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Theater Talk: Sondheim's passing shakes theater communities large and small, but, "the show(s) must go on" and we have eight (8) openings this weekend.

PRETTY WOMAN Kyle Taylor Parker as Happy Man Credit Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.jfif
Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade
PRETTY WOMAN at Shea's this weekend features Kyle Taylor Parker as "Happy Man" and other roles... a very funny guy!

After Thanksgiving dinner with friends last week, the following day Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim died suddenly at home at the age of 91. As Anthony Chase said "There could not be a larger loss in American Theater than the death of Stephen Sondheim... he was the greatest lyricist-composer of his time."

Sondheim started his theatre career by writing the lyrics for WEST SIDE STORY (1957) and GYPSY (1959) before becoming a composer and lyricist. Sondheim's best-known works include A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (1962), COMPANY (1970), FOLLIES (1971), A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (1973), SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (1979), MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG (1981), SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (1984), and INTO THE WOODS (1987). Currently his ASSASSINS recently re-opened on Broadway; he was working on several new projects; and so he clearly was still very much in the game.

Sondheim won eight Tony Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2008), an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he has two theaters named after him, one on Broadway and one in London’s West End.

Tributes continue to roll in, many of them from younger people who credit Sondheim with their life's inspiration and career choices. With his clever lyrics and rich internal rhymes, he had a way of making everyone feel smarter.

He was in that special class of composer-lyricists which included Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Jerry Herman as well as writing teams Comden and Green as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein.


HAND TO GOD, play by Robert Askins, directed by John Hurley, through December 5, Thursday - Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:00. Road Less Traveled Productions, 456 Main St., Buffalo. (716-629-3069) roadlesstraveledproductions.com.

OPENINGS (listed by date, then alphabetically):

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, play with caroling, based on the short story by Charles Dickens, 39th Annual Production, adapted and directed by Neal Radice, December 3-23, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 and 5:00 at The Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain up Alley (just north of Shea's), Buffalo, NY 14202 (716-852-2600) alleyway.com

CARMEN, opera by Georges Bizet, conducted by Jaman Dunn, directed by Tim Kennedy, presented by Buffalo Opera Unlimited, Friday, December 3 at 7:30; Sunday, December 5 at 2:30 p.m. at Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave. on the Buff State campus. (716-878-3005) buffalooperaunlimited.org

ELF IN CONCERT, film with live orchestra, December 3 at 7:30. The Buffalo Philharmonic plays the musical score as you watch the original movie starring Will Farrell. Kleinhans Music Hall (716-885-5000) bpo.org

EURYDICE, a 21st century opera by Matthew Aucoin, based on the play EURYDICE by Sarah Ruhl (STAGE KISS; IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY) which takes the woman's perspective, this live cinema transmission is part of the Met’s award-winning "Live in HD" series, bringing opera to movie theaters across the globe. It can be seen locally at Regal Theaters. metopera.org/season/in-cinemas/2021-22-season/eurydice-live-in-hd/

MIRACLE IN LEVITTOWN, play by Michael Fanelli, presented by Subversive Theatre at The New Phoenix Theatre, (December 3 - 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3:00. (716-608-3001) subversivetheatre.org Note: This is NOT a New Phoenix production and the start times are at 7:30 pm or 3:00 Sundays at 95 Johnson Park, Buffalo, NY. Described as "an off-the-wall, tongue-in-cheek, mind-bending misadventure that takes audiences to a spoofy part two of "Miracle on 34th Street" where the sweet little girl from the classic Christmas Tale discovers the ugly truth about racial discrimination in the new housing development that her family has just moved into and embarks on a surreal eye-opening odyssey through past, present, and future."

MIRACLE ON SOUTH DIVISION, play by Tom Dudzik, about Christmas in South Buffalo (December 3 - 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30. Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Avenue Lancaster, NY 14086 (716-683-1776) lancasteropera.org

SLICES OF LIFE, An evening of 4 short plays: THE LONELY GODFATHER by Andrew Calderon; RYAN’S LEGACY by Amber Dudley; ONCE UPON A SONG by Madisyn Ross; and LET’S EAT THE QUEEN by Keller Vogelsang, presented by Unique Theatre Company (December 2 - 11) Thursday-Friday 7:30, Saturday 12/4 7:00, Saturday 12/11 5:00 at Compass Performing Arts Center, 545 Elmwood Avenue (the old "TheatreLoft"), (716-243-8889) uniquetheatrecompany.com. "Please join us in our 7th year of producing plays that provide an arena where actors of all abilities give theatre a try."

SMART PEOPLE, play by Lydia R. Diamond, directed by Phil Knoerzer, about four Harvard community members dealing with racial issues (December 3 - December 19), Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 4:00. Ujima Company Inc. The theatre is located in School 77, 429 Plymouth Avenue, Buffalo, 14213 (716-322-5178) ujimacommunity.org 

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS, musical, presented by O'Connell & Company (December 3 - December 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00 on the Ken-Ton Elmwood Commons Mainstage, 3200 Elmwood Avenue, Tonawanda, NY 14217 (oconnellandcompany.com) (716-848-0800) "Based on the book by L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this musical chronicles the life of Claus."

Handel’s MESSIAH (note Swormville venue!) presented by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus at St. Mary's, December 5 at 2:30 at St. Mary’s Swormville, 6919 Transit Road, East Amherst, NY Tickets are not available through the BPO Box Office this year. Tickets can be purchased at bpchorus.org or by calling 716-980-5701.

VANESSA WILLIAMS Holiday Concert with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Tuesday, December 7 at 7:30 pm Kleinhans Music Hall 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo (bpo.org) (716-885-5000) "Television, film and Broadway's Vanessa Williams sings holiday favorites along with Broadway show tunes. An Emmy, Grammy, and Tony nominee with 7 NAACP Image Awards and 3 Satellite Awards, her 'Colors of the Wind' from Disney’s Pocahontas went platinum. Williams is a strong advocate for equal rights, especially concerning the LGBTQ+ community and minorities."

CINDERELLA, ballet by Prokofiev, with The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine, one night only, Friday, December 10, at 7:30 pm. Shea's Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.

THE LINDSEY STIRLING CHRISTMAS PROGRAM, one night only, December 11, at 8:00. Shea's Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.

HAMILTON, Dec 14, 2021-Jan 2, 2022 (a three week run!)Tuesday - Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00, Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30 (performances on Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day but NO PERFORMANCE CHRISTMAS EVE DECEMBER 24.) Shea's Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.


ALL IS CALM, an acapella musical by Peter Rothstein, directed and staged by Susan Drozd, about a special Christmas Eve during World War One, presented by MusicalFare, runs through December 12 on stage at 4380 Main St. on the Daemen College Campus. Wednesday - Thursday 7pm, Friday 7:30, Saturday 3:30 and 7:30, Sunday 2pm. (716-839-8540) musicalfare.com

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL, national tour and part of the M&T Bank Broadway Series, through December 5 (Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00, Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30. Shea's Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.

TRIBUTE, a play by Bernard Slade, directed by Jay Desiderio, continues at Desiderio's Dinner Theatre through December 18 in the back of Bobby J's American Grill 204 Como Park Blvd Cheektowaga featuring Gregory Gjurich, Zachery Gammel, Lisa Hinca, Jennifer Starr, Lisa Ludwig, Robert Insana, and Marie Costa. Shows run most Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays (& some Wednesdays). (http://www.mybobbyjs.com/desiderio-s-dinner-theatre) Reservations by telephone only 716-395-3207 Evening: 6pm Dinner, 7:30pm Show Matinee: 1pm Dinner, 2:30pm Show

Listen for Theater Talk, Friday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 during Morning Edition.
Even though "semi-retired," Peter Hall continues to wear many hats. He is the Sunday afternoon host on WBFO’s “sister station,” Classical 94.5 / WNED where he has produced over 1,000 radio interviews with musical artists. If you see him at a theater with a pen in his hand, he’s probably getting ready to co-host “Theater Talk” with Anthony Chase (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO) or to write a review for www.buffalorising.com. He is also a member of the "Artie Awards" committee (think “Tony Awards for Buffalo theaters”).
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