Review: The first musical of its kind is coming to Pittsburgh | Entertainment


If HITS, The Musical!’s national tour debut was limited to a one-word review, that exclamation would be the most appropriate.

So would “Amazing!” “Sensational!” and “Awesome,” among many other choices.

Indiana County residents were fortunate enough to be among the participants in the March 11 song and dance extravaganza at the Benedum Theater in Pittsburgh, and they certainly drove home humming or singing some of the more than 80 songs featured in medleys from several decades of well-known melodies, many genres were presented – from Broadway to Hollywood and many stations in between.

Produced by legendary hitmaker and Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner Dionne Warwick and her son, multi-platinum record producer and Academy Award nominee Damon Elliott, the show is a 90-minute musical journey spanning the biggest hits from pop, rock, rap, Film and Broadway from the 1960s to the present.

The producers say that “Until ‘Hits! The Musical’ didn’t have a show that only featured performers between the ages of 10 and 22. Some may say they are too young and not ready for the big time. And how wrong they would be!”

As a matter of fact!

What an impressively talented, enthusiastic, tireless group including Pittsburgh natives Loren Prisuta, 14, and Nasir Butler, 22!

All offered amazing versatility and maintained a happy mood throughout the evening.

AFTER a nationwide search for more than 7,000 auditions, producers say the 29-strong cast represents the country’s most exceptional singers and dancers.

They add, “These future recording artists and Broadway stars represent the best of America’s youth.”

Bob Gries, founder and executive producer, created the musical to give the performers the opportunity to be the center of attention and showcase their individual talents.

The Cleveland native welcomed audiences already pumped up by pre-show music to get them in the mood, and praised the city and historic theater, whose roots stretch back to when it began as the Stanley Theater in 1928 , where many of the greats of American entertainment to have performed over the decades including Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Lionel Hampton , Laurel and Hardy, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnez and the three henchmen.


Gries promised: “It will be one of the most amazing shows you have ever seen.”

And it was!

The articulate and multi-talented Colin Mash, a native of eastern Pennsylvania and a graduate of Temple University, was an outstanding storyteller and singer who advanced the show from decade to decade, setting the mood of different time periods and providing context through news headlines and the music.

Before the tour began, Mash said, “I just wanted to let everyone know that the setting isn’t like a Broadway show. This is a concert setting that is so much fun!”

This is a fast-paced show that is constantly in merry motion. It must also be physically demanding, even for such a youthful talent. But they were more than up to the task with many costume changes, wonderful dancing and singing. They sang solos and in various combinations with others, including full group offerings.


Perhaps there hasn’t been so much energy on stage for a long time.

Pittsburgh’s Loren Prisuta, 14, previously promised, “If you love music, you’re going to love the show!”

That’s certainly true.

“It’s just a really fun show,” she said.

“I like to describe it as a marriage between a concert and a musical on one of the most impressive and dazzling sets I’ve ever seen,” she adds. “There is such a fantastic selection of such a wide range of hits; Songs that take you back in time to songs of the present. This is definitely a family friendly show for all ages. Young children to seniors will appreciate and love it.”

Prisuta is an eighth grade student at Pine-Richland Middle School in suburban Pittsburgh.

She has a lot of responsibilities on the show.

Prisuta has the evening’s opening vocal lines with Carpenter’s “Sing”, starring in “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” on the “Stage and Screen” medley, solos with Four Non-Blondes’ “What’s Up” (penned by Ray Davies (ex-Kinks who would probably be impressed by Prisuta’s powerful, apt rendition) on the “Rock” medley, lead vocals on “Love Shack” on the ’80s medley, solos with Mariah Carey’s “Hero” on the “’90s” medley and begins with Madonna’s “Music” in the “2,000s” medley. She is also Supreme in the ’60s, Abba in the ’70s, Sporty Spice in the Spice Girls in the ’90s, and various other songs singing on stage throughout the show.


“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with such an incredible cast and creative team. I’m learning and developing with every performance and I’m so thankful to be here,” she explains. “Every single performer brings their own uniqueness and talent and that’s what makes the whole show so spectacular. I bring my passion for performance to the stage and I hope to pass that joy on to audiences and inspire other young people to pursue art if they love it.”

Being a part of this tour also means a lot to Nasir Butler, 22, from Pittsburgh.

“I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world performing and doing what I love for people from all walks of life,” he explains. “And doing it with others who are so passionate makes it a great experience for me. I hope to bring a lot of joy and great memories to everyone who sees the show, regardless of their age.”

He also performs throughout the show, including as one of four soloists for the song “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman.

“We were honored to have the legend Dionne Warwick and her talented son Damon Elliot executive produce this show,” he adds. “They are so supportive of every single cast member on the show and make sure they let us know how talented and amazing we are and how much we’re helping this show become one of America’s biggest hits!”

As one viewer remarked after the show in Pittsburgh, “You’re really good!”

Rex Rutkoski is an experienced regional, national and international freelance writer based in Freeport, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. He can be reached at rex [email protected]


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