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Ben Siegel


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Raíces Theatre Company makes me feel at home every time I visit. I am not in their target demographic, and perhaps you aren’t either; I am not Latino or Hispanic. I do not recognize much of the cultural shorthand exchanged between their familial ensemble and enthusiastic audiences throughout their shows, the head-nodding references, the nonverbal acknowledgements, the conc…

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For many in the packed Key Bank Center Thursday night, seeing Celine Dion live was the thrill of a lifetime. A beloved icon, in the flesh. She hasn’t performed here in more than 10 years, the urgency of which you could feel in the arena lobby. People dressed for the occasion. It was an event. When she sang a solo version of “The Prayer,” her popular duet with opera s…

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The way the French eat salad after the entrée so does Torn Space work in its own order. The experimental, avant-garde, what-am-I-watching theater company has made a name for itself in this way. Just go with it, they insist with gracious invite. Whether at home in the utilitarian Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle, tucked away behind a cozy Polish speakeasy, or wandering th…

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In the safe, cozy space of our new frigid reality, let’s get warm together, shall we? The 2003 holiday classic “Elf” is so, so funny. As Buddy, the full-size human raised in the North Pole by Santa and his tiny elves, Will Ferrell is boundless in his joy. He captures the innocence and optimism of youth with the erratic flair of a wacky man. It’s a little bit of “Big,” a…

Many stories have been told of the triumphs earned and tribulations endured by the LGBTQ community over the last 50 years, when queer and trans women of color led the revolt at Stonewall and ignited a civil rights movement. Stories of persistence, of grandeur, of prideful celebration and shameful degradation. Stories of murder and silence, of ignorance and bliss. For mo…

Theater

And now for something completely different. I promise you: You have never seen anything like “The Toxic Avenger,” not from Second Generation Theatre at least. In their promotions for the comic book comedy, the show comes across as nerdy, sci-fi with a humorous twist. That’ll be cute, you might think. In director Doug Weyand’s hands, it’s all of that turned up to volume …

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I will never forget the scene on stage at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on May 26, 2004, when Fantasia Barrino became the third American Idol, beating a particularly impressive roster that included future Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (and Williamsville native John Stevens). It was an incredible sight for television and for popular music. Barrino had made impressive l…

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I guess if you’re going to take a cult classic, a movie beloved the world over, and pull it apart at the seams, stuff it with padding, and sell it back to us – well, this is how you do it. “Mean Girls” is as perfect of a comedy as contemporary hits come. Though the Tina Fey-penned movie that helped make Lindsay Lohan a global superstar is now 15 years old and frankly, s…

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Musical revues can be tedious. When they force the esteemed catalog of a performer, songwriter, history or culture through an unnecessary dramatic construct, and pretend like it isn’t an infomercial. It’s the same eye-rolling we give to award show presenters. Can’t we all agree to skim the fat and get to the point? Why not produce a concert or cabaret instead, I always won…

Oh, Izzy. I thought I knew you, Izzy. We were supposed to meet at the New Phoenix, where "Izzy," the musical revue of your heretofore-unknown life as a Buffalo songwriter, entertainingly played, told through your discovered trunk songs. Your vaudeville-barroom standards, funny and sentimental in one breath, encapsulated around the idea that you should have been Buffalo’…

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If you’ll indulge me: I have a fondness for Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” his only farce. The 1988 play skewers a group of elite New York City revelers hanging onto the tail end of that indulgent decade, with gleeful mocking of their shrill entitlement and tastelessness. It’s fun. My affection for this play goes back 20 years when I acted in a high school production of it. I p…

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Think of the funniest gay man you know. It has to be a gay man for this exercise. He can be any age or live any kind of way. But he has to be naturally, easily, effortlessly hilarious. He can tell a story with divergent anecdotes, he can land a structured punch line, he can buoy pain with charming, reassuring wit. He uses his humor to make laughs, but also to prove points.…

Theater

Word on the street is: Big is in. Big as in shape and size, yes, but also attitude. It’s about leaving an impression. Making sure people remember you. Making sure everyone in the room feels larger than life. The Kavinoky Theatre got the memo. Their 40th anniversary season blasts off with an explosive production of the divinely enjoyable “Hairspray,” one of the best a…

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Second chances are real, folks. Take local fans of the Jonas Brothers, who six years ago waited patiently in a huge rainstorm at Darien Lake before getting the sad news from a stage manager that the show would not go on. The torment. The agony. The mournful downpour of tears. When they announced a few months later that they would be going on indefinite hiatus to pursue …

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If it were customary, in a less imaginative world, for dinner theaters to serve the food eaten or talked about on stage, then Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” would be a tough swallow. Think German mustard soup, the medicinal solution Grandma Kurnitz serves when someone’s sick. Think bowls of it, forced upon her live-in grandson, Arty, as he suffers a fever on her uptight…