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: ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ at Kavinoky Theatre

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

The stately Edwardian charm of the Kavinoky Theatre is transformed to 19th century London, evidenced by eerie smoke drifting from the under an animated scrim. That’s your first impression ofSweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” onstage until September 30.  It’s a foreboding and mysterious way to begin a riveting, vaguely disturbing, and thoroughly enjoyable production. Kavinoky picked a phenomenal way to begin a new season.

. . .nothing short of extraordinary.

This is a singer’s show. The plot is strong and intense, and it’s the music that leads it along. Like Sondheim’s earlier work “Passion,” this feels like a period opera for a contemporary audience.

The rigorous Sondheim score requires every member of the cast to have outstanding vocal chops. This cast didn’t disappoint. Like last season’s “Mamma Mia!,” (probably the only similarity between these two shows) there were plenty of familiar faces – usually seen in leading or featured roles – in the ensemble. Charmagne Chi’s soprano soars when the score permits. She, with Kelly Copps, Ben Michael Moran, Dudley Joseph, and the rest of troupe have powerful and exquisite vocal blend.

The featured actors are flat out magnificent, showing range and dynamics that showcase Sondheim’s vocal gymnastics. Matt Witten as Sweeney, Loraine O’Donnell as Mrs. Lovett, Anthony Lazzaro as Anthony Hope, Aleks Makejs in her Buffalo debut singing role, and Peter Palmisano as the creepy Judge Turpin, pull you into this story with every note and spin you into the web of deceit and revenge.

Sweeney’s story unfolds as the ragtag street people of London pull down the scrim to reveal a dank and dreary cityscape. He is fresh off the boat from a dozen years away, and while his fresh-faced traveling companion, a sailor aptly named Anthony Hope, is excited to be there, Sweeney’s feelings about London run deeper, “its morals aren’t worth what a pig can spit and it goes by the name of London,” he sings. Matt Witten’s resonant voice and solid diction hammer at Sondheim’s staccato rhythms and clipped lyrics. This may be his finest performance yet, with steely resolve under a gentleman’s reserve, and a voice that handles every elegant and complicated riff that Sondheim wrote. It’s perfection.

The same can be said about Loraine O’Donnell’s portrayal of Mrs. Lovett, baker of the worst pies in London. She’s bold and brassy with her big voice filling the house. Listen closely to her act one song “Wait:” her character is reflective, her voice is rich, lower, and thinking again of Sondheim’s “Passion,” when she played Fosca on the O’Connell & Company stage years ago. She and Witten nail the comedic duet “A Little Priest,” too. The story is so intense you almost forget to laugh at the clever humor and wordplay. She can “take” a song, too: she’s sweet and loving when young Tobias (Lucas DeNies) shows  his devotion singing the tender “Not While I’m Around.”

It’s Malejs who is is the surprise of the evening in a singing role as the prescient beggar woman. She creeps about the city, somehow all knowing that something is even more wrong is this grimy, impoverished, corrupt corner of the world.  Her “Beggar Woman’s Lullaby” will break your heart.

Director John Fredo expertly moves this large cast around stage, and his actors all do double duty moving David King’s set pieces about, from pie shop to insane asylum, to street scenes.  Moody lighting designed by Brian Cavanaugh, a larger-than-expected orchestra led by Allan Paglia, and plenty of stage-tech magic add layers to the production.

This is an ambitious production and Kavinoky’s team is nothing short of extraordinary. Make this the first show of this season’s local theatre season journey.

Running Time: 2 Hours 30-minutes with a 20-minute intermission.

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” runs until September 30, 2018 and is presented at the Kavinoky Theatre. For more information, click here.