A holiday classic is coming to downtown Pittsburgh later this year

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A twist on a holiday classic is set to premiere in downtown Pittsburgh later this year.

“Sugar Hill: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker” hits the stage in October with upbeat jazz music.

This time around, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington take the A train from New York to Pittsburgh, returning to Strayhorn’s roots and bringing something different for the holidays.

“I heard it when I was a kid when it came out in 1960 because Billy came with us for Christmas and he brought this album. We said, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool. So all these years later now, it’s amazing that he’s still been important and now he’s taking the next step to be part of a big production,” Billy Strayhorn Inc. President Alyce Claerbaut said. .

Claerbaut, Strayhorn’s niece, said her hometown will now have the chance to hear her decades-old classics in a new way with the debut of “Sugar Hill: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker” at the Benedum Center.

“The Benedum Center is a symbol of Pittsburgh’s high cultural taste and the priority and culture that Pittsburgh has made and the way they do,” Claerbaut said. “I’m so excited about this center and its ability to be able to have this fabulous production.”

The Benedum Center is the site of the old Stanley Theater, where Ellington and Strayhorn became friends. It will also be where audiences will be transported by the music and magic from Sugar Hill to Harlem.

“The name is Sugar Hill, and it speaks to a very historic place for black culture,” Claerbaut said. “It gives it a lot of significance. And it’s about people rediscovering themselves and some of the realities in terms of evaluating our lives.”

The production hopes to convey a message of diversity, hope and individuality. But one more thing too.

“Hopefully they’ll sit down and enjoy it,” Claerbaut said. “And do some foot tapping and enjoy the beat.”

David H. Henry