Onstage: A haunting October
Tony award nominee Constantine Maroulis and Grammy-nominated R&B singer Deborah Cox in "Jekyll & Hyde The Musical" at Shea's.
Courtesy of the touring production of "Jekyll & Hyde."
An impressive array of Curtain Up! shows continue to play in October, but the month also welcomes productions inspired by Halloween—and not.
The Whipping Man
Following the cross cultural success of Driving Miss Daisy, Jewish Repertory Theatre once again explores the roles of African Americans in Jewish life. Several issues take the stage in Matthew Lopez’s Civil War drama The Whipping Man, says JRT artistic director Saul Elkin: “On one level, it is a play in which a Confederate officer who happens to be Jewish comes home the day after the Civil war has ended to find two newly freed slaves with whom he grew up. Together, they celebrate a Passover Seder commemorating the freeing of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.
“But it is also a play about the de-humanizing relationship between slave holders and slaves in that period,” Elkin adds. “I thought the play raised issues, relationships, and historical facts that neither the Jewish nor the African American communities were likely to be aware of.”
For the cast, Elkin turned to Stan Klimecko, who recently appeared in Driving Miss Daisy. “I was very moved by the naturalness of Stan’s acting and asked him to audition for the role. He did and that sealed it for me,” Elkin says. “I auditioned a number of African American actors and selected Dee Lamont Perry and Greg Howze—partly from their auditions and partly from the recommendations of [Daisy alumnus] Lavern Clay, for whom Dee had played Paul Robeson, and Scott Behrend, for whom Greg had acted in a play at Road Less Traveled.”
“This will require a great deal of research,” admits Klimeck, who is learning the Jewish rituals and Passover customs that play a major role in the play. “This is the most challenging piece we have undertaken thus far and the first time we are doing a period piece,” Elkin adds. “The setting is a ruined mansion in Richmond, Virginia. Difficult to render in any case, but even more daunting in an intimate theater. I’m depending on [set designer] Ron Schwartz to come up with something brilliant.”
The Whipping Man opens October 18 at the Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in Getzville. (888-718-4253)
The Dead English
American Repertory Theater’s previous foray into musical territory, last season’s Floyd Collins—Adam Guettel and Tina Landau’s take on a true-life event—resulted in an impressive three Artie Awards. This season, ART artistic director Matthew LaChiusa is considering the season as he approaches another musical with some of Western New York’s newer theatrical talents.
“Drew McCabe and Justin Karcher brought the idea to me, and through a collaborative effort that included Steven E. Sitzman, we decided to focus on a modern musical take on Bram Stoker’s classic character,” LaChiusa says. “Although the idea of putting the timeless story to music is not a new concept—I just watched a Scooby Doo cartoon with a vampire musical theme—the emphasis on developing certain characters, brushed off in Stoker’s story, and bringing them forward has been one of the many unique twists one will find with The Dead English.”
Directed by Drew McCabe, The Dead English stars Anthony Alcoler as Dracula and Jacob Albarella as Renfield. Steve Copps, Jenny Kulwicki, Hannah Sharp, Nick Lama, and Sara Marioles also appear. It opens October 18 at ART’s new theater space, the Church of the Ascension at 16 Linwood Avenue in Buffalo. (716-634-1102)
The Halloween theme of musical monsters from classic literature continues with Shea’s Performing Arts Center’s mainstage presentation of Jekyll and Hyde The Musical. Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s take on the Robert Louis Stevenson mystery helped launch the career of Wildman’s ex-wife Linda Eder and showcased David Hasselhoff and rocker Sebastian Bach, among others.
This revival has been touring North America prior to its Broadway return next year. It stars American Idol dreamboat Constantine Maroulis, as the two-faced terror, and R&B singer Deborah Cox. Featured songs include “Someone Like You,” “This is the Moment,” and “A New Life.” Jekyll and Hyde opens October 30 for eight performances. (1-800-745-3000)
Though not a monster, Truman Capote has been considered by some to be a literary terror. For its 2012–13 season opener, Buffalo United Artists takes a look at the writer of In Cold Blood through his own eyes. Adapted from his own work, Tru muses on Capote’s life and career during a difficult period before Christmas 1975. Tru closes October 10. (716-886-9239)
If you want to give your Halloween costume an early test drive (and help a good cause), take yourself to Torn Space Theater’s Prom of the Dead: Costume Ball on October 20. The fundraiser for the theater has a 1950s Coney Island carnival theme and takes place once again at the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center. For tickets ($20 presale, $25 at the door), go to tornspacetheater.com/promofthedead.
For more reviews and news about WNY theater join Spree theater previewer Darwin McPherson on WKBW-TV’s Eyewitness News This Morning and buffalospree.com.