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Classic tales; Time-honored favorites on stage for 2011-12 season

As the days tick down to the official opening of the 2011-12 theater season, two more companies have firmed up their schedules.

On tap in the new home of the Niagara Regional Theatre Guild, in the Ellicott Creek Playhouse (St. Edmund Campus, 530 Ellicott Creek Road, Tonawanda), are four time-tested productions that make up that company's 89th season of community theater in Western New York.

The NRTG season starts off with a production of the perennial favorite "Fiddler on the Roof" from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8. The show, set in a Russian shtetl at a time of mounting anti-Semitism, stars "Fiddler" veteran Paul Bene as Tevye.

Next up, from Nov. 11 to 20, is Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," an allegory for McCarthyism set in Salem, Mass., during the infamous witch trials of the late 17th century. After that, it's Stephen Sondheim's dark fairy-tale mash-up "Into the Woods," which runs from March 9 to 24, 2012.

Finally, the NRTG caps off its season with "The Good Doctor," a series of vignettes with music written by Neil Simon in homage to Chekhov.

The fledgling company Theatre Jugend, which launched late last year with a production of Justin Karcher's play "The Last of the Sensitive Bastards," will open its second, two-show season Nov. 25 with a co-production of George Orwell's "Animal Farm."

The show, co-produced with the Subversive Theatre Collective, has been revamped and set in the United States by Theatre Jugend co-founder Drew McCabe, who also designed masks for the production. It will feature live music by Justin John Smith of Dali's Ghost and stars Jeff Coyle, Jon Shuey, Brian Zybala, Kristin Bentley, Maria Droz and Erin Brignone among others. The show runs through Dec. 17 in the Manny Fried Playhouse.

Theatre Jugend wraps things up with Karcher's latest play, "Men of Like Passions," billed as "a reimagining of Acts of the Apostles set in today's America in which three friends go on an alcohol-fueled pilgrimage in search of God, a cure for depression, and a new kind of sexuality." That show, directed by Karcher and Courtney Weather, runs from March 15 to 31, 2012, in Buffalo East.


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