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  • Writer's pictureJavier

Theater Dish - April 2024


three people
with Arianna Lasting and Charlie McGregor at "The White Devil"

American Repertory of Western New York (ART) is now presenting a new adaptation of John Webster’s The White Devil, by NU alums Charlie McGregor and Arianna Lasting, through April 27th.  Lasting is the daughter of the late Claudia Catalano, a fabulous actor and a mainstay on the Buffalo theater scene. The play stars Heather Casseri, Johnny Barden, Andrew Zuccari, David Wysocki, Camilla Maxwell, Ian Michalski, Steven Maiseke, Justin Pope, Connor Snodgrass, and the fabulous Stephanie Bax (playing the OLD Italian mother, totally out of character, and well before her time!).


Up next for Theatre of Youth (TOY), the revival of Go, Dog. Go!, based on P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book. Directed by Kevin Craig, with music direction by Lucas Colón, and choreography by Jenny McCabe, the show will run April 27-May 5, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., starring Augustus Donaldson, Preston Williams, Solange Gosselin, Robyn Baun, Zachary Murphy, and Anika Pace. On May 5th at 10 a.m. there will be the special Sensory-friendly Performance, specifically designed for friends and families with special needs. And, remember the good old days before COVID when the only reason a performer could miss a show is if they were dead. Understudies are here to stay, and TOY will have an understudy performance on May 4th at 2 p.m., starring understudies Derrian Brown, Conley Egnor, Taylor Grosskopf, Timiyah Love, Aaron Gabriel Saldana, and Kira Whitehead.


Understudying is really an art and is usually under-appreciated. I remember many years ago at the now (sadly gone) Studio Arena, they were presenting Having Our Say, a beautiful play about the Delany Sisters. It was a two woman show, and as was the practice at Studio Arena, both actresses were brought in from out of town. The fabulous Lorna C. Hill was asked to understudy BOTH roles, meaning she had to learn the entire play, just in case. I was thrilled at the possibility of seeing Lorna playing one of the parts. She responded: “Honey, why would wish that on me?” Point taken. It was also during those days that Studio Arena did the “black” shows only in February.


two brides and two wedding guests
with Tioga, Amilcar, and Curtis on the big day

And speaking of Lorna, congratulations are in order.  Her daughter, Curtiss Lovell, just got married to Tioga Simpson-Worthington. I would like to share a picture from my private collection. That’s Curtis as a baby in Lorna’s arms!

a mother and baby
Lorna and Baby Curtis -- do you remember Black and White photography?

By the way, Lovell will be singing at a jazz concert with George Caldwell at the piano, Tony DePaolis on bass, James Johnson III on drums, and Colter Harper on guitar.  The concert, sponsored by UB Department of Music, takes place at UB’s Baird Hall Recital Hall on April 25th at 5:30 p.m. The event serves to celebrate the release of Harper’s book Jazz in the Hill – Nightlife and Narratives of a Pittsburgh Neighborhood.  There will be a book talk preceding the concert, at 3:30 p.m.  Free to the public. By the way, the Hill in Pittsburg is the setting of August Wilson’s plays.


Back in 2018, Musicalfare presented a brilliant production of the musical Once which won the Tony Award in 2012. To everyone’s delight, those who saw it and those who weren’t able to see it (it was mostly sold out), the production returns to Shea’s 710, May 2nd-19th.  As luck would have it, almost all of the thirteen original cast members were available, including Renee Landrigan who won an Artie for her performance. Directed by Randall Kramer, music direction by Theresa Quinn, choreography by Michael Walline, John Kaczorowski and Brando Barry join the ensemble. The cast of actors/musicians play their own instruments on stage. The transfer of hit shows to 710 is becoming quite a nice trend. In May 2025, the sold out run of Legally Blonde will also play at 710.


So now the rumor is that it is the Kavinoky’s turn for Shea’s 710.  For Curtain Up, the company will reportedly present the musical Newsies, directed by Eric Deeb Weaver. Based on the 1992 musical film which in turn was inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City, the musical has music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a book by Harvey Fierstein.


Next season at Musicalfare, Doug Weyand will be directing The Prom, with choreography by Michael WallineChris Kelly is directing Something Rotten with choreography by Kristy CavanaghRandy  Kramer is directing Next to Normal. Susan Drozd is directing Waitress. That’s quite a line-up!

a man and a woman
with Carmel Dean

Meanwhile Musicalfare’s Premier Cabaret will present Well-Behaved Women, a contemporary song cycle by Carmel Dean. The show features many historic women who fought to have their voices heard such as Billie Jean King, Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, and Cleopatra. Directed by Davida Tolbert, with music direction by Theresa Quinn, the show stars Timiyah Love, Leah Berst, Sam Crystal, and Brittney Morton. It runs June 7th-16th.  Interestingly enough, UB Department of Theatre and Dance presented Dean’s poetic musical Renascence last fall, directed and choreographed by James Beaudry. Dean is currently the Music Supervisor for the Broadway musical The Notebook. She was also Chita’s music director for her cabaret show.


Next at UB Department of Theatre & Dance, the musical 9 to 5 directed and choreographed by Eric Deeb Weaver, with music direction by Matt Marco, April 26th – May 5th.  Niagara University Theatre will stage the musical Rent at the Leary Theatre April 25th – May 5th, directed by Steve Braddock; music direction by Bridget Moriarty. Buffalo State Theater Department and Casting Hall Productions are currently presenting The Little Shop of Horrors, April 18th-27th, directed and choreographed by Bobby Cooke, with music direction by Kathleen Dunne. It's turning out to be quite a busy year for Mr. Weaver, who will also be directing and choreographing The Producers at Lancaster Opera House.


Chautauqua Institution is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than with 10,000 Maniacs, who will be performing on August 19th at 8:15 p.m. at the Amphitheater. The band was formed in Jamestown back in 1981. Mary Ramsey officially rejoined the group earlier this year.


Next for The Lancaster Opera House, Airness, a Rockin' Air Guitar Comedy by Chelsea Marcantel. Directed by Drew McCabe, the cast includes Jacob Applegate, Zachary Bellus, Isaiah Brown, Amanda Funiciello, Zachary Kushner, DP Morris, and Mara Westerling Morris. The show runs April 19th-May 5th. It’s “a comedy about competition, completion, and finding the airness inside yourself.”


First Look Buffalo Theatre Company presents Bella Poynton’s new play The AI At Delphi, directed by Jeffrey Coyle, starring Melinda Capeles, Lisa Ludwig, Jon May, and Anthony J. Grande. The play runs April 26th-May 19th at Canterbury Woods Performing Arts Center.


It seems that the Jewish Repertory Theatre will open next season with REMEMBER THIS: The Lesson of Jan Karski, a one-man show starring David Lundy, directed by Robert Waterhouse. Jan Karski was a Polish diplomat and freedom fighter during WWII who battled his way across Europe to bring evidence of the Holocaust to Western governments. 


Scott Behrend will give it another try, directing Lanford Wilson’s Burn This. (He directed the show at BUA many years ago). This time, the show will star Leah Berst, Ricky Needham, Nick Stevens, and Kevin Craig.


four happy people
The "Burn This" cast from long ago at BUA: Brian Riggs, Chris Kelly, Lisa Vitrano, and Joe Weins

In addition to the previously announced Pippin, O’Connell & Company will present on its main stage A Child’s Christmas in Buffalo, the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Into the Woods. The Golden Girls make a comeback with Vol.6.  The company opens for Curtain Up at Shea’s Smith Theater with Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier, a musical retelling of Disney's Aladdin from the perspective of Jafar. Directed by Drew McCabe, the show will star Nick Lama as Jafar and Dave Wysocki as Aladdin.


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