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PNC Broadway Across America — Pittsburgh series is full of favorites

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Joan Marcus
A scene from 'Pippin' at the Music Box Theatre
PNC Broadway Across America
A scene from 'Dirty Dancing' the musical
Deen van Meer
'Newsies,' a Disney Theatrical Production

Revived, remade and returning musicals will dominate the 2014-15 PNC Broadway Across America — Pittsburgh series.

Two new Broadway musicals and a recent musical revival are among the seven shows planned for the subscription series. The three that are making their Pittsburgh debut are adapted from movies, and three others are recent Broadway revivals or restagings of familiar works.

Two additional touring productions — “The Book of Mormon” (Sept. 23 to Oct. 5, Heinz Hall) and “Beauty and the Beast” (March 31 to April 5, 2015, Heinz Hall) — will make return appearances as season specials.

The only completely new show is “Motown The Musical” (Dec. 30, 2014, to Jan. 4, 2015, Heinz Hall), which debuted last year on Broadway, where it is still playing.

The song-infused show tells the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy's creation of the record company that launched the careers of singers who include Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson and created a signature style of music.

“It has the longest playlist of music I've ever seen in my life,” says Paul Organisak, the vice president for programming at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the person charged with putting together the season for PNC Broadway Across America — Pittsburgh.

That playlist includes memorable Motown tunes such as “Dancing in the Street,” “I Hear a Symphony,” “My Girl” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.”

Also still playing on Broadway is the family-friendly Disney production “Newsies” (Nov. 25 to 30, Benedum Center), which debuted there in 2012. While new to theater audiences, it's adapted from the 1992 Disney movie about the strike of 1899 when New York City boy newspaper sellers rose up against exploitation by their adult bosses.

Preceding “Newsies” is “Irving Berlin's White Christmas” (Nov. 18 to 23, Benedum Center) another musical adapted from film, in this case the 1954 comedy about a pair of World War II vets and stage performers who become romantically involved with a pair of sisters while the guys try to help out their former commanding officer.

“Dirty Dancing” (April 7 to 12, 2015, Benedum Center) completes the series' trio of musical productions that began life on-screen, this one as a date-night film in 1987.

The 2014-15 season launches with “Annie” (Oct. 28 to Nov. 2, Benedum Center). The recent Broadway production that closed in January was nominated for a 2013 Tony for best revival.

Also on the season is “Pippin” (Jan. 20 to 25, Benedum Center), which won the 2013 Tony for best revival. Stephen Schwartz wrote the music and lyrics for the musical that debuted on Broadway in 1972. It began as a version Schwartz collaborated on while still a drama student at Carnegie Mellon University.

Organisak admires director Diane Paulus' staging of the musical.

“What I loved about the circus atmosphere is it clarifies his journey. You understand (Pippin's) journey in a fabulist way,” Organisak says. “Paulus doesn't revive a dead body, she reinvigorates it. From the moment it started, she had me. Her brilliance is she gets to the core of things. She doesn't simplify. She strips (the musical) down to its essence.”

“The Phantom of the Opera” (Feb. 18 to March 1, Benedum Center) also returns in a new production that includes new costumes, sets and staging.

“This is a bigger production,” Organisak says, explaining that technical elements fill 12 trucks, making it almost as big as “The Lion King” that travels in 13 trucks. “The dance numbers are much more interesting. This is not the tour we have seen before. The (producers) know the audience is there, but they want it to be fresh.”

Season-subscription seven-show packages are on sale at prices that range from $129 to $494. Single tickets will go on sale six to eight weeks in advance of each show's opening.

Details: 412-456-1390 or www.trustarts.org/broadway

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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