Theatre Review: ‘Christmas Over The Tavern’ at MusicalFare Theatre

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The cast of “Christmas Over The Tavern” at MusicalFare Theatre.

It is so incredibly rare that I get to review a show in Buffalo that is a world premiere. Buffalo is the home of tried and true classics, and it is common to review productions that have been done to death. It is refreshing every now and then when I get the opportunity to say something new about a piece of theatre that is also brand new. I feel like I am in New York! Although I am not, it is nice to be one of the first press members to give their opinions on a show, and thanks to the folks and MusicalFare, I get to do just that with their world premiere musical by Buffalo native Tom Dudzick, “Christmas Over The Tavern.”

. . .it is sure to entertain audiences all throughout the holiday season.

Based on the characters from his play “Over The Tavern”, Tom Dudzick creates a brand new musical story featuring the Pazinski family as they get ready for the holidays. Having workshopped the show at MusicalFare in 2017 and writing the book, lyrics, and score, Dudzick creates a musical the hits the beats that all musicals should, but lacks one thing, heart.

Starring in the role of Rudy is young actor Michael Scime, who shows no fear on stage, and earns his keep up there with veterans Jacob Albarella, Wendy Hall, and Pamela Rose Mangus. Scime is still learning his craft but does a great job delivering jokes and getting laughs. He is a crowd favorite.

Pamela Rose Mangus plays Sister Clarissa, and is hilarious. I never went to Catholic school, and never really encountered the wrath of a nun, but Mangus delivers a fantastic performance that is sure to make you laugh and smile, even if you are not of the catholic faith. She is a powerhouse on stage, and has wonderful comedic chops.

Jacob Albarella does a very nice job as Chet, the Pazinski patriarch, in this piece. Of all the characters in this show, his character is the most developed in Dudzick’s script, and shows the most arc in the overall storyline. You can empathize with his pain, and his frustration, throughout the holiday season, as he has flashbacks to the good days of yesteryear.

The rest of the cast, including Wendy Hall, Caroline Schettler, Issac Fesmire, and Samuel Fesmire do a great job rounding out the rest of the Pazinski clan, and all shine in their various numbers and sub-plots.

Dudzick’s musical numbers are fun and bouncy but are easily forgettable. There really are no tunes that you will be humming on your way out of the theatre, but he does a good job keeping his story moving and hitting all the beats that a musical needs to hit to keep the audience engaged.

All the characters have their storylines, Rudy wants to be in the christmas pageant, Georgie wants a to speak for Christmas, Ellen wants her husband to be happy again, Chet wants to relive the good old days, Annie is looking for love, and Eddie is contemplating enlisting in the army. These sub plots keep the story rolling, but as a viewer, I had trouble connecting with any of the characters, or caring if they succeeded in their goals. I guess the stakes were just not high enough for me, and if the Pazinski’s didn’t end up having a Merry Christmas, it wouldn’t have phased me in the slightest. The sad thing is, that I wanted to care about them, and I wanted to be welcomed into their lives, but the opportunity just never presented itself.

Dudzick does a great job putting in the Buffalo area references as well, like the Clinton Bailey Market, and the New York State Thruway, but I would be interested in seeing if these references mean anything to anyone outside of the Buffalo area. The nostalgia also ages this brand new show to a point that I fear contemporary audiences will have a hard time connecting with the humor and lives of the Pazinskis.

Overall, this show was a miss for me. But, it has sold out it’s run, so it is sure to entertain audiences all throughout the holiday season.

Running Time: 2 Hours 15 minutes with one-15 minute intermission.

“Christmas Over The Tavern” runs until December 19, 2018 and is sold out, at MusicalFare Theatre. For more information, click here.

First Look: ‘Christmas Over The Tavern’ at MusicalFare Theatre

Tom Dudzick’s “Over The Tavern” is not only a local favorite that highlights our great city, but is one that is an international favorite as well. The characters are well known, it is nostalgic, and there is just something relatable about the “Over The Tavern” stories. This was something that Dudzick wanted to explore again, and because of this he began working on a new project with the characters that we all know and love, a musical “Christmas Over The Tavern.”

“It was a long time since Tom wrote a musical” says Randy Kramer, executive and artistic director at MusicalFare Theatre, “he came up with a new story that takes place during the holidays, and he sent it to me.”

Kramer says that Dudzick approached him some time ago to see if he would be interested in workshopping a new production at MusicalFare. “I was interested, and we had a few meetings about the show, and over the course of a year or so, Tom had a script written and a pretty good section of the score completed.”

MusicalFare did a workshop in spring of 2017 of the show. “This was a great experience for me to help create a new show, and for Tom because he was able to see how musicals worked and we gave notes to better his material,” says Kramer. “There are many things that musicals need to work, like pacing, time between songs, underscoring, these were all things that Tom got from working with us, and I think it was a great journey for him to go through.”

After the workshop, Dudzick continued the write the script. “Tom got it to a great point. It is a stand alone story that you don’t need to see the other shows to understand,” says Kramer, “there are no references to the other shows in it. I think the audiences will really enjoy it.”

Musical director Theresa Quinn is feverishly working on orchestrating the score. “Theresa is writing the orchestrations for a four piece band, taking Tom’s music and changing keys so that they would be more comfortable for the actors to sing,” says Kramer.

The cast is enjoying themselves. “There is always an excitement that an actor has when they get to originate a role,” says Kramer, “and this is a wonderful opportunity for them all.”

Tickets are selling fast. “We are completely amazed at how quickly these tickets are selling. It’s a good problem to have,” laughs Kramer. If you want to visit the Pazinski family this holiday season, you better get your tickets now!

“Christmas Over The Tavern” opens on November 14 and runs through December 16, 2018. For more information, click here.