STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER
It was such a relief to see Broadway and the theater come back and so heartbreaking to see everything slowing down again.
Back on Broadway, fabulous Niagara University alum Michele Ragusa (pictured) finally appeared in the new musical Flying Over Sunset, directed by James Lapine. After covid caused the postponement of the planned 2020 opening, the show opened at Lincoln Center in New York last month. Ragusa, as always, excelled in her performance as the mother of author/ambassador Clare Booth Luce. She was personally complimented by Lapine, who also wrote the book for the musical. Music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyrics by Michael Korie (Grey Gardens). There will be an original cast recording. Lapine is also well known for his collaborations with the late Stephen Sondheim, including Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Passion.
Belated congratulations to Vincent O’Neill who officially became Artistic Director Emeritus of the Irish Classical Theatre Company this past November. Perfect timing for a new headshot! O’Neill will be back on stage this month, still waiting for Godot after all these years. Waiting for Godot, the play that brought Vincent and the late Chris O’Neill to Buffalo, will be remounted January 14th - February 13th, under the direction of Kate LoConti Alcocer. This will be the company’s first production of its 31st season, also starring Brian Mysliwy, Ben Michael Moran, Todd Benzin, Jackson Snodgrass, and Teddy Hibbard.
The bitch is back! BUA is turning 30 in 2022. And to celebrate, in grand style, Jimmy Janowski will be playing the Helen Lawson character in an adaptation of the camp film classic Valley of the Dolls. Re-titled Alley of the Dolls (it will be at the Alleyway, get it?), the play will be directed by Chris Kelly and will open late February. BUA regulars Chris Standart, Michael Seitz, and Bebe Bvulgary will also be featured.
Speaking of BUA, it was thirty years ago on January 2nd, that the company’s first production opened at the Franklin Street Theatre (now Buffalo’s ChopHouse) which was the home of Theatre of Youth (TOY) back then. Directed by Kelli Bocock-Natale, the musical revue A…My Name is Alice began its long run with original stars: Mary Craig, Gail Golden, Jeanmarie Lally, Sheila McCarthy, and Loraine O’Donnell. Music direction was by Theresa Quinn, who was making her music director debut. In the years that followed, the production kept playing with replacement cast members, among them Debbie Pappas, Lori Jacobs, Pamela Rose Mangus, Anne Hartley Pfohl, Mary Jakiel, Tammy Hayes, Syndi Starr, Mary Kate O’Connell, Leah Zicari, Michele Ninacs, and Eric Alsford. In what may be called the next 30 years of BUA, Michael Doben and Rick Lattimer will become co-artistic directors of the company beginning now.
For its next production, O’Connell & Company will return to Shea’s Smith Theatre with the Buffalo premiere of Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic aka Puffs for short. The 2015 play by New York- based playwright Matt Cox, is a comedic retelling of the Harry Potter book series by J. K. Rowling. Directed by Joey Bucheker, the production will star (in alphabetical order): Kris Bartolomeo, Mike Benoit, Marissa Biondolillo, Nathanial Higgins, Christian Hines, Sabrina Kahwaty, Nicholas Lama, Daniel Lendzian, Gabrielle Nunzio, Jenn Stafford, and David Wysocki.
And while we're discussing casting, Theatre of Youth is assembling its cast for Beauty and the Beast. Wouldn't Steve Copps be fabulous as Beast? I think Dave Spychalski would be hilarious as Gaston! And aren't Mary Kate O'Connell and Charmagne Chi just born to do Disney voices?
Another theater company joins the ever-growing Buffalo scene. The Lightbulb Project, founded by Lucas Lloyd, will make its debut at the Alleyway Theatre at the end of the month. Lloyd, who serves as the company’s Artistic Director, is directing the romantic comedy The Siegel by Michael Mitnick. The play had its world premiere at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in California in March 2017. The production will star Mike Mack, Lisa Vitrano, Dave Mitchell, Amanda Borowsk, Elliot Fox, and Phoebe Wright. Costume design by Katie Johnson, lighting design by Tim Swenson, and sound design by Jake Nowak. Emma English serves as stage manager. The company’s logo is “Theater from the Heart for the People” !
In the category of “returns to the stage,” critic/raconteur (owner of this website) Anthony Chase will return to the Warren Enters Theatre at Buffalo State College to appear in the Scottish play, directed by Jonathan Seinen. Surprisingly, Tony, who last trod those boards as Lady Bracknell, under the direction of Donn Youngstrom, will not portray Lady M. He will, instead, play King Duncan.
On the topic of Shakespeare, winter is just beginning, so it’s time to think about Shakespeare in Delaware Park, Summer 2022 season which will feature As You Like It, directed by Steve Vaughan (June 23rd-July 17th) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Saul Elkin (July 28th- August 21st). Auditions will be held on January 15th and 16th. To make an appointment, call (716) 856-4533 on or after January 3rd. Auditions are for the following roles: As You Like It: Duke Fredrick/ William/Le Beau and ensemble; Midsummer: Lysander/Oberon/Titania/Francis Flute/ Starling/ Philostrate. All other roles are cast. The touring production is also looking for four actors to play various roles.
Road Less Traveled Productions (RLTP) continues its season with the multi award winning play Tribes by Nina Raine. Directed by Doug Zschiegner, the production stars David Marciniak, Margaret Massman, Anna Krempholtz, Johnny Barden, Dave Wantuck and Melinda Capeles. “Billy is the only Deaf member of a loving yet dysfunctional family who raised him as part of the hearing world.” In partnership with Deaf Access Services, RLTP will offer two ASL interpreted performances, Friday January 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday February 6 at 2 p.m.
The Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC will be presenting a production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town that will feature music by Tony-nominated composer from WNY, Michael John LaChiusa (Hello Again, Marie Christine, The Wild Party).
2021 was a difficult year that, nonetheless, provided some happy times and reminded us of the important things in life. Here are some of my celebrity brief encounters that gained meaning in 2021. Paul Rudd was named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive for 2021” at the age of 52 (he was already sexy back then when I met him). When he died in November at the age of 91, Stephen Sondheim had long been known as a Broadway legend and re-inventer of the Broadway musical. And finally, beloved actor Betty White departed, just week’s shy of her 100th birthday. May 2022 be a wonderful and healthy year for everyone! Get the booster!