Monday, August 2, 2010



I had the opportunity this weekend to test out that time honored axiom that states that, "The best things in life are free". I am happy to report, that the axiom is still in perfect working condition.

My wife had been given two tickets by her employer to see the Civic light Opera performance of "Hairspray", the Broadway musical. The event was being staged at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh. I always relish any opportunity to visit Pittsburgh since I had spent so much time in the city during my younger years. The Benedum, the former Stanley Theater, has long been restored as one of the most glorious buildings of its type. There are certainly few venues in the country that offer a more aesthetically pleasing environment with which to enjoy a musical.

Above: There was plenty of big hair, plus sizes, and a great 60s musical score. Mix in a socially relevant theme and this kooky musical really delivered.

We were on hand to witness the final performance of "Hairspray" and it was very evident that the actors were truly putting their all into this last show. Granted, I am not a seasoned reviewer of Broadway musicals, however, to this member of the audience, this performance came off flawlessly. The only error, if you could even classify it as such, took place when the 350 pound mother, a role played on Broadway by John Travolta but on this day by actor Paul Vogt, was swooning over the Polish (sic) French accent that her husband was using on her. The two could not contain themselves, but not to worry, as this was the high point of the show. The audience loved it. The moment was very reminiscent to me of the old Carol Burnett show when Tim Conway and Harvey Korman would often break down laughing in the middle of a skit.

"Hairspray" is a kooky musical set in the early 1960s in Baltimore. The basis of the story has to do with racial segregation which was still a very large problem during this period in our country's history.

The production, most skillfully produced by the CLO, featured powerful singing by the entire cast of 29, headlined by "Dancing With the Stars" champion Drew Lachey (who actually didn't have that major of a part as TV dance show host "Corny Collins") precise dance routines, and a wonderful musical score performed flawlessly by the CLO's orchestra. The show was staged in front of a packed house, which given the level of this performance was certainly justifiable.

Without question, the City of Pittsburgh is blessed with having one of the premier organizations of its type in the world in the Civic light Opera. It is hard to imagine that a better version of "Hairspray" could have been produced anywhere.

Pittsburgh gets a lot of credit as a sports town, but not nearly enough so as a center for the performing arts. Seeing that large crowd of people in attendance witnessing such a terrific performance certainly gave me pause to thank all the folks who are involved with the CLO and also the sponsors who helped make it possible.

In a town that enjoys the melodic sound of two helmets crashing together, it was refreshing to hear the 60's sounds of "Hairspray" for a few hours yesterday. Congratulations again to the entire cast!

I'll gladly take any more free tickets anyone may have to any future see CLO events! Yes, and I might even spring for some if none turn up!