Onstage: Darwin McPherson's picks for 2012–2013
With more theater companies on the scene than we’ve had in a long time, we’ve got multiple theatrical perspectives competing for our attention. Here, in alphabetical order, are the ones I’m looking forward to the most. (Luckily, more than a couple occur this month.)
UB Center for the Arts, September 8–9
Inspired by the intense execution and passionate perspective of the Green Day album American Idiot, Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer worked with GD lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong and Tom Kitt (composer and orchestrator of Next to Normal) to bring to the stage a story of three friends who are “forced to choose between their dreams and the safety of suburbia” in a post 9/11 world. Last season’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch proved that hard rock rolls quite easily in a theatrical context. It’ll be smashing fun to see the touring production of this very contemporary musical in the outstanding UB Center for the Arts venue.
August: Osage County
Kavinoky, April 26–May 19
Last season was quite the showcase for playwright Tracy Letts as his Superior Donuts and Killer Joe saw fine productions at Road Less Traveled and American Repertory Theatre of WNY, respectively. This year, Letts’s much-lauded Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece August: Osage County takes the stage at the Kavinoky. This epic black comedy about a family coming to terms with their dysfunction will be a landmark achievement for director David Lamb and a lucky ensemble cast.
The Book of Mormon
Shea’s, June 11–16
The freshest Broadway touring shows are attracted to WNY because of the strong support from Shea’s audiences. This comedy by the creators of South Park about two young missionaries trying to share their Mormon faith with Ugandan natives is sure to be another sell out in the tradition of Wicked and Jersey Boys.
Dancing at Lughnasa
Irish Classical, February 14–March 10
The Irish Classical is offering lots of great material this season, but this 1930s period drama by Brian Friel about five unmarried sisters promises to be a sentimental favorite, in no small part due to a fine ensemble cast that includes Chris Kelly, Katie White, Wendy Hall, and Gerry Maher.
Gruesome Playground Injuries
Buffalo Laboratory Theatre, January 25–February 9
Local legend Stephen McKinley Henderson directs this Rajiv Joseph play about two childhood friends who connect over the course of thirty years. Their bond, which transcends simple romance, is cemented by the many accidents and injuries that befall them.
Mr. and Mrs. Nobody
New Phoenix, September 14–October 14
Richard Lambert and Josephine Hogan star in this social climbing comedy set in Victorian-era North London based on The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith and Mrs. Pooter’s Diary by Keith Waterhouse. Keith’s son, Robert Waterhouse, who directed last season’s New Phoenix hit In the Next Room, Or the Vibrator Play, directs another of his father’s works, following up on 2010’s Our Song.
Jewish Repertory, February 7–March 3
A hearty recommendation and enthusiastic welcome go out for the return of local playwright Mark Humphrey’s remarkable one-man show about legendary comedian Jack Benny. It’s also one of the best vehicles for Tim Newell, who has traveled to New York City with the part and returns to the character for this production.
Next To Normal
Irish Classical, September 13–October 7
It’s a change of pace for the Irish Classical Theatre Company to tackle a contemporary musical, but how could any theater company resist the opportunity to put on a modern classic that won three Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize? This dramatic tale of a family dealing with the mother’s mental illness features music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, who produced songs like “I Miss the Mountains” and “Superboy and the Invisible Girl.”
MusicalFare, January 23–March 3
I’ll always recommend Jonathan Larson’s immortal musical, but I’m especially thrilled to do so for this MusicalFare production, which aims to scale the music “down to its essence” to get away from the heavy, overwrought delivery that has (perhaps) plagued the Pulitzer Prize-winning show.
The World Goes ’Round
O’Connell and Company, September 20–October 14
This revue takes the best of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s songs for the stage and screen and offers numerous little vignettes based on the colorful stories they tell. “Life is a Cabaret” at Erie Community College North as O’Connell and Company present “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” “Mister Cellophane,” “New York, New York,” and many delightful numbers for your Curtain Up! entertainment.
Curtain Up! is September 14, and if the weather holds up (no reason it shouldn’t), we’ll have a lively downtown street party to ring in the official start of the theater season. Another reason to celebrate is the reopening of the old Studio Arena space as the 710 Main Theatre, which is hosting Seth’s Big Fat Broadway Show, featuring Sirius/XM Radio host Seth Rudetsky, for Curtain Up! and John Lithgow: Stories By Heart for three performances on September 21 and 22.
In the former, Rudetsky shares his candid opinion of Broadway characters on and off the stage. The following weekend, the star of 3rd Rock Fom the Sun and Dexter performs his one-man show, a reflection on storytelling as the tie that binds humanity. (See an interview with Lithgow on p. 52.)
Among the musical treats this month is Billy Elliot, the 2009 Tony Award–winner about a working class British boy who aspires to be a dancer. Based on the 2000 film, the Broadway phenomenon features music by Elton John. Billy Elliot dances through Shea’s September 25 to 30.
At MusicalFare, musical renovator Chris Kelly (Oliver!, Hair) takes on The Music Man, beginning September 5. You can cast your vote for whodunit in The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the Kavinoky. The same night, Paul Robeson Theatre launches its season with Regina Taylor’s gospel musical Crowns, which was previously seen at Studio Arena in 2005.
For non-musical fans, Curtain Up! offerings include Talley’s Folly, Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning romantic comedy about two unlikely sweethearts in Missouri during World War II. Eileen Dugan directs the Red Thread Theatre production at the Marie Maday Theatre at Canisius College. Stan Klimecko (Jewish Rep’s Driving Miss Daisy) stars in Torn Space’s reimagined A Streetcar Named Desire. Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions brings the funny with Ken Ludwig’s golfing farce, The Fox on the Fairway.
For more reviews and news about theater join Spree theater previewer Darwin McPherson on WKBW-TV’s Eyewitness News This Morning and buffalospree.com.