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Theater Talk: National Tour of OKLAHOMA! at Shea's moves a groundbreaking musical into the 21st century, but leaves audiences behind

Ado Annie (played by Sis) has a very protective dad (Mitch Tebo) in OKLAHOMA! at Shea's Buffalo Theatre.jfif
Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
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Shea's Buffalo Theatre
Ado Annie (played by Sis) has a very protective dad (Mitch Tebo) in OKLAHOMA! at Shea's Buffalo Theatre.jfif

OKLAHOMA!, the North American Tour of Daniel Fish’s revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, part of the Shea's Broadway Series, runs through February 20, tonight (Friday) at 7:30, Saturday at 2 and 8, Sunday at 1 and 6:30 at Shea's Buffalo Theatre, 646 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202. Proof of Vaccination and Masks required. This production of OKLAHOMA! is not recommended for children under 12. It does contain fog, loud gunshot effects, moments of total darkness, blood spatter, and violence. Runtime: 2 hours, 45 minutes including one intermission

Set in the “Indian and Oklahoma Territories” the year before Oklahoma became a state in 1907, this is the story of a farm girl, Laurey Williams, and her courtship by two rivals, the over confident cowboy/rancher Curly McLain and Laurey’s brooding, lonely, disturbed farmhand, Jud Fry. This will not end well. The secondary romance/love triangle and comic relief has cowboy/rodeo rider Will Parker (who’s probably landed on his head a few times) smitten with Ado Annie, a girl who “can’t say no” especially when it comes to traveling peddler Ali Hakim.

The 1943 musical OKLAHOMA!, the first collaboration by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, was groundbreaking as a “book musical,” meaning that the dialog, songs, and dances were fully in service of the plot, and were not a series of numbers connected by a flimsy story. That’s one reason it won the Pulitzer Prize, along with only nine other musical dramas to ever gain that recognition. There are antecedents, however. Before OKLAHOMA! Richard Rodgers had collaborated with lyricist Lorenz Hart on PAL JOEY, a rather dark story of a small time con man. And Oscar Hammerstein II had provided the book and lyrics to Jerome Kern’s SHOW BOAT, which dealt openly with the problem of racism.

So, Rodgers and Hammerstein were no strangers to breaking new ground in musical theater nor to tackling darker issues on stage. And, regardless of how sentimental you may be about the production of OKLAHOMA! you or your friends put on in high school, darker issues were always there, but were probably glossed over. That’s not the case here. Not at all. This is not a “feel good” musical.

The THEATER LISTINGS below are accurate as of this Friday morning, February 18, but check with the venue frequently. Pro Tip: Visit the websites to buy tickets but check with Facebook as well which will often have the most up-to-the-minute information on cacellations and postponements.

CLOSING THIS WEEKEND

OKLAHOMA!, musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, North American Tour, part of the Shea's Broadway Series (2/15 - 2/20), Tuesday - Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2 and 8, Sunday at 1 and 6:30. Shea's Buffalo Theatre, 646 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202. WARNINGS: There are two prolonged periods of complete darkness. Guns are displayed prominently on the set and there are several gun shots fired during the show, including one that is accompanied by the firing of a blood cannon on the actors.

OKLAHOMA! BLURB: “How is it that the coolest new show on Broadway is a 1943 musical?” says The New York Times. This is OKLAHOMA! as you’ve never seen or heard it before—reimagined for the 21st century, and now the Tony Award Winner for Best Revival of a Musical. Funny and sexy, dark and jolting.

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THE SIEGEL, a romantic comedy by Michael Mitnick. directed by Lucas Lloyd, starring Mike Mack, Lisa Vitrano, David Mitchell, Amanda Borowsk, Elliot Fox, and Phoebe Wright, presented by a new company in town, The Lightbulb Project, Jan 28 - Feb 20, Thursdays - Sundays at 7:30 (Note Sunday, February 13, at 1:30) at The Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley. Explicit language. 90 minutes, no intermission. lightbulbprojectonstage.com (716-324-5776)

THE SIEGEL BLURB: Ethan Siegel is in love. Tonight, he's going to ask Alice's parents for permission to marry her. There's just one hitch. Ethan and Alice broke up two years ago -- and she's in a serious relationship with someone else. An irresistible comedy about modern love and the need to go back in order to move forward.

A special note: "Alleyway is proud to host some of Western New York's theatre companies. BUFFALO UNITED ARTISTS, BRAZEN-FACED VARLETS, and now THE LIGHTBULB PROJECT all find their home base at the Alleyway complex. However, to see what productions they've got lined up, visit their websites for show dates, times, tickets, and information. Please note: The Alleyway does not sell tickets to outside productions, and our staff is unable to assist with your ticket purchase."

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CONTINUING

THE TREASURER by Max Posner, directed by Saul Elkin, starring Darleen Pickering Hummert, John Kreuzer, David Lundy, and Alex Watts, presented by the Jewish Repertory Theatre Feb 3 - 27 Thursdays at 7:30, Saturdays at 3:30 and 7:30, Sundays at 2:00. 2640 N Forest Rd, Getzville, NY 14068. www.jccbuffalo.org/jrt(716-688-4033)

THE TREASURER BLURB: This darkly funny, sharply intimate portrait chronicles the strained ties between a son and his aging mother. In the wake of her husband's death Ida Armstrong is broke, lonely and fading fast. After spending a large chunk of her children’s money her estranged son is forced to take on the role of The Treasurer:  an arrangement that becomes untenable the more he questions his devotion to her. A hit in New York City and across the country, this poetic and thought-provoking show explores the bonds and divisions of families later in life, as well the possibilities of forgiveness and change.

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OPENING:

AMERICAN RHAPSODY presented by MusicalFare February 23 — March 27, 2022

Wed and Thu at 7pm, Fri at 7:30, Sat at 3:30 and 7:30, Sun at 2.MusicalFare Theatre is on the Daemen College campus, 4380 Main Street,

Amherst, NY 14226 (Pro Tip: enter from Getzville Road 0.3 miles north of Main Street.) musicalfare.com (716-839-8540)

AMERICAN RHAPSODY BLURB

What begins as a conversation between a white classical pianist and a black jazz pianist about interpreting George Gershwin’s RHAPSODY IN BLUE transforms through incredible music and exhilarating dance into a dynamic and inspiring exploration of the often ignored cultural and historical context that inspired Gershwin to create this seminal work.

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BUFFALO QUICKIES, all-new, all-comedy festival of short plays for 2022, starring Joey Bucheker, Rchel Diana Henderson, Kate Olena, Colleen Pine, Matt Rittler, and Michael Starzynski, presented by the Alleyway Theatre, Feb 24 - Mar 19 (NOTE NEW DATES!) Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, at One Curtain Up Alley (between Pearl and Main along the back wall of Shea's) Buffalo NY 14202 alleyway.com (716-852-2600)

BUFFALO QUICKIES BLURB: Another year (31st annual year!) of brand-new short plays comes to Alleyway! This festival features premiere works from some of today’s best new playwrights both in WNY and around the country. Featuring the world premiere of SEVENTEEN: THE (UNOFFICIAL) JOSH ALLEN MUSICAL.

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MARCH OPENINGS:

MACBETH by William Shakespeare, directed by Jonathan Seinen, (starring Anthony Chase as King Duncan!), presented by The Buffalo State Theater Department and Casting Hall Productions, March 10-12, 17 and 18 at 8:00 pm and March 19 at 2pm all performances in the Warren Enters Theatre in Upton Hall. Visit theater.buffalostate.edu or call 716-878-3005.

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PRIDE & PREJUDICE, a play Kate Hamill, based on the novel by Jane Austen, directed by Kristen Tripp Kelley presented by the D'Youville Kavinoky Theater, March 4th, 2022 - March 27th, 2022. The Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave.

Buffalo, NY 14201 (716-829-7668) kavinokythatre.com

PRIDE & PREJUDICE BLURB: "This isn’t your grandmother’s Austen! Bold, surprising, boisterous and timely, this P&P for a new era explores the absurdities and thrills of finding your perfect (or imperfect) match in life."

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TRIBES, a play by Nina Raine, directed by Doug Zschiegner, starring David Marciniak, Margaret Massman, Anna Krempholtz, Johnny Barden, Dave Wantuck and Melinda Capeles. NEW DATES Mar 3 - Mar 27, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2. Road Less Traveled Productions, 456 Main Street Buffalo NY 14202

(716-629-3069) roadlesstraveledproductions.org CONTENT ADVISORY:

Tribes contains explicit language and profanity. Students under 17 not permitted. Proof of vaccination required.

TRIBES BLURB: Billy is the only Deaf member of a loving yet dysfunctional family who raised him as part of the hearing world. When Billy meets Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness, he finally starts to learn what it means to be heard. With insight, humor, and an eclectic cast of characters, the award-winning Tribes questions how we define community, family, and belonging.

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WORKING, The Musical, based on Studs Terkel's best-selling book of interviews with American workers, adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, with additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg and songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, and Stephen Schwartz, directed by Neil Radice, presented by O'Connell & Company, March 25th-April 10th Fridays-Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00 on their main stage 3200 Elmwood Avenue, Kenmore, NY 14217 (716-848-0800) oconnellandcompany.com/

WORKING BLURB: "Working explores what makes our work meaningful across all walks of life. Whether it be in an office, a restaurant, your home, or you’ve retired, this musical reminds us to celebrate not only what we do, but how we do it. "

Directed by Neal Radice

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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