MusicalFare Theatre has mastered that intricate balance between stretching its audience’s expectations while keeping one foot firmly in their comfort zone.
The first show of the 2022-23 season, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (opening Sept. 14), is a perfect example, a hybrid of the old and new, and a regional premiere for MusicalFare.
Artistic and Executive Director Randall Kramer explained that while George Gershwin died in 1937, that “The fun thing about ‘Nice Work’ is that it’s a new Gershwin musical. It was written 10 years ago.
“You get a chance to hear all these great Gershwin songs – and there are a ton of them – all by Gershwin and collaborators, in something written by contemporary writers.”
The plot, which Kramer calls “very light and fun, nothing serious about it,” has a Prohibition Era setting and was written by Joe DiPietro with inspiration from P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton.
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Next up is “Beehive” (Nov. 9), by Larry Gallagher, a 1980s jukebox musical that celebrates the female singers of the 1960s with more than two dozen pop and R&B hits.
“What’s nice in ‘Beehive’ is we have two three-person girl groups, one of color, one not, who represent a huge spectrum of music from the 1960s,” Kramer said.
Songs are from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield, the Shirelles, Petula Clark and Tina Turner. “It’s very different for us,” Kramer said. “The styles of that time – it should be a dream for our costumer and hair designers.”
Cast size pairs down significantly for an uncharacteristically spectacle-free musical from Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Tell Me On a Sunday” (Feb. 15). The story of a single woman navigating her way through the city in search of her hopes and dreams (and finding just the opposite), this is essentially a one-woman show, but, Kramer points out, “This has the most musicians of any show we will do this year.”
And, after that? The theater will be looking at “Disaster!” (April 12). Kramer admits that he proposed the raucous take-off of 1970s disaster movies “on a lark,” and his ad hoc focus group was smitten.
“It’s so funny. When I just read this little three sentence description of the show, the whole room roared with laughter,” he said. With songs from the 1970s, the show takes its audience along on a Poseidon-like adventure into a Towering Inferno that seemingly runs into every peril imaginable except, perhaps, a Sharknado.
Though MusicalFare traditionally presents a classic comedy for its summer show, the 2023 production is even more classic than usual: Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (July 5), reworked as a rhythm and blues musical.
“I really like the idea of taking something familiar and having it adapted in a different way. This is an opportunity to put our entire community onstage – that’s the kind of casting that we really want to be able to do,” Kramer said.
The text remains Shakespearean, he made clear, although the narrative was shortened to make room for the music and the funk.
"Everything about this production ... is stirring and beautiful. The staging is poetic," writes Anthony Chase.
MusicalFare also is presenting two larger productions in its cabaret space this season: “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” (Jan. 13) and “Sondheim on Sondheim” (June 2), along with reprising last season’s hit “All Is Calm” and the postponed “Kinky Boots” at Shea’s 701 Theatre.
4380 Main St. (Daemen College campus), Amherst
Sept. 14-Oct. 9: “Nice Work If You Can Get It”
Nov. 9–Dec. 11: “Beehive”
Jan 13-29: “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” (in the cabaret)
Feb. 15–March 19: “Tell Me On a Sunday”
April 12–May 14: “Disaster!”
June 2-18: “Sondheim on Sondheim” (cabaret)
July 5–Aug. 6: “Twelfth Night” (a musical)
Times and tickets: Performances are 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. General admission tickets are $50 with student and group discounts available. For tickets, musicalfare.com, 716-839-8540.