Tick, Tick…BOOM! Explodes on Stage

We’ve all been there. We’re facing a landmark birthday and our BFF is on a new path and our significant other has expectations and we’re staring down a crossroads riddled with self-doubt, anticipation, enthusiasm, and fear. What are you supposed to do? What should you do? Is it ever too late?

That’s the essence of Tick, Tick…BOOM! magnificently performed at Shea’s Smith Theatre by Second Generation Theatre. It’s a three hander with a lot going on. With Sean Ryan as Jon, Leah Berst, and Joe Russi play multiple roles in the life of this aspiring composer who is facing down the days leading up to his 30th birthday.  Created by the late Jonathan Larson, it’s semi-autobiographical and wasn’t fully staged until after his way-to-early death at age 36, the day before his seminal work Rent was to open off-Broadway.

Jon is plugging away, getting ready to workshop his latest work. His girlfriend Susan is a dancer who is teaching ballet on the side. His best bud Michael, after trying his hand at acting, is a marketing executive with a BMW, fancy new digs, a corporate wardrobe and apparently few regrets about leaving the stage behind. Berst is also Jon’s mom, his agent, Karessa the ingenue in his workshop, making minor wardrobe and prop switches to emphasize her character changes. It’s her force of personality, command of her voice, and body language that put us there, though. It’s breathtaking. Equally powerful is Russi’s flexes from slick business guy to the deli clerk, and Jon’s pipe smoking dad.

Whew. Everything about the production is spot on. I couldn’t imagine a better SGT-selected cast. Ryan commands the stage, cleverly designed by Chris Cavanagh to suggest Jon’s less grand SoHo apartment, the subway, his buddy Michael’s uptown place, other places. It takes some theatre of the mind to get there, but the storytelling is so vivid, your mind’s eye doesn’t have to struggl. The score is a a winner: standouts are “Therapy,” a Jon and Susan duet as they gently explore the minefield of a dysfunctional relationship. It’s comic, and charming, and sad all at the same time; “30/90,” Jon’s ruminations on his impending birthday, Michael’s “Real Life” reflection on the choices he made that are working for him; Karessa the ingenue’s “Come To Your Senses” ballad; and Jon’s “Why” as he reflects on choices. Music director Joe Isgar and his quartet play the dickens out of this powerful music.  Lou Colaicovo’s direction makes great use of the two tier stage and the storytellers upon it.

Can I say it again? Whew. There’s more going on with this story, but I’m not about the spoil it for you. Just see it. And book your tickets now. This is the show to see as the theatre season is winding down.

Tick, Tick…BOOM! is performed in one glorious, 90-minute act. Fill your sippy cup in the lobby before you go in and then hunker in for one heck of a ride. Get tickets at www.sheas.org.


Kinky Boots Raises You Up at Shea’s 710

Well, Buffalo is a factory town. Road Less Traveled’s recent production of Sweat gave us a grim reminder of what happens when a factory is on the brink. Suffice it to say, that Buffalo hasn’t seen the likes of Price & Son, the factory at the soul of Kinky Boots, MusicalFare Theatre’s production on stage at Shea’s 710 Theatre.

The story is based on an actual situation which happened in the UK in 1999: a family-owned maker of men’s dress shoes was about to go under when the owner discovered an under-served market for fine footware: drag queens. Tweaking the business plan kept workers on at the plant and restored profitability. This inspired the 2005 film Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth which then inspired Harvey Firestein to write the stage show with Cyndi Lauper writing original music and lyrics in 2013.  As I am wont to say, I usually don’t care for movies on stage, but this show is so irrepressible, it would be hard to dislike it.  Most importantly, there’s a powerful message of inclusion, acceptance, personal freedom, and self-love that shines through, particularly in Lauper’s Tony-winning lyrics.

Everything about this production was a delight, from the cast, to the band, to the choreography and plenty of stage magic. The show opens as Papa Price (John Fredo) is extolling the virtue of traditional footware to his young son Charlie (Daniel Pitirri), while Simon’s Papa (Vincenzo McNeill) is less than impressed with his son Simon’s (Oliver Parzy-Sanders) fascination with a bright red pair of pumps. Fast forward a bunch of years, and the young adult Charlie (Steve Copps) doesn’t think that shoes are the most beautiful thing in the world, so (much like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life), he leaves the family business behind for big city life. His father’s death draws him home. A chance encounter with grown up Simon, now drag queen Lola (Lorenzo Shawn Parnell)   and a conversation with one of his employees (Bethany Burrows) who is about to lose her job, spark the idea to build shoes that support a manly body type when he’s in drag. From here, the story is a really a journey, and it’s a beautiful one.

The entire cast is stellar, from the young actors playing Charlie and Simon/Lola as children to the shoe factory workers who rally to make sharp and spiky boots where there’s plenty of sex in the heel. Look and listen for Artie Award recognized actors like Charmagne Chi, Dan Urtz, Doug Weyand, and Dave Spychalski among the factory workers, and Lola’s back up singers/dancers known as the Angels in drag Marc Sacco, Johnny Kiener, Collin McKee, and David Pieffer.

Copps wins hearts as he stumbles – literally – down a non-traditional path, and it’s Parnell who puts the soul in boot making with the poignant “I’m Not My Father’s Son” and “Hold Me in Your Heart” ballads. Beautiful musical moments for sure. In between the powerful messages about inclusion and belonging there are delectably in-your-face proofs about the pure joy of loving what you do, who you are, and who you’re with on the journey. As the song says, “you change the world when you change your mind.”

Kinky Boots runs under two hours with a 15-minute intermission, to May 21, which includes some extra performances. Grab tickets fast at sheas.org.

Disaster! Feels So Good at MusicalFare

A pretty buttoned up reporter. A nightclub owner with daddy issues. A ditzy disco diva and her twin children. A nun with a gambling problem. What happens when they meet on a poorly constructed off-shore casino with a problematic pier? It’s sure to be a Disaster!  Disaster!, the brain-child of Broadway divo Seth Rudetsky, is making its WNY premier at MusicalFare Theatre and it’s a hoot. It’s a jukebox musical with ‘70s tunes and satirical nod to all the disaster films that kept us going to movie theatres (remember those?) before we headed off to Uncle Sam’s to dance the night away on the light floor.

The story pretty simple: Tony wants to make a bundle on a floating casino so he cuts some corners on the whole safety thang. His lady friend Jackie will be the lounge singer as long as she keeps her kids out of trouble. He hires a waiter with the moves and his friend who aspires to be the other waiter with moves and they welcome passengers like Maury and Shirl who just want to have a little fun. Of course, a local nun is convinced there’s onboard gambling so she meets guests at the dock with a cheerful “you’ll burn in hell” message. And there’s scientist on board who knows that too much tango hustling can cause tidal waves if you “Knock On Wood” too many times. Of course.

Well, if the story sounds a little thin, the killer list of fun and familiar tunes more than makes up for it. So does this sparkling (and large) cast. Stand outs are Kelly Copps as Jackie the singer. She softens her speaking voice to an impish whisper (think of Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) but boy, she’s at full-power when she sings “Saturday Night” and “I Will Survive.”  Ricky Needham is Chad the waiter, sporting a wig that looks pretty much like the hair I had in my high school senior photo. He’s shakin’ his groove thing until he runs into his ex and then the sparks and sequins fly. He does a fabulous job on the Jigsaw hit “Sky High.”  Kevin Craig is the scientist who can prove that disaster is coming and I was laughing out loud at his ‘balance beam’ walk to “Nadia’s Theme.”  Gabriella Jean McKinley is the disco queen (with her designer doggie-in-a-bag) poured into spandex and doing a fabulous job with my fave tune from ’74 “Come to Me.” Emily Yancey is a riot as the nun, and Arin Lee Dandes – everyone’s favorite eternal child – is amazing as Jackie’s twins. Yes, she plays both kids with some theatre magic and sleight of hand/s. You just have to see it. Jon May and Jennifer Mysliwy were adorable as sweethearts Maury and Shirl and their ‘bump’ to Orleans’ “Still the One” took me back to a high school dance.

Directed by Randy Kramer with Robin Barker’s choreography, every moment of Disaster! Is replete with a sparkle, sass, site gags, and tongue-in-cheek bits that were more than fine. The sisters Drozd captured the era with point perfect hair, makeup and styles (my arches tensed all over again at the site of all those platform shoes), and Chris Cavanagh’s set, lighting projection and sound designs took us back to a shinier, glittery time. Theresa Quinn and the band pulled it all together with a great hit list of tunes. I knew every word. And I sang along with absolutely no shame.

I loved the humor, the details, and all that great music. Disaster! Is a success! Get there before it all goes down May 14. And yes, I wish I still had my red leather cork-platform sling backs to wear.

Disaster! runs a little over two hours with an intermission. I love MusicalFare’s clever and informative pre-show videos when I can hear them and I still miss a real paper playbill, but since I heard a hilarious take on Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” you’re forgiven this time.

History Takes Center Stage at Irish Classical

You feel his power, his presence, as soon as he sets foot on the stage.

Detroit actor Brian Marable has immediate, full command of your attention in Thurgood, presented by Irish Classical Theatre now until April 16.

A stellar one-actor show, Thurgood  is the self-narrated story of Supreme County Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first person of color to serve as a Justice…for justice.

The set up for this script written by George Stevens, Jr. and directed by Steve H. Broadnax III, is that Marshall is returning to his Howard University alma mater to reflect on his life. Marable enters the space with a cane as support and the slow, deliberate gait of an older gentleman. As he tells his story, he’s transported back to his feisty youth, the cane is forgotten, the tonality of his voice changes, the alacrity in his storytelling becomes more vibrant.

This is fine theatre for sure. Marable is captivating and engaging, You almost wish you could ask him questions and enter a dialogue as he talks about Marshall’s family, his first marriage which ended when his wife died, his second marriage and their two children, and the shifts in our society. Marable deftly used his booming voice to illustrate the passage of time, speaking more brightly as the younger jurist and more reservedly in later years. This was a subtle yet very powerful manipulation.

The script is a social history lesson, too. Marshall the man grew up in Baltimore and had first-hand experience with segregation, which surely guided his civil rights position in later years. He’s not preaching nor dictatorial here: his passion is a sure and steady flame and Marable portrays this handsomely.

Playwright Stevens crafted the best kind of storytelling here. The history lessons are woven into the (imagined) narrative with great skill. We’re meeting the man while learning his truth and the truth of others who walk in his figurative shoes.

A simple set by David King, just-right wardrobe (a suit and jurist robe, of course) by Vivian DelBello, create the right ambiance.

A note: you’ll hear some language that may make you uncomfortable, racial slurs, and words depicting violence. This is history that is not sugar-coated.

For tickets and information, visit http://www.irishclassical.com.

All Aboard for a Murder!

Sometimes you have to stick with the classics.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was published as a novel in 1934, made into films twice, and most recently was adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig. Over time and all these permutations, the story has retained its intricate web of mystery, deceit, sardonic wit, told by a complex cast of characters. All for One Productions’ latest version at Shea’s 710 Theatre captures it all on a pretty amazing stage, too.

All for One and the show’s director Kyle LoConti kept it all pretty mainstream and that simplicity was this show’s perfection. Lynne Koscielniak’s set is gorgeous: it revolves to reveal four distinct places – including the train’s dim and narrow aisle and it’s well-appointed a quite glamorous. Prop master Diane Almeter Jones and her team went for pure art deco elegance which was echoed by Lise Harty’s stunning costumes. You’re pulled into story immediately on the narrow video screen above the set which also becomes the moving train.

What’s a great set without a cast of actors in roles that fit them like fine calf skin gloves? Christian Brandjes is a marvelous Hercule Poirot, right down to the elaborate moustache. Gregory Gjurich is c’est magnifique as Monsieur Bouc, Poirot’s friend who helps get him aboard the train from Istanbul to London. Make sure you read the cast bios in the (really printed on page) playbill. Gjurich shows his devotion to his character in his entry. Lisa Ludwig is wonderfully brash as the only American, Mrs. Hubbard. Alas, there are plenty of aliases among this large cast and a couple actors who adroitly handle double roles. It’s all great fun. At the back of your mind, you know that the characters are in a world between wars, they’re fighting their inner battles, too, and yet they are swathed in a refined elegance that only can happen on a train in Europe. With murderers afoot. And revenge as a motive. Or was it?

Even if you’re blasé about having read the book, seen the movie(s), know the plot and its twists, this is mighty fine theatre. The set is an experience, the acting is superb, and whole experience is a pure delight. It’s a short run to April 2; find tickets and details at www.sheas.org.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express runs two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

The Play That Goes Wrong Gets It Absolutely Right

Here’s what I love about the WNY theatre community: there are the classics; there are the thought-provoking in-your-head-dramas; there are the social justice productions; there are soul-lifting musicals galore; and then there are the shows that are so silly and funny you laugh all the way home. And that, my friends, is The Play That Goes Wrong, onstage now at D’Youville Kavinoky Theatre.

It’s one of those “plays about a play” that gives the audience a glimpse behind the curtain at theatre’s inner workings. Although in this show, theatre’s inner workings aren’t working very well. This theatre company’s newest production is “The Murder at Haversham Manor” and at first, it’s the set that’s suffering from mantle pieces falling off and the director’s Duran Duran boxed set among the missing. And then the corpse isn’t properly dead. And the prop mistress is  reluctantly recast and eventually gets charmingly stage struck when the ingenue is suddenly stricken. Well, you get the picture.

What makes this production a cut above the usual play-within-a-play hijinks routines is the attention to detail all around. From Dyan Burlingame’s clever two-level set (spoiler alert, pieces break off a lot), costumes designed by Andrea Letcher to Donny Woodard’s collection of props, these fine points make a delightful production all the more special. Chris Cavanagh technical direction and trick creation (that’s what the program says) is pure stage magic.

The “actors” in this ersthwhile theatre company all play dual roles here. Brian Mysliwy is at his best as Inspector Carter whose searching for the killer. Kodi James’ best moments are as the deceased, and no, he’s not just laying there playing dead. He has one-eye-open (literally!) on what’s going on and he’s spot on. Don Gervasi is a riot as Thomas Colleymoore, resident rich guy in the manor. Jacob Albarella’s servant role is wonderfully understated and a snotty step out of any British drama on public broadcasting. It’s Steve Copps in the triad role that had me in stitches. His smallest part as Arthur the Gardener was the one to watch. He muggs for the audience. He smiles at the spotlight. He’s so good at being so bad. Alexandria Watts and Afrim Gjonbalaj as the stagehands were the perfect deadpan foils for the stage chaos of this acting troupe.

What I love best is that the show makes no apologies for what it is: a beautifully done send up of a theatre company that takes itself oh so seriously as stage disaster happens all around. It’s funny, it’s relaxing, and it’s just what we need in our theatre landscape right now. Kudos to directors Michael Galante and Adriano Gattos for assembling this just right onstage and offstage team.

The Play That Goes Wrong runs two hours with a 15-minute intermission to March 19. Make the time, see the show, laugh ‘til you can’t laugh anymore.

Every Brilliant Thing Sparks Joy at Shea’s Smith Theatre

Kids with a parent who is living with a mental illness diagnosis  develop an intriguing set of social skills. They quickly intuit to whom  they can confide, how to disappear into the woodwork during challenging moments, and how to fend for themselves if need be. They also learn how to love with a whole albeit broken heart. Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan MacMillan captures those highs and lows in a captivating one-actor show, produced by Second Generation Theatre and onstage now to March 18 at Shea’s Smith Theatre.

Kevin Craig is the young man who is reflecting on his life through the lens of his mother’s suicide attempts; the first time is when he was seven. His little boy wisdom includes the thought that perhaps he’s to blame for his mother’s mental state, so he figures he can also help save her life. He decides to make her a list of “every brilliant thing” that makes life worth living. Topping the list, of course, is ice cream and he moves through the everyday things that can spark a smile. His emphasis is more on the experience and not material things, and some are esoteric and thought-provoking. Like his fascination with like #521 –  “the word plinth.” When his mom makes another attempt 10 years later, he comes back to the list and it grows and becomes his touchstone, his comfort object. He continues to build the list throughout his life, on and off, in his own high moments and low moments.

Craig is magnificent. He’s funny, he’s wistful, he sprints around the stage like a puppy ready to play, he’s a hoot. His improv skills – no doubt honed by director Charmagne Chi in an amazing debut – are stellar and so smooth as he chats with the audience and engages the whole house in his deeply personal story.  He even pulled yours truly into a moment, not once but twice. (Sidebar: if you ever wondered if actors curry favor with reviewers to court a better review, that’s a big no. I mean…he called me old – twice! – in front of 100 people and well, so what if I am, but geez. And yet, I love him.) His more pensive, reflective moments still convey an energy and charm.

This is a charming, poignant, and engaging hour of theatre. While it’s primarily Craig on stage, he’s also in the audience a lot and audience members are brought to the stage for improv mini roles that are endearing and funny. One audience member is picked to be Mrs. Patterson, his elementary school counselor who speaks to troubled kids through a sock puppet. Yes, an audience member is charged with removing her sock on stage to embrace this important role.  

This work is a substantial departure from MacMillan’s other play recently on the Buffalo boards. His People, Places, and Things reprised by D’Youville Kavinoky Theatre earlier this year is a dark and authentic look substance abuse disorder and one woman’s journey to wellness.  While this show has its somber backstory, the focus is more on joy and appreciation for things large and small that keep us going.

The Second Generation team wisely engaged local agencies to table in the compact lobby bar and share resources. Representatives from these agencies also participate in Thursday post-show talkbacks. Full disclosure: when I’m not sitting in a theatre, I’m the Sr. Manager of Public Relations for Spectrum Health and Human Services, one of the sponsors of this outstanding production.  I love that this company took a risk on this production: its content is important and the presentation is well executed. Or in the words of author Margaret Atwood, “Hope is part of the human toolkit, along with the arts.”

The show is a fast-paced 60 minutes, no intermission, and you’ll leave with a tug in your heart for individuals who grapple with mental health issues every day…and perhaps a smile on your face for the WNY artistic community that reminds us that inspiration, help, and hope is all around us. Check out https://secondgenerationtheatre.com/ for tickets.

Also – sometimes even a million brilliant things aren’t enough. If you or someone you love is having suicidal ideations, call 988 for immediate intervention, or Spectrum Health’s 24/7 Help Line at 716 710 5172 or Crisis Services at 716 834 3131. There is always someone here for you.

BPO and ICTC Join Forces for a Storm Surge of Artistry

Irish Classical Theatre Company and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra built a beautiful model for collaboration with this series of theatre-set-to-music productions. The 2023 installment was Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Jean Sibelius’ incidental music and it was a lush and lavish visual and aural feast.

First of all, the music. It was stunning, and it helped advance the story in critical places. The soaring sounds in the brass told your ears that a ship was on treacherous seas. Pizzicato passages in the strings conveyed dramatic tension and the light moments in the woodwinds brought deliverance. Balancing the music against the story was essential to make the production fit into a two-hour performance footprint, too. Of course the orchestra under JoAnn Falletta’s baton got it right.

The theatrical side was a perfectly-cast delight. Gender bending Prospero to Prospera was a fine choice and  Aleks Malejs’s strong demeanor and velvety voice created an imposing persona. Yes, she could swirl the sea into a tempest, rule a country, demand the return of her power when thwarted, and raise a daughter, too. Hey, sometimes a sister has to show her brother who is really the boss. Prospera’s daughter Miranda is winsomely played by Sabrina Kahwaty, with a girlish charm overlaying her mom’s determination. Some of the region’s finest actors were hailed for the rest of the roles, too, sometimes against type, and forming a solid corps. Standouts were Marisa Caruso as the spritely Ariel, who leapt across the stage in a swirl of earthly colors. Kevin Craig (concurrently preparing for his solo performance in Second Generation Theatre’s Every Brilliant Thing opening this week) is Trinculo, the jester who is one of three Prospera enemies. Philip Farugia as the tipsy servant, Matt Witten as Prospera’s scheming brother Antonio who’s plotting with Sebastian (Todd Benzin) make a masterful albeit evil trio.

This was a substantial cast and production team, under the direction of Fortunato Pezzimenti. Vocal soloists and a choir of 10 (from the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus) sang back up, directed by Adam Luebke . The other force was the projection: sheer images of the sea and scenery were projected on the back of that lovely blonde wood stage, giving it a glimmer, a suggestion of the sea and the islandscape. David Dwyer and Jayson Clark as set and light designer respectively told the right amount of visual story here. Vivian DelBello’s costuming was elegant, as was Susan Drozd’s makeup and hair design.

Collaborations like these are testament to the gestalt of Western New York’s arts community: come together in strength and emerge even stronger. This partnership is laudable. Regrettably, time and expense make these limited engagements, but it’s gratifying to know that they endure for another year. Congratulations to the musicians, singers, actors, and production artists – and the administrators who raise the funds and program the seasons – for these gifts.

Show your support for both entities by visiting their websites (bpo.org and irishclassical.com), attending their regular performances, and contributing to their successful seasons.

Suspense on Stage at RLTP

Remember “Long Distance Call,” that episode of the incredible and timeless TV classic The Twilight Zone, where Billy Mumy’s grandmother gives him a play telephone and then she dies the next day? Whenever he picks up the phone, his grandma is talking to him.  The Thin Place, the new production at Road Less Traveled Theater, is as riveting and haunting as that 1961 episode. Maybe even moreso. Yes, I checked the backseat of my car before I got in after the show.

This is the WNY premiere of another work by lucas hnath and it breaks the fourth wall (while storytelling about the fifth dimension) in a way that is his signature style. As the story begins, house lights are up for several minutes as Hilda (Renee Landrigan) holds a cup of tea and starts talking about her grandma and their special relationship. Grandma was encouraging Hilda to see with her third eye, the one that is just behind her ‘seeing’ eyes, where communication is more felt than heard. Hilda’s mom called this satanic and demonic and banned Grandma from her home. Yet the lessons resonated with Hilda who would often sit quietly by candlelight to attempt to communicate with her grandma after she passed.

Hilda is an adult now, no longer living with her mom, when she meets Linda (Margaret Massman), a spiritual medium and she is captivated. They become friends and she soon meets others in Linda’s earthly circle, Sylvia (Kristen Tripp Kelley) and Jerry (David Mitchell), well-heeled jetsetters who have a different perspective on Linda’s ‘gift.’

Wow. Sounds like a simple parlor drama/relationship story, right? Nope. There are layers of story in here and piles of theatre magic wonderfully executed by the production team. Dyan Burlingame’s set is deceptively simple and Diane Almeter Jones’ props are the same. John Rickus does some creepy-good things with lighting; delaying and slowing the dimming of the house lights, cutting the stage lights (the theatre companion and I disagree on the critical duration of this black out. He says no more than :45 and I maintain it was a good 2:00 that I clutched his hand in terror). Sound Designer Katie Menke had some off-stage shattering and clattering to create, too.

Landrigan as Hilda ran the full emotional gamut, from almost shy to very knowing. This was an elegant performance. Massman was clever, convincing, mystical as the medium who was….or wasn’t. Tripp Kelley was easy to detest as the ‘friend’ with a jealous streak, and Mitchell brought a keen balance to this trio of women in complicated places.

All this was brought together by director Scott Behrend who let the strength of this content guide the simplicity of its presentation. This production is flawless, stop to finish, with its exquisite combination of story, actors, and production.

What I loved most about reading the playbill (yes, an actual book on paper with ink already) was reading about RLTP’s Bridge Program which has a college and high school student engaged in the production alongside working professionals. Best wishes to Brenda Bridges and Liam Rio respectively as you learn from the best in the business. I also loved the insert that had the story behind the story.

The Thin Place runs a gripping 90-minutes, with no intermission which would have broken the suspense and taken you away from a place beyond here and the beyond.  Find tickets and other info at www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org.

Sir Andrew’s Back in Town at MusicalFare

It takes a lot of stage presence to command a stage solo for more than an hour. And that’s exactly what Leah Berst does in Tell Me on a Sunday, onstage now at MusicalFare Theatre.

Berst has the power (and the chops) to sing her way through this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black one-woman song cycle. They wrote it in 1979, post Webber’s Evita, and the original plan was for it to be a TV program. Perhaps Sir Webber was still Rainbow High-weary; outside of the title song and the familiar tune “An Unexpected Song,” the melodies are Webber-predictable and the story is fairly flat.

That’s not to say that Berst isn’t commanding and outstanding on stage: she’s fantastic. It’s the script that doesn’t rise to her level, sadly.

In brief, Berst’s unnamed character leaves her home in the UK for New York City and love. That love fails, so it’s on to someone new. And then someone new and younger And then someone in California.. And then someone new and married. In between, she’s emailing her mum, getting angry at girlfriends, endeavoring to earn her green card, while remaining a hopeful romantic.

There are some fun moments. The repetitive “It’s Not the End of the World” (If I Lose Him, If He’s Younger, If He’s Married) is clever. Berst pours her heart into “Come Back With The Same Look in Your Eyes” and it’s lovely. Her self-righteous anger in “Let Me Finish” is classic break up material. She maintains her optimism with “Dreams Never Run On Time.” Le sigh…

Therese Quinn assembled a fine back up band, with Larry Albert on guitar, Jim Celeste on drums, Mike Moser on bass, Jim Runfola on woodwinds, and Gail Bauser playing cello which is absolutely lovely against Berst’s high range voice. Chris Cavanagh’s set is eye appealing and he uses some fun videos that help move the flimsy story along. It was fun to see other actors in video cameos, almost like a “Where’s Waldo of Buffalo Theatre.”

What I appreciate best about this show is its brevity: an hour and 10 minutes with no intermission. If COVID did one good thing for theatre, it’s the new emphasis on shorter productions. The Theatre Companion and I arrived early enough to enjoy good conversation in the Cabaret and lingered a few minutes post-show to enjoy Quinn and Randy Kramer getting four hands on the piano. It’s always great fun at MusicalFare.

I’m no fan of digital programs (I know…it saves money, it is contact-less, more to read on your own time…I get it), but I do love MusicalFare’s super creative use of the in-theatre video monitors before the program. Nell Mohn, Director of Strategic Development, was informative and entertaining in her video which explained the valueand need for fundraising. As a recovering fundraiser, I love and respect her enthusiasm for this challenging work.

Tell Me on a Sunday runs to March 19: visit musicalfare.com for tickets and details.