Theater Talk: A conversation with Tony-nominated, Obie-winning Broadway star Nancy Opel in Buffalo this weekend for INTO THE WOODS
On Theater Talk we speak with Nancy Opel [as in the gemstone], Tony Tony-nominated Best Actress in a Musical (URINETOWN), Obie Award winner for the title role in MY DEAH, who has been on Broadway as Cinderella's Stepmother in INTO THE WOODS with a cast most of which is coming to Shea's for a limited engagement before taking the show to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Yes, you read that correctly. Direct from Broadway, the critically acclaimed production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony-winning musical is coming to Buffalo with its Broadway stars to boot. INTO THE WOODS features Montego Glover as The Witch, Stephanie J. Block as The Baker’s Wife, Sebastian Arcelus as The Baker, Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf, and Nancy Opel as Cinderella's Stepmother – all reprising their Broadway roles.
For a tour to have the actual Broadway cast "is unheard of" these days, says Opel. Opel has worked with Stephen Sondheim, James Lapine (who wrote the book for INTO THE WOODS), as well as Hal Prince and Arthur Laurents! Exalted company in what she describes as "a charmed life."
Nancy Opel's first Broadway show was as Eva Peron in EVITA, directed by Hal Prince, Jr., but she has also starred on Broadway as Frieda in Sondheim's SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE directed by James Lapine (who wrote the book for INTO THE WOODS). And she starred as Mazeppa in GYPSY (LuPone revival) directed by Arthur Laurents, just to name some of the more well know folks she's worked with. And that list includes Buffalo's own Michele Ragusa.
Opel has been to Shea's before in THE DROWSY CHAPERONE and she's thrilled to be back. Enjoy an extended version of the conversation here on the podcast.
LOCAL LISTINGS ARE PRESENTED AS FOLLOWS: CLOSINGS (this weekend), then OPENINGS (this week), CONTINUING, and OPENING LATER THIS MONTH.
CLOSINGS (alphabetically by title)
WICKET - A Parody Musical: The Untold Story of the Ewoks of Bright Tree Village, book and lyrics by Travis Sharp, music and lyrics by Haddon Kime, directed by Joey Bucheker, musical direction by Lucas Colon, presented by O'Connell & Co. (at the Smith Theatre), starring Sam Crystal, Corey Bieber, Marissa Biondolillo, Jeremy Catania, Jake Hayes, Nathanial Higgins, John Kreuzer, Jetaun Louie, Megan Mahaney, Vincent Murphy, Rylie Randall and Stefanie Warnick. February 3 - 19, Fridays - Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3:00, at the Smith Theatre, 658 Main St, Buffalo 716-848-0800 oconnellandcompany.com
WICKET BLURB: Wicket- A Parody Musical does for Star Wars what Wicked did for The Wizard of Oz; it’s a loving homage and cutting parody combined. Wicket spotlights one of George Lucas’ most dubious creations—the fuzzy space teddy-bear Ewoks—to explore the love/hate relationship between creators and fans while calling Lucas to task for the racism, sexism, and maybe even sizeism of the original Star Wars trilogy.
OPENINGS THIS WEEKEND (alphabetically by title)
INTO THE WOODS, Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by James Lapine, Direct from Broadway, 2 shows only, Saturday 2/18 at 8 and Sunday 2/19 at 1:00 at Shea's Performing Arts Center,
INTO THE WOODS BLURB: Direct from Broadway, the critically acclaimed and much-beloved production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony®-winning triumph is coming to Buffalo with its Broadway stars to boot. Into the Woods features Montego Glover as The Witch, Stephanie J. Block as The Baker’s Wife, Sebastian Arcelus as The Baker, Nancy Opel as Cinderella's Stepmother, and Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf – all reprising their Broadway roles – in a production called “radiant” (Variety), “enchanting” (The Wall Street Journal), and “a priceless revival with a perfect cast” (The Washington Post). Directed by Lear deBessonet (Hercules), this theatrical event honors Sondheim’s legendary memory and his Broadway masterpiece like never before.
Choreographed by Lorin Latarro, Music Supervisor Rob Berman, Directed by Lear deBessonet.
OPENING NEXT WEEK
HADESTOWN, a musical by Anaïs Mitchell, directed by Rachel Chavkin, a national tour presented by Shea's Broadway Series, starring Nathan Lee Graham as Hermes, Lindsey Hailes as Persephone, Chibueze Ihuoma as Orpheus, Matthew Patrick Quinn as Hades, Hannah Whitley as Eurydice, and Buffalo's own Dominique Kempf as one of the Fates. February 21-26, Tuesday - Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00, Sunday at 1:00 & 6:30 at Shea's Buffalo Theatre, 646 Main Street, Buffalo 716-847-1410 sheas.org/buffalo-theatre/
WARNING - Hadestown is recommended for ages 8+. Runtime: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.
HADESTOWN BLURB: Loosely based on various Greek myths, Hades (god or here king of the underworld) has taken Persephone to be his bride, but when she is in "Hadestown" with her husband, the world is cold and barren, so she is allowed to return to earth for 6 months of fertility. But Hades keeps coming to take Persephone back earlier and earlier, throwing the seasons out of joint (think climate change). Meanwhile, Eurydice is in love with a musician (poor girl) named Orpheus, but when he seems more interested in his music than her (what a surprise), she leaves to get a job in Hadestown. When Orpheus travels to win her back, Hades is impressed by his commitment to true love (who could have known?) and makes a deal with him. He can leave with her, but if he has doubts and looks back, she stays in Hadestown forever. Tip: The Shea's website is quite robust with all sorts of detailed background information.
AWARDS: Winner of eight (8!) Tony Awards in 2019 including Best Musical, Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre, and Best Orchestrations. "SUMPTUOUS. GORGEOUS. AS GOOD AS IT GETS." – Jesse Green, The New York Times,
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, a play by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, and Jonathan Sayer, directed by Michael Galante & Adriano Gatto, presented by D'Youville University's Kavinoky Theatre, starring TBA. February 24 - March 19, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, Also Saturdays at 3:30, Sundays at 2:00 at the Kavinoky, 320 Porter Ave, Buffalo, NY 14201 716-829-7668 kavinokytheatre.com
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG BLURB: This long-running West End and Off-Broadway smash hit follows the antics of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who are trying their very best to stage a production of a 1920s murder mystery. As the show's title might suggest, this is not as easy as it sounds with everything that can go wrong doing just that.
THE TEMPEST, a play by William Shakespeare, in collaboration with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti with musical direction by JoAnn Falletta, starring Aleks Malejs as Prospero/a. February 24-26, Friday 2/24 at 7:30, Saturday 2/25 at 7:30, Sunday 2/26 at 2:30. At Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle. 716-882-5000 bpo.org
THE TEMPEST BLURB: ICTC and the BPO unite once more for a unique theatrical experience. Thought to be one of the last plays William Shakespeare authored alone, The Tempest tells the story of the sorcerer Prospero/a and his daughter Miranda, as they intervene in the lives of shipwreck survivors after having been stranded on a remote island for twelve years. ICTC Associate Director Fortunato Pezzimenti and Award-Winning BPO Conductor JoAnn Falletta team up once more to present this special one-weekend-only performance of fantastical theatrics, magic, and the music of Sibelius.
THE THIN PLACE, a play by Lucas Hnath, directed by TBA, presented by Road Less Traveled Productions, starring TBA. February 23 - March 26 Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00 at the RLTP theatre, 456 Main Street, Buffalo 14202 (716) 629-3069 roadlesstraveledproductions.org
THE THIN PLACE BLURB: Everyone who ever died is still here, just in a different part of here. Linda can communicate with them. And if you believe, she can make you hear them, too — in the thin place, the fragile boundary between our world and the other one. With acuity, relentless curiosity and a bit of magic, Lucas Hnath’s play transforms the theater into an intimate séance, crafting an unnerving testament to the power of the mind, which has a mind of its own.
Hnath was Tony Award-nominated for his play A DOLL'S HOUSE, Part 2 in 2017. He is also the writer of THE CHRISTIANS (produced at RLTP in 2018 (and later at Chautauqua), A PUBLIC READING OF AN UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY ABOUT THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY (which was, actually, produced at RLTP in 2015), and ISAAC'S EYE. Awards include the Whiting Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Kesselring Prize, Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, Obie Award for Playwriting, Steinberg Playwright Award, and the Windham-Campbell Literary Prize.
RECENT OPENINGS and CONTINUING (alphabetically by title)
THE ALEPH COMPLEX, a play by Deborah Yarchun, directed by Robyn Lee Horn, presented by the Alleyway Theatre, starring Caroline Kolasny, Sara Kow-Falcone, and Josh Wilde. February 10 - March 4, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 at the Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley (between Pearl and Main north of Shea's). 716-852-2600 alleyway.com
Additional Information: Pay What You Can Previews, most at 7:30: February 10, 11, 14, but Superbowl Sunday 2/12 at 2 pm.
Playwright Chats February 12 & 14 following the 7:30 performances
Opening Night: February 15 at 7:30
Industry Monday: February 20 at 7:30
Afternoon Matinee: February 25 at 3:30
THE ALEPH COMPLEX BLURB: To save herself from her chronically incessant thoughts, Nicky converts them into sounds so she can fall asleep to the sound of rain. This works until, during a bout of crippling social anxiety at college, a thought about her mother turns into a vicious storm. Nicky outruns the storm all the way home, where she returns to her old job at the Container Store and to Mom… who hasn’t left the apartment in five years. While searching for self-help books at the Last Borders Bookstore on the Planet, she meets Borders Guy, the Last Borders Employee on the Planet, who introduces her to the mysterious Aleph, a Borges-inspired point of overwhelming omniscience he guards in the back of the store. Through a chain of “self-help” both comic and poignant, Nicky, her mother, and Borders Guy struggle to smash down the walls that enclose their lives. A fantastical new drama about the power of human connection, THE ALEPH COMPLEX is the 2020 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Award Winner.
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY, a play by Ray Cooney ("Britain's Master of Comedy/Farce"), directed by Jay Desiderio, presented by Desiderio's Dinner Theatre at Bobby J's, starring Dave Marciniak, Lisa Hinca, Dan Greer, Lisa Vitrano, Margo Davis, Jeremy Kreuzer, Brendan Cunningham, Len Mendez, Bill Baldwin, Katherine Parker, and Bob Lohr. Through March 12, shows run most Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and some Wednesdays Sundays fluctuate between matinee or evening performances). Dinner at 6:00 with the show at 7:30 - Matinees dinner at 1:00 with the show at 2:30. Desiderio's Dinner Theatre is in the back of Bobby J's Italian American Grille 204 Como Park Blvd. Cheektowaga, 14227.
716.395.3207 or visit mybobbyjs.com/desiderio-dinner-theatre
IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY BLURB: Dr. Mortimore is up for a huge promotion as he prepares to deliver the most important speech of his life when an ex-girlfriend, a punkish son (whom he never knew he had), his wife, a cop, and other all appear on the scene wreaking havoc at St. Andres Hospital.
MERCY SEAT, plays by various local writers, inspired by the music of Nick Cave, directed by various directors, presented by American Repertory Theatre, starring Andrew Zuccari, Paige Batt, Adam Batt, Madeline Allard -Dugan, Quentin Gray, and Cassidy Granchelli. February 16 - March 11 at the Compass Performing Arts Center (formerly Theatre Loft), 545 Elmwood Avenue. (716) 697-0837 artofwny.org
MERCY SEAT BLURB: Throughout the past 15 seasons, ART/WNY has highlighted local playwrights through a one-act showcase in which works submitted were influenced by a specific musician or a band. These works are incorporated into a broader narrative that weaves these one-acts together. MERCY SEAT now follows the same artistic vision by highlighting the music of Nick Cave through well-crafted works submitted by regional artists.
Featuring 716 playwrights, THE MERCY SEAT features an evening of theatrical presentations inspired by this prolific musician. One-acts include j. Snodgrass' "What You Done", Ellen Catherine Falank's "Go Tell the Men (We're Leaving)", "Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?" by Samantha Marchant, "The Church of the Noninterventionism" by Michael Fanelli, Justin Pope's "The Anti Curse", with monologues by Matthew Boyle ("Weighing of Truth") and Matthew LaChiusa ("People Ain't No Good"), and a featured dance piece by ART/WNY's choreographer Suzanne Hibbard entitled "To Be By Your Side".
The background of MERCY SEAT is a tent revival in which souls entering the revival seek redemption, forgiveness, understanding, and all other elements found in Nick Cave's narrative and lyrical music. Works must be geared to interact with other pieces submitted including intro & outros of the scene. Leading the revival will be a wild-eyed, brimstone and fire Preacher who, with his choir, will determine the outcome of each poor soul.
Music Director Susan King leads the Mercy Singing Choir featuring Lanie Shannon, Ian Michalski, Ashleigh Chrisena Recci, Danette Pawlowski, complemented by actors Andrew Zuccari, Paige Batt, Adam Batt, Madeline Allard -Dugan, Quentin Gray, Cassidy Granchelli, and all under the direction of Michael Breen, Catherine Burkhart, Mariangela Mecurio, Justin Pope, Suzanne Hibbard, and Matthew LaChiusa.
TELL ME ON A SUNDAY, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black, directed by Doug Weyand, presented by MusicalFare Theatre, starring Leah Berst. February 15 - March 19, Wednesdays - Thursdays at 7:00, Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 3:30 & 7:30, Sundays at 2:00, on the MusicalFare Theatre mainstage, c/o Daemen College 4380 Main Street, Suite 123, Amherst, NY 14226 (716) 839-8540 musicalfare.com
TELL ME ON A SUNDAY BLURB: One of Andrew Lloyd Webber's (CATS, EVITA, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) earliest hits with music by Webber and lyrics by Don Black. A one-woman show, it has been performed by a number of female singers/actors, most notably Marti Webb and Bernadette Peters. A one-act song cycle, it tells the story of an ordinary English girl from Muswell Hill, who journeys to the United States in search of love. Her romantic misadventures begin in New York City, lead her to Hollywood, and eventually take her back to Manhattan. Brimming with optimism, she sets out to seek success, companionship and, of course, love. But as she weaves her way through the maze of the city and her own anxieties, frustrations and heartaches, she begins to wonder whether—in fact—she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places.
TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, a play by Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher, directed by Josie DiVincenzo, presented by Jewish Repertory Theatre, starring Adam Yellen as Mitch and Jack Hunter as Morrie. February 2 - 26, Thursdays at 7:30, Saturdays at 3:30 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2. The Maine and Robert Seller Theater in the Jewish Community Center, 2640 N. Forest Road
Amherst, NY 14068. 716-688-4033 jccbuffalo.org/jewish-repertory-theatre
TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE BLURB: Based on the 2006 best-selling memoir, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE is the autobiographical story of Mitch Albom, an accomplished journalist driven solely by his career, and Morrie Schwartz, his former college professor. Sixteen years after graduation, Mitch happens to catch Morrie’s appearance on a television news program and learns that his old professor is battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Mitch is reunited with Morrie, and what starts as a simple visit turns into a weekly pilgrimage and a last class in the meaning of life. Starring JCC Director of Performing Arts, Adam Yellen, and Buffalo acting legend Jack Hunter. Directed by Award Winning JRT actor Josie DiVincenzo (DAI, WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW, and others).
OPENING IN MARCH (a partial list, much more to come):
THE NICETIES, a play by Eleanor Burgess, directed by Yao Kahlil Newkirk, presented by the Paul Robeson Theatre, March 10 - 26. Opening night reception at 6:00 with the show at 7:00, all other Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00, Sundays at 2:00. African American Cultural Center, Inc., 350 Masten Ave, Buffalo, NY 14209. paulrobesontheatre.org
THE NICETIES BLURB: A Black female college student and her White female professor each make profound discoveries about themselves, each other, and the power of social media. CONTENT ADVISORY: Contains strong language and themes of race, prejudice, and social injustice.
The M&T Broadway series at Shea's for 2022-2023 includes:
BEETLEJUICE Mar 21-26, 2023
SIX Apr 25-May 7, 2023
JAGGED LITTLE PILL Jun 6-11, 2023
DEAR EVAN HANSEN June 20-25, 2023 (a "special engagement")