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Review: FRONT PORCH CABARET Reunites Old Friends at Front Porch Theatricals

Review: FRONT PORCH CABARET Reunites Old Friends at Front Porch Theatricals

The season announcement spectacular reunited great Pittsburgh artists and creatives

As far as I'm concerned, if you want to measure the pulse of the Pittsburgh theatre scene, you will feel it the most intensely and regionally in Front Porch. The company's mission to produce exciting musicals specifically highlighting the talents of Pittsburgh-area artists makes it feel somehow organically part of the community; much as I love seeing the talents of major Broadway stars at Pittsburgh CLO every years, there's a thrill in seeing a Front Porch show and knowing "all of this was made here." Though Front Porch's impresario and producer Leon S. Zionts passed away several years ago, he has remained an active member of its creative community, as the shortlist of shows he crafted with fellow producers Bruce E. G. Smith and Nancy D. Zionts continues to guide the company's mission statement forward.

The annual benefit cabaret, held this year at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (a wonderful space I had never seen a show in before), proudly unveiled the company's next two shows, both to run at the New Hazlett in 2023. Falsettos, directed by Rob James and musically directed by Deana Muro, will be presented May 19-28, and Merrily We Roll Along, directed by Daina Michelle Griffith and musically directed by Douglas Levine, will run August 18-27. (Here's hoping the big New York run of Merrily doesn't disrupt those plans!) But this was no dry formal announcement ceremony, this was a SHOW. Hosted by the gregarious Daina Michelle Griffith herself, with Doug Levine (Pittsburgh's finest pianist-accompanist, if you ask me) at the keys, the evening was full of laughter, tears and song.

Griffith headed up a company of Front Porch alums old and new, with legacy members like Becki Toth and Rob James representing the company's history, and newer acquisitions like Marnie Quick, Carolyn Jerz, Danny Mayhak and Ryan Hadbavny representing the company's next generation. The musical performances were uniformly top-notch, particularly affecting ballads like Lindsay Bayer's performance of "Anytime (I Am There)" or Allan Snyder's delivery of the operetta standard "Without a Song." If those were too heavy for you, lighter songs like Marnie Quick's delivery of "Use What You Got" or Delana Flowers's "Cash for Your Trash" lightened the mood and kept things celebratory.

This being a party, the crowd at the reception afterwards (catered with cakes and sweets from Aladdin's Eatery) represented a who's who of the city's theatrical community at large. This warmed my heart as much as the show did: in our mostly-post-COVID era, the importance of community, collaboration and mutual support in the arts has never been as prominently displayed. With Front Porch as a linchpin of the Pittsburgh creative scene, the rising tide of theatrical success will truly lift all boats. After all, like the evening's closing song proclaimed, we are all old friends, and this is our time.



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From This Author - Greg Kerestan

A long-time BWW regular, Greg Kerestan is proud to join the staff of his favorite website. Greg is a graduate of Duquesne University and Seton Hill University, where he studied both theatre and Eng... (read more about this author)


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