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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Theater News - April 3, 2019


Rick Needham (pictured) will play Tony in Musicalfare’s Curtain Up production of the classic musical West Side Story. Directed by Chris Kelly and choreographed by Nancy Hughes, the production will also star Blaise Miranda as Anita, Dominique Kempf as Maria, and Alejandro Gomez as Bernardo. The original Broadway production opened in September 1957. The show opened on London’s West End in December 1958 with only two of its original Broadway stars: Chita Rivera as Anita, and Ken LeRoy as Bernardo. Chita was recently in London to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the original West End production. Last revived on Broadway in 2009, the forthcoming revival of West Side Story will kick off on December 10th, headed by Belgian director Ivo van Hove who is conducting a nationwide search for Latin performers for the roles of Maria, Anita, and Bernardo. For the first time ever, the Jerome Robbins estate is allowing new choreography. Van Hove is collaborating with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who is highly regarded all over the world for her contemporary ballets.

Interestingly, the 1961 musical film West Side Story is soon to be remade and directed by Steven Spielberg. The script is being adapted by Tony Award winner Tony Kushner. Spielberg has cast 17-year-old American-Colombian high school student Rachel Zegler as Maria. She will make her film debut opposite American actor Ansel Elgort, who will play Tony. The cast will also include Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance as Anita in the 1962 film and serves as Executive Producer in the remake. She is set to play Valentina, a new take on the show's character Doc. The Peabody Awards announced it will honor the actress, singer and dancer with the career achievement award. That means the 87-year-old will become the third person to achieve “PEGOT” status by winning a Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. She joins entertainer Barbra Streisand and film director Mike Nichols in holding the distinction.

The fabulous Terrie George returns to the stage after a prolonged absence. She will appear in Musicalfare’s upcoming production, the world premiere of Late in the Evening, a musical featuring the music and lyrics of Paul Simon. Conceived, directed and choreographed by Michael Walline, the show stars Zak Ward, who also serves as music director. The cast includes Noah Bielecki, Cathy Carfagna, Timmy Goodman, Robert Insana, Dudney Joseph Jr., Dominique Kempf, Bob Mazierski, Sean Murphy, and Emily Prucha. George won the 2007 Artie for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her work in Familiar Strangers, also conceived and directed by Walline. Late in the Evening runs April 24th – May 26th. By the way, Musicalfare’s 2019-2020 season will also include, besides West Side Story: Elf The Musical, Cookin’ at the Cookery, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and the return of Swing, Swing, Swing!

Also making a return is director Terry Kimmel who will be directing Sharr White’s play Annapurna at the New Phoenix. The show opens on April 26th and it will star Lisa Ludwig and John Profeta. The play is billed as “a breathtaking story about the longevity of love”. The characters meet after being apart for twenty years.

In a couple of great casting coups, Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre has cast Ellen Horst as Grandma Kurnitz in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers (August 1st-September 29th) and Jack Hunter as Lt. Columbo in Prescription: Murder (October 13th –December 15th). Lost in Yonkers won the 1991 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Prescription: Murder was the inspiration for the TV show Columbo. In the meantime, the courtroom drama Time to Kill adapted for the stage by Rupert Holmes will open on May 9th. The large cast features Kinzy Brown, Peter Horn, Marc Ruffino, Sandra Gilliam, Larry Smith, Elizabeth Oddy, Bob Lohr, Jeremy Catonia, Michael David O'Hear, Ronald Hicks, Kenneth Leman, Justin Chortie, Jacob Sauer and Nathaniel Higgins.

Coming up next, May 9th – June 2nd at Jewish Repertory Theatre (JRT), Both Looking Through Glass, Ken Kaissar’s modern adaptation of The Dybbuk, Directed by Saul Elkin, the production will star Arin Lee Dandes, Angelo J. Heimowitz, Thomas Loughlin, Tina Rausa, and Zachary Bellus. Next season the JRT will present Oh My God, a two hander with Lisa Ludwig and Todd Benzin; What I Thought I Knew, a one woman show with Josie DiVincenzo; and Modern Orthodox, starring Kristin Bentley, Adam Yellen, Dandes, and Stevens.

And on June 27th at 7:30 at the Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre at the JCC in Amherst, JRT will hold a fundraiser, Ed Asner in the comedy/drama A Man and his Prostate. Admission includes the show, dessert reception, and meet & greet with Mr. Asner.

On April 14th Raíces will present a reading of Julieta Tiene la Culpa, by Bárbara Colio, directed by Sheila M. López, starring Valentina Marulanda Ospina, Victoria Pérez, and Eva Santos García. The reading is at 6 p.m. at the Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave., third floor. Admission is free. Reading is in Spanish.

The Niagara Arts and Cultural Center will hold an event at the NACC Woodbox Theater (1201 Pine at Portage, Niagara Falls) on Monday, April 8 at 6:30 to raise visibility for the Niagara theater community. The event will feature a moderated panel and discussion of upcoming season, auditions and promotions. Panelists include representatives from Patchwork Theatre, Teal's Niagara Theatre, Western Door Playhouse, and Theatre in the Mist.

Quite a busy weekend coming up!

1) Kavinoky Kabaret, Friday April 5th, doors open at 6 p.m., band starts at 7 p.m. The Music of Louis Prima starring Norm Sham, Debbie Pappas, with Jim Runfola and a six piece band with musical selections from next season’s musicals.

2) A staged reading of William Goldman’s classic hit, The Princess Bride, with an all-star cast, one night only, April 6th at 7:30 at Road Less Traveled. Yes, they got special permission from Goldman.

3) Now that Cher has made them popular again, the sold-out Abba Cabaret returns to Musicalfare Premier Cabaret on April 5th at 8 starring Amy Jakiel, Kelly Copps, Phil Farugia, Steve Copps and Brian McMahon. And on April 6th at 8, the return of A Girl, A Guy, A Piano starring Randy Kramer and Theresa Quinn.

Best wished to Felicity Hoffman (pictured below) who is going through some legal troubles. Real life imitates Desperate Housewives!


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