Theater News - March 4, 2020
The fabulous Beth Malone (pictured above) is currently starring off-Broadway in a new adaptation of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The musical has a new book that more accurately tells the story of the real Margaret “Call me Molly” Brown. Malone had very fond memories of being at Studio Arena in Buffalo, back in 2005, starring in the world premiere of Ring of Fire, which then moved to Broadway in 2006. Malone was most recently on Broadway starring in the 2018 revival of Angels in America. She earned a Tony nomination in 2016 for her performance in Fun Home playing Alison, the part played brilliantly last May by Robyn Horn in a superb production by Musicalfare at Shea’s 710 Main, directed by Susan Drozd.
By the way, Musicalfare’s 30th anniversary celebration will take place on Saturday May 30th from 6 to 10 p.m. at the MusicalFare Theatre in Snyder. A very simple and descriptive title for the evening: MusicalFare’s 30th Anniversary: Celebrating our Past, Present & Future. For tickets go to www.musicalfare.com
Congratulations to Irish Classical Theatre Company, MusicalFare Theatre, and Torn Space Theater, all recipients of New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) awards in the theater category. NYSCA holds an award ceremony this week.
Torn Space completed its capital campaign in 2019, the planning period is now over and soon construction will begin at the company’s performing space in the historic Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle. When it’s done, the campus located on Fillmore Ave. in Buffalo’s East Side, will be able to accommodate inside and outdoor performance installations, greater technical capabilities for artists and greater comfort and amenities for guests. Coming up in May, premiering during the 125th anniversary of the Adam Mickiewicz Library, Five Songs for Fillmore Avenue, an interdisciplinary performance project specially conceived by Kenneth Collins from the performance company Temporary Distortion. The project will feature original compositions by Collins and John Toohill based on poems by Adam Mickiewicz.
Up next at the Paul Robeson Theatre, the comedy The Dance on Widow’s Row by Samm-Art Williams. Directed by Paulette D. Harris, the production will star Renita Shadwick, Sandra Gilliam, Debbi Davis, Al Garrison, Chalma Warmley, Leon Copeland Jr., and Linda Barr. The show opens on Friday, March 13th.
Seven-year old Raphael Alessandra will make his professional stage debut in TOY’s upcoming production of The Outsiders. “It’s a small role but a pivotal one,” says his proud aunt, TOY Marketing Director Lisa Grisanti. Raphael has been an audience member for years and took a workshop at TOY last summer. Based on the novel by S.E. Hinton about the rivalry between two gangs, the poor Greasers and the rich Socs, The Outsiders was made into a movie in 1983, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The TOY stage version is directed by Chris Kelly. The Greasers are played by Adam Rath, Peter S. Raimondo, Brendan Didio, Zachary Bellus, Preston Williams, and Patrick Cameron pictured below. (perhaps BUA should consider doing a late-night adaptation). The production also stars Brittany Bassett, Jackson Digiacomo, Arianna Lastin, Christine Seshie, and David Wysocki. It is recommended for children 12 and over. The show opens on March 14th. As always, audiences will enjoy a talkback and photo opportunity with the cast after all performances.
UB alum Alan Zweibel will inaugurate the College of Arts and Sciences’ Visiting Professor in the Arts endowment with a three-part workshop that will conclude with an artist brunch and student performances inspired by his memoir Bunny Bunny, about his friendship with Gilda Radner. Zweibel has won five Emmy Awards for his work as a writer for Saturday Night Live. He has also written material for the Broadway shows Gilda Radner-Live from New York (1979), Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (2006), and 700 Sundays which won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event, starring Billy Crystal. UB Professor Maria Horne’s class will host the workshops and provide the foundation for the student performances, which will take place May 3rd, 12 noon to 3 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre in the Center for the Arts. Performances are open to the public.
Buffalo playwright James Marzo’s Something Wicked will open on April 16th in a co-production between The American Repertory Theater of WNY and Navigation Theatre Company, directed by Matthew LaChiusa, starring Timothy Coseglia, Suzanne Hibbard, John F. Kennedy, Dylan Brozyna, Patrick Caughill, Justin Pope, and Joshua Leary. The play is set in Buffalo in 1825 when a lot was going on: the Erie Canal opened, there was a celebration to honor the Marquis de Lafayette, and the city held its first and only public hanging. An estimated crowd of 20,000 people gathered in Niagara Square to watch the hanging of three brothers. Something Wicked runs April 16th – May 9th at the Compass Performing Arts Center on Elmwood near Utica. The play will be intertwined with period music, with musical direction by Len Mendez. There’s even an original song penned by Marzo and Buffalo musician Tylor Bagwell.
Originally a novel, Manuel Puig’s El Beso de la Mujer Araña (Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1976) has been adapted into a 1985 Oscar winning film (Best Actor William Hurt), a two-actor stage play (written by Puig and translated by Allan Baker), and a 1993 Tony winning musical by Kander & Ebb and Terrence McNally. A new stage adaptation by Jose Rivera and Baker premiered in 2018 in London’s Menier Chocolate Factory. Now it’s the New Phoenix’s turn. Directed by Victoria Perez, starring Rolando Gomez and Rick Lattimer, as two prisoners in an Argentinian cell, the play opens on March 6th. There is no truth to the rumor that Ms. Perez will be playing the Spider Woman. Question is, will there be a kiss?
Alleyway Theatre’s Buffalo Quickies 2019 will feature the work of five local playwrights: 68 ½ Minutes to Warsaw by Mark C. Lloyd; Coffee of Christ by Justin Karcher; Home of the Brave by Darleen Pickering Hummert; (The One About) the Nurse and the Gym Teacher, by j. Snodgrass; and Return to Mother’s Nest by Samantha Marchant. The line-up will also include the 2019 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition one act winner, Three or More by Colorado's Collin I. Hood. The production will be directed by Joyce Stilson with associate director Robyn Horn, starring Kate Olena, Sandra Roberts, Matthew Rittler, David C. Mitchell, Smirna Mercedes, and Michael Starzynski. The Quickies run March 26 - April 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Alleyway.
It seems as if the Alleyway Theatre Complex is the now the place to see Buffalo playwrights. The End: Amen a collaborative play by Mark Lloyd, Bella Poynton, j. Snodgrass and Winifred Storms, will play its final performances this weekend in the Alleyway Cabaret. The playwrights are all members of the new Alleyway Theatre Playwrights Circle. And speaking of the Alleyway, Josie DiVincenzo has joined the faculty of Alleyway’s Theatre School of WNY. She will be leading classes in TV & Film acting.
The classic thriller Wait Until Dark will open on April 2nd at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre. Directed by Jay Desiderio, the production will star Lisa Hinca, Marc-Jon Filippone, Robert Insana, Elliot Fox, Rob Dziechciarz, Riley Hickey and Michael O’Hearn.
Is it Ernie or Robert? Musicalfare’s Premier Cabaret will present Robert Insana in Don’t Call Me Ernie, a cabaret featuring his original music, with special guest performers Terrie George and Jayson Clark, and musicians Rick Ryan, Ed Saccocia, Mark Masters and John Cretacci. Show is on March 13th at 8 p.m. Over the course of his career as a musician and actor, Insana has gone through the names Ernie, Robert “Ernie,” and finally Robert. I wonder where he got the title for his show?
Tickets are now on sale for the 7th Annual Spark Awards, presented by the Arts Service Initiative of WNY, Wednesday May 13th from 6 to 10 p.m. at Forbes Theater on Pearl St. Vincent O’Neill will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Organization of the Year finalists are: The 1891 Fredonia Opera House Performing Arts Center, O’Connell & Company, and Unique Theatre Company. The Artist of the Year finalists are JoAnn Falletta, Chris J. Handley, and Edreys Wajed. For tickets, go to www.asiwny.org
On March 21st at 7:30 p.m., O’Connell & Company will present a staged reading of Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women, directed by Daniel Lendzian. In celebration of Women’s History Month, the cast of thirty will be comprised of women from all walks of life including some actresses, among them: Sara Jo Kukulka, Smirna Mercedes. Anne Gayley, Jenny McCabe, Mary Moebius, Kelli Bocock-Natale, Pamela Rose Mangus, Marissa Biondolillo, Joyce Stilson, Darleen Pickering Hummert, and Mary Kate O'Connell. This will be the first in a series of staged readings that will feature large classic shows, old musicals, and new works. Mary Kate has been humming the tunes of Little Girls and Easy Street quite often recently.
For its 2020-2021 season Road Less Traveled Productions (RLTP) is presenting a very interesting line-up and a different director for each show. Doug Weyand will direct the musical Murder Ballad by Juliana Nash & Julia Jordan; Katie Mallinson will direct the world premiere of Donna Hoke’s Little Women…Now; Doug Zschiegner will direct Tribes by Nina Raines; Scott Behrend will direct Breadcrumbs by Jennifer Haley; and John Hurley will direct Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo.
It's official, as I previously reported here, it has been announced that actor Richard Thomas (pictured below) will star as Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, when the national tour plays Shea’s Buffalo, starting on August 15, 2020, previous to the tour's official opening at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. on August 25th. Thomas' first Broadway role was in Dore Schary's Sunrise at Campobello in 1958 when he was seven years old.