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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Theater News -- 4/28/19


Terrence McNally (front center) and his husband, Broadway producer Tom Kirdahy, with the Buffalo United Artists company of his play, "It's Only a Play"

April 25th was the official cut-off for 2019 Tony eligibility. Broadway shows needed to open by then in order to be considered for nomination this season. Beetlejuice, which opened on 4/25 was the last eligible production to open. Thirty-four shows are eligible this season: fourteen new plays, eleven new musicals, seven revivals of a play (including The Boys in the Band which opened on May 31st, 2018), and two revivals of a musical (Kiss me Kate and Oklahoma!). Brandon Victor Dixon and two-time Tony-winner Bebe Neuwirth will announce the nominations on Tuesday, April 30th at 8:30 a.m. from the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. You can watch the Nominations Announcement online by heading to the Tony Awards Facebook page. The 73rd Annual Tony Awards ceremony will take place at Radio City Music Hall on June 9th. CBS will once again broadcast the event. Congratulations to playwright Terrence McNally who will receive and Honorary Tony for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

2019 Artie Award Career Achievement Winner, Jay Desiderio, with Anthony Chase and friends at Desiderio's Dinner Theatre

May 1st is the cut-off date for 2019 Artie eligibility. I’m pretty sure there are more than thirty-four shows eligible. Nominations will be announced on Monday, May 20th at noon, live streamed on Facebook by sponsor WBFO/WNED. The 29th annual Artie ceremony will take place on Monday, June 3rd at Shea’s 710 Main. For the first time, general admission tickets will be available online, in advance, beginning on the day the nominations are announced; that should speed things up at the door. Congratulations to Jay Desiderio who will receive the 2019 Artie Award for Career Achievement. Matinee will host a reception for nominees, date and time to be announced.

With so many openings this week and next, and the opening of a new theater, it already feels like Curtain Up! Ujima opens its new space at 429 Plymouth Avenue with the musical Passing Strange by Stew & Heidi Rodewald. Directed by Lorna C. Hill, the musical stars Preach Freedom, Brian Brown, Augustus Donaldson, Jacqueline Cherry, Tianna Livingston, London Lee, and my all-time favorite Zoë V. Scruggs. The show was nominated for seven Tony awards including Best Musical, winning for Best Book. The theater and the show open on May 3rd. What a strong start for the new season with Passing Strange and the upcoming Fun Home by Musicalfare at Shea’s 710 Main.

Coming up at the Paul Robeson Theatre, the musical Three Sistah’s, directed by Renita Shadwick, starring Denise Mullen, Danielle Green, and Taneisha Facey. Set in Washington DC in 1969, three sisters reunite to grieve together. Inspired by Chekhov’s masterpiece, the musical provides an evening of gospel, rhythm & blues, bebop, and funk. The show runs May 3rd-26th. On May 12th, the theater will hold its 23rd Annual Mother’s Day Dinner Theatre, with dinner at 4, followed by the show at 6 p.m.

The Old Globe in San Diego has just announced its 2019-20 season, and there are a couple of Buffalo connections. Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Lackawanna Blues) will direct August Wilson’s Jitney, a play he directed on Broadway in 2017. (He will also direct it at Arena Stage in DC in the fall). Michael John LaChiusa’s new musical, The Garden of Anuncia will premiere in the spring. The show is inspired by the life of director and choreographer Graciela Daniele who has worked with LaChiusa on several occasions. Interestingly too, the theater will present Kate Hamill's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

Up next for Santiago-Hudson is the premiere of the new musical Oo-Bla-Dee, with book and lyrics by Regina Taylor (Crowns, I’ll Fly Away) and music by Diedre L. Murray. Buffalo’s George Caldwell serves as music director. The show will open on June 8th at Two River Theater in New Jersey, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Buffalo’s Pam MacKinnon is back directing in New York. Lydia Diamon’s new play Toni Stone, set to open May 23rd at the Laura Pels Theatre, produced by Roundabout. Stone was the first woman to go pro in the Negro Leagues. The play is also part of the 2019/20 season at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where MacKinnon has been serving as Artistic Director since last July, succeeding Carey Perloff, who was at the helm of A.C.T. for 25 years. It’s been quite a busy year for MacKinnon. Her production of Bruce Norris’s (Clybourne Park) new play Downstate is ending its run at the National Theatre in London this weekend after having its premiere at Steppenwolf in Chicago.

Artie Award winning set designer Paul Bostaph will be back at the New Phoenix to work on the set for Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean which Richard Lambert is directing. The full cast: Kerrykate Abel, Stephanie Bax, Betsy Bittar, Dylan Brozyna, Lisa Ludwig, Mary Moebius, and Jenn Stafford.

The Carriage House Players, in collaboration with the Kenan Center will present Yasmina Reza’s comedy Art, May 10th-19th. Directed by Betsy Bittar, starring Elliot Fox, Alex Rubin, and Russell Holt. Performances are at the Taylor Theater located on the campus of the Kenan Center, 433 Locust St., Lockport. The production will include original music from local jazz musicians, The Secret Life of Insects, with saxophonist Kelly Bucheger, Doug Dreishspoon on drums, and Marc Cousins on bass. Artist John Shera has created the controversial white painting, which is at the center of the play. There will be a talk back with Bittar, Bucheger, Dreishpoon and the cast after the May 11th performance.

Coming up this summer at Chautauqua Theatre Company: Lucas Hnath’s The Christians, Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream in a modern verse translation by Jeff Whitty.

And speaking of Midsummer, the Irish Classical Theatre will again collaborate with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), this time to present Shakespeare’s play, accompanied by Mendelsshon’s music. JoAnn Falletta conducts, Fortunato Pezzimenti directs, and Vincent O’Neill stars, January 17th – 19th. Hamilton star and Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr. will be singing with the BPO on April 25th, 2020. This coming season the BPO is celebrating 20 years of Falletta. Congratulations!

Neglia Ballet has announced its 20th Anniversary Spring Gala, which will take place on Saturday, May 18th at Nichols Flickinger Performing Arts Center. Classical and contemporary performances will be followed by a champagne and dessert reception. For tickets go to

Geva Theatre in Rochester concludes its 46th season with the world premiere of the musical Revival: The Resurrection of Son House, written and directed by Keith Glover, with music by Son House, and Billy Thompson Glover. Born in Mississippi, legendary blues singer Son House spent some time in Rochester before the rebirth of his career in 1964. Tony Award-winner Cleavant Derricks plays the title role. Derricks created the role of James Thunder Early in Dreamgirls. Revival opens on May 1st. Buffalo's Adriano Gatto, who is currently appearing in Bill Cain's Equivocation at the Kavinoky Theatre, will provide the fight choreography.

In other Kavinoky news, we've heard some casting updates for their Curtain Up! production of the musical Hairspray. Maeghan McDonald, who is currently playing Robert Livingston of New York in 1776 at O'Connell & Company will play the coveted role of Tracy. Natalie Slipko will be Velma Von Tussle. Cassidy Kreuzer is Amber Von Tussle. Anne Defazio who is currently playing Thomas Jefferson in 1776 is Prudy Pingleton. Arin Lee Dandes is Penny Pingleton. Brian Brown is Seaweed. And Cece Barron will play Little Inez.

The Alleyway Theatre is accepting submissions for the annual Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition. Deadline is July 1st. Full-length (no less than 90 minutes, no more than 10 characters) plays or musicals and one-act (no more than 20 minutes, no more than 6 performers) are eligible. Winners will be announced November 1st. For more information, email:

Husband and wife, Percy Gibson and Joan Collins with Javier

As reported by People magazine, Joan Collins and husband Percy Gibson are doing OK after a fire broke out in their London apartment. Collins turns 86 on May 23rd. She and Gibson married in 2002. Born in Peru, Gibson is now 54. He is her fifth husband.


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