First Night Pittsburgh giving comedy a bigger showcase
Laugh a little more this New Year's Eve.
Highmark First Night Pittsburgh announced it will be moving the New Year's Eve Comedy Showcase on Dec. 31 to a much larger venue — from Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school to the Byham Theater, which has 1,300 seats.
"The smaller spaces filled up quickly, so we decided to move to a bigger space," said Sarah Aziz, festival director of Highmark First Night Pittsburgh, at a press conference on Dec. 5 inside the Trust Arts Education Center, in Pittsburgh. "This event is for the people of Pittsburgh and they will now have more space to enjoy great local and national comedians. Smiling and laughing are a big part of this family-friendly, non-alcohol event. We have fun things to do for everyone."
That includes the annual parade, children's activities and a wide selection of musical entertainment.
The 24th annual event's theme is Love. Peace. Pittsburgh. It kicks off at 6 p.m. with the Dollar Bank Children's Fireworks on the Highmark Stage. Immediately following, the steel pan band Barrels to Beethoven will launch the musical programming for the evening.
The Allegheny Health Network Parade returns with honorary grand marshal Randy Gilson, creator of Randyland. The parade will be packed with performance groups, along with the traditional art cars and signature giant puppets from Studio Capezzuti. This will be the 19th year artist Cheryl Capezzuti of Brighton Heights has been creating puppets and art cars for this event.
"I love creating the puppets and I love having people wear the puppets and walk in the parade — something they may never have done before," Capezzuti said. "First Night is a celebration and a time to have some fun. The puppets are part of the tradition of this evening and I am psyched to be part of that tradition."
This year's headliner is Lee Fields & The Expressions. Fields has been making soul and funk anthems since 1969. He has toured the world with musical legends Kool and the Gang, Sammy Gordon and the Hip-Huggers, O.V. Wright, Darrell Banks and Little Royal.
His performance will culminate in the Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale, taking place above the Highmark Stage. As the crowd counts down to midnight, the Future of Pittsburgh Ball will rise in the air above Penn Avenue Place with a Zambelli fireworks finale.
"This year's festivities continue the tradition of bringing everyone together to ring in the New Year," Aziz said. "We are excited to present a variety of culturally diverse programming from comedy, music, dance and magic that welcomes all ages to participate in our city's New Year's Eve celebration.
Admission buttons provide access to more than 100 events in 30 venues throughout Pittsburgh's Cultural District. Some of the most in-demand events also require seat reservations such as Penny Arcade and Player One in the new Arcade Comedy Theater, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and Texture Contemporary Ballet shows at the August Wilson Center Theater and the comedy showcase.
Also new this year will be warming stations and cell-phone charging stations.
At the Benedum, the Williams Sing-Off Competition winner will open for Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers. The Cabaret at Theatre Square will feature Pittsburgh's own CLO Ministars. In the Highmark Auditorium, Littsburgh will present "Creative Firsts."
Family-friendly activities such as face painting, caricaturists Jordan Callahan and Shawnelle Dodds, and hands-on crafts with the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse will be at Fifth Avenue Place. A family tent at Penn and 7th St. will feature hands-on activities.
Admission buttons are $10, children under 5 are free
Details: 412-456-6666 or trustarts.org/firstnightpgh
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or email@example.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.