sometimes people can think of marketing as superfluous, but Droz made it clear that if everything you do in marketing and business development is done with purpose and leads your customers down a planned path, that path will lead to sales and a repeat customer relationship, which only means more sales. A key component of building relationships with customers is through communication, thus as Droz put it, that makes getting peoples emails like the holy grail. This perfectly teed up my last session choice.

The third session I attended was High-Impact Email Marketing: Best Practices & Winning Strategies by Autumn Edminston of the Edminston Group and Stephen Wayhart of Brandmill. Autumn shared great information about the timing strategies of emailing and automating the process. She is an authorized consultant for Constant Contact, one of the leading companies in email automation services, and showed its advantages of database management, customer segmentation, and analytics. Stephen continued with email content quality and layout. A key caution point he made was to not make emails overly complicated. These days most people are viewing emails on their smart phones, which are obviously smaller than an entire computer screen, and if an email is not well organized and scroll-able it will simply get trashed.

Dr. Anind Dey
Director of Human Compute
Interaction Institute of CMU
Probably most exciting of all was the the keynote speaker Anind Dey Ph.D., Director of the Human Computer Interaction Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. His talk on "Novel Ways You will be Connecting to Our World in the next Five to Ten Years Through Mobile Devices, Gaming and Computers" was packed full of wicked cool ideas of the future that are being developed right here in Pittsburgh, right now. One of the numerous examples of ideas he shared was an on-body computing interface being developed by one of his colleagues at CMU.   Now, as someone who is not in any hard technology industry, the idea of even thinking up some of the things he shared is mind blowing.  But his take away was an important one. In the times we live in, you don't have to be an expert, top to bottom, or even engineer everything yourself if you have an idea. Truly, an idea is all you need to be the next top innovator, because there are boundless and numerous resources to bring your idea to reality.

No conference would be complete without great networking opportunities. The trade show in the afternoon was a great time to check out local technology services and products available to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Many vendors featured great opportunities exclusive to conference attendees. I made several business contacts at this conference and got a lot of great ideas about different products and services to benefit my business and clients.

Upcoming SBDC Events:
First Step: Business Start-up Essentials
Dec. 4, 2014  |  9:30 AM - 12 PM  |  798 Turnpike St, Beaver, PA

Pacific Alliance Exports Event
Dec. 11, 2014  |  9:30 AM - 12 PM  |  Duquesne University, Rockwell Hall Room 505

First Step: Business Start-up Essentials
Dec. 11, 2014  |  1:30 - 4:30 PM  |  Duquesne University, Rockwell Hall

Entrepreneur's Growth Conference 2014
May 15, 2015  |  8:30 AM - 4:30 PM  |  Duquesne University

For More Information Contact:
Duquesne University
Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
108 Rockwell Hall 600 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15282-0103
(412) 396-6233  |
Twitter: @DUSBDC  |  Facebook: Duquesne University SBDC

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


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

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.


Publish Date: 10-30-2014 15:04:00

"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.