“Broadway” Bound

Skip the stress and hassle of traveling to New York City to see Broadway shows this month and, instead, let Broadway come to you.

New York City! The Big Apple! Broadway! Could anything beat the glitz and glamour of Times Square? Just check out those skyscrapers! The fine dining! The chorus lines! The…traffic?

Yes, NYC is a big, bright, bombastic city, but it’s also a six-hour drive away, and the parking is terrible. The subway is grimy; the people can be pushy, and one Manhattan cocktail will clean out your wallet. And if you want to catch a Broadway show, you’ll have to fight your way to the ticket booth, where even the nose-bleed seats may have sold out already.

So why not let New York come to you? After all, some of Broadway’s most exciting touring shows will stop right here in downtown Pittsburgh—the PNC Broadway Across America series brings a number of shows through the Cultural District—and local companies present their own versions of Broadway favorites. If you’re dying for big-budget musical theater, you can save your pennies and vacation days for some midwinter sunshine (Florida’s beautiful this time of year). Need more convincing? Here are just a few reasons to exchange NYC’s Seventh Avenue for our own Penn Avenue this month:

Forever Plaid got the Broadway ball rolling way back in December and continues its run into early spring (OK, yes, Forever Plaid is an off-Broadway musical, but let’s not be technical). You may have heard of this gem by NYC-based playwright Stuart Ross—it’s been performed here by Pittsburgh CLO—but in case you need a briefing, read on: The trend on Broadway is to take a bunch of pop songs and turn them into musicals. This is how Mamma Mia!, Movin’ Out and Lennon were born.

Forever Plaid is just such a revue, but with a hilarious gimmick: The Plaids are a fictitious 1950s male singing group, and on the eve of the group’s breakout performance, all four Plaids die in car accident. But what would have happened if the Plaids had arrived? Would they have stopped the British Invasion?

This hilarious revue returns once again to Cabaret at Theater Square, where it’s entertained fans for years. Enjoy such classic crooner hits as “Catch a Falling Star” and “Magic Moments.” (655 Penn Ave., downtown. Through March 28. See Web site for show times. $34.50-$44.50. Tickets: 412/456-6666, pgharts.org)

The excitement continues with Rent. Pittsburgh Musical Theater revives the super-hip 1994 classic set in ultra-modern New York. Rent is about youth, poverty, gender identity and HIV. It’s based on the opera La Bohème, but this rock musical changed all Broadway’s rules. If you walk out of the theater humming “Seasons of Love,” you’ll make the ghost of creator Jonathan Larson happy. (Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., downtown. Jan. 28-Feb. 7: Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. $12-$50. Tickets: 412/456-6666, pgharts.org)

Next up is In the Heights. More than just a Broadway standout, it’s also a Tony Award-winner. Here’s what you’ll want to know: A heat wave descends on NYC’s Washington Heights neighborhood, and the neighbors are sweaty and annoyed. In this mostly Dominican neighborhood, times are tough and the future looks grim—even the smart and attractive Nina had to drop out of Stanford because she couldn’t pay tuition. But somehow, the people in this tight-knit community will pull through, no matter what the sacrifice.

What Rent did for 1990s bohemians, In the Heights is doing for inner-city Latinos. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical incorporates rock, hip-hop, merengue and salsa, and the intimate story unfolds like a serious stage play. In the Heights premiered on Broadway in 2008 and won four Tony Awards, including “Best Musical.” Thanks to the PNC Broadway Across America series, you can witness this stirring new show without leaving the county. (Benedum Center, Seventh Street, downtown. Feb 2-7: Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m. $22-$66. Tickets: 412/456-6666, pgharts.org)

Things take a break for a few weeks until Xanadu premieres on Tues., Feb. 23. OK, how’s this for a concept: There’s an artist named Sonny, and his big dream is to open a roller-disco. His problem: He doesn’t feel inspired.

So then a divine muse named Clio descends from Mount Olympus to motivate Sonny into action. Because Clio is an ancient Greek deity, she must disguise herself—in this case, as an Australian roller-girl. Things get even more bizarre when Clio starts to fall in love with Sonny, a risky twist for a pantheon girl.

Based on the 1980s cult film (co-starring Pittsburgh golden-boy Gene Kelly), the musical Xanadu became a hit in 2007. This divine comedy features music and lyrics by classic rockers Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. Xanadu comes here courtesy of the PNC Broadway Across America series. (Benedum Center, Seventh Street, downtown. Feb. 23-28: Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m. $21-$62. Tickets: 412/456-6666, pgharts.org)

Just can’t get enough Broadway? Close out the month with “Broadway Rocks With Marvin.” To put it bluntly, Marvin Hamlisch is one of the most influential composers of the last 100 years, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is lucky to have him. This month, Hamlisch, the principal Pops conductor, brings on the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops in a concert that includes some of the most revered show tunes ever to play on Broadway.

Although Hamlisch’s best-known Broadway show is A Chorus Line, he’ll conduct a wide array of recent classics—music from The Phantom of the Opera (1986), Wicked (2003), Jersey Boys (2005) and Hairspray (2002), among other gems. Watch the legendary Hamlisch in action, and see why he’s won a Tony, an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Grammy, an Oscar and the Pulitzer Prize. (Heinz Hall, Sixth Street, downtown. Feb. 25-28: Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. $20-$83. Tickets: 412/392-4900, pittsburghsymphony.org)

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Things To Do