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: ‘Sive’ at Irish Classical Theatre

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

Matchmaking is a resounding theme in Buffalo’s theatre district this week.

At Shea’s Performing Art Center, Mama and Papa in “Fiddler on the Roof” use the services of the village Yente to seek spouses for their daughters. It’s a tradition.  Across the street at the Andrews Theatre, home of Irish Classical Theatre Company, the village matchmaker in “Sive” scouts a much older man for the production’s title character, but there are no happy songs to sing about it. It’s just tragic.

. . .a good solid drama with an extraordinary cast.

The world hadn’t changed much between late 19th century Imperialist Russia and the 1950s Irish countryside when it comes to young women and the pursuit of marriage. A young girl’s life is still a commodity to be sold for financial security.

“Sive,” written by John B. Keane is one of Ireland’s most produced plays and is a popular bit of required reading in the country’s high schools. It’s a compelling family drama where three generations of the Glavin family share a farm house, secrets, and enduring shame.

Sive the girl is the illegitimate niece of Mike Glavin who promised his sister on her deathbed that he would look after the girl. A noble plan, but Mike’s wife Mena (for those who like anagrams, ‘mean’ is the perfect fit)  resents Sive, the memory of her dead mother, and the presence of the Glavin matriarch who’s also in her home. Mena makes a plan with Thomasheen the matchmaker to marry off Sive to Sean Dota, an elderly farmer who has his eye on Sive’s youthful beauty. There’s a twist: the Glavin’s don’t need to provide a dowry. Sean Dota will pay Mena for Sive’s wedding vows plus a bonus to Thomasheen.  Sive wants nothing of this. She likes her convent school and the attention of a fine young lad name Liam, who unfortunately is kin once removed from the man who fathered her.

Long-simmering resentment pervades this dark story. The Mike and Nanna Glavin hate Liam and his family for causing shame to their family. Mena hates everyone who has more than she. Sive is young and hungry for details of the parents she never knew.  

Director Vincent O’Neill was working with the cream of the crop for this one. A tense and taut tragedy in a beloved script and a superb cast make for a excellent albeit heart-wrenching production. Aleks Malejs is absolutely hateful as Mena (when she’s called a ‘horrible bitch’ in the second act, you want to stand up and cheer). Her constantly scowling face, tightly pulled back hair, and drab outfits speak volumes at a glance. She rocks the evil persona. Patrick Moltane is her meek-as-a-lamb husband. Ray Boucher is Thomasheen, the all for the money matchmaker. He’s sprite as a pixie, artfully irritating, and cunning like a fox. Kiana Duggan-Haas is honest and forthright as Sive. She joins Peter S. Raimundo (Liam, Sive’s would-be young suitor) and Johnny Barden (the singing son of the village tinker) making ICTC debuts. So good to see young actors awarded meaty roles alongside strong and seasoned actors.  Josephine Hogan is Nanna Glavin, doing her best in a losing battle to protect Sive from Mena’s machinations. David Lundy is shuffling and stammering as the rheumy-eyed old farmer who desires Sive as his bride. Gerry Maher is the traveling tinker, the source of news and prescient entertainment in the parish.

“Sive” is the kind of production that leaves you emotionally drained. You’re angry about the injustice for a young girl’s hardship and empathetic about rural poverty. Remembering that the show is only set in 1950 – not that long ago – is even more disconcerting.

While this isn’t an uplifting night in the theatre, it’s a good solid drama with an extraordinary cast. Brian Cavanaugh’s set design captures the rough hewn life in the Irish countryside (the only distraction was the obviously plastic dinner plates clattering alongside tin cups and plank tables). I love how he suggests walls and windows and doors with free-hanging frames and hardware. Tom Makar’s subtle sound design had me looking over my shoulder for cows lowing in the distance. They create the atmosphere that I always love about ICTC productions.

Ironically while this is Duggan-Haas’ ICTC debut, she and Boucher were last seen together in this TV commercial. That’s Buffalo for you.

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

“Sive” is presented at Irish Classical Theatre Company, until November 25, 2018. For more information, click here.

First Look: ‘Sive’ at Irish Classical Theatre

Kiana Duggan-Haas

Actor Kiana Duggan-Haas has one thing in common with the character she is preparing to portray: both girls are teens with dreams.

“Sive”is the title character in the Irish Classical Theatre Company production that will open Friday, November 2.

Duggan-Haas, the actor is a senior at Amherst Central High School and is thrilled to be part of this compelling drama. Having the title role, she says, “is not as glamorous as it sounds. I’m not the actor on stage the most, but when I’m not there, the other actors are talking about my character.”

Duggan-Haas has been involved in local theatre for 10 years, beginning in musical theatre camp, and continuing with roles in middle school and high school productions. She also performed in a Theatre of Youth production of “Madeleine’s Christmas” a few seasons ago.

“Sive” is her first paid stage role. “It’s truly incredible for me,” she says. “I’m the least experienced and trained performer in the room.” She’s surrounded by plenty of actor-educators who don’t shy away from sharing teachable moments. “They (the cast members) know I’m a senior in high school, and that means having a lot on my plate. They’re very encouraging. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn from this cast. They’re all incredible,” she says.

Duggan-Haas landed the role because director Vincent O’Neill says “She brought an innocence and freshness to the role which was not always present in the work of the more experienced actresses who auditioned. Since the play revolves around how young the girl is who is forced to marry an old man, the youthfulness of the actress was crucial in the final choice.”

Portraying Sive is an interesting learning experience for Duggan-Haas: she says her character has struggles with her identity (Sive’s mother was unmarried and died while giving birth to her), and with finding her place in an extended family that would prefer her to take a different life path. Kiana says Sive “fights back” when her aunt tries to marry her off to an older, wealthy farmer. Duggan-Haas says Sive is “fragile, with self-respect.” Mastering the Irish accent – with the intricacies of the County Kerry dialect – is something she is still learning, and she’s grateful for O’Neill’s patient direction and modifications. She says, “It takes time to get this into my system.”

In addition established ICTC actors,  among them Josephine Hogan and David Lundy, there are two recent Niagara University alumni in the cast, also making their ICTC debut in this production, who with Duggan-Haas are part of the next generation  for regional actors. O’Neill says, “It is reassuring  to see a whole new generation of young actors who are ready to step in and maintain the high standards of performance in WNY theatres.”

Encouraging her peers to attend and participate in local theatre has Duggan-Haas’s interest, too. “I see as much local theatre as I can,” she says. “I’m often the youngest person in the room. A lot of kids my age don’t go to theatre if they haven’t heard of the theatre or know the show. Social media and internet marketing is the way to draw in younger audiences.”

For Duggan-Haas, her next theatre season will be in college, perhaps at Niagara University or Ithaca College or beyond. “I love Buffalo theatre dearly,” she says, “but I feel college should take me some place away for the next four years.”

Just come back, Kiana. Your local theatre community is waiting for you.

“Sive” opens at Irish Classical Theatre November 2 and runs to November 25. Find details and tickets here.