MusicalFare Sondheim Production a Success

Sunday in the Park with George, written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is a fictionalized account of the life of French Pointillist Painter George Seurat based on his painting “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

The MusicalFare production is the second Sondheim musical featured at the theatre on the campus of Daemen College in Amherst.

Directed by Randall Kramer, the story centers on Seurat’s obsession with “design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony” to the exclusion of genuine human relationships.

George Seurat, played by Paschal Frisina III, meets the love of his life, Dot (Jenn Stafford), but their relationship is hampered by his inability to see past the tip of his paintbrush. While his art was best viewed by stepping back and looking at the whole, Seurat lacked the perspective to do so with the rest of his life.

Act One begins with a petulant Dot modeling for George and longing for his attention. Jules (Doug Crane), a rival painter, stops by frequently as do Jules household staff, Franz, (Louis Colaiacovo) and Frieda (Leah Russo), who provide much-needed comic relief along Jules’ bratty daughter, Louise, played by Anne Roaldi.

There is a marked difference between the first and second acts, the former set in the 1890s and the latter in the 1980s. “It was initially written as only the first act,” said Director Kramer, “Sondheim and Lapine tried to write act two quickly. The second act was drubbed by critics, while the first act was considered brilliant. But the whole show is what won the Pulitzer.”

While Seurat is known to have painted from life, the back stories are fiction. “The People that he sketched were actual people in the park, most of them lower class,” said Debbie Pappas, who played Jules’ wife, Yvonne. “Dot is the only real thing in his life. The others need the painting to exist,” added Frisina.

Chris Schenk’s set design is minimalist, but evocative of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon.” He employs a painting-sized scrim that allows the artist to work while facing the audience. Costumes, by Loraine O’Donnell and Olivia Ebsary, are remarkably true to the painting.

The show continues through April 5. See or call the box office at 716-839-8540 for tickets or information.

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Buffalo Quickies Titillates Alleyway Audience

Buffalo Quickies 2009 is a one-act play festival presented by Alleyway Theatre. Director Joyce Stilson has assembled this annual show for 18 years.

This year’s festival, billed as “The Sex Edition,” included one-act performances mostly about relationships. Stories ranged from Jay C. Rehak’s “Marinated Steaks and Socks” about marital communication problems between Francine (Sheila Connors) and John (Christopher S. Parada) referred by therapist Dr. Watts (Louise Reger) to Alex Broun’s “Saturday Night Chippewa, Sunday Morning Lackawanna” on the perils of an alcohol- laced one night stand. Michael Seitz and Tammy Reger played the mismatched pair.

“The selection of pieces is extremely difficult,” said Stilson, “because there are so many factors: casting, content, set, and of course if it’s any good and how it relates to the rest of the evening.”

This is the fourth year with a unifying theme. Most years the festival has been an eclectic mix. Previous themes have been love, theatre and Greek Mythology.

The one-acts transitioned seamlessly into one another, the actors moving their own props and set pieces, sometimes changing costume right on stage. The set itself was a plain black box. Scenes were set with chairs and other moveable pieces.

The evening moved quickly, fitting 10 plays into 90 minutes. The actors were well-utilized – Carlton Frankin played everything from a frustrated suitor to a death row inmate equally well. Seitz was a charismatic presence when he stepped on stage and Parada always provided a laugh.

The climax of the evening was “Jump!” by George J Bryjak, the 2008 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition One Act Winner. It was about a young philosophy student (Seitz) and his no-nonsense neighbor (Louise Reger). The philosopher was experiencing existential depression (ED) and was interrupted while attempting to jump from the roof. The laundry hanging neighbor pressed him to make a decision, but he was unmoved until the arrival of a Birkenstock-clad flash poet (Sheila Connors) who shared her art with him.

Next appearing at Alleyway Theatre is Hell Hole Honeys, a world premiere musical, directed by Todd Warfield. Show dates are April 23 through May 9. See for information or tickets.

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Hell Hole Honeys Bawdy Fun at Alleyway

Hell Hole Honeys, written by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes & David Ogrin opened Thursday at Buffalo’s Alleyway Theatre and continues through May 9th. This World Premiere Musical is directed by Todd Warfield.

The show begins as cable access journalist Mary Jo Huntsinger (Kim Piazza) is jailed for refusing to reveal her source in a controversial story. MJ’s investigation uncovered city corruption, making her the target of the powerful people she crossed.

Naive young MJ is thrust into Bellpole Women’s Maximum Security Prison and quickly learns to adapt. Her fellow inmates appear to be hardened and heartless, but most are just afraid and making the best of what is sure to be their home for some time to come.

Cutter (Stephanie Bax) shines as MJ’s deranged cellmate. Her crazy behavior is mostly her method for coping with a disturbing childhood. She tells MJ her story and soon becomes her protector and confidant.

Scratch (Victoria Perez) is the tough chick on the cell block. She chose the wrong man and took the fall for his crime. Tragically, she was pregnant when jailed and her daughter is being raised without her. Scratch is willing to do anything the corrupt Warden Beaumont (Jeff Coyle) asks of her hoping to get out to raise her child.

B_tch (Mercedes), Ho (Jasmine Ramos) and Squeaky (Kate Wolff) round out the cellblock. The song “B_tches and Hos” is one of the musical highlights of the evening. The music, under the direction of Michael Hake crossed a wide range of styles from rap to ballads and was consistently well done.

“Most of the cast has worked with me before,” said Warfield, “But, Jasmine Ramos and Kate Wolff are making their professional debut.”

Warfield makes remarkable use of the small Alleyway space, with jail cells hung on a scaffold base and a couple of moving set pieces.

The show is bawdy throughout, not suited for children or teens, but a fun night of adult entertainment.

Hell Hole Honeys continues through May 9. Contact Alleyway theatre at 716-852-2600 or for tickets and information.

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Bedouin Soundclash Headlines Reggae Lineup at Town

Town Ballroom featured a wide range of musical styles this past Saturday night. There was something for everyone, from old school punk fans to lovers of reggae, R&B and ska.

Wolf Tickets, a Buffalo punk band opened the evening. The group has been performing together since 1992. Chris Malachowski led the vocals and played guitar. Russell Bickert backed him on drums and Mike Snyder on bass.

A couple of teen boys began slam dancing, much to the dismay of a flock of young women in sundresses and cardigans, but the boys gave up when no one else would  join them.

Wolf Tickets played “Long Walk” from their soon to be released record, Here Comes the Hell. They finished the set with, “Down at the Casbah Club,” a reggae inspired number that served as a great segue into the next band, The Great Train Robbery.

The Great Train Robbery has been part of the local music scene since the 1980’s. The band is difficult to categorize – their sound seamlessly blends jazz, reggae, R&B and ska.

They have a large local following. David Watts is the lead vocalist, David Malia plays guitar, and Naheem Shabazz the trombone. Vincent Fossitt awed the crowd on both tenor and alto sax assisted with vocals. Rodney Chamberlain rocked the bass and Andrew Case played drums.

The venue really came alive when Bedouin Soundclash took the stage. An Ontario band, Bedouin Soundclash formed when lead singer Jay Malinowski and Bassist Eon Sinclair met at Queens College in Mississauga.

The band opened with “Until We Burn in the Sun”, a hit from their 2007 album Street Gospels, and went through a wide range of their play list, much of which the audience knew well enough to sing along.

Malinowski smiled throughout the entire performance, jokingly prodding the techs at one point, “Turn down the lights a bit, it’s like high school talent night”

Malinoski introduced “Rude Boy Don’t Cry” from their 2004 album Sounding A Mosaic with a shout-out to rude boys everywhere. “Rude boys” were originally street toughs in Jamaica, but in recent years, the term has come to include fans of ska.

Malikowski joked that one of their biggest hits, “Walls Fall Down” was about crossing the US-Canadian border.

They closed the set after eleven with 12:59 Lullaby which most of the audience sang as well.  The song gained a lot of exposure when it was featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Contact The Town Ballroom at 716- 852-3900 or see their website at for information on future shows.

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Ted Leo Wows Tralf Crowd

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists performed at Tralf Music Hall Wednesday, June 17, their second Buffalo show in less than a year.

The audience varied widely in age, but shared the same laid-back vibe.

Local band Paul’s Grandfather took the stage at 8:45 for a show slated to begin at eight. Scheduled opener, Titus Andronicus did not make the gig.

Paul’s Grandfather played a wide range of folksy self-written songs including, Jailbirdy, from their new EP, No Home. Vocalist Becca Ryskalczyk said that The EP “just came in the mail today.”


Band founders Becca Ryskalczyk, Katie Preston and Karrah Teague share vocal duties and an impressive array of instruments, from guitar and bass to harmonica and percussion.

The women of Paul’s Grandfather met at Fredonia State and began performing together. The most recent additions to the band are Bobby Frisk on percussion and Paul Swenson on cello.

The mellow crowd remained seated throughout the hour long set, the dance floor a twenty foot gap between the audience and the stage.

When the roadies began resetting the stage for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists ten pm set, the crowd came to life, jostling for position in front of the stage.

Ted Leo played many older familiar tunes like Me and Mia from the 2004 album Shake the Sheets, probably their best known song and the moderately successful Colleen from 2007’s Living with the Living.

Newer songs included Even Heroes have to Die and a number that Ted Leo called “the newest of the new.”  After flubbing the intro, he quipped, “I forgot how it starts, it’s that new.”

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists played a solid set, powering through song after song, Ted strumming the guitar at an astonishing speed, with no need for flash or showmanship.

An alternative band with punk flair and a political bent, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have been performing since 1999. Vocalist Ted Leo is the only member who has been with the band since inception, percussionist Chris Wilson and guitarist James Canty joined the band several years later.

Contact The Tralf at 716-852-2860 or see their website at for information on future shows.

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