A Sure Sign of Spring: Shea’s Announces Next Season’s Schedule

Shea’s Buffalo Theatre is going back to its roots as a movie house with the M&T Bank 2020-21 Broadway Series. Six of the seven mainstage offerings either began their lives on the silver screen or have already been made into films. Venerable producing partner Albert Nocciolino joined Shea’s  President  Michael G. Murphy to announce next year’s season at a subscriber’s event held Tuesday night.

An exciting kick off to the season – and another economic boon for Buffalo – are two national tours are launching on Shea’s stage. This also means that Shea’s will host the tech and stage crews for extended stays, with an estimated $3 million in regional economic impact for the region, says Murphy, along with creating work for local theatre technicians.  This is made possible by a New York State program that incents Broadway productions to launch from an upstate – in our case a Western New York – theatre, an opportunity enjoyed by our city coffers for five years.

The first of these productions is “Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird,” starring Richard Thomas, August 15-22. This is Aaron Sorkin’s script which was produced this season at the Kavinoky Theatre. Thomas – long remembered for his TV character John Boy Walton – will star as Atticus Finch.

Next up and the second national launch is the stage version of the 1982 comedy “Tootsie,” October 3-10. It’s the same fun story: an out of work actor wins roles when he dresses in drag, with a score written by David Yazbeck who also the score for “The Band’s Visit” coming to Shea’s this April, along with “The Full Monty” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

The next movie on stage in “Pretty Woman The Musical,” where the hooker with a heart of gold wins over emotionally remote rich dude. All the scenes you loved in the 1990 movies are tied together with a score by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and his longtime song writing partner Jim Vallance.

The 2019 Tony award winning revival of “Oklahoma” is on stage January 26-31. The New York Times called it the “the coolest production of the year is from 1943” because of its inventive restaging of an American classic and the fresh arrangements of the lovely Rodgers and Hammerstein score.

Another classic,  the Lincoln Center Theater Production of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” follows March 23-28.

The season’s juke box musical is “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, The Life and Times of The Temptations,” dances on stage May 11 to 16.

Closing out the season is another hit from the snowy silvery screen, “Frozen,” June 16-27.

Two special engagements round out the season: “Hamilton” returns November 3-20. Season subscribers may opt to include this as part of their season; and “Dear Evan Hansen,” April 13-18.

Murphy also announced the new seasons for Shea’s other theatre properties.  For the third season, O’Connell & Company will be in residence at Shea’s Smith Theatre. This season begins with “Nunsensations A-Men,” January 8-17, followed by “SUDS: The Rocking ‘60s Musical Soap Opera,” March 5-14, and the return of “Betsy Carmichael’s BINGO PALACE, “ April 29-May 2. Also in residence at Shea’s Smith is Second Generation Theatre. This company’s season begins October 16 with the play “Constellations,”  until November 1, followed by Jason Robert Brown’s lush musical “Songs for a New World” February 5-21, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel adapted for stage “The Secret Garden,” May 21-June 6. 

At Shea’s 710 Theatre, Road Less Traveled Productions will stage “Slow Food, “a comedy, September 10-27. MusicalFare Theatre follows with the musical “In the Heights,”December 3-20. The theatre collaborative All for One Theatre Productions (MusicalFare Theatre, Road Less Traveled Productions, Irish Classical Theatre, Theatre of Youth) bring love and comedy to the stage with “Shakespeare in Love,”February 11-28. Irish Classical Theatre brings” Farinelli and the King,”a drama, to this stage April 8-18. Finally MusicalFare Theatre returns with the regional premiere of Kinky Boots, May 6-23.

Full descriptions and ticket information is online at www.sheas.org.

.

Theatre Review: ‘Big Fish’ by Second Generation Theatre at Shea’s Smith Theatre

So here’s the thing about…musicals. When they’re good, they’re great, and Second Generation Theatre landed a big one with the regional premiere of “Big Fish.” In true SGT style, there’s a stellar cast, perfect costumes, a simple but effective set, and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

. . .full of laughs, sweet moments, and reflective take-aways.  

“Big Fish” isn’t a household name musical. It had a short run on Broadway in 2013 followed by a London run a few years later. A couple tunes are regularly heard on Sirius’ Broadway channel. Its origin is a 1998 novel which  Tim Burton made into a film, and all three iterations share the basic storyline with its colorful characters and multi-leveled messages. It’s good to see this story on a Buffalo stage.

The musical version captures the best of the story: a complicated father-son relationship, pure and love, and the story of a bigger than life everyman whose quiet acts of goodness were coated in tall tales and boisterous stories.

Lou Colaiacovo is Edward Bloom, the adventure seeking traveling salesman who spins a world of fantasy that embarrasses his feet-planted-firmly on the ground son Will,played by Ricky Needham. Michele Marie Roberts is Edward’s wife, who catches his eye across a crowded circus. Yes, it was love at first sight, and she ditches her fiancée (Edward’s teen nemesis) to marry her beguiling dreamer. The ensemble are the characters in Edward’s real and amplified world. Standouts are Victoria Perez: her solo, ‘The Witch’ is big and rich and almost scary fun. She strides across the stage with a flamenco stamp in her step, snapping her fan, and gazing into her crystal ball. She’s fierce and fabulous. Stevie Jackson is giggly and sweet as Jenny Hill, the cheerleader girlfriend Edward left behind. Jacob Albarella is a stitch as the circus ringleader by day and werewolf by night. You have to love the erudite Karl the Giant (Dave Spychalski) and his clomping Frankenstein shoes.

The uncredited star of the show is the river in Edward’s dot-on-the-map Alabama hometown. You don’t see it or hear it, but it’s there. He’s skipping stones  across it as the show opens. It’s the setting for his witch encounter. It’s the site of the dam that will flood out the old town. It’s where Will brings him before he takes his last breath. More than a common metaphor for life and rebirth, the river flows through some of Edward’s biggest tales and defines his immortality.

Director/choreographer Michael Walline made perfect choices for his cast. Colaiacovo and Roberts are loveable as husband and wife Edward and Sandra. Roberts’ stunning voice soars as she sings about the ‘Magic in the Man’, a send up to true love. Her subtle winks and knowing smiles are full of Alabama lamb southern style. Their ‘Daffodils’ and ‘Time Stops’ duets are tender and loving. Colaiacovo makes fine work of the ‘Be the Hero’ and ‘Fight the Dragons’ anthems, and the prescient  ‘How it Ends’ is especially poignant. Needham is appropriately straight laced and pragmatic as Will who finally learns that “once you understand the stories, you understand the man.”

“Big Fish” is full of laughs, sweet moments, and reflective take-aways.  With a story that’s a little bit “It’s a Wonderful Life” (one man can change a lot of lives)and “The Music Man’ (smart women see beyond the façade of  the men they love), you’ll be pulled in to the world where these loveable characters dwell, and maybe give a second thought to relationships and those mysterious moments that define the people we love and maybe don’t really know.

This is SGT’s first show at Shea’s Smith Theatre. The built-out thrust stage makes sense for this room and show, and Walline uses the space beautifully, although sightlines weren’t always optimal. Opening night had some microphone glitches and a perhaps a couple musical challenges. The rest of the experience did all the things good theatre should evoke.  SGT has a great season planned, so in the words of the man himself, “Here’s to what’s next.”

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

“Big Fish” runs until October 28, 2018, is produced by Second Generation Theatre and is presented at Shea’s Smith Theatre. For more information, click here.