Every year, as the new theater season approaches, observers of the scene ask themselves the same question:
How long can Buffalo's great theatrical growth spurt last?
It's been going on long enough -- two decades and counting -- that you can hardly call it a spurt anymore. Even with the natural entropy of Buffalo's theatrical ecosystem -- companies flaming out, fading away and being replaced by energetic startups -- the volume of professional and semi-professional productions never seems to plateau. Community theater, too, is on the upswing across the region.
This season, local professional and semi-professional companies, as well as road houses like Shea's Performing Arts Center, will mount more than 100 productions. Excluding the inevitable last-minute additions, the season currently features 44 dramas, 33 musicals, 13 comedies and seven shows for children.
That variety is on full display in September, as the region's theater companies launch a spate of fall shows leading up to the 36th annual season-opening Curtain Up! celebration planned for Sept. 15. Here's a look at what's on the docket:
"Peter and the Starcatcher," Sept. 6 to Oct. 8. MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main St.
Based on a 2004 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, this zany reimagining of "Peter Pan" takes a classic tale and fills it out with an inventive backstory. Directed by Chris Kelly, the show has a large cast of Buffalo theater veterans and newcomers.
"The Roomates," Sept. 7 to 23. An American Repertory Theatre Production in the Sportsmen's Tavern, 326 Amherst St. $15 to $20. 697-0837 or artofwny.org.
This new play by Buffalo writer Mark Humphrey is described as "a weaving tale of honesty and loyalty." It features Michael J. Starzynski, Victor Morales and Brett Klaczyk.
"The Producers," Sept. 8 to Oct. 1. Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. $42. 829-7668 or kavinokytheatre.com.
The Kavinoky Theatre traditionally opens the season with a big musical, and this year's choice is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Based on Mel Brooks classic 1967 comedy of the same name, Lynne Kurdziel Formato's production stars Norm Sham and Brian Mysliwy as the titular producers, along with Arianne Davidow, Gregory Gjurich, Marc Sacco and Todd Benzin.
"John," Sept. 8 to Oct. 1. Road Less Traveled Theatre, 500 Pearl St. $20 to $35. 629-3069 or roadlesstraveledproductions.org.
Set in a mysterious Pennsylvania bed and breakfast, Annie Baker's lauded play touches on themes of memory and loss and focuses on a young couple coming to terms with some serious issues. "Over the course of one unconventional weekend," a description from the company reads, "Jenny and Elias will realize that the scariest stories are the ones that haunt us from our own past."
"Killer Rack," Sept. 14 to Oct. 7. Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley. $28 to $32. 852-2600 or alleyway.com.
Theater productions based on films are commonplace, but local productions based on local films are a rarity. "Killer Rack" is a grisly-yet-madcap musical horror comedy by Neal Radice based on Greg Lamberson's 2015 film of the same name. The plot: "A woman getting a breast enhancement is unaware her surgeon is using her in a diabolical plot to rule the world."
"Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks," Sept. 14 to 4. 710 Main Theatre, 710 Main St.
Loretta Swit, most famous for her role on the television show "M*A*S*H," comes to Buffalo with David Engel to give four performances of Richard Alfieri's romantic comedy about an older woman taking dance lessons from a young gay man. Their relationship begins on an antagonistic note, but evolves into something much more meaningful.
"It Can't Happen Here," Sept. 14 to Oct. 7. A Subversive Theatre production in the Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave. $25 to $30. 408-0499 or subversivetheatre.org.
This new adaptation of Sincliar Lewis' 1935 novel about a fascist dictatorship is perhaps the first local production to respond directly to the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump. It is, according to Subversive founder and director Kurt Schneiderman, "a chilling warning that is needed now more than ever."
"Sons and Lovers," Sept. 15 to Oct. 7. A Buffalo United Artists Production in the Main Street Cabaret, 672 Main St. $15 to $25. 886-9239 or buffalobua.org.
This new play by Buffalo writer Donna Hoke explores the human urge to hold unpleasant truths at bay through sheer power of denial. That works until it doesn't in this family comedy, which stars BUA fan-favorites Caitlin Baeumler Coleman and David Granville, along with Steve Brachmann and A. Peter Snodgrass.
"Design for Living," Sept. 15 to Oct. 8. An Irish Classical Theatre Company production in the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St. $20 to $45. 853-4282 or irishclassical.com.
This 1932 Noel Coward comedy is the genesis of many stories about love triangles. Directed by Katie Mallinson, it stars Adriano Gatto, Kate LoConti and Ben Michael Moran as a trio of artistic characters engaged in an unorthodox relationship. Hilarity, in the sophisticated way of Coward, abounds.
"My Old Lady," Sept. 15 to Oct. 7. New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson Park. $20 to $30. 853-1334 or newphoenixtheatre.org.
Israel Horovitz's 2002 play focuses on a middle-aged man who inherits a Paris apartment. Trouble is, it comes with a previous occupant he must learn to get along with. In the way of such plays, both characters learn and grow in ways neither expected. It stars Anne Gayley, Richard Lambert and Eileen Dugan and is directed by Michael Lodick.
"Gentlemen Prefer Divas," Sept. 15 to 17. Shea's Smith Theatre, 658 Main St. $30. 847-1410 or sheas.org.
A twist on O'Connell and Company's variety show "Diva by Diva," the longest-running local production in Western New York history. Creator Mary Kate O'Connell has created an informal, cabaret-like environment, and often brings local celebrities onstage to participate in the action.
"The Fever," Sept. 15 to 17. A Torn Space Theatre production in the Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle and Library, 612 Fillmore Ave. $25. 812-5733 or tornspacetheater.com.
Part of Torn Space Theater's "Response Festival," this interactive production by the New York City-based experimental theater company 600 Highwaymen involves the audience in the action. In the conception of the piece, which explores the idea of personal and collective reaction to injustice, audience members play witnesses to a crime and together determine how to react to it. The Sept. 16 performance will be bracketed by two discussions about the show, one at 5:30 and the other after the performance.