Cherie Messore Previews

New Phoenix Rising in Sterling for 25th Season

New Phoenix Theatre will celebrate its 25th anniversary season with four shows that represent its hallmark eclectic appeal.

Founder Richard Lambert says,” After 25 years I feel lucky to still be doing this, and as a small alternative theatre we’re still glad people are interested.”  

The season begins September 20 with ‘Izzy,’ written by local theatre and radio legends Grant Golden and Jim Santella. Previous stagings were 19 years ago at MusicalFare and 27 years ago at the former Calumet Café. Like all good theatre, this heartwarming message of ambition and tenacity (Izzy is a fictional Buffalo songwriter that almost was something) is timeless. Lambert loves opening his sterling season with local playwrights and a musical review at that. Pianist/singer Chuck Basil steps out from behind the piano to center stage for this show, and is joined by Renee Landrigan, Nathan Miller and Brett Klaczyk. Lambert says Basil’s  voice “ just anchors and shines and when he hits some of those notes the theatre just shakes.”  

‘Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean’ starts its run November 22. Lambert pondered this on Facebook a couple years, wondering if the show (about a James Dean fan club in Texas called the Disciples) would still work. Famous for not being on Facebook, Lisa Ludwig caught wind of this and was eager to be part of it. Betsy Bittar, Kerrybate Abel (“with that big bawdy laugh as big as Texas,” Lambert says), Stephanie Bax, Jenn Stafford, Mary Moebius, and Dylan Brozyna are in the cast, and Lambert will direct.

Opening March 6  is ‘Kiss of the Spiderwoman,’ and Lambert has a soft spot for this show. “It’s a bittersweet, romantic show,” he says, and he’s delighted that Victoria Perez has agreed to direct it “She’s a good luck charm wherever she goes, he says. Rolando Martin Gomez and Richard Lattimer will share the stage.

The seasons ends with Edward Albee’s classic ‘Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,’ with Lambert and Pamela Rose Mangus as George and Martha and Pandora Liane Kew and Brett Klaczyk as Honey and Nick. Lambert is particularly excited about this production: “I’m already working this, and getting into  Richard Burton’s voice,” Lambert says referring to the 1966 film. The show opens April 22, and he’s confident that all will go off without a hitch, even though it opens on Broadway a month earlier. “We got in under the wire,” Lambert says. “No one else in the country can do this, it’s kismet, but our fingers are crossed that (Broadway producer) Scott Rudin won’t pull the plug,” referring to Kavinoky Theatre’s situation last season when the same production company forced the cancellation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

For Lambert ending the 25th season with this production is a highlight for the actors and the audience alike.  “This is the last show of the season and I want the pay off to be rewarding night of theatre. The time was right to accept the challenges.” he says. He’s enthusiastic about this cast, too.  “If anyone in our city is lucky enough to hangout with Pam, you’ll know she’s wanted that role for some time. Pandora Lianne Kew came in to audition and was already completely off book. She made  such an impression. Her ‘Honey’ isn’t light and feathery; she’s dominant and strong. She renewed my faith in how seriously young people take their passion for theatre.”

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