Theater News by Javier
The fabulous Chita Rivera celebrated her 89th birthday a couple of weeks ago. She currently is putting the final touches on her memoir, which is scheduled to be released by HarperCollins in 2023. Her longtime pal and “Bye Bye Birdie” co-star, Dick Van Dyke, turned 96 last December! Due to COVID, several celebratory events were canceled, postponed, or performed without an audience. You may have missed that Van Dyke received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2021, during a special COVID edition of that prestigious event. Chita was honored with the award in 2002.
Back in 1980, Van Dyke starred in a short-lived Broadway revival of The Music Man. After postponements and cancellations, the current revival of The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, Jefferson Mays, and Jayne Houdyshell is set to open officially on February 10th. Going back to older days of Broadway, critics will not be invited to see the show until opening night, rather than to several days of press previews.
Opening this week on February 3rd, the Jewish Repertory Theatre’s production of The Treasurer by Max Posner, directed by Saul Elkin, starring Darleen Pickering Hummert, John Kreuzer, David Lundy, and Alexandria Watts.
Quite a few moves and postponements and/or cancellations in Buffalo as well. Things in January were not looking good for COVID. The Kavinoky’s production of The Lifespan of a Fact has been moved to June. Up next at the Kavinoky, the stage version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, directed by Kristen Tripp Kelley, starring Ben Moran, Gabby McKinley, Renee Landrigan, Lisette DeJesus, Jake Hayes, Jacob Albarella, Chris Brandjes, and Diane DiBernardo. The show opens on March 4th.
On the subject of the Kavinoky, save the date! Friday, April 8th at The Hub (corner of Connecticut and West) Kavinoky Kabaret is back. Doors will open at 6 p.m., with entertainment by Harper Valley PTA, the fabulous band featured in From Honky Tonk to Protest: a Woman’s View of Country Music.
So, with all the shuffling, Rock of Ages, directed by Lynne Kurdziel-Formato, will be the Curtain Up Show for the Kavinoky. After many years of trying, O’Donnell will finally get to play book fan Annie Wilkes, in Misery, the play based on the Stephen King novel. Directed by Brian Cavanagh, the co-star is yet to be cast. October might make good timing. It’s National Book Month, and Halloween season!
Also, postponed until July, BUA’s production of Alley of the Dolls starring Jimmy Janowski.
After a very successful and creative outdoor storefront production last summer, the Alleyway Theatre brings back its annual short play festival to the main stage. Buffalo Quickies, now its thirty-first year, will play February 24th – March 19th, directed by Chris Handley. This year, the festival will feature eight pieces including the world premieres of Seventeen: The (Unofficial) Josh Allen Musical by Phil Farugia and Amy Jakiel; and Buffalo Porno, a play set in Tonawanda, written by Buffalo playwright Jeff Z. Klein. The Quickies company will feature Joey Bucheker, Rachel Henderson, Kate Olena, Colleen Pine, Matt Rittler, and Michael Starzynski. Following the Quickies, it’s the premiere of the Maxim Mazumdar annual competition winner, Berserker, by Bruce Walsh. Directed by Robyn Lee Horn, the production will open March 31st, starring Patrick Cameron, Kelly Copps, Haleigh Curr, and Sara Kow-Falcone.
Katy Miner (Sister Robert Anne), and Emily Yancey (Sister Amnesia) are starring in the Lancaster Opera House production of Dan Goggin’s Nunsensations!, the Vegas-themed Nunsense sequel. Directed by David Bondrow, with musical direction by Fran Landis, and choreography by Timmy Goodman, the production also stars Mary Bellanti, Demyia Browning, and Rebecca Kroetsch. The show runs through February 13.
It is truly amazing how popular and successful the Nunsense franchise turned out to be. Since its 1985 off-Broadway debut, the original, or one of its many sequels or spin-offs has been playing consistently, all over the world. Mary Kate O’Connell, the original Buffalo Mother Superior, will again don a habit in a new musical co-written by her and Joey Buchecker (is there no end to that man’s talent?), Confessions of the Reverend Mother featuring songs by original composer Goggin. The show is scheduled to open April 28th. We will have to wait to see O’Connell portray Rosemary Clooney in Tenderly, which was originally scheduled to open February 10th, directed by Richard Lambert.
The Paul Robeson Theatre at the African American Cultural Center is back in business! According to an ad in the latest issue of The Challenger and to the theater’s website, the company will be presenting a series of short works about Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Black Men in Hoodies, and Mary B. Talbert. Facing Our Truth – Short Play Series will feature Dressing by Mona Mansour and Tala Manassah, Queen Mary’s Roundtable by Yao Kahlil Newkirk, and Night Vision by Dominique Morisseau. The production runs February 11th – 27th, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. The Robeson produced Morisseau's Skeleton Crew in 2018; the play is currently receiving its Broadway premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club, in a production starring Phylicia Rashad and directed by Lackawanna's Ruben Santiago-Hudson.
The national tour of the classic musical Oklahoma! arrives at Shea’s on February 15th. This production won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Barbara Walsh will be playing Aunt Eller. Walsh is known for her Drama Desk Award and Tony Award nominated role as Trina in the original Broadway production of Falsettos. Two connections to Buffalonian composers: Walsh played Mrs. Baskin in the original Broadway production of David Shire’s Big. In 2015, she appeared in Michael John LaChiusa's First Daughter Suite at The Public Theater, playing Pat Nixon.
Can you name the six shows for which Audra McDonald has won her Tony Awards? Musicalfare has produced three of them. And they may be on their way to produce a fourth coming next season. In the meantime, American Rhapsody opens on February 23rd. First produced in 2009 by the company, the show explores the cultural and historical context that inspired Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Carlos Jones directs this time. The show begins as a conversation between a classical pianist and a jazz pianist, played respectively by Randy Kramer and Richard Satterwhite, with music direction by Theresa Quinn. Stevie Jackson, Dwayne Stephenson, Davida Evette Tolbert, and Josh Wilde round out the cast.
Red Thread Theatre company will be back at The New Phoenix Theatre in March with a production of Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children directed by Robert Waterhouse, starring Eileen Dugan, Peter Palmisano, and Josephine Hogan.
Worth the wait…. Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot is now playing at the Irish Classical Theatre Company through February 13th.
Be sure to get vaccinated and boosted so theater can continue to come back!
James Addison, server extraordinaire at Mother's Restaurant on Virginia Place, which is open late, making it a Mecca for after-show dining -- I mean, Patti LuPone, Bianca Marroquin, Ani DiFranco, Lee Roy Reams, and Tom Hewitt have all eaten there -- will appear on the television game show Family Feud hosted by Steve Harvey, this Friday, February 4th at 7:30 p.m. on Fox television. James is sworn to secrecy about the outcome of the game in which the Addison Family competed, but hints that Harvey enjoyed his mother's lively personality. Tune in to root for the Addisons!