Buffalo Theater News - November
STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER
The fabulous Laura Bell Bundy, the original Elle Woods in the musical version of Legally Blonde (Tony Award nomination, 2003) was recently back on Broadway starring in the comedy The Cottage, opposite Eric McCormack of Will & Grace fame. Bundy also originated the role of Amber Von Tussle in the musical version of Hairspray. In 2002. She was cast as the lead in the off-Broadway musical Ruthless! at the age of 9.
Now it’s Gretchen Didio’s turn to play Elle in the Musicalfare production of Legally Blonde, which opens November 8th under the direction of my brilliant pal Michael Walline. The Musicalfare resident music director, Theresa Quinn, is getting a well-deserved break, as the talented Joe Isgar is taking the reigns for this one. I first worked with Theresa back in 1992, when she was the original music director for BUA’s first show, A…My Name is Alice (she was in high school, I think). The original Broadway cast of Legally Blonde had some of my all-time favorite Broadway hunks, or I should say stars: Christian Borle (now starring on Broadway in Some Like it Hot!), Andy Karl (the “delivery” guy), and Michael Rupert as Professor Callahan. Those roles will be played in Buffalo by Sean Ryan (who is definitely hot), Bobby Cook (who can really deliver), and my favorite Marc Sacco. Is Sacco really old enough to play Professor Callahan? Maybe that’s why the eyeglasses in the headshots. Nicole Cimato plays Paulette, the part originated by Orfeh. (Who? That’s her real name and she has the luck of being married to Karl, so no more said). By the way, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Mary Kate O’Connell’s dog, Rosie, was ever going to play Elle’s dog. Rosie has an exclusive agreement with O’Connell & Company where she mostly shows up during rehearsals. And, I have heard that the boys at BUA would like to remount one of that company’s all-time top-grossing hits, which Walline directed, Naked Boys Singing!, with an all new cast (it has to be, otherwise Boys could not be in the title). Sacco was brilliant in the original. May I suggest Ryan, pending, of course, the availability of Andy Karl?
Well, for all of you youngsters, regarding Musicalfare, formerly known as Summerfare, their first show, in 1991 (in the summer, you guessed it) was Dan Goggin’s original Nunsense! at the Katharine Cornell Theater at UB, starring Mary Kate O’Connell (as Mother Superior), Sheila McCarthy (as Sister Mary Hubert, yes, the role is written for a black actress, but what a voice McCarthy has!), Loraine O’Donnell, Linda Reitberger, and Lisa Ludwig. Fast forward, thirty or more years, Nunsense is a franchise with (I stopped counting) I don’t know how many spin-offs, sequels, etc. Coming up next for O’Connell & Company, one of the spin-offs, Nuncrackers! This one, if I remember correctly, presents a TV Christmas special taped in the Cable Access Studio built by Reverend Mother in the convent basement. Directed by Michael Galante and choreographed by Joey Buchecker (who is performing his duties in drag since he will not have much time between playing Rose in Golden Girls and doing that Bingo show of his, which is also opening soon), the show will star Buffalo’s original Mother Superior, Mary Kate O’Connell, Mary Craig, Susana Breese, Mercedes (one name just like Orfeh, or Cher, or Javier-with a J), and Michael J. Starnzinski as Father Virgil (sorry guys, he is not playing a nun and hence will not appear in nun drag). The show opens on December 1st. I feel that now I can openly say it, since I had nothing to do with it, Mr. Star was outstanding in A Great Wilderness. It was also such a pleasure to “supervise” him in Sunset Boulevard in which he played Cecil B. DeMille.
It was triple duty for actress/cabaret singer and now playwright/director Kerrykate Abel whose play Hoarding Hope is on stage at the Paul Robeson Theatre through tonight!!!!, directed by herself, and brilliantly acted by Marie Costa, Matt Refermat, and El Tyner. Ten years in the works, yes that’s how long it takes on average to get a play developed and produced (ask Barry Manilow whose musical Harmony is now previewing on Broadway after twenty years in development), the play was originally a one woman show based on hundreds of interviews with people who provided care for early AIDS patients from 1980 to 1996. Earlier versions were presented as readings, starring Abel, first at BUA (now under new artistic leadership) and then at The New Phoenix (now gone). Dearly departed Timmy Finnegan was in an earlier version. Let me add that as soon as I walked into the Paul Robeson Theatre, even before reading the program, I could tell it was a David Butler set. The design is simply (as in simple and simply) superb and he is one the few designers whose style is immediately recognizable (others, like Kristina Siegel come to mind; her design for Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming is coming to Torn Space this month). But, as is my habit, I digress. Triple duty, remember? Abel is also starring in the current smash hit of Rocky Horror at the Kavinoky. Glad to report that no major incidents took place at the recent midnight staging of the show. There is no truth to the rumor that campus police were called in after an ugly toast throwing incident. After a succession of escorted departures from that campus, one can’t be too careful!
Anyway, what’s next for Kerrykate? Hoarding Hope: the musical? I do hope that the play gets another staging anywhere (Edinburg Fringe?) as it totally deserves to be hoarded, I mean heard. For trivia fans, Abel played the Mother many years ago in BUA’s production of Ruthless! Musicalfare subsequently produced the musical (the late, marvelous Donny Jenczka was music director for both), with Lisa Ludwig in the role. And, do you know what Brittney Spears and Laura Bell Bundy have in common…?
Now you see them, now you don’t. Literally. Christina Rausa and Priscilla Young-Anker are just outstanding portraying Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor in the Jewish Repertory Theatre production of Sisters in Law directed by Josie DiVincenzo who is understudying both parts (Not! DiVincenzo only does one-person shows at JRT!) Both Rausa and Young-Anker disappear into those women. It is a thought provoking play, the kind I enjoy: it’s funny, touching, and short! The kind of play that you go home afterwards, and have to go to the internet to check all the history behind it. The play runs through November 19th. Oh! DiVincenzo will be back on the other side, on the boards, at the Alleyway in February in The Folks at Home, directed by the wonderful Daniel Lendzian (they both went to Fredonia), who was simply hilarious in the production of Sister Act, presented by Starring Buffalo. Those Starring Buffalo shows only run for a single weekend, so too late now! Make sure you keep track and get your tickets for the company’s next production. I heard that they may be doing Oh, Calcutta! if they can find a high school progressive enough to participate. And by the way, the wigs that Rausa and Young-Anker wear, totally help the characters. Thank, Mary McMahon Jakiel. Just FYI, I don’t think there will be separate wig category at the Arties.
Jokes aside, while we’re talking about Jewish Repertory Theatre, wouldn’t their Director of Performing Arts, Adam Yellen, and actor Jason Yancey be perfect for The Comedy of Errors, scheduled for Shakespeare in Delaware Park next summer? Just in case you didn’t know, the play features two sets of identical twins. You can get a synopsis of the plot from the Kavinoky’s Brendan Didio, who knows all the Shakespeare plots from doing the D'Youville MFA show, The Complete Works of Williams Shakespeare (abridged). No need to worry about casting the second set of twins; I would be delighted to play one of the roles, opposite Chris Hatch as my twin. By the way, Happy First Anniversary to the Didios - yes, they're still married!
Alleyway's artistic director Chris Handley was spotted at the final performance of Sister Act, probably as much to support actor/director Lendzian (who, you recall, will soon be directing Josie DiVincenzo at Alleyway) as to check it out. Handley has a good reputation for supporting the work of other companies, and for the record, he did not arrive by horse. Most importantly, for the second year, Alleyway Theatre will join theaters across the country to produce ENOUGH! PLAYS TO END GUN VIOLENCE on Monday (tomorrow) at 7. This free one night only event is open to the public, featuring readings of six new short plays about gun violence, written by high schoolers throughout the US. Donations at the theatre will benefit Most Valuable Parents of Buffalo.
The Broadway League has announced that the Committee of Theatre Owners will dim marquee lights at Broadway’s 41 theaters in memory of Tony Award-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick on Nov. 9 at 6:45 p.m. for one minute. Harnick passed away on June 23 at the age of 99. In this photo, the great man looks amused because I’d been singing his lyrics to Fiddler on the Roof to him … in Spanish! He loved it!
erratum: an earlier version of this column mistakenly listed Theresa Quinn as the music director for "Legally Blonde."