Playhouse Will Mark its Centennial in a ‘Beautiful’ Way

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Playhouse will celebrate its centennial with a Broadway-caliber run of the Tony Award-winning musical “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”

The theater on the South Side turns 100 this year, and its centennial season will be celebrated from August to the summer of 2025.

“Beautiful” will kick off the centennial season. It will be performed Aug. 23-25 at Powers Auditorium, instead of at the Playhouse, to accommodate the expected large crowds.

The production will be the regional premiere of the landmark musical. John Cox, chairman of the Playhouse board of directors., worked with Youngstown native Michael J. Moritz Jr. to bring “Beautiful” to the city.

Moritz is a New York-based producer of the Tony Award-winning show about the great songwriter and performer Carole King. He will cast the Playhouse production and also serve as its musical director and producer.

Moritz’s goal is to make it as close to the original as possible. Toward that end, he will donate the use of a full Broadway-quality audio and technical package for the Youngstown performances.

“I am bringing in a dozen cases of Broadway automation audio and sound equipment, and some of the ‘family secrets’ of how these shows work on Broadway,” Moritz said in a phone interview.

“Beautiful” has played around the globe and touches audiences everywhere. Moritz says it’s more than a “jukebox musical,” because it tells the story of King’s life. In the early part of her career, she wrote scores of songs for other artists that became hits.

King reached superstardom with her “Tapestry” album in the 1970s. “Everyone will recognize the majority of these songs,” Moritz says.

“Beautiful” has been a Broadway hit, and ranks as the 29th longest running musical. It has spawned touring productions in multiple countries and professional regional productions in several North American markets.

 It was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2014, including Best Musical, and won two. Jessie Mueller received the 2014 Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.  Brian Ronan received the 2014 Tony Award for Best Sound Design.

The show is now making its way to the community theater level.

Bringing the show to Youngstown has always been part of the plan for Moritz. When the Playhouse’s Cox called him to suggest it, Moritz knew it was the right time.

“I always knew I would somehow bring it to Youngstown as a philanthropic event, and then John asked if I could,” Moritz says. “This feels like kismet. It’s a good way to make a splash [and raise a lot of money for the Playhouse].”

Moritz says he is calling in favors to make the show the best it can be and the most beneficial for the Playhouse. His next goal is to acquire a set from a professional theater.

At the Playhouse’s 100th season reveal show Saturday evening, Cox said that actors from the Broadway run could join the cast of the local production.

Early Career

Broadway producer and musician Michael J. Moritz Jr., a Mahoning Valley native.

Moritz started his career as music director of the Playhouse in the early 2000s and served as managing director for the 2003 season. As such, the production of “Beautiful” marks a homecoming for him.

“Returning to Youngstown for ‘Beautiful’ is incredibly special to me,” he says. “I can attribute much of my formative career success to the Playhouse, and I’m very happy to return home in support of the organization that has afforded me so many opportunities at the start of my career.”

The Valley native made his Broadway debut in 2013 with “A Night with Janis Joplin.” He has since built a career as a Broaday and symphonic producer, conductor and pianist. He has worked on numerous Broadway and West End shows.

His résumé includes a 2022 Grammy Award nomination for Stephen Schwartz’s “Snapshots,” a Tony Award for Best Musical for “Hadestown,” Tony nominations for Best Musical for “Beautiful” and  Best Revival of a Musical for “On the Town,” and an Emmy Award for “From Broadway with Love.” He was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 2022 for Best Musical Theater Album.

As a symphonic conductor, he has collaborated with many orchestras. In his role as music producer, he has worked with Josh Groban, Leslie Odom Jr., Andrea Bocelli, Blake Shelton and dozens more.

Other Shows

The Playhouse will mark its centennial season with several special events throughout this year and next.

It will culminate in a gala event in the summer of 2025 the board president Cox said would include guests from Hollywood and Broadway.

The Playhouse’s season preview event Saturday included snippets of each show.

Here is the 2024-25 schedule:

  • “Beautiful: The Carole King Story,” Aug. 23-25, Powers Auditorium. Matthew Mazuroski will be the production/staging coordinator.
  • “Something Rotten!” Sept. 20-22 and 27-29, Playhouse main stage. Directed by Emma Wason.
  • “Puffs,” Oct. 25-27, Playhouse main stage. Directed by Jim Canacci.
  • “The Thanksgiving Play,” Nov. 15-17 and 22-24, Moyer Room. Directed by Pat Foltz.
  • August Wilson’s “Gem of the City,” Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28-March 2, Playhouse main stage. Directed by Lundeana Thomas.
  • “The Lightning Thief,” the Percy Jackson musical, March 28-30, Playhouse main stage. Directed by Eden Lesnansky.
  • “Oklahoma!” May 9-11 and 16-18, Playhouse main stage. Directed by Tyler Stouffer.
  • “Almost, Maine,” June 6-8, 13-15, Moyer Room. Directed by Mario Ricciardi.

For tickets, go to or call 330 788 8739.

Two special events are also part of the centennial season. Millennial Theatre Company will present “Spamalot” in July and August, and Rust Belt Theater will again present “How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas” in December.

A season opener ribbon cutting party will take place Sept. 20.

Also at Saturday’s event, Cox unveiled the theater’s new curtain. The red main curtain was purchased in memory of the late Nick Cordova, who appeared in many productions at the theater over the years. Cordova died tragically last year in Los Angeles when he was struck by a car. His friends raised the money for the new curtain, which has been dubbed The Cordova Curtain.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.