Theater News, November 2022
STAGEFRIGHT by JAVIER
You may be wondering what happened to the "stars" that accompanied reviews in The Buffalo News. Now you see them, now you don’t. In last week’s Gusto, there were three reviews of current shows going on in Buffalo: Burst at the Alleyway, Misery at the Kavinoky, and The Gentleman Caller, a BUA production at Bittersweet Lounge. Only the BUA review got a star rating. That’s because the new Buffalo News policy retiring the star rating system became effective after the BUA review was filed. That puts BUA in the last batch of starred Buffalo News reviews ever. Ironically, years ago, BUA asked not to be reviewed by the Buffalo News at all!
After earning an Artie Award for her performance in From Honky Tonk to Protest, Annette Daniels Taylor will be directing the TOY production of The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack. The production will run January 12th-February 5th. Up next will be Secret Soldiers: Heroines in Disguise, directed by Megan Callahan, March 2nd-26th. Good timing for the opening of the season! By that time, the road construction around Elmwood and Allen should all be done!
Brazen-Faced Varlets are back! This time with their first ever musical production, Titus XX with book, music and lyrics by Shawn Northrip, adapted from Shakespeare's bloodiest play, Titus Andronicus. Northrip wrote the hilarious Ramona and Juliet which was the company’s first production when they moved to Buffalo. Directed by Lara D. Haberberger, musical direction by Lucas Colon, the production will star Rachael Buchanan, Corey Gorski, Kaeli McGinnis, Jessie Miller, Danette Pawlowski, Davida Tolbert, and Stefanie Warnick. We hear that Colon and the otherwise all-female band will be wearing fishnet stockings. Performances at the Compass ART Space, 545 Elmwood Ave. November 10-20, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Two weeks only!
Neal Radice will indeed return to play Charles Dickens in the 40th anniversary of his adaptation of A Christmas Carol at the Alleyway Theatre. David Poole, Roger VanDette, Lauren McGowan, and Emily Yancey will be the pre-show carolers and will also play a variety of roles on stage. David Mitchell returns as Scrooge, Trevor Dugan will play the Ghost of Christmas Future, Madeline Allard is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Also in the cast: Jared Eichel, Noah Bielecki, Anna Marella, and Max Bilecki as Tiny Tim. The production will run November 25th-December 24th. A run as long as The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular!
Shakespeare in Delaware Park will hold a staged reading of a holiday comedy with a Shakespearean theme to benefit the company on December 4th at Desiderio’s Dinner Theater, featuring an Italian dinner buffet, beer, and wine. Shakespeare’s Lost Christmas a play by Dwayne Yancey will be staged by Norm Sham, and is set to star Lisa Ludwig, David Marciniak, Gretchen Didio, Jamie Nablo, Peter Palmisano, Phoebe Wright, Anthony Chase, Nicholas Lama, Lucas Colon, Nathaniel Higgins, and Gabriela McKinley. I don’t know why I’m bothering to tell you now; the event is entirely sold out.
By the way, McKinley is truly remarkable as the title character in Ujima’s current production of Toni Stone by Lydia R. Diamond, with a fantastic all male ensemble, co-directed by Phil Knoerzer and Curtis Lovell, and choreographed by Naila Ansari. Toni Stone was the first woman ever to play big-league professional baseball. The tight knit male ensemble includes company members Brian Brown, Gerald Ramsey and Raynardo Shedrick, Johnny Rowe, Jake Hayes, Vincenzo McNeill, Julius Land, and Jerai Khadim.
The company’s press release included a “Baseball Nerd Alert”: Toni Stone is the player who was signed to replace Hammerin’ Hank Aaron at 2nd base for The Indianapolis Clowns, when Aaron moved out of the Negro Leagues to play in the Majors where he went on to became one of the greatest players in all of MLB history. Even I didn’t know that! The play will run only two more weeks, closing November 20th.
Once again, Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Story starring Mary Kate O’Connell and directed by Lisa Ludwig, has been postponed, for health reasons, unrelated to Covid. Fans will have to wait, probably until next season. In its place, O’Connell & Company will run the original musical revue Bing Band Christmas Memories, written and directed by O'Connell, featuring The George Scott Big Band from The Colored Musicians Club. The show will run December 2nd-18th, featuring Lizzie Arnold, Michael J. Galante, Melissa Kate, Katy Miner, and Daniel Mink.
Prior to that, O’Connell & Company will get you in the holiday spirit with A Charlie Brown Christmas, starring Kevin Deese as Charlie Brown, Anne Roaldi Boucher as Lucy, Vincent Murphy as Linus, Kris Bartolomeo as Patty, Corey Bieber as Shermy, Anna Fernandez as Violet, Anthony Giambrone as Pig-Pen, Nathanial Higgins as Schroeder, Brooke Leary as Sally, Aimée Walker as Freida, and Joey Bucheker as Snoopy. The show opens on Friday, November 25th at 7:30 p.m., and continues on Sundays at 12:30 p.m., through December 18th. The show is based on the classic Charlie Brown TV special, and will be directed by Doug Weyand, with musical direction by Joe Isgar.
Though not strictly a Christmas song, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favorite Things has become part of the season repertoire and you can always hear it around this time on the radio. It will now be Sarah Blewett’s turn to sing the popular tune when she plays opposite Michael David Axtell as Captain Von Trapp in the upcoming Lancaster Opera House production of The Sound of Music, directed by David Bondrow, with music direction by Fran Landis, and choreography by Timmy Goodman (November 18th-December 4th).
Incidentally, Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton have written a new picture book The First Notes: The Story of Do, Re, Mi that introduces readers to the story of the development of written music. Centuries ago, a young Italian monk named Guido d’Arezzo wanted to find a way to write and teach music, eventually, creating the musical scale which remains the foundation for learning music today. The book is recommended for children aged 4 to 8, but I have already placed an order to get a copy for myself. I heard about this from a wonderful interview with the authors on NPR.
Not to be left behind for the holidays, Niagara University Theatre will present Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson & Margot Melcon. The play, directed by Robyn Horn, is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and is set two years after the novel ends. The production runs December 1st-5th at the Leary Theatre on the NU campus. For tickets and information, go to theatre.niagara.edu
The Paul Robeson Theatre will kick off its 55th season on December 1st with the play Cadillac Crew by Tori Sampson, directed by Linda Barr featuring an all-female cast. In what the company describes as “A Season of Celebrating Women who Lead,” the line-up will continue in February with The Niceties by Eleanor Burgess, directed by Yao Kahlil Newkirk. Coming in May, the company will pay tribute to Lorna C. Hill with a production of the acclaimed 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning play Wit, by Margaret Edson. Hill starred in the Irish Classical Theatre Company production of the play back in 2001, earning the 2002 Artie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress for Hill.
We are saddened by the death of actor and online personality Leslie Jordan. He had a long stage career before becoming a TV star appearing, including creating the role Peanut in Southern Baptist Sissies (2000), the role played by Bill Schmidt in the Buffalo Production at BUA.
And finally, New York State chooses a regular theater goer as its first elected female governor. Congratulations Kathy Hochul!