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  • Writer's pictureJavier

Buffalo Theater Dish - January 2024


Paul Todaro, Margaret Massman, Vincent O'Neill, and Javier Bustillos
With Paul Todaro, Margaret Massman, and Vincent O'Neill

Happy 2024!

Well, theatrically speaking, the New Year started with a bang, and there is so much to look forward to for the rest of the theater season. The Irish Classical Theatre Company (ICTC) opened a superb production of Brian Friel’s Faith Healer on January 5th, under the meticulous direction of Josephine Hogan. The brilliant cast includes Paul Todaro, Margaret Massman, and the most welcome return to the stage of Vincent O’Neill who is at the top of his game. An avid Oscar Wilde and Brian Friel fan, Hogan was in the audience when Faith Healer had its Irish premiere at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1980, starring the great Donal McCann. The play had received its first performance in Boston in 1979 prior to a Broadway run, directed by Jose Quintero, starring James Mason. Hogan starred in the first ICTC production of the play in 1997, which also starred O’Neill, and the late, great Gerry Maher. (Quintero directed the very first play at Studio Arena Theatre in 1965, Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten starring Colleen Dewhurst).


Coming next at the ICTC, another company revival, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, directed by Greg Natale, starring Anthony Alcocer, Steve Copps, Aleks Malejs, and John Profeta. The show opens on February 23rd. The company performed that show at their old theater on Chippewa in 1997 with Vincent O'Neill, Josephine Hogan, and Greg Stuhr.  


2024 is a year of celebrations. Road Less Traveled Theater (RLTP) will be holding a 20th anniversary party on Saturday, February 3rd. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. There is no admission charge, and they will have drink specials all night. I wonder if my Blue Card will apply. They ask you to wear Emerald Green or White in support of their 20th Anniversary. Coming up next is The Light Fantastic, a dark comedy co-directed by Scott Behrend and John Hurley, starring Alejandro Gabriel Gomez, Melinda Capeles, Greg Howze, Ricky Needham, Diane DiBernardo, Davida Evette Tolbert, and Leah Berst. Next season promises to be another good one: the seldom produced Shipwrecked by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies who is a member of the RLTP National Advisory Board Member (isn’t it time to include a woman on that six-member board?); Our Lady of 121st Street by Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Lanford Wilson’s Burn This. Scott Behrend directed that play for BUA in 2004, starring Brian Riggs, Lisa Vitrano, and Chris Kelly. The 1987 play was first produced in Buffalo in 1989 for short-lived J&N Productions, directed by Nancy Doherty, starring Richard Lambert, Adele Leas, Phil Knoerzer, and Tom Loughlin.


Apparently, the play is very popular now. Bellisima Productions will be present Burn This as part of their current season, opening January 25 through February 4th at the Lorna C. Hill Theater. The production will star Ben Caldwell, Karen Harty, Zachary Murphy, and Matt Giangreco.


Second Generation Theatre is celebrating its so far brilliant 10th anniversary with two shows I am looking forward to seeing enormously! A new play by Kelly Jakiel, directed by sister Amy Jakiel (I would love to be at rehearsals…). The Bowling Play, opens on February 23rd, starring Alexandria Watts, Connor Graham, Jacob Albarella, Adam Yellen, Sofia Matlasz, Rick Lattimer, and Nick Lama.  Later in the year, the company will present Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along, which is now running on Broadway. For next season, they have their eyes on Hedwig and the Angry Inch.


Hollywood movies are still a constant inspiration for stage musicals. Some make it to Broadway, most don’t, but many are really worth seeing. Some that are still in the works or in need of re-working include The Devil Wears Prada with music by Elton John, which played in Chicago in 2022 on its way to Broadway; after additional work, the show will open in London later this year. Mr. Holland’s Opus, with book and lyrics by B.D. Wong premiered at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine in 2022. First Wives Club, the musical, opened in San Diego in 2009, with a book by Rupert Holmes and a score by the "one-time only reunited" songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland who had helped define the Motown sound of the 1960s with such hits for The Supremes as "Baby Love", "Stop! In the Name of Love", and "You Keep Me Hangin' On." These are all terrific musicals that have been loved by regional audiences, but for some reason, have not made it to Broadway… yet.

Ditto for Grumpy Old Men, a show that has been in the works for many years and finally made a very successful run at the Ogunquit in 2018.  O’Connell & Company will present the WNY premiere of the show under the direction of Steven Vaughan, starring Michael Starzinski, Michael Galante, Anne DeFazio, Christopher Wagner, Pamela Rose Mangus, John Kreuzer, and Jason Francey, among others. Mary Kate O’Connell will play the coveted role of Punky, a part previously played by pal Didi Conn, Sally Struthers, and Cathy Rigby.


In case you haven’t heard.  Michael Murphy, former President of Shea’s, has emerged from under a cloud in Buffalo to walk in the California sunshine. We read on the staff page of the website of the Laguna Playhouse: Michael G. Murphy, Director of Advancement, was most recently President of Shea’s Performing Arts Center in his hometown area of Buffalo, NY. He previously served as Managing Director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Prior to the Globe, he was the Managing Director of Austin Lyric Opera in Austin, Texas; Director of Administration of San Diego Opera; and General Manager of San Diego Repertory Theatre. Before relocating to San Diego from New York City, he held similar positions at Theatre for a New Audience …. and so forth.


Priscilla Lopez and Javier Bustillos
With Priscilla Lopez

The super fabulous Priscilla Lopez is back on the New York stage appearing in Michael John LaChiusa’s new musical, The Gardens of Anuncia at Lincoln Center. Lopez, of course, was the original Diana Morales in A Chorus Line in 1975. She won the 1982 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine, which had additional material by Jerry Herman.  Herman’s songs can currently be heard in Showtune, an endearing little revue honoring his work at MusicalFare.  The talented cast includes Anne DeFazio, Gregory Gjurich, Mary Coppola Gjurich, Stevie Kemp, Austin Marshall, and Eric Deeb Weaver. I loved hearing songs form Mack and Mabel, which is one of my all time favorite shows. (Hey, Mr. Fornarola…!)


Austin Marshall, Eric Deeb Weaver, Javier Bustillos, Mary Coppola Gjurich, Gregory Gjurich, and Stevie Kemp
with Austin Marshall, Eric Deeb Weaver, Mary Coppola Gjurich, Gregory Gjurich, and Stevie Kemp

And before I go, here’s a blast from the past. Remember “Opening Shots”? It was a regular feature of Artvoice, showing people attending opening nights. Here’s one showing Robert “Ernie” Insana, Maggie “Runfola” Zindle, and the late Christopher Jenkins at the opening night of the A.K. Productions' presentation of Mack and Mabel in December 1992.  Maggie played Mabel.  You can see the late Marc-Jon Filippone who played Mack in the background. Anthony Kalinowski directed. The late Joyce Coppola sang “Big Time” in the production, which her daughter, Mary Coppola Gjurich sings in the current production of Showtune up at MusicalFare.  Everything old is new again!

Robert Insana, Maggie Zindle, and the late Christopher Jenkins
Opening Night of "Mack and Mabel" at Lancaster Opera House in December 1992



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