Top 10 Shows of 2018

As the year comes to a close, Buffalo Theatre Guide is pleased to announce the TOP 10 Shows of 2018, based on page views! These shows were reviewed by a Buffalo Theatre Guide writer, and the review was shared via social media. These shows will be honored with a certificate which will be mailed to the theatre in the new year. Congratulations to all the winners this year!

Honorable Mentions:

15: “Jesus Christ Superstar” – American Repertory Theatre Of WNY

Review is here.

14. “Annie” – Lancaster Opera House

Review is here.

13. “Once” – MusicalFare Theatre

Review is here.

Steven Copps and Renee Landrigan in ‘Once’ at MusicalFare Theatre.

12. “Alice in Wonderland” – Aurora Players

Review is here.

The Cast of “Alice In Wonderland” at Aurora Players. Photo by Dori Shear-McGowan.

11. “Mamma Mia!” Kavinoky Theatre

Review is here.

TOP 10 Shows of 2018

10: “Big Fish” – Second Generation Theatre Company

Review is here. 

9. “Mary Poppins” – Theatre In The Mist

Review is here.

 

8. “All My Sons” – Niagara Regional Theatre Guild

Review is here.

The cast of “All My Sons” by Niagara Regional Theatre Guild.

 

7.  “Spring Awakening” – MusicalFare Theatre

Review is here.

The cast of MusicalFare’s ‘Spring Awakening.’ Photo by Chris Cavanagh.

6. “Sive” –  Irish Classical Theatre

Review is here. 

Josephine Hogan and Kiana Duggan-Haas in “Sive” at Irish Classical Theatre.

5.  “The Wizard of Oz” – Rocking Horse Productions

Review is here.

4.  “And Then There Were None” at Aurora Players

Review is here.

The cast of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” at Aurora Players. Photo by Dori Shear-McGowan.

3.  “Oliver!” at Lancaster Opera House

Review is here.

2.   Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” at Lockport Palace Theatre

Review is here.

The cast of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” at Lockport Palace Theatre.

 

1. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street –  Kavinoky Theatre

Review is here.

Loraine O’Donnell and Matt Witten in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street” at Kavinoky Theatre.

Theatre Review: ‘Mamma Mia!’ at Kavinoky Theatre

The cast of “Mamma Mia!” at Kavinoky Theatre.

My reviewer’s reserve lasted about 20 minutes, and after that, I couldn’t help myself.  I started singing along.  And I wasn’t alone.

That’s the power of “Mamma Mia!” on stage at Kavinoky Theatre until January 28. You can’t help riding the ‘70s wave again and belting out those toe-tapping ABBA tunes.

Overall, it’s a fine production of a familiar musical with a fabulous cast. It’s the perfect choice for a cold winter night, too.  Does this reviewer recommend it? I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do!

Director Lynne Kurdziel Formato put together a powerhouse cast of 23 actors who are on fire with fun in this one. And what a cast. Arianne Davidow is luminous as curious child Sophie, who is determined to figure out her paternity before her wedding.  Debbie Pappas Sham plays ex-rock singer single mom Donna Sheridan to the hilt. Her cover of “The Winner Takes it All” is more poignant and soulful than the original. Her galpals from her Donna and the Dynamos days – Tanya and Rosie played by Loraine O’Donnell and Lisa Ludwig – are hysterical. Tender and caring as they croon “Chiquitita” and having a blast reliving their past in “Dancing Queen” (Truly, what girl hasn’t sung into her, um, curling iron like a rock star in the privacy of her bedroom?), the trio’s voices are wonderfully melded. Then we meet the other trio – the potential Dads that Sophie secretly snuffed out from her mom’s diary. And…(read that as dot dot dot), they are sublime. Matt Witten (fresh from his smooth and slimy salesman gig in Road Less Traveled Production’s “Glengarry Glen Ross”) is Bill Austin the globetrotting writer who never settles down. Doug Weyand is the suave Brit Harry Bright (he nails the accent consistently, too, which is impressive).  When he and Donna pair up for “Our Last Summer,” it’s sweet with old memories. Peter Palmisano is the hot-as-heck architect Sam Carmichael who covers “Knowing Me, Knowing You” expertly.  He and Donna make good work of “SOS,” too.

The whole ensemble is remarkable. Scan the crowd for familiar faces like Kelly Copps, Arin Dandes, and Bobby Cooke: you’re used to seeing them in featured or starring roles. Here they are happy to sing and dance along with an energetic troupe of emerging actors. It’s great to see so many students and recent grads blending seamlessly with their more experienced cast members. What a great tribute to the outstanding theatre programs in our region! Indeed Sky, the husband-to-be played by William Hin is finishing his senior year at the University at Buffalo: he and Davidow are a winsome pair. I hope he sticks around after grad: he can grow into all kinds of roles in our robust theatrical community.

David King’s simple Greek isle set is enhanced with the new LED curtains that display lush scenery views. This is old hat for director Formato: she’s worked with this technology in Europe for years. The swirling shapes and cheesy floating hearts are distracting: I liked the authentic blue sky-white sand beach scenes better.

There’s more than a few winning moments: Rosie and Bill (O’Donnell and Witten) have real chemistry when they pair up on “Take a Chance on Me.” Tanya (yes, that’s Ludwig under the brunette bobbed wig) has the guys eating out of her hand in “Does Your Mother Know.”

One tiny wrinkle is the music: keeping true to the Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus tunes is mandatory, so the sound (three electronic keyboards plus piano bass, guitar, and some percussion) sometimes sounded tinny and over processed. Stick to the center of the house or the balcony and focus your ears on the voices on stage.

Overall, it’s a fine production of a familiar musical with a fabulous cast. It’s the perfect choice for a cold winter night, too.  Does this reviewer recommend it? I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do!

Running Time: 2 Hours with a 15-minute intermission.

“Mamma Mia!” runs until January 28, 2018 and is presented at The Kavinoky Theatre. For more information, click here.

‘Mamma Mia!’ Introduces New Tech at The Kav

Ah, the craggy coastline of Greece.  The bright sunshine.  The brilliant blue of the Mediterranean.  In January.  In Buffalo.

When “Mamma Mia!” opens at The Kavinoky Theatre on January 5, your eyes will be treated to these vivid images, thanks to state of the art LED curtains. Kavinoky is the only local theatre using this innovative technology.

“They are similar to the screens you see at rock concerts that project large images behind the stage,” says Managing Director Loraine O’Donnell. “This is a total game changer for our set design in the theatre.”

The curtains function as LED TV screens with the ability to show moving or still images in versatile configurations. “Mamma Mia!” will have a 10-foot swath that will stretch across the stage with two smaller panels on either side.

Director Lynne Kurdziel Formato is familiar with this technology, having used similar devices in Europe. For “Mamma Mia!,” adding new technology to an Edwardian-style house that’s presenting a contemporary production is an interesting combination of forces that will add great dimension to an already rich production. She says, “Scenery of this nature gives you a sense of time and place. The curtains as part of the scenery will operate in a number of different ways. It allows scenic elements to move in a more cinematic ways, and has movement as you transition from scene to scene.”

“Mamma Mia!” is a regional premiere, with a stellar line-up featuring some of the region’s finest singers and actors, with Debbie Pappas as Donna, Arianne Davidow as daughter Sophie,  Loraine O’Donnell and Lisa Ludwig as friends Rosie and Tonya, and Peter Palmisano, Doug Weyand, and Matt Witten as the trio of maybe-dads. Kurdziel Formato says the ensemble is replete with actors who also play leading roles in other companies. She says, “It’s an extraordinary ensemble and incredible professional cast.”

She says, it’s the perfect show for our times. “In the dead of winter in Buffalo, coming to see and hear an uplifting show about pursuing  your dreams and how it’s never too late to change your pathway, a  show like “Mamma Mia!” offers positive reinforcement that life is good. “ And if that doesn’t do it, all those danceable, sing-a-long-able ABBA tunes are there in full force.

The purchase of the LED curtains are supported by a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo with funds from its J. Warren and Charles Donald Perry Memorial Fund.

“Mamma Mia!” runs January 5 – 28, 2018 and is presented at The Kavinoky Theatre. For more information, click here.