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Show stoppers 'Spamalot' a highlight of varied upcoming season at Shea's

Fresh hits right off Broadway, big shows on their inaugural national tours -- including the hit "Monty Python's Spamalot" -- a Buffalo pre-Broadway presentation and perennial favorites are the ingredients that will make up Shea's Performing Arts Center's 2006-2007 Broadway Season.

The season -- made up of six musicals and a number of special-engagement productions -- was announced Thursday evening in a reception and presentation at Shea's for season ticket holders and special guests.

According to Albert Nocciolino, Shea's longtime Broadway partner and a producer, it counts mightily that Shea's is on the circuit to be part of initial national tours.

"It is significant," he said. "It is because of the support of the community and the reputation of Shea's in the industry that we're able to bring in these very big shows in the first year of their tours."

Big shows such as "Sweet Charity," with Molly Ringwald in the lead; "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," the 2005 Drama League Award winner for Best Musical; "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life," Terrance McNally's celebration of the career of the Broadway legend and starring the fabulous Rivera; and the 2005 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, "Monty Python's Spamalot," whose national tour was kicked off in Boston just this month.

The first of the six musicals will begin in November, and the last will end in early June 2007. Interspersed along the way will be at least three special engagements (more will be announced later). The first -- the unstoppable "Mamma Mia" -- is set for October.

The main body of the season, the M&T Bank Broadway Series, will begin with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," in what will be a new production that will be launched here before it moves to Broadway. Jack O'Brien, who directed "Hairspray" at Shea's, will direct the Dr. Seuss story. It opens Nov. 7 and runs for 19 performances through Nov. 19.

"Rent" will follow with eight performances from Dec. 5 to 10. The "La Boheme"-based musical has been going full bore on Broadway for a decade and rated high in a Shea's survey of best-liked musicals.

"Sweet Charity" will run from Feb. 6 to 11, 2007, again for eight performances.

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" will see O'Brien return as director. This time he will be joined by Jerry Mitchell, choreographer for "Hairspray" and "The Full Monty." Its eight performances will run from March 20 to 25, 2007.

"Spamalot," complete with flying cows and killer rabbits, will be in town May 1 to 6 for eight performances.

"Chita Rivera," May 29 to June 3, 2007, will close the season, also with eight performances.

The show that was by far the most requested in that Shea's survey was "Mamma Mia," the feel-good musical that sold out in its last Shea's run in 2004. The first in Shea's special engagements, it will be presented in eight performances from Oct. 3 to 8.

A change of pace will be offered by Ballet Met's "The Nutcracker" in three performances on Nov. 25 and 26. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will provide the music.

"Riverdance," that wildly popular celebration of Irish song and dance, will run from April 20 to 22, 2007.

Season tickets include all six musicals in the M&T Bank Broadway Series and first choice on the special engagements. For tickets, call 884-0850 or go online at www.sheas.org.

e-mail: rhuntington@buffnews.com

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