• Javier

Theater News - Curtain Up!

STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER


four men
with Neal Radice, Vincent O'Neill, and David Lamb

Happy Curtain Up! Day (it’s also 100 days until Christmas!)! The week got off to a good start with the induction of ICTC’s artistic director emeritus Vincent O’Neill into the Theatre District Plaza of Stars which is right across from Shea’s 710 Theatre. The block was also renamed The Brothers O’Neill Way (replacing The Chris O’Neill Way sign, which had faded anyway). The unveiling of the star took place on Monday September 12th with a star-studded crowd who also attended the party that followed at the Bijou. O’Neill joins other theater personalities who have, over many years, contributed to our very rich theater scene. Pictured above, surrounding O’Neill: Neal Radice, David Lamb, and me. Coincidentally, all four of us are no longer running the companies which we were identified with for many years. Almost 150 years combined. Guess who is the youngest.


Although a bit tone-downed this year (no formal dinner before), there are plenty of shows to choose from and the free street party afterwards beginning at 10 p.m. The outdoor entertainment will feature a wide variety of music and specialty acts. Shea’s Smith has a bar, Alleyway Theatre has a bar, Irish Classical Theatre has a bar, and theater crowd favorite Matinee IS a bar, fully licensed now.


a group of happy people in a bar
with (back row) Matthew LaChiusa, Don Gervasi, and (front row) Mary Kate O'Connell, Anthony Alcocer, and Dave Marciniak

Speaking of Matinee, a bunch of theater folk got together a week ago to celebrate the approach of Curtain Up! Pictured, standing: Matthew LaChiusa, Suzanne Hibbard, Don Gervasi; seated: Mary Kate O’Connell (being camera shy, Rosie is under the table) Anthony Alcocer, and Dave Marciniak.


LaChiusa’s The Paradigm Bomb stars Hibbard along with Charles McGregor, and Victor Morales. This intriguing new play, meticulously directed by Monish Bhattacharyya, is about the radicalization of a young couple. Produced by American Repertory Theater of WNY, the production plays at the company’s home, The Compass Performing Arts Center on Elmwood, north of Utica, aka TheaterLoft.


On September 26th, the company will present a staged reading of James Marzo's The Precarious Predicament of Maria D'Angelo, directed by Kelli Bocock-Natale, starring Caitlin Baeumler Coleman, Kathleen Rooney, Catherine Burkhart, Suzanne Hibbard, Michael Starzynski, Daniel Greer, and Joyce Stilson. It’s Pay-What-You-Can at the Door.


Don Gervasi will join Todd Benzin in Eclectic Improv Company production of Babushka!, a two-man, long-form improv comedy show which premiered at the Buffalo Infringement Festival in 2010 and has been a crowd favorite every year since. The show plays Curtain Up! week, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Alleyway’s Cabaret. It will also perform the last Fridays and Saturdays of the month through December 31st (bummer, January 1st falls on a Sunday). And there is no truth to the rumor that Gervasi and Benzin will be appearing in a local production of The Naked Magicians. Naked Improv, maybe?


Dave Marciniak is starring in the Road Less Traveled production of Mysterious Circumstances, directed by John Hurley. The plays tells the true story of Richard Lancelyn Green, the world’s foremost scholar on Sherlock Holmes, who dies under “mysterious circumstances” while trying to unlock the secrets behind Holmes’ creator by going through his unpublished stories. The production also stars Ben Michael Moran, Peter Palmisano, Wendy Hall, Greg Howze, Nick Lama, and Jeremy Kreuzer. The opening has been postponed until September 22nd, the first day of autumn. Coincidence? Maybe not.


Anthony Alcocer is looking very good in D'Youville's Kavinoky production of Rock of Ages. Well, actually everyone looks good in this production, directed and choreographed by Lynne Kurdziel-Formato, largely because costume designer Andrea Letcher, and wig designer Mary McMahon transport us back to the Belle Epoque of American fashion ... the 1980s, and it's hilarious. (To be honest, even at the time we knew future generations would laugh themselves silly looking at photos of the hairstyles and shoulder pads).


Mary Kate O’Connell is playing Dan Goggin’s Nunsense character, Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina, in the new cabaret show Confessions of the Reverend Mother, also starring Katy Miner, with musical direction by Nathanial Higgins and Bill Baldwin on drums. Presented by O’Connell & Company, the show plays through September 25th at Shea’s Smith Theatre. It was over thirty years ago when O’Connell first played the character in the original Nunsense! in a Musicalfare (then Summerfare) production of the show. This current show has a book by O’Connell and Joey Bucheker, who was given access to all of the Goggin’s catalogue to create a show using any of his songs.


Just as Bucheker was given access to all the Goggin song catalogue, Joe DiPietro, the author of Nice Work if you Can Get It, was given access to all the Gershwin catalogue (except for Porgy and Bess) to write a new musical based on the original Oh Kay! that starred English star, Gertrude Lawrence. (Having a character assume the name “Gertie” in the show is an inside show business joke). The current production at Musicalfare is really hot, with great dancing, courtesy of choreographer Kristy E. Schupp, great performances by every single person in the cast, and fast-paced action with minimalistic staging provided by Chris Kelly. The orchestra and cast sound great, with musical direction by Theresa Quinn. And take it from me … you will hum those songs for days after you see the show. Someone should write a musical for Marc Sacco and John Kaczorowski. Kaczorowski and Charmagne Chi play the parts that brought Tony Awards to Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye in the Broadway production. Pamela Rose Mangus plays the role originated on Broadway by Estelle Parsons, who was then succeeded by Blythe Danner. (Pamela is, of course, more the Blythe Danner type).


You may have heard of or seen the work of Joe DiPietro before. He wrote the book and lyrics for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Memphis, The Toxic Avenger, and Diana, among others. He also wrote the play Fucking Men, presented by BUA several years ago.


The third big musical to arrive in time for Curtain Up! is a glorious production of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Once on this Island at Shea's 710 Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Naila Ansari with music direction by Karen Saxon, it's a feast for the eyes and ears. It's a special treat to see Buffalo State alumna Zhanna Reed play Ti Moune, the role created by LaChanze in 1990. Reed caught my attention when she played Celie in The Color Purple at Buffalo State. She was excellent again, when she starred in Sister Act at Lancaster Opera House. She's terrific here. After a three year hiatus, it's looking like a strong year for musicals!


The Western Door Playhouse is the resident theater group of the Woodbox Theatre at the Niagara Arts and Culture Center located at 1201 Pine at Portage Niagara Falls NY. Coming up the mystery thriller Picture Perfect, by Gary Earl Ross, directed by Linda Silvestri. The production opens September 23rd.


In his Buffalo News column yesterday Alan Pergament hailed Sheryl Lee Ralph's Emmy Award acceptance speech as the highlight of this year's Emmys. He then recalled a fascinating conversation he had with Ralph, while seated beside her for four hours on an airplane. Ralph won the Emmy for playing a kindergarten teacher on "Abbott Elementary,' but of course, my readers know her as the original Deena Jones in Broadway's Dreamgirls.


a man and a woman
with Sheryl Lee Ralph