‘A … My Name is Still Alice’ opens Front Porch Theatricals’ 2024 season
90s revue still relevantHumor highlights historical issues

‘A … My Name is Still Alice’ opens Front Porch Theatricals’ 2024 season

All female cast bring hope and joy to musical revue.

Natalie Hatcher (left), Saige Smith, Kristiann Menotiades, Delilah Picart and Becki Toth star in Front Porch Theatricals production of “A…My Name is Still Alice.” (Photo by Deana Muro)
Natalie Hatcher (left), Saige Smith, Kristiann Menotiades, Delilah Picart and Becki Toth star in Front Porch Theatricals production of “A…My Name is Still Alice.” (Photo by Deana Muro)

While the songs in Front Porch Theatricals’ latest production, “A … My Name is Still Alice,” were written in the 1990s, they are just as relevant today, according to the show’s producer, Nancy Zionts.

“The relevance of these stories — some of them are absolutely the same as they were then, for better or worse,” she said.

The production, which runs at the New Hazlett Theater from May 17-26 and features an all-female cast, explores issues that were important to women 30 years ago — issues that continue to be debated and discussed.

That theme is captured in the song “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back,” Zionts said, noting that while progress has been made on some issues, “on others, we haven’t made all the progress we want.”

Director Nancy McNulty McGeever called “A … My Name Is Still Alice” a “light-hearted look at the tribulation seven women bring to the life and times of the ’90s everywoman.”

It’s “the continued story of the trailblazing women of the ’90s,” she said. “A time when their careers, clothes, bodies and families were targeted daily by a deeply sexist society.”

Make no mistake, though. Despite the heavy themes, “A … My Name is Still Alice” is filled with hope and humor, Zionts said, adding that there is a lot of joy on stage, backstage and in the rehearsal room.

“It’s a joyful offering,” she said, “because if you didn’t end every scene with hope and optimism you could cry.”

In fact, the only way to present these ideas from the stage, Zionts said, is by making the audience laugh.

“It’s very, very funny. That’s the way you take subjects like that and bring them to a mainstream audience,” she said. “We’ve never had a funnier show.”

The revue wasn’t selected for its connection to the ’90s, Zionts said. Rather, Front Porch Theatricals was seeking the same things in a show that it wants every season: solid, strong stories to tell. The music that accompanies the stories includes something for everyone, spanning gospel to country, rock to pop ballads.

The company, Zionts said, likes to stage works that aren’t frequently produced, but sometimes shows written decades ago can seem outdated.

“Some of that stuff,” she said, “you just can’t pull it forward.”

Not so with “A … My Name is Still Alice,” which has strict requirements relative to ethnicity and diversity, something that aligned with what Front Porch Theatrics was seeking.

“This stuff stands the test of time,” she said, then quickly added, “unfortunately.”

It’s the decades-long struggles, Zionts noted, that make the show relevant for so many people of all ages.

“This show is nice for multiple generations because you either lived through the time or you’re living through it now and didn’t realize it,” she said. “We didn’t invent it. These issues have been around for a long time.”

The cast features Kristiann Menotiades, Becki Toth, Natalie Hatcher, Saige Smith and Delilah Picart, as well as understudies Michaela Isenberg and Maya Fullard portraying the different personalities and roles that women play throughout their lives.
“I see myself in most of them,” Zionts said.

The revue is a sequel of sorts to “A … My Name is Alice,” conceived in the 1980s by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd. Zionts’ producing partner, Bruce E.G. Smith, saw the production in the ’90s at the Pittsburgh Public Theater and loved it, Zionts said.

“A…My Name is Still Alice” continues the strong feminist themes of the original production but has a more female-affirming — rather than male-bashing — vibe than the original work.

“I see no reason to write half the people out of the audience that want to come to a show,” Zionts said. “Every one of the stories, songs and vignettes has an element of hope to it, which is lovely.”

The production is choreographed by Ashley Harmon. Douglas Levine is the music director.

Zionts knows how challenging it can be to work in theater, when actors are often rushing from day jobs or taking care of families. To make things just a little easier for the cast and crew, the producer wears another hat during Front Porch Theatricals productions: head chef.

“There’s always going to be food,” she said. “There are different kinds of salads and vegetables and fruit and Popsicles and Fudgesicles — it changes every day. My favorite thing is when I ask about allergies, and it comes back ‘none.’ Then I don’t have to think about it. Whatever it is, though, everyone is going to eat.”

Balancing out the season, Front Porch Theatricals will present “Bandstand” from Aug. 16-25.

“We got the rights to the show the day they became available,” Zionts said.

The show, which is set in 1945 and includes live swing music, is about a group of soldiers that come back to the States after serving overseas. They form a band and go around the country trying to get their big break.

“It’s the struggle of veterans coming back and trying to reintegrate and make a life for themselves after the war, and the loves they left behind and the hopes they had before, and the way they look at the world now,” Zionts said. “And the music is unbelievable.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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