Quietly the Buffalo market is growing to become an abundance source for excellent theater experiences. This fall season is packed with a wide variety of awesome productions. Regular theater goers, fellow actors, will love what’s on the schedule. And if you’re looking to escape the late autumn doldrums when those beautiful leaves have finally left the trees, there is sure to be something appealing. Here is ten great shows that will highlight Buffalo’s upcoming theater lineup.
Lombardi, presented by Musicalfare Theatre at 710 Main Theatre, November 13th-23rd
The Directors Take- Randall Kramer on what he is most excited about
“The Vince Lombardi we know is the one that is either quoted or we see in these little 5 second interview clips. And in the play we get to see him not only as a football coach, and not only in the locker room but we also get to see him at his house, with his wife, and a guest, and that makes for a very interesting evening because it’s a side of him that you don’t get a chance to see while still getting a chance to see those other parts that everybody sort of identifies him with.”
Following the narrative path similar to that of Citizen Kane and Almost Famous, the story is told through the experiences of a journalist. As “Look Magazine” writer, Michael McCormick, is out to discover the recipe of Lombardi’s winning formula, but with stiff resistance. And for a rabid football town like Buffalo, Lombardi has come to the right place. Men and Women can now see Football’s most heralded coach in his most sincere moments.
“I’m a big sports fan and I can tell you even if I wasn’t involved in theater at all, I would wanna see this play,” said Kramer. Cause it’s just interesting if you like football at all, and I read stories of Vince Lombardi so it’s great to see him sort of come to life.”
Cost: $49 All
Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour present by Buffalo Public Theatre at New Phoenix Theatre, October 23rd-November 8th
The Director’s Take- Loraine O’Donnell on what the audience can expect
“The thing that you come away with from this play is the power of one lie. The power of one lie that somebody says, that people start believing, just one thing, one lie, and what it can destroy. . . and the power of a lie when you lie to yourself can also destroy. And I’m so proud to say that we have got some of Buffalo’s best actor’s in this piece too. We got some really heavy hitters and a couple of new people. So I have my dream cast, I’m over the moon happy about it.”
Based around a true story in 1810 Scotland, this 1930’s setting revolves around two women, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie. As headmistresses of a boarding school, their lives are turned into chaos when they are accused of a lesbian relationship by a troublesome student. Soon their students are gone and a community lines up against them. With their school and livelihood at stake they must fend off all allegations at all costs.
A play of high stakes, it was met with stiff resistance when it first debuted in the 30s and even later in the 60s. Its mention of homosexuality on stage brought upon initial bans in various locations. O’Donnell actually first played in the The Children’s Hour 20 years ago when it first came to Buffalo. Now on the other side stage, and as passionate as ever, she sees this as an excellent opportunity to showcase the work at a crucial social time.
“This drama really spoke to me especially because same sex marriage is legal in this state and many other states,” said O’Donnell. To me this play I think it’s more relevant now than it was years ago. . . .Hopefully 20 or 30 years people are going to look back at this play and go, my gosh I can’t imagine people ever felt this way.”
Costs: $30 Adults, $20 Student/Senior
The Glass Menagerie, A play by Tennessee Williams, presented and showing at the Lancaster Opera House, November 7th-16th
A Producer’s Take- David Bondrow (L.O.P.) what to expect and his favorite element
“This interesting thing about Glass Menagerie is that it’s a memory play, so the main character sort of manipulates the action because it is out of his memory of it and he explains that to the audience upfront, that this is my memory of these events. “And we all have that universal experience of having dreams and memories and things that happen to us and the way we remember them and I think it’s a very visceral action that people can relate to. . . My favorite part of the play is the heightened language, the Tennessee Williams poetry, and just the way it tugs down your heart strings and punches you in the gut with the heightened language that only can be done on stage in that magical way.”
The historic Lancaster Opera House has been turning out great plays for years, and paired with Tennessee Williams, one of America’s best playwrights, it’s must see theater. The play is based on Williams’ life experiences. It revolves around a young man looking to break free from the strain of his mentally and emotionally fragile mother and sister.
The opening also marks what Bondrow calls “the triumph return” for Barbara Link LaRou. A top veteran of the Buffalo acting scene, she graduated from Lancaster’s St. Mary’s high school.
According to Bondrow, “(LaRou) hasn’t been on the Opera House stage since the year it first re-opened in 1981. And we’re proud that our reputation is on the rise and we’re able to attract top talent such as her.”
Costs: $20 Adult, $18 Student/Senior
Death of a Salesman, Presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company at Andrews Theatre, November 7th-30th
The Director’s Take- Greg Natale and his favorite part about directing this play
“I’m the kind of director who loves to work with plays where there’s something profound at stake for the characters and it’s not superficial but it’s deep, deep within them. And Arthur Miller, all of his plays, but this one in particular, and that’s saying a lot because his other plays are so fantastic. But Death of a Salesman, what’s at stake for Willy and his wife and the boys is huge and that as a directors that’s what I love trying to get the actors who have to play these roles and fill these roles. That’s where my joy is as an actor helping them find the reality of all that and bringing it as much to life as we can. So it does have that kind of effect on audience by the time they leave.”
The play centers around Willy Loman, a recently fire salesman who struggles to cope with his lack of fulfillment in both work and family life. It’s a tug of war between one’s success and greatest desires, in relation to the reality of what you’ve actually become. The dire circumstances along with its theme serve as a beware to those in attendance.
“I think the thing that most would strike me by the end of the play if I were just an audience seeing it for the first time would be not to squander your life, and be in denial of the things that are actually happening,” said Natale. “Because it doesn’t change anything and in fact the denial than just becomes stronger and stronger. And that’s what happens to Willy.”
Stella Adler, America’s Queen of acting theory, held in such high regard, Authur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. So much so she referred to it as the American actor’s Hamlet. It has been played by some of the biggest actors in these past 65 years, from Lee J. Cobb, Dustin Hoffman, Brian Dennehy, and most recently Philip Seymour Hoffman. Perhaps the next great performance lies ahead?
Costs: All tickets, $39
Journey’s End, A World War I Drama, Presented and showing at the Kavinoky Theatre, November 14th-December 7th
The Director’s Take- Robert Waterhouse on what theater goers may take away
“I think what people will take away, I hope, a sense of the tremendous courage expressed by the young men whose lives were wasted in the first world war, it was a pointless war that costs millions and millions and millions of lives and yet the men who fought it found reservoirs of courage and companionship, and compassion, and comradeship in themselves that are really staggering. So I think audiences will be moved I hope by the courage and emotional connections of these young men.”
With this year marking the 100th anniversary of World War One, an observance of what was known as “the war to end all wars” is due. Journey’s End is focused on the experiences of a group of officers in the British Infantry Company on the Western Front.
Two officers, Lieutenant Raleigh and Captain Stanhope are reunited after previously attending school together in England. Raleigh becomes quite enamored with his old friend and even identifies him as his hero. But how perfect can a man remain under the gruesome experiences and challenges that war presents?
“He worships Stanhope, and there’s a very wholesome love between these two. But Stanhope is afraid that Raleigh will now see his hero exposed to someone with a feet of clay.”
The predicament sets up a genuine progression for a relationship in the most vulnerable of scenarios.
“It’s a play about friendship and courage said Waterhouse. “And some of the subtle emotions that come out when men are in a very enclosed space together and are facing their own doom.”
Perhaps the most gratifying moments that any viewer can hope for out of a production.
Costs: $39 Adult, $35 Senior
Footloose- The Musical, Presented by Buffalo State Theater Department at Warren Enters Theatre, November 13th-15th, 20th-22nd
The Director’s Take- Carlos Jones on theme, and the sense of self
“I’m hoping that they get exactly that. That they get and realize that being oneself and being one’s all true spirit and how they live and they walk and talk and act like is a beautiful thing that we all should celebrate in one another. We may not understand it they may be doing it a little different than us but certainly if we can respect that they are an individual and allow them to be free in those moments than we all can have a better place to live. I’m hoping that will come through as the message. On top of that just for people to enjoy themselves you know to have a moment in a time of life where they can sort of lay those cares, thoughts, and troubles and worries of the world aside and come in and enjoy being swept away at the show.”
Footloose- The Musical brings that Hollywood-esque feeling to Buffalo. Still looming of course is that iconic 80’s image where Kevin Bacon is young, spirited, very attractive and the king of early pop dance. Well the show at Warren Enters Theatre will be the best way to recreate and celebrate all that KB did for every young soul trying to break free.
Carlos Jones, whose work has extended from Missouri to Los Angeles is known for his incredible choreography. Theater goers will get one of the most eventful and energetic productions’ of the season. The perfect way to kick out the lethargic cold weather onslaught soon to be hitting Western New York. And theater goers according to Jones can expect nothing less.
“One of my thoughts about the production is that because it’s about dancing because it’s about a sense of liberating oneself to move and to be free. The stage will constantly be moving in some way be that in the body, be that in the set, but it’s always moving, dancing so to speak.”
Costs: $15 General Public, $10 Buffalo State faculty, staff, and alumni; other students; and seniors, $6 Buffalo State students
Old Jews Telling Jokes, Presented by Jewish Repertory Theatre at Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre, October 23rd-November 16th
The Director’s Take- Saul Elkin on the show’s universal appeal and humor
“Well I think to an older audience this will be nostalgia, they will recognize many of these jokes, for a younger audience I think they’ll be hearing these funny stories for the first time and hopefully they’ll come away feeling uplifted, there’s nothing in this evening that doesn’t make you laugh. And I can tell you that were in amidst of rehearsal now and were having a hard time keeping a straight face just developing this production.”
Beginning as a web series in 2009, Old Jews Telling Jokes has expanded into live productions across the country, including Off Broadway. Reviews have been outstanding, and if you like the world’s funniest comedians, than you certainly love Jews and their dedication to great comedy. From old Billy Crystal stand up to a good friend’s bar mitzvah tale, there nothing better than a family style Jewish joke. Come out and listen to some of the best jokes that Robert Rutland, Saul Elkin, Todd Benzin and Josie DiVincenzo have to offer. And the stand out cast includes my first ever acting teacher Tina Rausa, a well renowned Buffalo actress! Spend the night laughing until it hurts! A hard week of work’s greatest cure.
“Well I want them to know that this will remind them of a kind of humor that may be only on television with comedians like Jerry Seinfeld or Sarah Silverman” said Elkin. “Wonderful comedians that were the heart of the early days of television and were bringing all of that channel back. . .”
Costs: $38 Adult, $36 Senior, $10 Student/Industry
It’s a Wonderful Life- The Radio Play, Presented by SUNY Fredonia Theater Department at Bartlett Theatre, December 5th-7th , 11th-13th
The Director’s Take- Tom Loughlin on his favorite about the production and passion for radio
“I think that my favorite part about this play is the time period. I mean I’m a big fan of radio to begin with, I used to be a disk jockey back in the day. I had sort of a side career as a radio announcer and a radio disc jockey. So I’m in love with radio as a medium. I think radio is a fantastic medium because not only does it allow audiences to hear things, but it also allows audiences to create pictures in their minds. I mean you go to see something and sort of the image is created for you. You don’t have to do any imagination. But when you hear human voices creating characters, the mind fills in all the different pictures that it needs to. I think that’s the most fun thing about radio. I think that this play actually captures that sense of old- time radio where people used to gather around the living rooms, listen to the radio and create their own images of what was really going on as they heard the actors do the play.”
It’s a Wonderful remains to be one of the most recognizable Christmas classics in American history. In the Radio Play stage adaption, the story of George Bailey and company are told by actors through that of a live radio broadcast set in the 1940s. So Theater goers will experience what it was like to be in a 1940s radio station during an ongoing show. They will see the 40s actors go into different characters, various voices, and sound effects on set. Loughlin called it a “two-fold” thing where viewers will notice the actors also having their own “interpersonal” interactions between one another in the station in between acting. However the quintessential images from the original story will remain.
“I think you’ll be able to see though Mr. Potter’s bank, and I think you’ll be able to see all the other various venues, you know George and Mary’s home and things like that as the play progresses. You’ll probably be able to see that, to me that’s very exciting.”
Costs: $20 General Public, $18 Student/Kids
Mamma Mia, Presented by Shea’s and Albert Nocciolino at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, November 7th-9th
“We continue to bring Mamma Mia to Shea’s because patrons love the show and return again and again,” said Lisa Grisanti, Director of Marketing and PR. “It’s a great story told through fun music of ABBA that gets people dancing in the aisles.”
Written by Catherine Johnson, Sophie is a 20 year old girl hit with the biggest dilemma of her life. As she prepares for marriage on the Greek Island of Kalokairi, she must find her long lost father to guide her down the aisle.
As cold weather approaches this may be the best bet for a fun, relaxing escape, into your imagination in the play’s Greek Mediterranean landscape. If you’re a guy, bite the bullet and take your girlfriend, she’ll love you forever. For this I am sure.
Costs: $46.50-$77.00 All
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella presented and showing at Shea’s Peforming Art Center, December 2nd-7th.
“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a classic that the entire family will enjoy. It’s a brand new tour so we are very excited to bring it to Buffalo” said Grisanti. “We continue to bring Tony Award winning shows on their first National Tour to Shea’s.”
Based on one of the most iconic fairytales of all time, this is an adventure for children and adults alike. An opportunity for viewers to see one of the most mesmerizing and creative worlds in the theater. Take a sibling, or a friend, and relive the days of your favorite childhood stories.
Costs: $39-$77 All