Another summer season come and gone.

A few posts back, I wrote a little bit about my experiences this summer interning for Pittsburgh CLO, one of the country's leading non-profit theaters. Since then, the past two months have flown by, and this past weekend, PCLO's 64th Summer Season came to a close. It's difficult to put into words how much I've learned, how little I've slept, and how much I've enjoyed every second of my internship-from tallying thousands of show surveys, to going out for brunch with a former boyband star, to watching audience members read my articles in their programs.

I've also had the opportunity to watch the performances of the incredibly talented people who came through the doors of the Benedum this summer. The extremely quick rehearsal-room-to-stage transition period creates a fascinating environment in which an actor must develop their portrayal of a character at a rapid pace. Since I just HAPPENED to be at the theater so much anyways (do I need a better excuse?), I managed to catch each of the six summer shows multiple times, and was able to witness the progression of the actors over the week or two that each show ran. In true PCLO fashion, each show had an extremely solid cast. I am truly in awe of each and every performer I watched this summer, and it's hard for me to believe that I won't be reading about each of them on the front page of BroadwayWorld in the near future. That being said, there were countless individual or duo performances that brought down the house every night.

So, without further ado...*drumroll*...I present my Top 10 List of Performers at PCLO This Summer, in no particular order:

1. Madeleine Doherty as Hold-Me Touch-Me in The Producers
Ms. Doherty reprised her role from the original Broadway cast of The Producers, but her performance was anything but stale. Really, any of the characters she played throughout the season popped right off the stage with the wacky mannerisms she embodied them with (see, Gym Teacher in Hairspray, Gretchen in The Student Prince). Look for her in the upcoming first national tour of 9 to 5!

2. Chad Johnson as Prince Karl Franz and Jacquelynne Fontaine as Kathie in The Student Prince
Okay, okay...I'm totally cheating by listing two actors together. Oops. Before rehearsals began for The Student Prince, I wasn't sure what to expect acting-wise from two star opera singers, but Mr. Johnson and Ms. Fontaine brought youthful innocence and refreshing honesty to their characters, and blew me away with their talent. And their voices...let's just say that I have finally begun to appreciate opera and how it is sung.

3. Ma-Anne Dionisio as Kim in Miss Saigon
Ms. Dionisio has literally grown up playing the role of Kim, and the maturity she now lends to her character made for an inspiring performance. She is also capable of conveying such a range of emotions with her voice, which aids in creating a strong female character.

4. Malcolm Gets as Lt. Frank Cioffi in Curtains
Mr. Gets is a true stage actor, with charisma that shot to the very last row of the Benedum's balcony. The style of his voice reminded me a lot of David Hyde Pierce, who won a Tony Award for the same role in 2007. His work in "A Tough Act to Follow" made the number one of my favorite scenes of the whole summer.

5. Michael Kadin Craig as Link Larkin and Katrina Rose Dideriksen as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray
(Cheating again...sorry!) Ms. Dideriksen brought such a spunkiness to Tracy, and sang the hell out of the score (no wonder she works with Joe Iconis!), especially "I Can Hear The Bells," "Welcome to the 60s" and "Without Love." Mr. Kadin Craig's Link was more toned down than past portrayals of the role, but it totally worked. His acting during the scene when he tells Tracy why he can't join the protest against Negro Day was PERFECT; it's immediately evident that he's not the kid who's popular because he's a stuck-up, football-playing stud, but because he's the hardest-working, focused-on-the-future kid who is also nice as can be to everyone.

6. John Walton West as Carmen Ghia in The Producers
Comedic brilliance. Mr. West's tall, lanky stature, combined with fluid, flamboyant movement across the stage, was perfection as Roger DeBris's assistant. He also nailed the delivery of his ridiculous lines and the interactions he created with other cast members onstage.

7. Jim J. Bullock as Wilbur Turnblad and Paul Vogt as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray
There's no point in apologizing any further-many, and arguably most, performances wouldn't be what they are without another actor or two thrown into the mix! Mr. Vogt and Mr. Bullock completely won the audience over on opening night with their antics during "You're Timeless to Me." Mr. Vogt's inclination for improv and Mr. Bullock's goofiness and honesty really brought Hairspray to life.

8. Kevin Gray as The Engineer in Miss Saigon
Mr. Gray is also a true stage actor, and although I've only seen him in one role, I thought he was wonderful as a character actor, in the best sense of the term. As the Engineer, his hidden allegiance to Uncle Sam, and greed, is so typical of the American way, but endearing at the same time - because he created a character that we as audience members could relate to.

9. Tim Hartman as Herr Lutz and Patrick Richwood as Hubert in The Student Prince
I couldn't have imagined a better comedic pair than Mr. Hartman and Mr. Richwood. With Mr. Hartman's imposing physical presence and Mr. Richwood's lack of height (hey, being short isn't such a bad thing!), they are perfect physical foils. Both men seem to be natural stage actors who project their dialogue and mannerisms to the back of the house, and the transfer of dominance throughout the show from Mr. Hartman's character to Mr. Richwood's was hysterical to watch.

10. Jim Stanek as Leo Bloom and John Treacy Egan as Max Bialystock in The Producers
Again...the perfect pair. (Way to go, CLO casting team!) I can only describe Mr. Egan's performance as dominating, in a good way - during "Betrayed," all I could think was, "How is he doing that?!" seeing that the solo number is quite an expenditure of energy. Mr. Stanek truly embodied Leo Bloom, and part of his charm lay in the fact that his story as a hometown boy who made it to Broadway nearly paralleled that of his character. And despite the hilarity of both performances, the pair managed to create a space for "Til Him" to be completely genuine and honest at the end of a laugh-out-loud extravaganza.

Honorable Mentions: Joseph Serafini as Oliver in Oliver! (reference his performance of "Where is Love" - what a bright future Mr. Serafini has!), Stuart Marland as Christopher Belling in Curtains (when it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing a certain character, you know the actor is doing something right!), and Rob Sutton as Aaron Fox in Curtains (what a stunning delivery of "I Miss The Music").

And that's a wrap! A cookie for you if you read the entire post...and since most of you are not from the Pittsburgh area, two cookies for you if you read the entire thing without having seen any CLO shows.

Pittsburgh is truly lucky to have access to world-class performers right in its backyard. Thanks to EVERYONE involved for a wonderful summer, CLO!


Dria P. said...

I expect my cookie to be mailed to me once you get settled into school. ;)

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