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  • Writer's pictureJavier

Buffalo Theater Dish - February 2024

STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER


four people
With Shea's president, Brian Higgins, his partner, Anne Gorman, and "Funny Girl" star Katerina McCrimmon

Shea’s Buffalo's new president and CEO Brian Higgins assumed his job on February 5th. He attended the opening night of the touring production of Funny Girl, which delighted Buffalo audiences from February 13th through February19th, featuring a stellar performance by newcomer Katerina McCrimmon who played Fanny Brice.

 

When it rains, it pours. There have been years when the Artie category for Outstanding New Play had to be canceled because plays by local playwrights produced in a particular year were few or none. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year. This week alone we will have the opening of two much anticipated productions which have been in development for some time. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Second Generation Theatre presents the world premiere of The Bowling Play, a comedy written by one of the company’s founders, Kelly Copps. Directed by Amy Jakiel, the play stars Connor Graham, Alexandria Watts, Jacob AlbarellaNick Lama, Adam Yellen, Sofia Matlasz and Rick Lattimer. The show runs February 23rd through March 10th at Shea’s Smith Theatre. On Sunday March 3rd from 7 to 8:30 p.m. the company will hold an Audition Forum at the Smith, together with representatives from the Alleyway, Musicalfare, Ujima, Raíces, and Irish Classical. Admission to this panel discussion is free, but registration is required. E-mail for information at info@2ndgentheatre.com

 

Also opening on Friday February 23rd, Fauci and Kramer, a new play by Drew Fornarola, produced by First Look Buffalo Theater Company at the Canterbury Woods Performing Arts Center in Williamsville. Directed by Kate Powers, the show stars Steve Jakiel and Louis Colaiacovo portraying Dr. Anthony Fauci and playwright/activist Larry Kramer. Back in the '90s, both individuals were fighting the AIDS crisis on opposite sides of the political spectrum. The play runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 17. Fornarola’s company, Starring Buffalo, comes back later in the year with the musical Titanic. The musical opened on Broadway on April 23, 1997 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Michele Ragusa who recently starred as Dolly in Starring’s production of Hello, Dolly! was in the original Broadway Titanic cast playing Stewardess Robinson.

 

It’s not only the upcoming plays that are new. Theatre of Youth (TOY) just finished a successful run of the classic Anne of Green Gables in a new adaptation by Donna Hoke, this time in a version that allowed for non-traditional casting. The popular novel has been adapted for the stage several times. TOY performed it many years ago in a different adaptation (see picture below). The Broadway-aimed Anne of Green Gables: A New Musical made its world premiere at Goodspeed Musicals in 2022, and recently had three industry presentations in New York. Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ started life as a TV musical adaptation in Canada and then premiered on the stage at Charlottetown Festival in Canada’s Prince Edward Island back in 1965, where it was performed every year until 2019. Productions in 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to COVID. The show returned in 2022 to be produced semiannually. This year, the production will coincide with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the original novel. In March 2014 the musical was officially recognized as the longest running annual musical theater production in the world by Guinness World Records

 


three people in a play
Katie White with the late Bill Schmidt and Arlene Clement in "Anne of Green Gables" at Theatre of Youth -- way back when!

I hear that O’Connell & Company’s Diva by Diva will be getting some sort of long-running Guinness award pretty soon. Not so much for the company’s production of Dames at Sea (April 5th-21st) which had to be canceled because, I’ve been told, of a lack of chorus boys. Really? Nothing will go in its place, giving the company a well-deserved break after already producing six shows this season (oh plus Diva by Diva, let’s not forget, every show counts towards the record). Opening this week (that’s like six openings in one week and I don’t think the Buffalo theater is audience is growing), the much-anticipated Grumpy Old Men - The musical, running February 23rd through March 10th.

 

O’Connell & Company’s much deserved break had nothing to do with Joey Bucheker leaving. That is just a vicious rumor.  He will be performing in the chorus of the classic musical The Pajama Game at the Lancaster Opera House (March 8th-24th), directed by David Bondrow, with music direction by Fran Landis, and choreography by Timmy Goodman. I just double checked the press release, and Bucheker will actually be playing the supporting part of Hines, which was also played by Michael McKean (of Laverne & Shirley fame) in the 2006 Broadway revival and by Cab Calloway in the 1973 revival. The Lancaster production will star Luke Halferty and Sydney Conrad, Alexandra Montesano, Nathan Andrew Miller, Ashleigh Chrisena Ricci, Mary Bellanti, David C. Mitchell, and Jon May.

 

Speaking of cancelations, Alleyway Theatre has postponed their production of the brand-new musical, Particle, scheduled for April 28th – May 11th under the direction of Chris Handley.  In its place, the Alleyway will present Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf. That’s not a typo. The play is a parody mashup of some the greatest plays from the modern American theater.

 

Prior to that, you know spring is just around the corner and it will be time for the Buffalo Quickies, March 15th-30th. The thirty third edition will feature four short plays by local playwrights Annette Daniels Taylor (also actress and director), Mark Humphrey, Justin Karcher, and Bella Poynton. Directed by Kate Powers, the acting company includes quickie regulars Kate Olena and Michael Starzynski, joined by P.K. Fortson and VerNia Sharisse Garvin. It’s a busy season for director Powers who will be helming The Winter’s Tale at Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Daniels Taylor, Olena, Stranzynski, and Garvin will be featured in that production, which will run June 20th – July 14th also featuring, among others, Gabriella McKinley, Marissa Biondolillo, Daniel Lendzian, Todd Benzin, Jeremy Kreuzer, Gerald Ramsey, Kerrykate Abel-Smith, Phil Wackerfuss, Jake Hayes, and Jason Francey.

 

If you haven’t heard, the sets of twins in the other Shakespeare production on the hill, The Comedy of Errors, will be played by Johnny Barden & Kodi James, and Connor Graham & Kevin Craig. This production will be directed by Larry Smith and will also feature, among others, Caitlin Coleman, Mike Garvey, Nathaniel Higgins, Marie Costa, Diane DiBernardo, Heather Casseri, Rick Lattimer & Stefanie Warnick. The show runs July 25th-August 18th.  For the record, The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play.

 

Buffalo State University Department of Theater opens its spring season with a production of Donna Hoke’s Teach, directed by Sabrina Kahwaty. The play runs this week only, February 21st-25th.  Coming in April, the very popular Little Shop of Horrors directed and choreographed by Bobby Cooke. By the way, Kahwaty apparently likes Buff State so much that she left her job as editor of Buffalo Spree in order to join the university’s Marketing and Communication Department. Go Bengals!

 

I have already lost count of the theater openings this week. Beautiful: The Carol King Musical opens at Musicalfare today and runs through March 24th.  This delightful musical tells the real story of the fabulous Carol King, played by the fabulous Maria Pedro, starting back when King began as a songwriter. You should book in advance; this week the show is sold out. Under the direction of Randall Kramer, and musical direction of Theresa Quinn, the show also stars Sean Ryan, Marc Sacco, Debbie Pappas Sham, John Kaczorowski, Tara Kaczorowski, Brandon Barry, Jake Hayes, and Gretchen Didio. Under consideration for next season at MusicalFare is the powerful musical Looking for Normal.

 

Road Less Traveled (RLTP) continues its 20th anniversary season this week with a production of The Light Fantastic by Chicago-based playwright Ike Holster. Billed by the company as a dark comedy, the play has also been referred to as a horror comedy. We shall see which way this production leans. Let’s hope that co-directors Scott Behrend and John Hurley have agreed! Assistant director Mike Doben is also involved (maybe as a tie breaker?). The production stars Leah Berst, Diane DiBernardo, Alejandro Gabriel Gómez, Greg Howze, Melinda Capeles, Ricky Needham, and Davida Evette Tolbert. There’s no intermission. February 22nd-March 24th.

 

The Irish Classical Theatre Company (ICTC) brings us a revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, directed by Greg Natale starring a trio of hotties: Anthony Alcocer, Steve Copps, and Aleks Malejs. There’s also no intermission, February 23rd-March 17th. 


two people in front of a Broadway marquee for "Back to the Future"
with Caroline Schettler in front of the Winter Garden Theatre

Buffalonian Caroline Schettler is back on Broadway. This time, she’s part of the hairstyling team on Back to the Future the Musical. Yes, she’s still doing hair, she’s still a lot of fun, and she’s still full of stories. (In case you were wondering, Roger Bart is a sweetheart!  Just as nice as you imagined. And the final night of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway was an incredible experience).


Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton opposite Art Carney as Ed Norton on the classic sitcom The Honeymooners and was the last surviving member of the cast, died last month in New York City. She was 99. Randolph got her start in show business when she joined a touring production of Stage Door while working at a department store, then moved to New York where she acted in theater and on television.



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