Support Local Theatre By Supporting Our People in Need

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Support a worthy cause while you enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

On Friday, June 8, at 11pm, members of the national touring company of LOVE NEVER DIES will partner with Alleyway Theatre to present LATE NIGHT WITH THE CAST, a benefit concert to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and for the WNED/WBFO Artie Awards effort to benefit Erie County Medical Center’s HIV/AIDS and Immunodeficiency Services.

LATE NIGHT WITH THE CAST will feature members of the cast of the national touring company of LOVE NEVER DIES singing songs from musicals and performers that inspired them to become a performer.

“We’ve decided on tributes to the performances that have inspired us. So each of us is going to sing something from a show or by a particular performer that have shaped who each of us is as an artist,” said LOVE NEVER DIES cast member Adam Soniak.

Set to appear are Karen Mason (Broadway’s MAMMA MIA!, HAIRSPRAY, SUNSET BOULEVARD), Correy West (Broadway’s NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, SOUTH PACIFIC), Lucas John Thompson (Broadway’s CATS), Sean Thompson (Broadway’s SUNSET BOULEVARD), and more!

Selections will include music from SMASH, DREAMGIRLS, MAN OF LA MANCHA, THE LITTLE MERMAID, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, and NATASHA PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812.

Alleyway Theatre is thrilled to build on the success of April’s PHANTOM UNMASKED benefit.  “When cast members of LOVER NEVER DIES contacted Alleyway Theatre Associate Artistic Director Chris J Handley about doing another benefit, we responded with an immediate yes.  We’re looking forward to another very special performance and are proud to serve such worthy causes” said Joyce Stilson, Alleyway’s Director of Public Relations.

Alleyway Theatre (672 Main St, Buffalo) will open the doors to the Main Street Cabaret at 10:30pm and the performance will begin at 11pm. Seating is limited and your kind donation of $25 (or more) is appreciated. Visit www.alleyway.com for details and to make tour donation to reserve your seat.

ECMCʼs HIV/AIDS and Immunodeficiency services are the largest comprehensive care center of its kind in Western New York. The hospital’s immunodeficiency clinic is also a PCMH Level 3 Certified Clinic.  The Immunodeficiency Services group strives to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS with physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, case managers, nutritional consultants, drug counselors, and mental health counselors on staff and also through partnerships with a myriad of community agencies.

In providing care, ECMC’s Immunodeficiency Services group aims to meet several important goals:

  • Improving quality of life for HIV-positive patients through early intervention and optimal care.
  • Providing HIV/AIDS clinical education and consultation to providers.
  • Offer advocacy and case management services for HIV/AIDS patients.
  • Establish HIV prevention as a top priority.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts. Broadway Cares also awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, providing lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling and emergency assistance.

For more information, please visit Broadway Cares online at broadwaycares.org, at facebook.com/BCEFA, at instagram.com/BCEFA, at twitter.com/BCEFA and at youtube.com/BCEFA.

Theatre Review: ‘Buffalo Quickies’ at Alleyway Theatre

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The cast of Kick Up Your Heals and Shout. Included in “Buffalo Quickies” at Alleyway Theatre.

It’s Alleyway Theatre’s spring rite of passage: the 27th annual “Buffalo Quickies” is replete with local talent, some Buffalo nostalgia, and a few things I just can’t figure out.

While some of the ‘quickies’ don’t always hit the highest playwriting mark, what is consistently impressive is watching the agility and versatility of the actors.

On opening night, director Joyce Stilson pointed out that of the eight playwrights represented in the line- up, seven are from Buffalo. This is significant: Buffalo’s cache as an arts and cultural beacon shines even brighter when local talent is recognized in meaningful ways. It’s a Buffalo gal’s work that leads off the night. Playwright Donna Hoke’s “Spirit of Buffalo” starts with the local soundtrack of the ‘70s, the “Talkin’ Proud” song,  which leads us to a cold ride on a snowy roadway. Andrew Zuccari is the mysterious Beau Fleuve (get it?) who raps on the window of Jacquie Cherry’s car as they wait for the road to clear. He’s a down home guy, and she’s a frustrated, sullen expat who finally remembers that a beef and weck and loganberry martini – served for a good Samaritan – can warm both heart and soul. Or as Beau Fleuve says, “We’re Buffalo. Crisis brings out the best in us.”

Zuccari gets into a summer groove for “Lawn Wars,” where he and neighbor Christopher Standart verbally mow each other down over the natural verses cultivated appearance of their adjoining properties. You have to love Zuccari’s tongue-twisting monologues and epitaphs in this world premiere as the two men tussle to find “turf détente.” Playwright  Matthew Boyle, like Hoke , is another local Quickie veteran.

Another world premiere “The Offer” has an out-of-this-world premise: ex-NASA scientist Grace (Cherry) is being offered an opportunity to test her research in a galaxy far, far away. Playwright Bella Poyton leaves you hanging, with plenty to think through with this one. What’s it like to live your dream if it means you’re never coming home?

“Notice” is a regional premiere by Peter Snoad that really highlights the versatility of actors Kate Olena and Bill Lovern. In just a few minutes, they change characters three times around a cryptic message on a t-shirt: Writers Notice. This show was a finalist in the Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition last year: it has the right combination of funny and ironic moments.

Standart, Cherry, Olena, and Lovern are back again when local legendary broadcaster/playwright and Quickie veteran Mike Randall premieres “Johnny Stormcatcher” about a fed-up TV meteorologist who has had it with his toupee, his news director, and years of bad management decisions.

Another world premiere “The Death of Melendez” puts Standart and Lovern in the bleachers of a baseball stadium. Lovern prides himself on keeping accurate gameday records, Standart just likes to yell at the pitcher he loves to hate.

“When the Skeletons In Our Closets Choke on Candy Corn” pairs Zuccari and Tom Dreitlein as Halloween party guests who escape to the backyard for a metaphysical moment.

The fast-paced evening ends with the 2017 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition winner, “Kick Your Heels Up and Shout” by J. Snodgrass. Another local send up, this time focusing on a family (Cherry, Lovern, Olena) who take the Buffalo Bills’ desire to “squish the fish” very seriously.

While some of the ‘quickies’ don’t always hit the highest playwriting mark, what is consistently impressive is watching the agility and versatility of the actors. The same corps has a whirlwind of characters, costume changes, moods, and nuances throughout this 90-minute experience.  The real standout this year is Jacquie Cherry. In one night she morphs from snobbish expat to sullen teen to snubbed scientist with a latent hunger for discovery.

“Buffalo Quickies” is a local tradition that never disappoints. Alleyway Theatre is unique in this commitment to the one act genre, and for the theatre community, it’s one more reason to be talkin’ proud(ly). OK, had to do it. It’s been bugging me for almost 40 years!

Running Time: 90 minutes, with 10 minute intermission.

“Buffalo Quickies” runs until May 5, 2018 and is performed at Alleyway theatre. For more information, click here

Theatre Review: ‘Beginning Again’ at Alleyway Theatre

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The cast of “Beginning Again” at Alleyway Theatre.

Whether there are five, seven or — who knows — twelve and one-half stages of grief over loss would be a debate in which few of us are willing to take part.  After all, it’s not likely to be pretty, this talking of grief.  And if we’re willing to take a guess, we would guess that Roland Oliver is none too happy about exploring them either.  And who could blame him.  Really.

. . .the dialogue, the script throughout from start to end, and how well all of the actors exchange the demands of it that gives “Beginning Again” its strength.  The more charm the better.  

Nevertheless, he will.  And that’s because in “Beginning Again,” — winner of Alleyway Theater’s 2016 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition – we are taken through three seasons (acts) of Roland’s progression of grief over the loss of his wife, jamming however many stages of grief we might dispense into it.  You might think: that’s a lot.  And you might be right.  

But that’s okay, because it is David Alan Brown’s script that is the leading light here, after all, it won the Alleyway prize competition which, by its very definition must be unique and not imitative of a typical TV or film script.  Mr. Brown won the prize with good reason.  He doesn’t seek to define the stages of grief, he rather seems to want to dissect and scatter them to dust.  

His script takes us through three seasons – winter, then autumn, then spring – making a single stop at each season and the progression of Roland Oliver’s trying to come to grips with the death of his wife.  Roland is a critic by trade of, well, various art forms, and unavoidably a critic of the grieving process and even life.  It has been his occupation.  He needs to define, understand all of it, and this is what drives the play forward.

The first act finds him on a train where he meets Anita Bryant (not the Florida Oranges Anita Bryant) but an Anita Bryant whose life experience includes falling down a well as a child.  Anita is a survivor and she seems to do so simply, with street-wise answers and anecdotes to Roland’s struggle.  There are no easy answers for Roland in this early stage, and he would not have them anyway.  So Anita’s gifts only provoke his underlying grief, which helps bring forward Roland’s angry rage and an emotional breakdown right there on the train.  But Roland goes up and down swinging, much to actor David Hayes’ credit.

In autumn, Roland is in woodsy rural Pennsylvania where he meets Gene, who is fishing along the road to his land.  After Roland has another emotional breakdown, Gene, a vaguely proclaimed wise old man, offers up Roland some down-home advice which Roland is typically skeptical about. But Gene’s skills are an even better match for Roland’s criticism.  Or maybe Roland has, in the time that has passed, become more open to healing.

In spring, Roland meets with his gifted son, Dante, at an art gallery.  It’s awkward.  They have yet to take the time to speak of their grief, but their memories of family’s shared history brings them closer to one another and to the understanding of their mournful never ending.  Through it all are raised more questions than answers as to grief and its stages, as light is shed on the subject of coping with a strobe effect more than a shining beacon.  But questions likely have no simple answer, and they may be fleeting, and it all may come down to how Roland and Dante look at it.   The prism they bring.

Make no mistake.  A synopsis of “Beginning Again” does not begin to describe Brown’s script, nor the play as a whole.  Together with Alleyway’s production, this script is about an everlasting grief, a momentary coping, a desire to move forward and move on with meaning and, obviously, a search for where to begin again.  Among these the script presses on the paradoxes of how we cope with emotional stress and the things we tell ourselves and one another.

All of this the script conveys with philosophical musings, intelligent ruminations, humorous wit and lyrical dialogue.  It is left to the actors to lend the charm.  They move through it wonderfully and convincingly covering, as it does, so much in so little time.  Anita, played by, Smirna Mercedes-Perez, brings a welcome lightness and humor, a sense of realism and contrast to the usually stoic Roland; and Tom Owen gives a wonderfully wise yet smart-alecky feel to Gene the fisherman.  But it’s the dialogue, the script throughout from start to end, and how well all of the actors exchange the demands of it that gives “Beginning Again” its strength.  The more charm the better.  

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes

“Beginning Again” runs until March 10, 2010 and is presented at Alleyway Theatre. For more information, click here.

 

Theatre Review: ‘Killer Rack – The Feminist Horror Musical Comedy’ at Alleyway Theatre

“There’s something more going on here than your usual human remains scattering.”

So says James Cichocki’s Detective Bartles toward the end of the Alleyway musical “Killer Rack,” in a brief moment of calm, before the topless plot bounces and bounds its way to a camp-horror conclusion that will send you laughing into the lobby. “Something more,” indeed.

“Killer Rack” is the world premiere of Alleyway Theatre Executive Director Neal Radice’s successful stage adaptation of the camp/cult movie-musical of the same name, which was filmed in Buffalo and released in 2015. Billed a “Feminist Horror Musical Comedy,” it is riotously funny, passably “musical,” more charmingly grotesque than horrifying, and not even arguably a little bit feminist. It’s also the most straight-up and unmitigated fun audiences will have had at an Alleyway season premiere in quite some time.

. . .Radice has written a very good script, full of winks, puns, sight-gags, non sequiturs, and a healthy scattering of human remains — but also full of real human emotion.

Betty Downer (Emily Yancey), an earnest, flat-chested girl with a rapey boss and a schlub boyfriend named Dutch, seeks a fuller, rounder, more elevated experience of life, and decides to get a boob job. Instead of going to, say, Dr. Samuel Shatkin, she goes to Dr. Libby Niptuck, who is sort of like a Scientologist, if Scientologists read the fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft instead of the fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Instead of the usual silicon, Niptuck augments Betty’s breasts with the spawn of Mamora, some sort of faux-Cthulhic-breast-deity, which is after what all faux-Cthulhic-breast-deities are after: total world domination.

Or maybe the reification of mankind’s devotional-sex drive, sublimated over the years into a widely practiced cult of distorted body images wrought in plastic and pixels, channeled into aesthetic surgery, dog-face filters, and the iPhone X Portrait Mode — now, before the ascendant breasts, become a very real form of willing, bodily, bloody sacrifice.

Or maybe just a good time. This fine point of character motivation isn’t clear.

But no matter: the implants begin to take over Betty’s mind as well as her body — just as she’s begun to fall in love with a sweatervested and virginal Mr. Right (Nathan Andrew Miller as Tim Trite). For color, Radice tosses in a few cheekily undeveloped subplots involving a nurse who loves knives, a cut-rate soothsayer, a French film critic, and a detective duo suffering from ulcer-related complications and the desire to be a dad, respectively.

Emily Yancey’s singing is strong and controlled but entirely absent spinto, gravel, and a belter’s afterburners — which makes hers the perfect voice to lead the show. It would be easy to let Betty Downer become a kind of idiot, but Yancey’s total earnestness, which infuses every line and gesture, manages to ride the rough tides of the play’s ridiculous plot with an even keel. This earnestness is so total that, when her demon breast-babies “take over,” seeking bloody sacrifice, it’s less an act of mind-control than full-body puppetry. With her loose lunatic smile, oculogyric spasms, and pinocchio-arms akimbo, Yancey plays this physical comedy to great effect. Kim Piazza, in a powerful turn as Dr. Niptuck, matches Yancey’s energy and control, down to the last deranged eye-twitch, and grounds her with a chestier mezzo-soprano.

Joey Bucheker also shows his range as both Nurse Candida, larger-than-life Latina and comic foil to Niptuck, as well as Detective Jaymes, who helps to investigate the bloody boob-related murders. In this role he plays the sidekick and straight man to James Cichocki’s hilarious Detective Bartles. Cichocki is three parts Philip Marlowe, two parts Daniel Craig , another two parts Elwood Blues, and one part Bran Stark (Season 7). (The math is complicated, but trust me.) Filming Bucheker and Cichocki in a serialized police procedural could usher in a Fourth Golden Age of Television.

Nathan Andrew Miller has a very fine voice, and he’s believable as Tim Trite, whose bowtie and hand puppets have relegated him to Betty Downer’s friend zone. In an uncorseted play spilling over with catcalls and scores of synonyms for “teat,” Nathan manages to bring real weight to his role, convincing us that he loves Betty for her personality, while at the same time responding naturally to her killer rack. The play’s few moments of successful pathos depend on him. But — because of an unfortunate combination of man and material — Nathan’s two solos, “Inner Beauty” and “It’s A Date,” are the criminally boring parts all the more noticeable in an otherwise rapid comedy. The lyrics are banal and overlong, and Nathan stays rooted to whatever spot the other characters left him in, singing beautifully, without a single boob in sight. At least in this role, Miller — and these songs — can’t hold the stage alone.

“Killer Rack” is the professional debut of Andrew Zuccari, here playing the boyfriend Dutch and two different catcallers — the first like a perverted Drake and Josh-era Josh Peck and the other played like a European comfortable with group sex. His straight-faced and full-throttle exploration of man-boy misogyny is one of the show’s strongest features. At the tender age of 19, his acting is the least sophisticated of the leads — but it also works. His scenes feel like and could compete with the best of “Mad TV.” His timing and delivery show great promise, and I’ll be shocked and disappointed if he doesn’t soon take a turn in a some drama from Miller or Mamet at Irish or Kavinoky.

While bad pit bands can do more damage to a production than even the strongest lead could cover up, any musical without a live band is reduced to a shadow of its potential. The use of recordings exposes Radice’s musical direction and sound as the show’s weak links. The lyrics are often quite sharp and the leads are all strong-enough singers, but the scores are, at best, inoffensive. You will not be humming these melodies as you leave the theatre, which will hinder the production’s chances of success on the road. Some — like the Miller solos — structurally sag. Harmonies, likewise, could use a lift — a problem worsened when ensemble members repeatedly soar into sour notes, curdling the entire effect. The recordings sound tinny and insufficient — and the choice of music for a “nightclub” puts in mind a Korean knock-off of an early Mario Kart game.

But Radice has written a very good script, full of winks, puns, sight-gags, non sequiturs, and a healthy scattering of human remains — but also full of real human emotion. His directing clearly has made the most both of that strong script and his excellent cast.

Toward the end of the show, an elderly gentleman to my right, clad in a white cardigan sweater and his usher’s nametag — “Don” — couldn’t help exclaiming, “There are beasts in those breasts!

Right you are, Don. Right you are. But the show’s irrepressible spirit doesn’t stop at the bra-less boobs.

Running Time: 2 Hours with one 10 minute intermission.

Advisory: Some Adult Content

“Killer Rack – The Feminist Horror Musical Comedy” runs until October 7, 2017 and is presented at Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo. For more information, click here.