Growing up in a Squirrel Hill musical and artistic family, Dan Sher’s career in theater shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“My father was a cellist, my mother was a piano teacher,” he said. “I grew up always going to see music and dance in town. It was second nature for me. But I also liked playing golf at Schenley Park and basketball at the JCC.”
“My dad was the artistic director of the Y Music Society. He ran it from the early ’70s to late ’90s.”
After graduating from Allderdice in 1985, Sher went to the University of Pennsylvania for his liberal arts education. Following college, he began working in the arts, but not performing.
“I think there was an interest after college in working in the business side of the arts, as opposed to theater,” he said. “It was definitely a constructive financial move. There was a little bit more mass appeal, commercial appeal.”
The switch to the business side allowed Sher to have his hands in both the arts and the business ends of theater.
“My position is sort of both a financial and artistic position,” he said. I’m able to evaluate the art as it relates to money. Who to hire and how it relates to the show.”
Sher moved to New York where he began working for Big League Productions, Inc. In 1997, he was named executive producer, and has traveled all over the world producing shows like “Miss Saigon” and “The King and I.”
“Miss Saigon,” he said, has been his most important project.
“It’s just a legendary show,” Sher said. “We were allowed to develop a new version of it. It’s now being used around the world.”
In addition to producing shows in the United States, he has worked in Japan, Europe and China.
His most recent production, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” will bring him back home to Pittsburgh when the show opens at the Benedum Center March 10.
“I’m a big fan of Pittsburgh,” he said. “The things I miss most are the Jewish community and Squirrel Hill. The whole Allderdice and JCC experience, everyone you meet, it’s just a heartfelt experience.”
Sher has done a variety of productions, but the flying car in “Chitty Chitt Bang Bang” gets him every time.
“It (‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’) requires a ton of visual effects,” he said. “The flying car is something everyone must see.”
So while he travels the world, and works with big name celebrities, his production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” has American Idol winner Ruben Studdard as the star, Sher doesn’t forget his Pittsburgh roots and gets excited every chance he gets to come back home.
“Of course I love Mineo’s pizza. That’s something I grew up on.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at email@example.com.)