Anthony Chase

Theater Talk Host

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Tim Carroll's candidacy for the Shaw Festival's Artistic Directorship was kept under wraps, but his tenure which begins in about 16 months (he'll be shadowing Jackie Maxwell for the 2016 season) holds great promise to return the Shaw to its former glory.  Meanwhile, at the other great Canadian festival, Stratford, the Greek tragedy by Sophocles, OEDIPUS REX,  builds relentlessly to its conclusion, leaving sold-out audiences breathless.

from Shaw Festival website

There are several closings in Buffalo as the summer wanes, but The Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake continues well into the fall.


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With Curtain Up! only five weeks away we still have several openings, some closings, and one play held over by popular demand.

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Crossdressing newbies Jordan Louis Fisher as Viola and Tim Newell as Olivia in Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT and BUA experienced drag actors Christopher Standart and Jimmy Janowski (who, by the way, has great legs) as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in BETTE AND JOAN: THE FINAL CURTAIN spice up new productions and keep summer audiences engaged.

In a popular Cole Porter musical we are advised to “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” while the cast sings about “Another Opening, Another Show.” Here in our area, starting last night and going through this weekend we have six (6!) openings (including Shakespeare) from which to choose. And that’s in July! Buffalo is definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Peter and Anthony went to see SISTERS OF SWING: THE ANDREWS SISTERS MUSICAL starring Wendy Hall, Michele Marie Roberts, and Renee Landrigan as Laverne, “Maxene,” and “Patty” Andrews (contralto, soprano, and mezzo). Peter was impressed with Landrigan’s ability to stay right on the knife edge balancing schmaltz with cool, channeling her inner Bing Crosby. Neat trick. Philip Farugia plays their manager, Vic Schoen, and serves as the music director of a very tight backup combo while Nicholas Lama is cast as “Everyone Else” (Danny Kaye, Carmen Miranda, cab driver, etc.). You may have seen it several years ago, but this is a new cast and in a little over two hours you get 24 high energy songs and solid performances from all, through August 9 at Musicalfare Theatre, 4380 Main Street in Amherst.

SISTERS OF SWING: THE ANDREWS SISTERS MUSICAL opened this week and runs through August 9th at Musicalfare Theatre, 4380 Main St., located on the Daemen College campus in Amherst.  And Musicalfare's Randall Kramer takes his talents on the road to Lewiston, presenting PETER PAN, the Broadway musical based on the play by J.M. Barrie, opening at Artpark on July 30th.

Peter is heading south this weekend to see a diverse cast in OUR TOWN, the classic play by Thornton Wilder, presented by the Chautauqua Theater Company through July 12th at the Bratton Theater (your theater ticket is also your gate pass for the Chautauqua Institution). Anthony says that if you did OUR TOWN in high school, forgive that experience, and see the play anew.

We have one opening this weekend: Nickel City Opera presents THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, the story of the lecherous Count, the innocent Susanna, the wily Figaro, and the long suffering Countess. It’s at the Riviera Theatre, in a full production with professional singers and orchestra, Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

ROMEO AND JULIET, the tragedy by Shakespeare presented by Shakespeare in Delaware Park, opened at “Shakespeare Hill” in Delaware Park and runs Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30pm through July 12. While Peter still naively clings to the notion that this is a romance, Anthony reminds us that it is a tragedy, played out by a number of mercurial characters, not just Mercutio. Take a blanket or jacket and something to sit on; and, in the best Shakespearean tradition, refreshments may be purchased on-site and consumed during the performance (from which the phrase “The Peanut Gallery” comes).

FUN HOME, the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, swept five Tony Awards this past Sunday in the musical category.

The 25th Annual Artie Awards presentation last Monday night at 710 Main Theatre was a high energy non-stop romp featuring seven musical numbers with the original Buffalo casts, very funny ad-libs, not to mention lots of fabulous shoes and great hair.  The venue was a first for the Arties, but we hope not the last. 

With five venues, settled in a quaint town with plenty of walk-to attractions, the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, continues to attract a sizeable audience from Buffalo. Anthony Chase reports in during the intermission of "Peter and the Starcatcher" at the Royal George Theatre which is attracting a large number of younger audience members (suitable for 8+) who react audibly to the imaginative plot - the "prequel" to "Peter Pan."

The 25th Annual Artie Awards, Buffalo's celebration of local theater, will be held on Monday, June 1 at 710 Main for the first time. The event will be hosted by actors Charmagne Chi, recently seen in "Carousel," and Amy Jakiel, recently in "She Loves Me," with Artvoice theater editor and Theater Talk co-host Anthony Chase.  Doors (and bar) at 710 Main will open at 7 p.m.; the Artie Awards show begins at 8 p.m.  The modest admission fee helps support the Immunodeficiency Clinic at ECMC.

Kelli Bocock-Natale is two for two (her previous Macbeth was a knockout) as a winning director of Shakespeare at the New Phoenix Theatre.  Bringing Shakespeare's inventive language to 21st century ears demands every ounce of love and attention that a director can muster, and aided by an eye-catching (though minimal) set from Paul Bustaph and an appropriately magical, mystical soundscape by Tom Makar, Bocock-Natale "brings it" (including a new twist on the ending) to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (through May 23).

With so many regional stages it's bound to happen that some productions are uneven, and this week while "Carousel" (MusicalFare thorugh May 17) was generally disappointing, "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" (Irish Classical through May 17) was helped by Kristen Tripp Kelley.  Anthony enjoyed "Rust Belt Grotesque" (ART InTheBox through May 23) and the musical "She Loves Me" (Kavinoky through May 24).  And Theater Talk is very much looking forward to Kelli Bocock-Natale's direction of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (New Phoenix Theatre through May 23).

The 69th annual Tony Award nominations were announced Tuesday morning by co-hosts Mary-Louise Parker, past Tony winner, and Bruce Willis (yes, since you just asked yourself, he's going to make his Broadway debut in the upcoming "Misery"). The awards will be handed out on June 7th in a live telecast from Radio City Music Hall, co-hosted by Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. 

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The 2015 Pulitzer Prizes were announced early this week and "Between Riverside and Crazy" by Stephen Adly Guirgis won for drama, a work written with Buffalo actor and UB teacher Stephen McKinley Henderson in mind.

This week Anthony interviewed Steven McKinley Henderson in an "Inside the Actor's Studio" format and enjoyed Henderson's memories about Broadway, Hollywood, The Regional Theater Movement, The Black Arts Movement, and August Wilson. 

Two actors with Buffalo roots who "made it big" will share with acting students next week. Roslyn Ruff, Broadway star active on TV and in film (The Help) comes back to Buff State on Monday, April 13 at 4 p.m. to conduct a workshop in The Flexible Theatre for young actors in any medium. Roslyn will then engage in a discussion with the general public at 5:30 p.m. 

As the nomination period for the Tony Awards draws close, Anthony ventures to Broadway to take in the musical "On the 20th Century" with Kristen Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher, "The Audience" with Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, and "Disgraced" presenting the real lives of Disney princesses - and it's NOT for children (just those who once were).  Meanwhile, both stages at the Alleyway Theatre Complex are busy.

Our western tradition of theater began with the Greeks, and for them, theater was community theater.  When Sophocles, Euripides, or Aeschylus saw their plays, it was a community  effort.  To this day, Greek philosophy, politics, religion, ethics, medicine, and, of course, community theater, are an integral part of who we are.  This week Theater Talk notes several community offerings including "The Boys Next Door" presented by both the Lancaster Regional Players at the Lancaster Opera House and The Western Door Playhouse at the Woodbox Theatre in Niagara Falls,  "The Odd Couple" presented by

Pre-dating the TV show "Seinfeld" ("the show about nothing") by 100 years, Oscar Wilde's most popular (and unfortunately last) play "The Importance of Being Earnest" moved one contemporary critic to write that he had enjoyed the play but found it empty of meaning.  Nobody cares when you have delightful verbal fencing written by a master with lines such as:  “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up,” “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his”  and "I hate people who are not serious about meals.

The play has been blocked, lit, rehearsed and now all we need is an audience this coming Thursday, March 12th for the opening of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Buff State where Theater Talk co-host reverses roles in more ways than one. Now Anthony Chase will be on stage, not in the audience, playing "Lady Bracknell" in high heels, wig, and very stylish clothes.  "Arrivals and Departures" by Alan Ayckbourn opened at the Kavinoky, and the other two openings were Nobel prize winning playwright Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape" at Torn Space and Steve Martin's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" at ART In The Box on Linwood Avenue.

Two plays discussed in this week's Theater Talk re-imagine two classics. "After Miss Julie" takes Swedish playwright August Strindberg's very dark "Miss Julie" and moves it to Britain in 1945 after a Labor Party Victory.  In both plays Julie has a one night affair with a man from a lower class and ultimately sees suicide as the only way to move forward.  That opened last night at the Irish Classical Theatre and runs through March 22.

By coincidence, a number of theaters this weekend feature mothers and mother figures (all with varying levels of dysfunction).  Having Tyne Daly pass up the chance to spend a winter in Buffalo (go figure!) that opened the door for local talent Anne Hartley Pfohl to star in Terrence McNally's "Mothers and Sons" at the Alleyway Theatre.  (The address is One Curtain Up Alley in the shadow of Shea's huge backstage.)

Just back from the Kennedy Center in our nation's capitol, Anthony reports that while the cast of Lerner & Lowe's "Gigi" is first rate, the direction is not.  They've got a month to fix things before opening on Broadway.

Openings this week include "The Mystery of the Silver Chalice" - a play at 710 Main where the audience directs the plot - "Beau Jest" at Jewish Repertory in which a Jewish girl hires an actor to play her boyfriend when she goes home to see the parents and "Million Dollar Quartet" which looks at the birth of rock'n'roll. It's at Shea's but for two days only.

At the age of 80, Australian comedian Barry Humphries is retiring his character "Dame Edna Everage" after a 2015 farewell tour. Anthony flew out to Los Angeles to catch a show last week, but Buffalo/Toronto audiences can wait until early April when the tour comes to the Royal Alexandra in Toronto.

Having just seen A.R. Gurney's "Family Furniture" at the Kavinoky Theatre, Anthony Chase noticed strong parallels with Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" back on Broadway, especially upper class families who can talk a lot, but not about their problems.

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