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Lonely Pittsburgh Singles, Singing, In New Musical By Area Composer

Nick Navari found his way back to theater by composing a new musical about people finding their way.

The New Hazlett Theater presents "Local Singles": 8 p.m. Thu., March 25, and 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Fri., March 26

Navari’s debut stage work, “Local Singles,” premieres this week courtesy of the New Hazlett Theater’s Community Support Art Performance Series. The production airs as an online film Thursday and twice Friday.

Navari, 25, grew up in the North Hills and – like most of his high school classmates, he said – did theater at Aquinas Academy. At Kenyon College, he focused academically on economics but also rediscovered his love for the piano, which he’d first played as a child. He wasn’t doing stage work, though – at least until a friend asked him to audition for music director of the theater department’s next show.

“I played some Ben Folds songs and got the gig,” said Navari. “And that was it for me. I went on to music direct two shows at Kenyon. I was totally hooked. I re-remembered just the joy and the love of theater.”

After graduating, he returned to Pittsburgh for a job Downtown as an investment research analyst. But one year out of school, “I was hearing the call of theater,” he said. “I thought I’d try to write my way in. So I started writing my first script, and God, now we’re here.”

Navari starting writing and composing “Local Singles” a few years ago, he said, largely in stolen moments – humming prospective melodies during his car commute, writing on his lunch break. The show was inspired by horror stories he heard from friends about their experiences in a local singles group. 

“That got my wheels turning about what would happen if we had this group of just like misfits and oddballs,” he said. “Just playing with the idea of that singles group was a delight for me and I just thought, ‘Let’s just run with it and see what happens.’”

“I was fascinated by people coming to a group looking for romantic love, but instead finding this familial love outside of the typical family unit,” he added. A second-act tragedy tests the group in new ways, he said.

The show, with its pop-rock-style tunes, debuted online in 2020, when Navari performed them from his living room as part of the virtual Pittsburgh Fringe festival. The full production opens the eighth season of the New Hazlett’s subscription series that nurtures new stage works.

Songs include the soaring “Made It Out Alive,” in which the character Penny (played by Chelli), sings “And I wanted to hear me / And I wanted to be me, so I'd / Wax poetic in my head / Singing songs I used to know / When I was young and full of hope / Well before I was riled up and twisted with him / In my head / But I made it out alive.”

Navari directed a cast of five including Sarah Chelli, Sydnee Elder, Emmanuel Elliot Key, Seth Laidlaw, and Adam Marino. The video production, which runs 100 minutes, was shot on a theatrical set designed by Johnmichael Bohach.

Tickets are pay-what-you-wish. For more information,see the theater's web site.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: