The great Len Cariou is back on the New York stage, starring off-Broadway in the play Harry Townsend’s Last Stand. Cariou, who turned 80 last year, was the original Sweeney in Sweeney Todd in 1979. He also originated the part of Fredrik in A Little Night Music in 1973. During rehearsals for that show, Sondheim was yet to write an eleven o’clock number for him. So, he and co-star Glynis Johns who played Desiree improvised a scene. Sondheim returned the next day with a song but gave it to Johns instead. That was Send in the Clowns, made widely popular again thanks to the movie Joker.
Hard to believe that half of the theater season is over and there are quite a few interesting productions coming up. Edward Albee’s fans rejoice. Second Generation Theatre will present his 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner Three Tall Women, March 20th – April 5th . Directed by Kyle LoConti, the production will star Barbara Link LaRou, Lisa Ludwig, and Anna Krempholtz. The play was mounted on Broadway in 2018 starring Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf, and Allison Pill, winning Tony Awards for both Jackson and Metcalf. The New Phoenix will present Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, April 24th – May 23rd, directed by Nancy Doherty, starring Richard Lambert, Pamela Rose Mangus, Brett Klaczyk, and Pandora Lianne Kew. Last revived on Broadway in 2012, the 1962 play will make it to Broadway again this spring, starring Meltcalf and Rupert Everett.
And there is more Albee on the horizon as Road Less Traveled Productions (RLTP) will present his play At Home at the Zoo in 2021, starring Steve Copps, Kristen Tripp Kelley, and Dave Hayes who will be heading to Shakespeare in the Park this summer, appearing in As You Like It. At Home at the Zoo is basically Albee’s 1959 play The Zoo Story, with a prequel added. The play had its world premiere at the Hartford Stage Company in 2004, directed by Pam MacKinnon. Both Albee and MacKinnon are RLTP American Theatre Masters.
New Works at New Phoenix continues on February 9th at 3 p.m. with a reading of excerpts from the book The Polish Cleaning Lady’s Daughter by Paula Wachowiak. The book is a series of stories from the author’s childhood growing up in Buffalo’s Lovejoy area. Admission is “Pay-What-You-Can.”
Save the date! Second Generation Theatre’s (SGT) annual fundraiser Page to Stage: Miscast is scheduled for Sunday, May 3rd at Shea’s Smith Theatre at 7 p.m. As usual, in addition to the show, there will be basket raffles, silent auctions, appetizers, desserts and a cash bar This weekend, the company will debut a new “mini-musical,” Once Upon a Time!, with music and lyrics by Phil Farugia and Kelly Copps, starring Bethany Burrows, Alex Watts, Leah Berst, and Brittany Bassett. The show is on Saturday February 8th at 1:45 p.m. at the WBFO Studios, as part of the WNED Kid Fest 2020. For tickets, go to eventbrite.com. SGT is planning to open next season with the play Constellations, by Nick Payne. The two-hander was on Broadway a few years ago starring Jake Gyllenhaal
The fabulous Zoe Scruggs will be playing American jazz singer and song writer Alberta Hunter in the Musicalfare production of Cookin’ at the Cookery which opens this week. She will be joined by Niagara University graduate Ember Tate who will play young Alberta. Cookin’ is being directed and choreographed by Victoria Perez, with musical direction by George Caldwell. Interestingly enough, Cookin’ at the Cookery ran at Studio Arena in October-November 2002 in a co-production with the Geva Theatre in Rochester. The show was directed and choreographed by the author, Marion J. Caffey. Mr. Caldwell played keyboard in the band. Back in 2000, the Paul Robeson Theatre had already mounted its own production starring Mary Craig as Hunter.
Speaking of the Robeson, we are very saddened by the passing of Agnes Bain, longtime executive director of the African American Cultural Center, home of the Paul Robeson Theatre.
Back in 1996, Saul Elkin and David Lamb starred at the Kavinoky in the thriller The Woman in Black. The play was adapted in 1987 by Stephen Mallatratt from Susan Hill's 1983 gothic novel. The play arrived in London’s West End in 1989 and is still running, making it the second longest-running play in the West End, after The Mousetrap. The play is now playing to great acclaim in New York and will soon open in Washington, D.C. at The Shakespeare Theatre Company. And it will back at the Kavinoky next season. By the way, the Kavinoky season will also include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Kate Hamill whose most recently adaptation, Emma will soon open at the Guthrie in Minneapolis. Hamill has also adapted, among many other novels, Sense and Sensibility and Little Women. Her adaption of The Scarlet Letter will have a reading on February 10th in New York.
It’s fun when companies revive previous productions, and a wonderful opportunity for those who didn’t have a chance to see them the first time. The Irish Classical Theatre Company is planning to remount Harold Pinter’s Betrayal next season. The play was revived on Broadway last fall in a brilliant production that was transferred from London, where it played as part of Pinter at the Pinter Season. Ujima Company will bring back the very entertaining play with music, Spunk! by George George C. Wolfe, adapted for the stage from three short stories by Zora Neale Hurston. Ujima won the Artie Award for best production of a play in 1994 for Spunk!
Another save the date! The Kavinoky is holding its annual fundraiser The Kavinoky Kabaret on Friday, April 3rd at 6 p.m. on the 6th floor of the D'Youville Academic Center. The event will feature cocktails, wine, beer, hors d’oeuvres, food stations, auction items, silent auction, and entertainment; featuring Let Chi Entertain You, starring Charmagne Chi and Dee Adams Indigo All Star Tribute. There is a special industry discounted rate. Call 716-829-7668
Unmasked, a musical revue featuring stories and songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s life and celebrated career, just had its world premiere at the renowned Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, where it will run until March 1st . And in Buffalo, we will have the world premiere of Imagine the World Made Over…Forty Years of Words and Music by Neal Radice. The revue runs April 23rd - May 16th to coincide with Radice’s stepping down as Executive Director of the Alleyway. Musical direction by Monica Stankowicz, and choreography by Heather Reed. By the way, actress Robin Lee Horn is the new Director of Development at the Alleyway. She and husband Peter Horn will return to Shakespeare in the Park this summer, this time appearing in the same show, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Theatre School at O’Connell & Company will be launched in Spring 2020 and will offer beginner to advanced level training, audition workshops, development lectures, and dance classes. The education program will be chaired by Daniel Ledzian, who will also teach along with Mary Kate O’Connell and Joey Bucheker. One of the summer workshops for young artists will conclude with a production of Seussical the Musical, Jr. For information, call 716-308-1339.
And, in July 2020, the Kavinoky will launch the Acting & Musical Theatre Training Workshop for grades 9-12. Workshops will be in the areas of acting, musical theater performance, and musical theater movement & dance. For information, call 716-829-7668.
After starring in the long-running Columbo at Desiderio’s, Jack Hunter will sit in the director’s chair for the Subversive world premiere production of Mark Humphrey’s Two Afternoons at Kelly’s. The play is set in a south Buffalo bar in the early 1960s and will star Dan Greer, Trevor Dugan, and Shakura Purks. It opens May 15th.
RLTP 10-Minute Play Festival will take place on May 4th. Centered around the Star Wars theme and date, the event is called May the Fourth Be with You. Some of the selected plays include Not Long Ago, Not Far Away by Anthony Grande, directed by Carly Weiser; What Grief Feels Like in a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Justin Karcher, directed by Mike Doben; and Across the Galaxies (or Last Year's Wookie) by j. Snodgrass, directed by Lisa Vitrano. Tickets are $10.00 for this one-night only event, and they are available online at the company’s website.
Steve Jakiel, Kit Kuebler, and Victor Morales will be starring in the Aurora Players production of William Inge’s classic Bus Stop, under the direction of Michael Breen. The play opens on March 6th. That will be quite a commute for Jakiel from East Aurora to Matinee on Main St.
February is here, Valentine's Day is soon, spring is right around the corner, and love is in the air. Pictured below, Renee Landrigan, Kevin Shanahan, Michele Marie Roberts, and Rex Keppel. What can I say? Tinder's got nothing on Matinee bar. Like the live theater, the in person experience is way ahead of virtual reality!