Poodle skirts, bell bottoms, big hair, and 90s grunge: it’s undeniable that music shapes our lives. For music lovers of all generations, read on about two of Pittsburgh’s rising stars.
Do you enjoy what you do for a living? Is your career your calling? As youth, we spend endless hours thinking about, researching, and talking to others about what we want to do when we grow up. But imagine being young and knowing exactly what you want to do. Two young Pittsburgh talents, bursting with skill and at home on local stages, will be showcasing their voices on the national stage this spring. The show, Hits! The Musical, arrives in Pittsburgh on March 12 for a one-of-a-kind production.
Readers who love a particular decade’s music or enjoy catching a musical in the city should grab the remaining tickets now for the March 12 show at the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. Hits! The Musical stars will be on stage for roughly 90 minutes, singing medleys and dancing to those songs we all know and love – beginning with the 1960s through today. “Sign, Sealed, Delivered,” “Hero,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Singing in the Rain” are a few of the medleys released to the public. Songs featured include Pop, Rock, and Broadway hits. Costume changes to highlight each era will also dazzle the audience. The musical is fast paced with a goal of having the audience of all ages dancing in their seats. To keep an element of surprise, other songs have not been released but are sure to impress. For the cast, the opportunity to travel the country performing in 50+ cities nationwide with other young talents is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Talented singers Nasir Butler of Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood and Loren Prisuta of Pine Township made the cut after a nationwide summer of 2022 tryout. Discussing this experience with theCITYSCENE, both shared they first heard about the production through friends and family who saw it advertised on social media. Auditions came to Pittsburgh in July, but began nationwide with over 7000 singing and dancing auditionees. Butler knew this was a great opportunity for him and decided to give it a go. He was impressed with the talent of those he tried out with, adding it was amazing to “see the different types of talent in Pittsburgh.”
Prisuta explained that auditions began with her singing a song of her choice, “Anyone” by Demi Lovato. Auditionees then learned and performed a short dance combination. After receiving call backs, auditionees continued by selecting both a required song and another song of choice. Within a few days of the Pittsburgh tryouts, both received call backs to the final round of auditions which included roughly 100 finalists. Butler recalled being with family in Maryland and an unknown Florida number calling his phone. Realizing who was calling, he answered and was told he was moving on in the selection process. “I screamed and then I was just crying,” Butler recalls. The final selection process took auditionees to Florida for four days and included interviews and learning a segment of the musical. By August, Butler and Prisuta had landed roles in the final cast which includes 19 singers and 10 dancers between the ages of 10–22.
Family and friends of Butler and Prisuta are not surprised that their talent resulted in them being cast. Butler, age 22, and Prisuta, age 13, met the full cast in Florida in the fall. Hits! The Musical is a production of Entertainment Revue (ER), a Tampa Bay based organization, showcasing young talent and established by Cynthia Nekvasil in 1989. Nekvasil, along with executive producer Bob Gries (an investor who followed ER for years), decided to take the show national and created Hits! The Musical. Since its inception, ER has taken its medleys across Florida and grown nationally with its stars landing on Broadway, performing on national television, and signing major record deals. What makes ER unique is its training focusing on growing young talent. Prisuta shared that being part of Hits! has helped her, “enhance all of my performing skills.” She’s now also getting a glimpse of, “balancing all aspects of professional life,” from rehearsals, school, practicing on her own, and socializing with the cast. She remarked, “this is one of the most highly skilled, high level musicals I’ve ever participated in, and such an age gap, with 10 year olds who are as good as 22 year olds.”
As one of two 22 year olds in the production, Butler shared that everyone learns at a different pace and being part of the cast means, “being able to help other people within the rehearsal process and help them grasp..the challenging things that come up here and there within our rehearsals.” The talented creative team will impress audiences with its choreography, sets, lighting, and costume design, but the true focus is on the caliber of talent on stage.
Both Butler and Prisuta have loved singing and the arts since birth. Butler began singing at age 4 and sings as a member of the Afro American Music Institute Boys Choir of Pittsburgh. A CAPA graduate who studied classical voice performance at Oberlin College, Butler shared in his Hits! The Musical biography that his dream role would be joining the Broadway production of The Lion King. His most notable role to date was as Jean Valjean in CAPA’s production of Les Miserables. For this performance, Butler was named a 2018 best actor at the Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater. Butler is very family oriented. He added, “I love my family to death. We always have a great time around each other and that’s what keeps me motivated every day to be great.”
Likewise, Loren Prisuta and her mom Shelley feel blessed that she is part of this experience. Prisuta has been wowing those who have heard her sing since she began vocal lessons with Singer Studios of Sewickley at age 8. Acting with Jeter Backyard Theater since age 5, she dances with Wexford Dance Academy and is currently studying classical voice with Molly Slater Music Studio. Prisuta shared in her Hits! The Musical biography that she is, “determined to become a triple threat.” Her mom added that the creative team at Hits! treats the kids like gold. “We are just really grateful (Loren) is here,” Shelley concluded. To her, it is evident that the team is selfless and genuinely working, “to provide this opportunity for these kids, to further their careers, to get this experience.”
Hits! The Musical opens for dress rehearsals in Asheville, North Carolina, in late February. Hitting cities across the nation including stops in Connecticut, Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Texas, and California, our local talents will continue to hone their musical craft while traveling. Their talents may even be acknowledged by others in the music industry. Besides Pittsburgh, Butler is most excited about performing in New York City because it is the center of theater and Broadway.
With these new experiences under their belts, what’s next for Pittsburgh’s two talents once Hits! wraps up in May? Prisuta says she wants to focus on the first run of the show, and once it ends, “hopefully in the future a second run of Hits! sometime, somewhere.” Butler hopes, too, this experience will lead to another tour or theater somewhere. His passion was clear in his voice when he added he wants, “to keep it going…keep the performing aspect going in my life.”
How do both feel about performing in Pittsburgh in March? “It is going to be very exciting and very overwhelming because I am back on a big stage performing for people that I love. I’m here. I got here. I did it,” Butler said. Prisuta said she is going to “be overjoyed and beyond excited. I’m just going to want to get up on that stage because I know the audience is going to be filled with my friends and family… to show them what I have been working on.” Prisuta is also working on getting into her zone, calming her mind to prepare for the “good kind of nerves” that comes along with performing in front of people you know. Genuinely acknowledged by both is the love and support they have always felt from their families, friends, and surrounding community.
theCITYSCENE readers who want to catch our two Pittsburgh sensations and the rest of the cast perform nearly 100 of America’s biggest hits of the decades can show their support in Homestead on March 12.
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