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Buffalo Theater News: January 2023

Stagefright by JAVIER

two people in front of a window looking onto a ballpark
with Alex McArthur who stars as Billie Holiday in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" at MusicalFare

Alex McArthur (pictured above at the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductee ceremony in October 2022) is nothing less than wonderful as Billie Holiday in Musicalfare’s current production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. McArthur was twice voted JazzBuffalo Female Vocalist of the Year (2018, 2021). The production is meticulously directed by Thembi Duncan who has several previous directing credits, including for some of her own plays. Duncan was formerly the director of education at Shea’s. George Caldwell provides exquisite music direction with Sabu Adeyola on bass, and Mike Moser on guitar. Caldwell also interacts with the main character. Will he be eligible for an outstanding Artie debut? By the way, Caldwell was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in October. Lady Day runs through January 29th.

Buffalo’s own Tom Dudzick is back in town with a new play set in the old neighborhood. The world premiere of Return to Seymour Street will play at O’Connell & Company, January 20th-February 5th, directed by Steve Vaughan, starring Daniel Lendzian, Jenn Stafford, and Max Goldhirsch. Dudzick is, of course, best known for his smash hit Over the Tavern and the sequels that followed, all set in Buffalo and played all over the country for many years. In this sequel, A successful writer returns to visit his empty, run-down boyhood house in Buffalo, and attempts to rekindle a romance with his childhood sweetheart, Irene, who is now a widow with a 14-year-old son who happens to be a psychic. They all end up being trapped by one of Buffalo’s trademark blizzards! Rehearsals had to be canceled due to our own November Blizzard, so, it seems that Dudzick is the real psychic here! Opening night will be followed by a talkback with Dudzick, moderated by Anthony Chase.

The Kavinoky has pushed the opening of its next production, The Play that Goes Wrong, for one week until March 2nd. Brian Mysliwy, Kelly Meg Brennan, Steve Copps, Don Gervasi, Jacob Albarella, Alex Watts, Afrim Gjonbalaj, and Kodi James are set to star, under the co-direction of Michael Galante and Adriano Gatto. This comedy is a hilarious hybrid of Monty Python and Sherlock Holmes, and is still running off-Broadway. James is one of D’Youville University's MFA students.

Multi-talented Kevin Craig will star in the one-man comedy/drama Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan McMillan, about a man who, in an attempt to raise the spirits of his chronically depressed mother, creates a list of things worth living for. The production will be directed by Charmagne Chi. Produced by Second Generation Theatre, the show will run March 3-19 at Shea’s Smith Theatre.

Things are moving along for Ujima’s upcoming production of the fascinating Choir Boy. Brian Brown will play the lead along with Gerald Ramsey and Ross Hewitt as the headmaster and prep-school teacher. Casting for the choir boys is being finalized. Auditions and call-backs are still being held (check Auditioners must be 18 or older, able to pass as a high school student, have strong acapella singing ability, and be comfortable with partial nudity. Choir Boy tells the story of the tensions that emerge at a prestigious prep school for African American boys when a flamboyantly gay youth is named leader of their celebrated gospel choir.

Opening on September 15th at Shea’s 710, the musical The Color Purple, based on the novel by Alice Walker, book by Marsha Norman, music & lyrics by Branda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray. This production marks the first collaboration between Second Generation Theatre, Ujima Theatre Company, and Shea's 710 Theatre. It will be directed by Sarah Norat-Phillips, music direction by Karen Saxon, and choreography by Naila Ansari. The collaboration just received a $25,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation. Those interested in auditioning for The Color Purple are invited to attend an open audition Sunday, January 22 from 6-10 p.m. and Monday, January 23 from 6-10 p.m. at Shea’s 710 Theatre.

Up next for Buffalo United Artists is the world premiere of Mediocre Heterosexual Sex by Madison Wetzell, directed by Mia LaMarco. The show will open on March 17th at ART/TheaterLoft on Elmwood Ave. and is set to star Ben Caldwell, Katie Gaisser, Blaise Mercedes, Sean Patrick Ryan, and Stefanie Warnick. Tickets go on sale on February 13th.

Mary Jakiel as Mrs. Peacock, Emily Yancey as Miss Scarlet, Anne Roaldi as Mrs. White. Do the characters sound familiar? Clue On Stage, a murder mystery comedy based on the 1984 movie which was inspired by the classic 1949 board game, opens at the Lancaster Opera House on February 24th, directed by Steve Vaughan (he’s Mr. Popular!) David Lundy is Professor Plum, Dave Spychalski is Colonel Mustard, Larry Smith is Mr. Green. Peter Horn and Kelly Bova are butler and maid. The show will run through March 12th and will also feature Merick Allen, James Delano, Ryan Norton, and Lauren Teller.

So, it was lucky that Anthony Alcocer was available to jump in and join the all-star cast of Murder on the Orient Express. Alcocer will be taking over the parts originally assigned to Darryl Samira. Samira will be headed to Ashland, Oregon for nine months to join the company of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. That’s enough time to have a baby! He will be appearing in Romeo and Juliet, Rent, and a new plays series. Good luck and please come back!

Murder on the Orient Express will be directed by the fabulous Kyle LoConti, starring Christian Brandjes as Hercule Poirot, and also starring Greg Gjurich, Gabriela McKinley, Augustus Donaldson, Ben Moran, Annette Daniels Taylor, Robyn Baun, Lissette DeJesus, and Lisa Ludwig. An All for One Theatre production, the show is scheduled to open on March 16th at Shea’s 710 Theatre. Adapted by Ken Ludwig (Lend me a Tenor) from the Agatha Christie novel, the play had its world premiere at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ and then headed to Hartford with Broadway in mind. The Broadway production never materialized, and the play has become one of the most popular offerings all over the country. Christie will be represented on Broadway this season with a long-awaited production of The Mousetrap.

First Look Buffalo’s inaugural season continues with Let’s Play House, a compilation of eight short world premiere plays that all take place in the same setting, an empty house. The featured plays are Just Sign by Wendy Marie-Martin, The Mean Boy on Moving Day by Donna Hoke, Recipes on Used Napkins by Avery LaMar Pope, Quiet Connection, by Drew Fornarola, Do the Spirits Convey? by Samantha Macher, Open House of the Damned by Adam Hahn, The Future Former Home of the Time Travel Museum and Elf Space, both by Jeff Goode. The production runs February 3rd-12th, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. at The Park School in Amherst.

Now it’s Leah Birst’s turn! Birst will star in Musicalfare’s production of Lloyd Webber’s Tell Me on a Sunday, following in the footsteps of actors Loraine O’Donnell and Debbie Pappas, who both played the character in the past. Doug Weyand will direct. The role was originally played in London by Marti Webb, the matinee Evita at the time. Bernadette Peters played the character in the revamped version called “Song and Dance” on Broadway.

two men smiling
with Lucas Hnath

Road Less Traveled will present Lucas Hnath’s The Thin Place, opening February 23rd, directed by Scott Behrend. The promotional materials explain that, “Everyone who ever died is still here, just in a different part of here. Linda can communicate with them. And if you believe, she can make you hear them, too — in the thin place, the fragile boundary between our world and the other one.” Unlike Clue, which was inspired by a popular Hasbro board game, this play is in no way connected to the Ouija board, also manufactured by Hasbro. Kristen Tripp Kelley, David Mitchell, Renee Landrigan and Margaret Massman will star in the production. Hnath is one of Behrend’s favorite playwrights. RLTP previously staged his plays The Christians and A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney. Hnath also wrote A Doll’s House Part 2.

Happy birthday to the fabulous Chita Rivera who turns 90 on January 23rd! As you all know, she has tons and tons of credits, awards, and honors. A not so well-known fact is that Chita is the actress with the most Tony nominations, 10 (in a tie with Julie Harris): Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, Bring Back Birdie, Merlin, The Rink, Jerry’s Girls, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Dancer’s Life, Nine, and The Visit. Audra has the most wins, and nine nominations, so she will probably pass the 10-nomination record eventually. Chita holds the distinction that, unlike Harris or McDonald, all her nominations are for musicals. Chita’s memoir, Chita: A Memoir, is due to be released in April with the Spanish language edition coming out this summer.

with Chita Rivera


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