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Buffalo’s theater season kicks off with eight productions

If you can’t wait until the Sept. 18 Curtain Up! event to get your theater fix, you’re in luck: More than half of Western New York’s season-launching productions from its major companies will be up and running by Friday night.

This year, more companies than ever are getting a head start on the season by ramping up their productions a week ahead of the main event. Here’s a guide to the first spate of openings:

“In the Heights,” through Oct. 11 in MusicalFare Theatre (4380 Main St., Amherst).

Before Lin-Manuel Miranda penned “Hamilton,” the buzzworthy hip-hop-infused bio-musical that recently opened on Broadway, he wrote this sweet slice-of-life show about the characters who populate the diverse New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights. Part “West Side Story,” part “Sesame Street” for grown-ups, the show is an optimistic take on the Latino experience in urban America, directed by MusicalFare’s Randall Kramer and starring Ricky Marchese and Arianne Davidow.

“Granny Bird,” Thursday through Oct. 3 in Alleyway Theatre (1 Curtain Up Alley).

The seed for this new musical by Alleyway Theatre founder and director Neal Radice was planted a decade ago, when he received a short play sketch from the playwright Robin Rice Lichtig. Radice built it into a full-scale musical about an elderly woman’s scheme to avoid being shuffled into an assisted living facility. “Before that can happen,” according to a release, “she conspires with her 10-year-old great-granddaughter Zoe to run away and hide out in a tree house. Once there, they relish in its peacefulness and freedom but it isn’t long before things go awry.”

“Slaughterhouse Five,” Thursday through Oct. 10 in the Manny Fried Playhouse (255 Great Arrow Ave.).

The Subversive Theatre Collective is pulling out all stops for its blowout production of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic post-World War II novel, which promises “a massive cast, dozens of different settings that swirl by with tornado-like ferocity, and a gripping combination of horror and humor that reminds us why this tale has addicted audiences for almost five decades.” The book was adapted for the stage by Eric Simonson of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. A New York Times review of a 2008 Godlight Theater Company’s production recommended theatergoers familiarize themselves with the source material and called the show “an intense, kaleidoscopic 90-minute tour without intermission through Vonnegut’s nonlinear narrative.”

“Doubt,” Friday through Sept. 26 in Swan Auditorium, Hilbert College (5200 South Park Ave., Hamburg).

Rarely has an unsolvable moral conundrum been presented with more insight and economy than in John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning 2004 play, which concerns the relationship among a poor black boy, a Catholic priest and a highly suspicious nun. Buffalo Laboratory Theatre’s production, directed by Katie White, features Buffalo theater veterans Ellen Horst, David Hayes, Anne Roaldi Boucher and Annette Daniels Taylor.

“King O’ The Moon: Over the Tavern Part 2,” Friday through Oct. 4 in Kavinoky Theatre (320 Porter Ave.).

Tom Dudzick isn’t letting go of his status as Buffalo’s favorite working-class playwright. Following last year’s insanely successful production of his “Over the Tavern” in the Kavinoky Theatre, he’s back again to direct the sequel. It features the same identifiable characters, the same hardscrabble neighborhood and a different set of circumstances that take place 10 years after the original play’s late-1950s setting. Dudzick said the sequel has a slightly more serious tone than the original. “It’s no longer the Eisenhower, feel-good era, where everything’s rosy. It’s 1969, 10 years later. Vietnam is in the scene and there are anti-war protests. It’s a whole new era.”

“Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Friday through Sept. 27 in the Lancaster Opera House (21 Central Ave., Lancaster).

As screen-to-stage musical comedies of the last decade go, few have proven more durable than this 2005 adaptation of Monty Python’s absurdist reconfiguration of the King Arthur legend. Lancaster Opera House Artistic Director David Bondrow helms this production, the latest in a series of musicals to receive spirited interpretations on the historic stage.

“Speed of Light,” Friday through Oct. 4 in Road Less Traveled Theatre (500 Pearl St.).

After a breathless summer, Road Less Traveled Productions is ready to open its new theater space in the former Forbes Theatre with the world premiere of a new sci-fi fantasy by Bella Poynton, in which a physicist “races furiously against time to unlock the secret of light speed travel and save humanity from decimation by alien invaders.” The new 90-seat space re-creates the intimacy of the company’s former home in the shuttered Market Arcade Film and Arts Complex while giving actors and audiences a bit more breathing and leg room.

“Hate Crime,” 6 p.m. Sunday in Lackawanna High School (500 Martin Road, Lackawanna).

For one performance only, Lackawanna High will be the setting for this courtroom thriller by Vincent Scarsella, directed by Alemaedae Theatre founder Phil Davis. It tells the story of a black attorney assigned to defend a white supremacist accused of murdering a black community leader. His choice, according to a flier advertising the show, is stark: “Does he remain on his present course and obeying the rules and pursuing the goals of white America, or pursue a goal of justice for his race?”


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