Buffalo Theater News
STAGEFRIGHT: by JAVIER
September sure flew by. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! There was so much going on in our beloved theater scene, and while I have heard that Halloween is just around the corner, let’s stop to celebrate the riches that came our way during Curtain Up! Lots of fabulous theater was augmented by great weather.
Music director Lucas Colon left Buffalo for the Big Apple and friends gathered at the now defunct Bitter Sweet Piano Lounge. Colon has already landed a gig on Long Island but he will be back in Buffalo to play keys for the musical Legally Blonde which opens at Musicalfare on November 8th, directed by Michael Walline, starring Gretchen Didio (who, technically, is not legally blonde; she will be wearing a wig), Sean Ryan, and Bobby Cook as the delivery man, finally wearing a revealing costume.
Shea’s certainly started the season with a bang. The Broadway musical Mrs. Doubtfire kicked off its national tour in Buffalo and was a smashing success. The title role was played by Rob McClure who originated the role on Broadway, earning a Tony nomination. Earlier this year, he performed the lead role of Seymour in the off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors. And Shea’s 710 opened with a super production of the musical The Color Purple, co-produced with Ujima Theater Company and Second Generation, directed by Sarah Norat Phillips with choreography by Naila Ansari. The run was sold out and a performance had to be added. Former Shea’s president Michael Murphy attended opening night, keeping a low profile, accompanied by Niagara University professor Doug Zchiegner. Rumor has it that they will be relocating to California. Recall that Murphy was previously employed at the Old Globe in San Diego. Murphy’s house is still for sale, and Zchiegner’s position at NU has been taken over by the fabulous Robyn Lee Horn. It seems that Shea’s is ready to make an announcement for his replacement. While there are persistent rumors, all I can say is that it’s not me.
Speaking of Horn (who is provocatively listed in the Alleyway staff directory as Artistic Instigator, whatever that means) is directing the company’s upcoming production The Natural Horse, a play inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1954 book The Natural House. Written by T. Adamson, the play received Alleyway’s 2022 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Award, and was a finalist for the 2023 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. Opening October 25th, the play stars Aleks Malejs, Phil Farugia, Christine Turturro, Yamilex Holgúin, Annette Daniels-Taylor and Todd Benzin.
Speaking of Little Shop, Lancaster Opera House just opened its own production, directed by J. Michael Landis, with music direction by Fran Landis, choreographed by Timmy Goodman. The show stars Joe Greenan, Amanda Funiciello, Nick Lama, Kira Whitehead, Dasia Cervi, Jasmine Fiero, Johnny Rowe, Zach Haumesser, and Jon May as Mushnik. The production runs through October 22. The popular Little Shop is also having a production at the Historic Palace Theatre in Lockport, running through October 15th. Built in 1925, the Palace Theatre went through a four-year, multi-million-dollar restoration project. And if, after all that, you still need to feed your Little Shop obsession, the show will also be the spring musical at Buffalo State University!
Speaking of competing productions, let’s talk Golden Girls! The “Todd Warfield Production” of Golden Girls which had been playing to sold out houses at the Alleyway is now moving to O’Connell & Company, October 19th – November 4th, starring Michael Seitz as Dorothy, Joey Bucheker as Rose Bebe Bvlgari as Blanche, and Matt Rittler as Sophia (FYI, remember Cindy Birdsong? Those are not all Buffalo’s original Golden Girls despite what they say in their e-mail. Remember Guy Tomassi, Jessica Rasp and Michael Wachowiak?) Why the change of venue? Reportedly, Warfield and Alleyway’s Executive Artistic Director Chris Handley got into a catfight over such trivial details as money and rights. This was even before Handley had a hit with The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers. To add to the drama (or is this comedy?) a national touring production of Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue is scheduled to play at Shea’s November 17th & 18th. That show is being billed as “a professional stage show unlike any other Golden Girls tribute that you might have experienced.” Girls! You’re all pretty! (And there is no truth to the rumor that Handley has invested money in the touring production).
The Curtain Up! celebration kicked off with the induction of Roslyn Ruff into the Plaza of Stars. Roslyn was in town for the festivities. I love her but until now, I was the youngest inductee!
Two of this season’s (and really any season’s) most fascinating productions are closing this weekend, Guys & Dolls, and La Cage Aux Folles
Congratulations to Kevin Leary who has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center (NACC). The Western Door Playhouse is the resident theater group at the NACC, performing at the center’s intimate Woodbox Theater.
TOY will kick off its 2023-24 season in December with the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Coming up in January, a world-premiere adaptation of Anne of Green Gables by Donna Hoke. The season will end in April with Go, Dog, Go! directed by Kyle LoConti. It appears that Hoke is soon to break a record, having one of her plays staged at every theater in town, except Shakespeare in Delaware Park! By the way, welcome to Kayla McSorley who is the company’s new Executive Assistant.
I am so much looking forward to Torn Space’s mainstage production of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming. Opening November 10th, the show will be directed by Dan Shanahan, starring Jack Hunter, Kalub Thompson, Tracie Lane, Russell Holt, Stan Klimecko, and Talon Powell. Set design is by Kristina Siegel whose work at Torn Space has been consistently extraordinary. She also designed the remarkable 2017 Torn Space production of Pinter’s The Collection, which starred the late Willie Judson, Jr.
Only in Buffalo kids, only in Buffalo. Go Bills!