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Buffalo theaters set the stage for a busy spring

Attention, ladies and gentlemen: Intermission will be ending in five minutes.

Please finish your drinks, return to your seats and settle in for act two of Buffalo's breathless 2017-18 theater season, which kicks off in earnest this week with five openings and continues through June with 45 more shows. (The Kavinoky Theatre's "Mamma Mia!" and O'Connell and Company's "An Act of God" opened earlier this month.)

The local theater schedule is the theatrical equivalent of the menu at the Cheesecake Factory, though you're likely to be much happier with your order. As usual, it offers a variety of productions suited to every taste, from the absurdest of the absurdist to the lowest of the lowbrow, with infinite shades of drama and comedy between.

There are at least 22 dramas, 19 musicals, seven comedies and three shows for children on tap for the rest of the season, not including summer theater staples Shakespeare in Delaware Park or the Shaw Festival.

Can we interest you, for example, in a digital psychodrama set in the slightly dystopian future (Road Less Traveled Productions' "The Nether," Jan. 19 to Feb. 11)? If not, perhaps a festival of original one-acts based on the music and lyrics of Tom Waits would be more to your liking (American Repertory Theatre of Western New York's "Rain Dogs Project," May 1 to  31).

[VISUAL: Searchable Buffalo theater schedule, with reviews and more]

There are local productions of popular musicals like "Once" (MusicalFare, April 25 to May 27) and "Jesus Christ Superstar" (American Repertory Theatre, March 8 to 31), as well as weighty plays on issues such as sexual abuse (Subversive Theatre's "How I Learned to Drive," Jan. 18 to Feb. 10) and the nature of conflict (Torn Space Theater's "Far Away," Feb. 16 to March 11).

Adding a layer of polish to the season, the Shaw Festival continues its collaboration with Shea's to mount its critically hailed production of Athol Fugard's "Master Harold... And the Boys," opening Feb. 15 in Shea's 710 Theatre. And the same space will host a touring production of "Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," opening May 10.

And the list goes on. Here are eight shows to keep your eye on, followed by a full schedule of the spring season listed by company. First, some potential highlights.

"Skeleton Crew," Jan. 19 to Feb. 11 in the Paul Robeson Theatre.

Dominique Morriseau has made a name for herself with her truthful explorations of the spirit, economy and people of Detroit. Her plays, lauded for their powerful language and true-to-life characters, will likely strike a chord with Buffalo audiences.

That's especially true for "Skeleton Crew," which tells the story of workers facing the possibility that their auto plant will close. Its acclaimed off-Broadway production was directed by Lackawanna native Ruben Santiago-Hudson.


"Waitress," based on the 2007 film by Adrienne Shelly, comes to Shea's Performing Arts Center Feb. 6.

"Waitress," Feb. 6 to 11 in Shea's Performing Arts Center

With a country-inflected score by buzzworthy singer-songwriter Sarah Bareilles and a plot aimed directly at fans of American romantic comedies, this Broadway musical struck an instant chord with audiences when it debuted in 2016.

Critics were less enthused, but this did not prevent the Broadway version of the show, based on Adrienne Shelly's charming 2007 film, from easily recouping its $12 million investment. It's still running, now with Jason Mraz in the role of the love interest.


The Shaw Festival's critically acclaimed 2016 production of "Master Harold... and the Boys" will come to the 710 Main Theatre in February. (Photo by David Cooper)

"Master Harold... And the Boys," Feb. 15 to 18 in Shea's 710 Theatre

Few playwrights have more gracefully captured the hypocrisy and injustice of racism than Athol Fugard, the South African playwright who penned this heartbreaking story about life under Apartheid.

The Shaw Festival's production, directed by Toronto-based Philip Akin, was a highlight of the festival's 2016 season. Its run in Buffalo is part of a five-year collaboration between Shea's and the Shaw.


"The Full Monty," April 12 to May 12 in the Subversive Theatre Collective's Manny Fried Playhouse

Like Dominique Morriseau's work, this underrated musical by David Yazbeck ("Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "The Band's Visit") is well-suited to working-class audiences. It's based on Peter Cattaneo's 1997 comedy of the same name, which tells the story of a group of down-on-their-luck dudes who forma strip-tease troupe to raise money. And it's set in Buffalo.

Susan Forbes directs a large cast in this production, part of Subversive's "Worker's Power Play Series."


"Once," April 25 to May 27 in MusicalFare Theatre

Always a hit with audiences, this quiet and sweetly romantic show is based on the British indie film of the same name that starred Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová as a street musician and a Czech flower seller wrapped up in a low-key semi-love affair.

MusicalFare founder and artistic director Randall Kramer directs, with choreography by Michael Walline and music direction by Theresa Quinn.


"The Foreigner," April 27 to May 20 in the Kavinoky Theatre

As American comedies go, this quasi-farcical piece by Larry Shue, which debuted off-Broadway in 1984, has to be one of the strangest. Set in a fishing lodge in Georgia, it's about a reticent young man who agrees to masquerade as a non-English-speaking foreigner at the suggestion of his friend. Hilarity, tinged with dark flickers of Southern mischief and prejudice, ensues. David Lamb directs.


"La Lupe," May 25 to June 10 in a Raices Theatre production in the Manny Fried Playhouse

Raices, a young company catering to Buffalo's Latinx population, is mounting its first full-scale musical this season with a musical exploration of Cuban singer La Lupe.

At the height of her career, La Lupe earned a large and loyal following for her soulful performances and recordings, but later receded into history. This show, part of a multi-pronged La Lupe revival, is an attempt to revive her legacy. Melinda Capeles stars.


"Lady Windemere's Fan," June 1 to 24 in the Irish Classical Theatre Company's Andrews Theatre.

One of Oscar Wilde's most enduring works, this play skillfully skewers the British aristocracy and dispenses plenty of cutting witticisms along the way.

With its soap-operatic twists and turns, Wilde's much-revived piece also served as a template for 20th century melodramas, few of which could ever hope to match its clever dialogue or the power of its sly class critique. Josephine Hogan, described on the Irish Classical site as a "lifetime aficionado and expert in all things Oscar," directs.



Here's a look at the full season, which is explored at greater length in our online theater guide at

Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley. 852-2600,

"Beginning Again," Feb. 15 to March 10
"Buffalo Quickies," April 19 to May 5

American Repertory Theatre of Western New York, 330 Amherst St. 697-0837,

"Jesus Christ Superstar," March 8 to 31
"The Rain Dogs Project," May 1 to 31

Brazen-Faced Varlets, Rust Belt Books, 415 Grant St.

"Night Mother," March 9 to 24

Desiderio's Dinner Theatre, Bobby J's Italian-American Grille, 204 Como Blvd. Cheektowaga. 395-3207,

"Jitters," Feb. 8 to April 15
"Anatomy of a Murder," May 10 to July 15

Irish Classical Theatre Company, Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St. 853-4282,

"The Constant Wife," Jan. 19 to Feb. 11
"The Night Alive," March 2 to 25
"The Awful Truth," April 20 to May 13
"Lady Windemere's Fan," June 1 to 24

Jewish Repertory Theatre, Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre, 2640 North Forest Road, Getzville. 650-7626,

"Rose," Feb. 1 to 25
"Sight Unseen," April 19 to May 13

Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. 829-7668,

"Ben Butler," March 2 to 25
"The Foreigner," April 27 to May 20

Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster. 683-1776,

"The Diary of Anne Frank," Feb. 9 to 18
"The Roar of the Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd," April 6 to 22
"Rounding Third," May 11 to 20
"Annie," June 8 to 24

MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst. 839-8540,

"Smokey Joe's Café," Feb. 7 to March 11
"Spring Awakening," March 8 to 18 (in Shea's 710 Theatre)
"Once," April 25 to May 27
"Murder for Two," July 11 to Aug. 12

New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson Park. 853-1334,

"Way Back When: An Evening of One-Acts," Feb. 2 to 24
"The Championship Season," March 16 to April 7
"The Aliens," April 27 to May 19

O'Connell and Company, The Park School, 4625 Harlem Road. 848-0800,

"An Act of God," Jan. 11 to Feb. 11
"Betsy Carmichael's Bingo Palace," March 23 to 25 (in Shea's Smith Theatre)
"I Do! I Do!", April 5 to May 6

Paul Robeson Theatre, 350 Masten Ave. 884-2013,

"Skeleton Crew," Jan. 19 to Feb. 11
"Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope," March 2 to 25
"Blackberry Daze," May 4 to 27

Raíces Theatre Company, Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave.

"La Lupe," May 25 to June 10

Road Less Traveled Productions, 500 Pearl St. 629-3069,

"The Nether," Jan. 19 to Feb. 11
"Disgraced," March 9 to 31
"The Christians," April 27 to May 20

Shea's 710 Theatre, 710 Main St. 847-1410,

"Master Harold... And the Boys," Feb. 15 to 18 (with the Shaw Festival)
"Ken Ludgwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," May 10 to 13

Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St. 847-1410,

"Waitress," Feb. 6 to 11
"Something Rotten!", March 6 to 11
"School of Rock," April 3 to 8
"The Phantom of the Opera," April 25 to May 6
"Love Never Dies," June 5 to 10

Subversive Theatre Collective, Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave. 462-5549,

"How I Learned to Drive," Jan. 18 to Feb. 10
"The Nance," March 1 to 24
"The Full Monty," April 12 to May 12
"Slut," June 21 to July 7

Theatre of Youth, Allendale Theatre, 203 Allen St. 884-4400,

"The Boy at the Edge of Everything," Jan. 20 to Feb. 4
"Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook," March 10 to 25
"Stellaluna," May 5 to June 2

Torn Space Theatre, Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle and Library, 625 Fillmore Ave. 812-5733,

"Far Away," Feb. 16 to March 11

University at Buffalo Black Box Theatre, Center for the Arts, Amherst Campus.

"The B-Side," Feb. 8 to 11 (production by The Wooster Group)


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