Buffalo Theater News July 2022
STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER
Broadway’s Theater Hall of Fame has announced its 2022 inductees: playwrights Lynn Nottage and Suzan-Lori Parks; actors Christine Ebersole, Bill Irwin, and Mandy Patinkin; director Frank Galati; sound pioneer Abe Jacob; and, posthumously, playwright Ntozake Shange. Shange’s choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf was revived on Broadway this past season, the first since its premiere in 1976.
Nottage received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for her play Sweat which is part of Road Less Traveled 2021-22 season, directed by Victoria Perez, starring Peter Johnson, Johnny Barden, Jake Hayes, Dave Mitchell, Alejandro Gómez, Lisa Vitrano, Davida Tolbert, Diane DiBernardo, and John Vines.
June flew by really fast! So much happened; several Pride celebrations, and three events I wanted to mention: Shakespeare in Delaware Park named its stage after founder Saul Elkin. Club Marcella opened its new location on Michigan Ave. Ujima Theatre Company presented an evening of Walt Whitman’s Calamus poems at the Burchfield.
British playwright Tom Stoppard will be back on Broadway this fall with his new play Leopoldstadt, winner of the 2020 Olivier Award in London. The play is set in Vienna’s Jewish quarter in 1899 and follows one extended family into the 20th century over a span of fifty years. Although too early to predict, this already seems like a favorite for the 2023 Tony award as the Tony voters love British imports. The cast has 38 actors.
Buffalo’s beloved Steve Henderson is certainly keeping very busy these days. He had to forego all Buffalo activities and miss the Artie Awards when his movie commitments, including Alex Garland’s upcoming film, Civil War, kept him out of town. A couple of weeks ago he was at Ten Chimneys in Wisconsin where he presented his A Conversation with Stephen McKinley Henderson. In 2018, Steve was the Master Teacher for the 2018 Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program at Ten Chimneys. The famed location was the home of the first couple of Broadway, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Steve will be back on Broadway in the Fall, recreating his acclaimed performance in the Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy that was written for him by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Between Riverside and Crazy. The play premiered off-Broadway in July 2014, directed by Austin Pendleton, who will also direct the Broadway run. Henderson received an Obie and a Lucille Lortell Award for his performance. The show will be produced by 2ndStage at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The company recently presented the very successful revival of Take Me Out at the same venue. Steve was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in August Wilson’s Fences in 2010. I’m not saying another word.
Speaking of Guirgis, he visited Buffalo in May 2011serving as Road Less Traveled Productions (RLTP) American Theater Master when the company was staging his play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. This season’s American Theater Master will be playwright Rajiv Joseph whose play Guards at the Taj will be on stage at RLTP November 10th-December 11th. The play is set in India in 1648 when two imperial guards are assigned to protect the unveiling of the Taj Mahal. Directed by 2022 Artie Award winner Katie Mallinson, the production will star Afrim Gjonbalaj & Darryl Semira. Joseph will be in town on November 19th when, at 2:00 p.m. there will a live Off Road podcast interview at the company’s theater. His last play, King James, opened at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago this past March. That play is set in Cleveland, which is where the playwright was born.
Speaking of Steppenwolf, their 2018 production of Downstate by Bruce Norris, will open in New York, off-Broadway at Playwright Horizons in October, directed by Pam MacKinnon, who was also an RLTP American Theater Master in 2013. MacKinnon, who was raised in Buffalo, is the artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and works regularly in New York. She also directed the Broadway production of Clybourne Park, for which Norris won the Pulitzer Prize. Downstate takes place in downstate Illinois, in a group home where four men convicted of sex crimes live out their days after their incarceration.
Musicalfare’s production of All is Calm will be remounted at Shea’s 710 Main, December 1-18. The acapella musical won two 2022 Artie Awards, Outstanding Ensemble of a Musical, and Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Susan Drozd. When the show returns in December, the cast will be comprised of twelve instead of ten, thus adding three new members to the cast. That is because Mr. Semira will be leaving the ensemble to look after the Taj Mahal at Road Less Traveled.
Speaking of Musicalfare, their Premier Cabaret will be offering two fabulous shows in addition to their cabaret performances. Lanie Robertson’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill will be performed January 13th -29th, directed by Thembi Duncan, starring Alex McArthur as Billie Holiday, and George Caldwell at the piano. The musical revue Sondheim on Sondheim will play June 2nd-18th. Originally conceived and directed by James Lapine, the show opened on Broadway in 2010, starring, among others, Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, Tom Wopat, Norm Lewis, and Euan Morton. The added attraction of this revue is that it features video narration recorded by Sondheim, commenting on his songs.
James Lapine wrote the books for Sondheim’s musicals Passion, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods which is now in previews on Broadway for its second revival since its 1987 original opening. The current production is scheduled to run July 10th – August 21st, starring Sara Bareilles, Brian d'Arcy James, Patina Miller, Gavin Creel, and Phillipa Soo as Cinderella. Speaking of Soo, she and husband Steve Pasquale were scheduled to appear in the rescheduled Shea’s Gala on August 28th. Now with further scheduling conflicts for the couple, a different star will be taking their place. Tony-Award Winning Actress and original Hamilton star Renée Elise Goldsberry, will now be headlining the event on August 28th!
Buffalonian Eric Jordan Young who won an Artie for his one-man show Sammy & Me, and has appeared on Broadway, regional, and national tours, will be playing Jacob this summer in the MUNY, St. Louis production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Jordan recently joined the teaching faculty in the Theatre Department at Long Island University. The MUNY is the largest outdoor musical theater in the USA, with approximately 10,800 stadium-style flip down seats. The MUNY presented its 100th season in 2018.
After many years of hard work (around twenty-four I hear), The Historic Hollywood Theater in Gowanda has been restored to its 1926 splendor. The grand opening took place over the Independence Day weekend with the Springville Center for the Arts production of the musical The Addams Family, directed by Don Wesley.
First Look Buffalo Theatre Company, dedicated to the development and production of new
plays, will be in residence at The Park School for the 2022-23 season. Founders Bob Rusch and John Patrick Patti will present a series of staged productions, readings, and workshops. Now a not-for-profit institution, the company has been producing locally for three years under the name First Look Buffalo Stage. The season opens in October with Future Wars: Science Fiction Double Feature, consisting of Reset by Samantha Macher, directed by Mike Doben; and Overlay by Adam Hahn, directed by Drew McCabe. A one-act/one-location festival of nine ten-minute plays will be presented in February, 2023. The season concludes in April with the world premiere of Fursona Non-Grata by Jeff Goode.
Poet/playwright Justin Karcher is the new Play Development Director for American Repertory Theatre of WNY. A new poem by Karcher was published a couple of weeks ago in The Buffalo News Sunday edition.
So, the movies continue to inspire new musicals. Back to the Future just finished its London run and is hoping for a Broadway transfer. The Devil Wears Prada is playing in Chicago this summer. Trading Places just finished its run at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. The Karate Kid — The Musical just debuted at the new $25 million STAGES St. Louis Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, outside St. Louis.
The classic alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs is celebrating its 40th anniversary! The band will perform at UB’s Center for the Arts on Saturday, October 1, 2022 at 8 p.m. as part of UB’s Homecoming and Family Weekend festivities. The band is now touring and writing new material for a 2023 album release. Keyboardist Dennis Drew, guitarist John Lombardo, and bassist Steven Gustafson co-founded the band in 1981. The fabulous Mary Ramsey who has appeared several times at the Irish Classical Theatre, toured and recorded with the Maniacs as a viola player and backup singer beginning in 1991 before stepping into the front woman’s role 27 years ago. Jerome Augustyniak and Jeff Erickson have also been part of the band for several years. Congratulations!
Amanda Borowski is the newest member of the Irish Classical Theatre staff. She will serve as Production, Technical, and Facilities Manager, taking over for Greg Natale who recently retired from that position. Natale will still be teaching at UB’s Department of Theater and Dance and directing occasionally. Incidentally, Borowski was one of Natale’s students at UB, where she received her BFA in Theater Performance.
The Carriage House Players who have been in residence for years at the Kenan Center’s Taylor Theater in Lockport, have decided to dissolve. Their last production was Proof this past May. The newly formed HARP (Hart and Roberts) Productions will now be performing at the Taylor and will be holding an Open House-Wine & Cheese Soiree on July 29th from 6 to 8 p.m., when their upcoming season will be announced. The announcement will probably be made by Darryl Hart and Elaine Roberts, who are running this company.
She’s baaaccck. Jimmy Janowski is playing Helen Lawson is BUA’s Alley of the Dolls (at the Alleyway), a spoof of the 1967 camp classic movie Valley of the Dolls. Lawson was played in the movie by Susan Hayward who replaced Judy Garland after she was fired during production. Directed by Chris Kelly, the production also stars Michael Blasdell (aka Bebe Bvlgary), Alex Anthony Garcia, Renne Landrigan, Matt Refermat, Michael Seitz, Chris Standart, and Dan Urtz. The show runs July 9th-31st, Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30. There is no truth to the rumor that Janowski was photographed through cheese cloth a la Lucille Ball in Mame. It’s all studio magic.