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Theater Talk: Curtain Up! begins the season; Covid still a player; Stratford Festival goes all in on diversity and inclusion

At the Stratford Festival DEATH AND THE KING'S HORSEMAN stars Anthony Santiago (foreground) as Elesin.jpg
David Hou
At the Stratford Festival DEATH AND THE KING'S HORSEMAN stars Anthony Santiago (foreground) as Elesin

CURTAIN UP! is the annual opening of the Buffalo and Western New York theater season, and it's tonight, Friday, September 16. Note: On this one night, to accomodate "dinner and a show" (if you wanted to do both) most shows begin at 8:00 pm. Or, if your show of choice is sold out, Anthony suggests making an 8pm dinner reservation and enjoying the Theatre District street party as the various shows let out. By the way, if you're not a subscriber to Anthony's free blog - theatertalkbuffalo.com - you're missing out on a lot of juicy theater news.

Meanwhile, Peter has been back up to the Stratford Festival in Ontario where their commitment to diversity and inclusion and color-rich and gender-neutral casting is something to celebrate. In their current run (still in previews due to Covid) of queer Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald's very funny and very meta HAMLET 911 a young actor playing Hamlet at Stratford imagines a conversation with his father, who was an original cast member back in the 1950s. Now in the year 2022 the old man rails against "United Nations feel-goodery, where everything is unicorns and rainbows and hyphens and pronouns." Stratford has come a long way and the admittedly mostly white older audiences (many of whom appear to have been born in the 1950s) seem more than willing to get on board.

On that note, The Alleyway Theater's delayed but soon-to-open (on September 20 with a preview at 5pm this Saturday) MAGNOLIA BALLET about a Black queer kid is definitely a step in the right direction. (See listings below)

Lead image: Anthony Santiago (foreground) as Elesin with (from left) Ijeoma Emesowum as Ariyike, Celia Aloma as Olabisi, Akosua Amo-Adem as Iyaloja, and Espoir Segbeaya as Wuraola in DEATH AND THE KING'S HORSEMAN currently at Stratford's brand new Tom Patterson Theatre.

Meanwhile, Covid continues to affect the local theater community as follows:

MAGNOLIA BALLET has postponed their official opening night to Tuesday, September 20. Call (716) 852-2600 or visit alleyway.com. (Note: they have on "pay what you can" preview tomorrow, 9/17, at 5pm).

MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES at Road Less Traveled has been postponed by one week and will open Thursday September 22. Those who purchased single tickets may exchange their tickets from September 15 – 18 for a future Mysterious Circumstances performance or request a refund. Please contact the Box Office at (716) 629-3069 or reservations@roadlesstraveledproductions.org

For others the wait is over. NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT at MusicalFare saw a rather large cast of 16 sidelined to a new opening date this week of Wednesday, September 14 (see listings below).

Still, some theaters managed to even open early, for example, ROCK OF AGES - a "jukebox musical" set to pop/rock music of the 80s (think Foreigner and Journey et. al.) at D'Youville's Kavinoky Theatre. Anthony's review is in the Buffalo News. Read Peter's review here.


Up at Lockport's Historic Palace Theatre, PIPPIN, starring Sean Ryan, is on stage now with a short run that ends this Sunday, September 18 (and it's still at 7:30 pm on Friday 9/16). American Repertory Theatre's PARADIGM BOMB opened last week and so has O'Connell and Company's CONFESSIONS OF A REVEREND MOTHER (note that it's at the Smith Theatre). MAKING GOD LAUGH is at Desiderio's Dinner Theatre and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND also opened "a day early" on Thursday September 15 (see listings below). That's a Shea's production (not a rental, not an "All For One" production) which we hope ushers in more.

Call your venue if in doubt about anything. That's not a bad habit to get into at any rate these days, or at least check your venue's Facebook page where you often get breaking news.

BUFFALO AND WNY LISTINGS (alphabetical by show):

BABUSHKA! an improv duo performance by Todd Benzin & Don Gervasi, on Stage at the Alleyway Cabaret (on the Main Street end of the building) Friday, September 16 (Curtain Up!) at 8:00 and Saturday September 17 at 7:30 pm. alleyway.com/show/babushka 716.852.2600 alleyway.com

BABUSHKA! BLURB: Babushka! is a two-man long-form improv show that has been a summertime favorite at Buffalo Infringement Festival since 2010. With over 50 years of improv comedy experience combined, Todd Benzin & Don Gervasi create an entirely improvised one-hour play based on a single audience suggestion, playing all the characters themselves, on-the-spot.


CHURCH & STATE, a play by Jason Odell Williams, directed by Ross Hewitt, presented by Ujima Company, September 16 - October 2, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 4. Lorna C. Hill Theater at Ujima Theatre Company 429 Plymouth Avenue Buffalo, New York 14213 ujimacoinc.org (716) 281-0092.

CHURCH & STATE BLURB: A powerful, funny and timely political drama that tackles how religion, guns, and social media influence politics and politicians, “Church & State” takes place three days before one U.S. Senator’s bid for re-election - in the wake of another school shooting. The tragedy results in a life-altering crisis of faith, triggering an off-the-cuff comment which sends the entire campaign into a tailspin. His wife and campaign manager try to contain the damage, but in a country where religion influences politics and politics have become a religion, how do you reach the people and stay true to yourself? A timely and fast-paced story that is simultaneously funny, heartbreaking, and uplifting. ***CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNING***: This play contains references to gun violence, and gunshot sounds.


CONFESSIONS OF THE REVEREND MOTHER, a new NUNSENSE cabaret, based on characters created by Dan Goggin with music and lyrics from former NUNSENSE shows by Dan Goggin. Book by Mary Kate O'Connell and Joey Bucheker. Starring Mary Kate O'Connell. September 9 - 25, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 (except Curtain Up! at 8) and Sundays at 3 at Shea's Smith Theater, 654 Main Street, Buffalo NY 14202. (716) 847-1410 sheas.org

CONFESSIONS BLURB: There is a shortage of Roman Catholic nuns and Reverend Mother, Sister Mary Regina LSOH, has been asked by Pope Francis for help. As a recruitment tool for the sisterhood, “The Rev” creates her own version of a “Ted Talk”. Sister Regina tells us how “Nun Life” has evolved over the years, and although still challenging, Nuns are FUN! She includes some zany, poignant stories and songs from the Nunsense shows to prove the point. CONFESSIONS OF A REVEREND MOTHER stars Mary Kate O’Connell, as Reverend Mother Sister Mary Regina, and celebrates Mother Superior’s 50th Jubilee and she is promoting her memoirs on a book tour.

“The pay isn’t great but you get employment security, a home, spiritual satisfaction, and a free habit!” _____

DOUBT, A PARABLE, play by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Victoria Pérez, starring Josie DiVincenzo, Steve Copps, Solange Gosselin, and Davida Evette Tolbert. September 16 – October 9, Thursday - Saturday 7:30 (except Curtain Up! Friday), Saturdays at 3:00, Sundays at 2:00. The Irish Classical Theatre Company at The Andrews Theatre 625 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14203 directly across Main Street from Shea's Performing Arts Center. (716) 853-ICTC (4282) irishclassical.com

DOUBT, A PARABLE BLURB: Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, and Tony Award for Best Play, Doubt, A Parable follows the fallout after Sister Aloysius, a Bronx Catholic school principal in 1964, suspects a young priest of having inappropriate relations with a male student. Through 90 uninterrupted minutes, audiences will delve into the murky waters of provocation and moral uncertainty. Award-Winning Actress and Director Victoria Pérez makes her ICTC directorial debut with this gripping American play.


MAGNOLIA BALLET, a new play by Terry Guest, directed by Carlos R.A. Jones, starring Richard Satterwhite, Nigel Reynolds, Dennis Anthony Wilson, and Shawn Adiletta, presented by the Alleyway Theatre, with all evening performances at 7:30 pm, including a Pay What You Can Preview this Saturday, September 18, at 5pm. Opening Night is September 20, Regular run performances Thursday - Saturday September 15 - October 2 with one afternoon matinee: September 24 at 3:30 pm. One Curtain Up Alley (between Pearl and Main along the back wall of Shea's) Buffalo NY 14202 716.852.2600 alleyway.com

MAGNOLIA BALLET BLURB: A Southern gothic fable melding drama, dance, poetry, and spectacle to explore masculinity, racism, and the love between a Black queer kid and his father. Ezekiel is a Black teenager with a secret that threatens to destroy his already broken home. He’s haunted by the ghosts of racism, homophobia, and toxic masculinity—the same ghosts that have plagued men in Georgia for generations, including his emotionally distant father. But when he discovers a trove of forbidden love letters among his late grandfather’s belongings, Ezekiel begins to believe that the only way to fight these multi-generational ghosts is to burn everything to the ground.


MAKING GOD LAUGH, a "comedy/drama" by Sean Grennan, directed by Jay Desiderio, presented by Desiderio's Dinner Theatre , starring Lisa Hinca, Michael Breen, Audrey Grout, Vincent Barile, and Caleb Paxton. September 15 - November 6 on select days (see website) with evening show dinner at 6 and show at 7:30, matinée show dinner at 1 and show at 2:30. Theater is located within Bobby J's Italian American Grille, 204 Como Park Blvd. Cheektowaga, NY 14227. (716)395-3207 mybobbyjs.com/desiderio-s-dinner-theatre.

MAKING GOD LAUGH BLURB: This is a family comedy/drama that takes place in four scenes, each ten years apart, set at various holidays. Starting in 1980, the newly “launched” kids (a priest, an aspiring actress, and a former star football player) all return home, where we learn of their plans and dreams as they embark on their adult lives. The “empty nest” parents contend with their own changes too, as old family rituals and dubious recipes are trotted out and ancient tensions flare up. Over the course of thirty years worth of celebrations- Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve and Easter- we see how, despite what we may have in mind, we often arrive at unexpected destinations. “If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans...”


MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, a play by Michael Mitnick, directed by John Hurley, presented by Road Less Traveled Productions, starring Ben Michael Moran, Peter Palmisano, David Marciniak, Wendy Hall, Greg Howze, and Nick Lama. September 15 - October 16. Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 (except Curtain Up! Friday at 8) Sundays at 2. RLTP 456 Main Street, Buffalo, 14202 (716) 629-3069 roadlesstraveledproductions.org

MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES BLURB: The true story of Richard Lancelyn Green, the world’s foremost scholar on Sherlock Holmes. After spending two decades searching for a box containing the missing papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Green came close to unlocking the secrets behind Holmes’ creator through unpublished stories about the world’s greatest detective. With multiple suspects and competing motives, Green dies under “mysterious circumstances” which raises questions that may be answered only by Holmes himself. Mysterious Circumstances uses breathtaking theatricality and magic to uncover the mystery behind this true crime. Based on the New Yorker article "Mysterious Circumastances" by David Grann.


NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, the 2012 Broadway musical with music by brothers George and Ira Gershwin and book by Joe DiPietro, set in the Prohibition era, directed by Chris Kelly, presented by MusicalFare, starring 16 favorite MusicalFare artists. MusicalFare Theatre c/o Daemen College 4380 Main Street, Suite 123 Amherst, NY 14226 (716) 839-8540 musicalfare.com. Runtime: 2 hours, 35 minutes including one intermission.

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT BLURB: Girls! Gangsters! GERSHWIN! They're all here in this smash-hit musical comedy for the ages with songs including the title song, plus "Someone To Watch Over Me," "S Wonderful," "Fascinatin' Rhythm," "Lady Be Good," and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."


ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, directed by Naila Ansari, presented by Shea's, September 15 - October 2, Thursdays-Fridays at 7:30 (except Curtain Up! at 8), Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2. Shea's 710 Main Theatre (710 Maint Street corner Tupper, Buffalo, NY (716) 847-1410 sheas.org Runtime 1 hour 40 minutes without intermission.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND BLURB: From the Tony Award-winning songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Seussical, Ragtime) comes the highly original and theatrical Caribbean-based musical. "Once On This Island" is the sweeping, universal tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl in search of her place in the world. ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is based on the 1985 novel "My Love, My Love," or, "The Peasant Girl" by Rosa Guy, a Caribbean-set retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Little Mermaid." It concerns a peasant girl in the French Antilles who falls in love with a rich boy and makes a deal with the gods to save his life.


THE PARADIGM BOMB, a new play by Matthew LaChiusa, directed by Monish Bhattacharyya, presented by ART/WNY, starring Charles McGregor, Suzanne Hibbard, and Victor Morales, runs September 9th - October 1st, Thursdays-Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 5 pm. (716) 697-0837 artofwny.org

THE PARADIGM BOMB BLURB: The narrative behind "Paradigm Bomb" focuses on how individuals can become radicalized. Spiritual community leader Pastor Rhonda Henderson, after sitting in on the company's workshop rehearsal for Paradigm Bomb, commented the piece was "eye opening" in that audiences are felt to be part of a jury, and this then empowers viewers to understand and choose to forgive or condemn the main character. Pastor Henderson believes this piece should be seen by the whole community at large.


PIPPIN, the 1972 musical by Stephen Schwartz, directed by Christopher Parada, presented by Curtain Up Productions, starring Sean Ryan, runs September 8 - 18, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3:00, at the Historic Lockport Palace Theatre 2 East Ave. Lockport, NY 14094 716.438.1130 lockportpalacetheatre.org

PIPPIN BLURB: Pippin is the son of fabled Emperor Charlemagne who goes on a quest to discover meaning and eventually finds a sort of happiness.


ROCK OF AGES, the jukebox rock musical, with book by Chris D’Arienzo and “music and lyrics by a bunch of really sweet 80’s bands,” directed and choreographed by Lynne Kurdziel Formato, presented by D'Youville College's Kavinoky Theatre, opened Friday and runs through September 25, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, also Saturdays 3:30, and Sundays 2, at 320 Porter Ave, Buffalo, NY 14201. 716.829.7668 kavinokytheatre.com

ROCK OF AGES BLURB: A small-town girl and a city boy meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. This hit musical features songs from the 1980’s including “Don’t Stop Believin”, “Shadows of the Night”, and “I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You”.



(Note, visit shawfest.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/2022Calendar_print.pdf for a printable calendar with days, dates, ande times)

NOTE: Mask use is optional and proof of vaccination is not required by Shawfest. However, it is required to enter Canada. Download and fill out your ARRIVECAN app (get it on Google Play or the App Store) prior to your border crossing.

2022 Season:


DAMN YANKEES Words and Music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

Book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop



Opens Saturday Aug 20 at 6



By Johnna Wright and Patty Jamieson

Based on the play Angel Street by Patrick Hamilton

CHITRA By Rabindranath Tagore (11:30 am Lunchtime One-Act) at the Royal George Theatre

JUST TO GET MARRIED By GB Shaw contemporary Cicely Hamilton opens Sun Aug 21 at 11:30 am

BLURB: “It is 1910 and Georgiana is 29, so the burning question is: how can we get her married?”


TOO TRUE TO BE GOOD By Bernard Shaw is a three act play dealing with a host of (still contemporary) issues.

EVERYBODY By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

GEM OF THE OCEAN By August Wilson (The first play in August Wilson’s THE AMERICAN CENTURY CYCLE) opens Fri Aug 19 at 6



The Stratford Festival recommends downloading their Visitors Guide to discover information about Shows, Forum Events, Special Performances, Speakers & Panels, Workshops, Tours & Exhibits and much more. Click here: https://cds.stratfordfestival.ca/uploadedFiles/2022-Visitors-Guide.pdf

Read Peter's preview of the 2022 summer season here.


Read Peter's review of the three by Shakespeare currently in repertory at Stratford here.


Read Peter's review of three more modern shows - CHICAGO, EVERY LITTLE NOOKIE, and LITTLE WOMEN here.


The Stratford musical this summer is

CHICAGO by Kander & Ebb & Fosse

Runs Through OCT 30 at The Festival Theatre

The comedy this summer is

THE MISER by Moliere

Runs through OCT 29 at The Festival Theatre

The family show this summer is

LITTLE WOMEN (a modern adaptation of the Luisa May Alcott classic)

Runs Through OCT 29 at The Avon Theatre

And there are three Shakespeare plays


Runs Through OCT 30 at The Tom Patterson Theatre (newly rebuilt from the ground up!)


Runs Through OCT 29 at The Tom Patterson Theatre (newly rebuilt from the ground up!)


Runs Through OCT 28 at The Festival Theatre

And there are four “Modern” plays this summer at Stratford:

EVERY LITTLE NOOKIE at the Studio Theatre

Runs Through OCT 01


Runs JUL 28 - OCT 02 at the Studio Theatre


Runs through OCT 29 at The Tom Patterson Theatre (newly rebuilt from the ground up!)


Runs through OCT 29 at the Studio Theatre


SHEA'S 2022-2023 SEASON is only two months away!

The M&T Broadway series at Shea's for 2022-2023 includes:

THE PROM Sep 27-Oct 2, 2022


COME FROM AWAY Dec 13-18, 2022

HADESTOWN Feb 21-26, 2023

BEETLEJUICE Mar 21-26, 2023

SIX Apr 25-May 7, 2023


with two "special engagements"

Disney's ALADDIN Nov 22-27, 2022 and

DEAR EVAN HANSEN June 20-25, 2023.

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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