Theater News - August 2022
STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER
Another good reason to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare in Delaware Park, besides great laughs, great acting, great directing, great music, etc. is to check out the costume designed by Jenna Damberger for Chris Hatch (pictured) who plays Oberon opposite a wonderful Tracie Lane as Fairy Queen, Titania. His costume gets better in act two. It was also great to see Phil Wackerfuss once again as Puck, in a fully staged production, after he played the part last year in the “Covid version,” which was a walk in the park. Actually, that might have been a perfect setting for Sondheim’s Into the Woods, which just extended its Broadway revival. Might Lisa Ludwig be interested to reprise her role as the Witch? Midsummer runs until August 21st. No reservations or tickets required but the hat will be passed at intermission, with actors wearing masks.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park is now entering a new era, after the retirement of Saul Elkin. A competitive application process has culminated with the selection of next summer’s shows. Chris Kelly will direct Romeo and Juliet. Virginia Monte will direct Measure for Measure.
Actor/writer/director/publicist/casting director (am I missing something else?) Darleen Pickering Hummert wishes to honor her late husband Richard, by establishing the Richard E. Hummert Shakespeare Education Fund sponsoring Shakespeare in Delaware Park programs for young people. Richard was unforgettable performing as Falstaff on the Saul Elkin Stage. As a way of continuing his legacy, Darleen is pleased to offer support of the ShakespearIENCE 2022 Apprentice program and the West Side Promise Neighborhood Lunch Program this summer. The West Side program includes Shakespeare classes taught by the fabulous Brendan Didio and other area artistic professionals. To donate to the Richard E. Hummert Shakespeare Education Fund, please mail checks to Shakespeare in Delaware Park, PO Box 716, Buffalo, NY 14205 with “R. Hummert Fund” in the memo section or contact email@example.com (you may want to include a resume and picture in case Darleen can cast you in a commercial).
Broadway star Alison Fraser is back on the New York stage starring as Big Mamma in the first-ever Off-Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Here she is, posing in front of the gigantic electronic billboard advertising the show, near Times Square. Fraser appeared many years ago at Studio Arena in Rhino Fat from Red Dog Notes (A Salute to Buffalo's Sesquicentennial). She has many fond memories of Buffalo and was thrilled to learn that our upcoming theater season will feature three musicals in which she starred as an original cast member. In 1986, Alison was in the original Beehive, starring off Broadway. The musical revue featured a collection of songs made famous by female singers in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The show was so original that the characters names were named after the actresses first names. So Alison played Alison, and Jasmine Guy & Adriane Lenox, who were also in the cast, played Jasmine and Adriane. In 1988, Alison starred on Broadway in the premiere of the musical Romance, Romance opposite Scott Bakula who soon after moved to TV to play Quantum Leap, and most recently NCSI New Orleans. Both actors, and the musical were Tony nominated. In 1991, The Secret Garden arrived on Broadway, starring Alison as Martha, the chambermaid, Mandy Patinkin, the late Rebecca Luker, and Daisy Egan as Mary, the little girl. Both Alison and Egan were nominated for a Tony and Egan won, becoming the youngest person ever, well whatever. The show also won best book for Marsha Norman, who received a Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for her play ‘night mother. Norman subsequently wrote the books for The Color Purple and The Bridges of Madison County.
So… Second Generation Theatre will bring us a production of The Secret Garden, directed by the fabulous Michael Walline, who once played my husband’s boyfriend in a production of Jeffrey. The show will star Kelly Copps, Lou Colaivcovo, Clark Garvey, Joe Russi, John Panepinto, Anne DeFazio, John Kreuzer, and Jenn Stafford. Martha will be played by Amy Jakiel and little Mary will be played by Ella Hinklin (daughter of Jenn Stafford, talk about third generation!). The cast also includes (wait a second, this is a large cast!) Jordan Levin, Leah Berst, Charles McGregor, Maria Pedro, Collin McKee, Bob Mazierski and Jenny Marie McCabe.
And, O’Connell & Company will be presenting a production of Romance, Romance, directed by Lisa Ludwig, starring Jenn Stafford (she does get around), Bobby Cooke, Anna Fernandez, and Thomas Evans. Back in the day (that is the early ‘90s) BUA presented a production of the show at the Franklin Street Theatre, directed by Brian Fraley (who is back in town), choreographed by Lynne Kurdziel-Formato, starring Jeff Nicoloff, Erika Insana, Anne Mosner, and Doug Weyand (I couldn’t find the picture but maybe next time). The show was supposed to transfer “intact” to Upstage later in the year, but as things happen in the theater world, it was now directed by Roger Paolini, starring Jeanmarie Lally, the late Marc-Jon Fillipone, Stephanie Bax, and Eddie Simonick, who is now a well-heeled landlord living on Linwood Avenue.
Beehive! is left. Musicalfare will present the show, directed and choreographed by Carlos Jones, assisted by Robin Barker, with music direction by Phil Farugia. The production will star Brittany Bassett, Stevie Jackson, Lily Jones, Sabrina Kahwaty, Kristen-Marie Lopez, and Timiyah Love. Who is playing Alison? Call me!
Congratulations to musician/music director George Caldwell and dancer/choreographer/actress Terrie George who have just been inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place on October 12th at Seneca One Tower.
In case you haven’t heard, after seven years as tenants, Jay and Bobby Desiderio have bought the building that houses Bobby J’s Italian American Grille at 204 Como Park Blvd. in Cheektowaga. The deal was closed almost a month ago on July 13th. Congratulations! Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre will keep rolling along. Last I talked to Jay, he was interested in mounting a play called Making God Laugh, a comedy/drama that takes place in four scenes, each ten years apart.
When not on the legitimate stage or working as a bartender, Joe Donahue is a performer. His regular gigs are now Tuesdays at Nietzche’s and Fridays at House of Charm.
Auditions for HARP's production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap will be held on August 13th & 14th at 1 pm. at the Taylor Theatre in Lockport’s Kenan Center, no appointment necessary. The show will be directed by Elaine Roberts. Future shows include Finnegan’s Farewell in March, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in May. Incidentally, Richard Hummert was an excellent Big Daddy back in 1995, in a production that also starred Maureen Porter as Maggie, Drew Kahn as Brick, and Arlene Clement as Big Mama.
I was saddened to hear about the passing of Maria Andrzejewski who died on July 27th. She was a local actress with a glorious voice and sparkling stage presence. I remember her performing at the Lancaster Opera House in, among other shows, 70 Girls 70 and Nunsense,
Nichelle Nichols, whose groundbreaking career is best remembered for her role as Uhura on television’s Star Trek died on July 30th at the age of 89. Nichols, a Chicago native, began her career as a singer and stage actress.