Buffalo Theater News
STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER
Fabulous Buffalonian Roslyn Ruff will be returning to Broadway this spring, starring in the revival of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Ruff will be playing Mrs. Antrobus, a role created by Broadway legend, Florence Eldridge. The production began rehearsing last week and is set for an April 26th opening with previews beginning April 1st. Winner of the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the original Broadway production was directed by Elia Kazan, and also featured Eldridge’s husband, Fredric March, Tallulah Bankhead, and Montgomery Clift. In 1956, Eldridge and March originated the roles of Mary and James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. A 1975 revival of Skin of Our Teeth, starring Alfred Drake, lasted only seven performances. Oh, and the also fabulous Priscilla Lopez will star in the current revival of The Skin of Our Teeth as the fortune teller.
Congratulations to UB Department of Theatre & Dance professor Ariel Nerenson on the publication of her most recent book, Democracy Moving: Bill T. Jones, Contemporary American Performance and the Racial Past (University Michigan Press). Dance pioneer Jones who turned 70 on February 15th, is the co-founder of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, and the Artistic Director of New York Live Arts. He was the choreographer for the Broadway premiere of the musical Spring Awakening (2007 Tony Award for Best Choreography). He was also co-creator, director and choreographer for the musical Fela!, which opened on Broadway in 2009 earning him another Tony for Best Choreography.
And speaking of UB and Bill T. Jones, Theatre & Dance Dept. alum Angela M. Sauers just made her off-Broadway debut in the new musical Black No More, presented by the prestigious company The New Group, directed by Scott Elliott, and choreographed by Jones. The musical is inspired by George S. Schuyler’s Afrofuturist novel set during the Harlem Renaissance, where a young man is eager to try a mysterious machine that guarantees to “solve the American race problem” —by turning Black people white. The show finished its limited run at the Signature Theatre on 42nd St. this past weekend. It starred Howard McGillis and Lillias White. Sauers also served as Associate Dance Captain.
By the way, Jones was also production choreographer for NBC's live production of the musical Annie that aired last December starring Tariji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, and Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks. UB dance alum Jenny Laroche was part of the dance cast for the show. Laroche began her professional career as a Radio City Rockette, and has several movie and TV credits including a recurring role in NBC’s drama series Smash.
And on the subject of UB Theatre and Dance personalities, recently retired musical theatre professor Nathan Matthews will be featured in American Composers Concert: Matthews and Fornarola. He is joining forces with Buffalonian Drew Fornarola in a performance of their music for the theater at Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. Featured singers include Grammy winner Edward Parks and Tony nominee Christiane Noll. Metropolitan Opera and Broadway / Off-Broadway artists include Thomas J. Capobianco, Grace Choi, Jamie LaVerdiere, Quentin Bruno, Liv Redpath, and Carolyn Sproule. The concert will take place on Monday May 16th at 7:30 p.m.
When he is not in New York City, Drew Fornarola is the artistic director of Starring Buffalo, which presents musical theater with casts of actors from Buffalo and Broadway. The organization is preparing to create order out of chaos once again. After their successful production of Rent, they've decided to do a second show this year, title to be announced, at Shea’s 710 Theatre in June.
March is finally here, and local theaters are once again going full force with several openings in the upcoming weeks. The Buffalo Quickies, which is already up and running at the Alleyway, features a great ensemble cast directed by Chris Handley. The production should have the subtitle of “Kate Olena Swears!”
First up this week, Road Less Traveled opens the long-awaited (postponed from last season) production of Tribes by British playwright Nina Raine, directed by Doug Zschiegner, starring David Marciniak, Margaret Massman, Anna Krempholtz, Johnny Barden, Dave Wantuck, and Melinda Capeles. The play centers around Billy, the only deaf member of a dysfunctional family who raised him to read lips and speak, but without knowledge of sign language. The production runs March 3rd - 27th. In partnership with Deaf Access Services, the company will offer two ASL performances: Friday March 4th at 7:30 & Sunday March 27th at 2 p.m. The play had a very successful run off-Broadway in 2012 - 2013, where it received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play. Happy birthday to Gina Gandolfo who turns 40 on Friday March 4th! It’s no secret, she announced the fact at our church service last Sunday.
The Kavinoky opens Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on March 4th. The new stage adaptation by Kate Hamill has been described as a screwball comedy. Directed by Kristen Tripp Kelley, the production stars Ben Michael Moran as Mr. Darcy and Gabriella McKinley as Lizzie. Other members of the cast who play multiple roles are Diane Dibernardo, Jake Hayes, Jacob Albarella, Renee Landrigan, Lissette DeJesus, and Christian Brandjes. And, getting ready for next season, Network (adapted from the movie of the same name) will star Peter Palmisano, Michelle Roberts, and Anne DeFazio, who has been keeping very busy. That’s good news!
On March 10th, American Repertory Theatre of Western New York presents Fall from the Grace of God, an evening of plays highlighting local writers with works based on the music of Celtic/punkers The Pogues. Playwrights featured include Jennifer Tromble, Mark C. LLoyd, TJ Snodgrass, Monish Bhattacharyya, Tim Joyce, Justin Karcher, Karen McDonald, Matthew LaChiusa, John F Kennedy and James A. Marzo. The production will run through April 2nd at Compass Performing Arts Center. www.artofnwy.org
Second Generation Theatre returns with Constellations, a two-hander by British playwright Nick Payne. Directed by Michael Wachowiak, starring Chris Avery and Kristin Bentley, the production opens on March 11th at Shea’s Smith Theatre. The play premiered on Broadway in 2015, starring Jake Gyllenhaal (in his Broadway debut) and Ruth Wilson.
Also, on March 11th, Ujima Company will open their production of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize Finalist Stew by Zora Howard, directed by Curtis Lovell. This comedy-drama deals with three generations of Black women relating to each other as they prepare for a family feast. Ujima has embarked on a national search to hire a new artistic director.
Up next at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre, Jay Desiderio directs a play by one of his favorites, Canada’s most produced and prolific playwright, Norm Foster. His comedy The Love List opens on March 19th starring Suzie Hibbard, Jeremy Kreuzer, and Elliot Fox.
Coming up at the Irish Classical Theatre, Sarah Ruhl’s romantic comedy Stage Kiss where “two actors and ex-lovers find themselves starring opposite each other in an off-off-Broadway 1930s melodrama.” The show opens March 25th. Directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, the production will star Tracie Lane, Guy Balotine, Greg Howze, Christine Turturro, Marisa Caruso, Rolando Gómez, and in a welcome-back-to-Buffalo performance, Kevin Craig.
RJ Volz is also back in town and will return to the stage next season in the Irish Classical Theatre production of Great Expectations directed by Chris Kelly.
While Mary Kate O’Connell is recovering nicely after falling on ice, and a consequent surgery (litigation pending, but how do you sue your own dog?), two upcoming projects in which she stars, had to be rescheduled. Confessions of The Reverend Mother scheduled for April 28-May 1 at Shea’s Smith Theater will now be presented for Curtain Up. In its place, O’Connell & Company will present a remount of Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Tenderly, the musical about Rosemary Clooney will now go on in November, directed by Lisa Ludwig. Not to worry about waiting to see O’Connell for too long, her Memories & Martinis: Girl Singer! will be playing March 11-13. The company’s next season is very likely to bring a major musical starring O’Connell as a major movie star -- this won't be a comeback; it's a RETURN!
In the meantime, O’Connell & Company will present the musical Working, directed by Neal Radice, starring Anne DeFazio, Michael Galante, Timiyah Love, John Profeta, Kasie Buono, Lauren McGowan, Kate Mulberry, and Jared Eichel. The shows opens March 25th, with musical direction by Donald Jenczka.
Theatre of Youth is returning with a bang with a production of the musical Beauty and the Beast, directed by Lisa Ludwig, starring Genevieve Ellis and Steve Copps (in the title roles), Josh Wilde, David Spychalski, Bobby Cooke, Jake Albarella. Lou Colaiacovo, Elizabeth Arnold, Charmagne Chi, David Wysocki, and Annette Daniels Taylor as Mrs. Potts. The production will run April 29th – May 22nd on weekends only. There will be no weekday on-school time performances.
March is full of openings, and April is full of fundraisers. Save the dates! Or better yet, buy tickets! On April 2nd, Road Less Traveled presents, as part of its Screen to Stage series, a reading of Beverly Hills Cop, co-Directed by Scott Behrend and Katie Mallinson, starring Lisa Vitrano, Kristen Tripp Kelley, Anthony Alcocer, Dave Hayes, Sara Kow-Falcone, Dave Mitchell, Peter Palmisano, Matt Witten, Jen Mysliwvy, Jake Hayes, Ricky Needham, Jenn Stafford, and Kevin Kennedy (back from Nashville for that performance only). The Kavinoky Kabaret happens on April 8th. Doors open at 6pm on the 3rd floor of the new medical Hub at D'Youville on the corner of West and Connecticut St. Entertainment is from "Harper Valley PTA " (the band from Honky Tonk). Tickets can be purchased at KavinokyTheatre.com or call 829-7668. Second Generation Theatre holds its annual concert fundraiser Broadway Bucket List, live! at Shea’s Smith Theatre on Monday, April 25th at 6:00 p.m. Tickets available at secondgenerationtheatre.com.
The Paul Robeson Theatre returned to performances after two years, with a successful evening of three short plays, under the heading, Facing Our Truth. This marks the beginning of the leadership of artistic director Yao Kahlil Newkirk, who wrote one the pieces and directed two of them.
Sadly, the world lost actor Sally Kellerman, on February 24th. She received on Oscar nomination for playing the original Hot Lips Houlihan in Robert Alman’s 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, but elected not to reprise the role on television. While she was still in acting school, she appeared in a Los Angeles stage production of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger that also featured classmates Shirley Knight, Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell, and Robert Blake.