I headed north of the city to see three great theater productions. His one of them was a pleasant surprise. But more on that below. At the Shaw Festival, or “Showfest,” in Niagara on the Lake, Canada, I saw JM Shinji’s classic Irish play THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD (until October 7th at the Jackie Maxwell Theater) and, unsurprisingly, the cast, costumes, sets and all the elements were spot on. This is the story of a young man who arrives on the west coast of Ireland claiming to have killed his father, and the locals, especially the bar owner’s daughter, take an attraction to him. until she stopped doing it. The young actors are exciting, with Marla McLean as the exuberant Pezine Mike and Kasim Khan as Christy Mahon, and it’s always nice to see veterans return to the stage, like Fiona Byrne as the widow Quinn (who also gives young Christy some movement) and Rick Reed as Christy’s not-yet-dead father Old Mahon. Given that Showfest is well funded, has a lavishly long rehearsal period, and at least six live audience previews before arriving on opening night, the quality was not surprising. Also, no complaints about the very favorable exchange rate at the concession stand. There, a $5 bill got him $6.60 worth of coffee crisps and aerobars.
Another “predictable” event is Delaware Park’s Shakespeare’s always-fun four-person touring show that sends out to the community on nights when Big Hill isn’t (mainly) the main show, and right now they’re loading up on “MEASURE FOR MEASURE” and loading up on “ROMEO AND JULIET” (running from July 27th to August 20th). This year’s tour, entitled WHERE THERE’S A WILL THERE’S A WAY, will bring together four actors (Emily Bassett, Heather Casselli, Connor Graham and Nathaniel Higgins) to showcase a variety of famous Shakespearean scenes, all directed by local Shakespearean comics treasure Noam Sham. Most importantly, they are the four workers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream about to stage Shakespeare’s play. Fun often comes from messing things up (intentionally) and struggling to pull it back from the brink of disaster. well done. See the list of remaining community parks and venues below to find a show near you (all free and open to the public, but bring your own chairs).
What I wasn’t prepared for was The Music Man, Meredith Wilson’s stellar production of Harold Hill (Matthew Mooney), a con man and traveling salesman, and Marian Palou (Rachel Ross), a town librarian and piano teacher who has been on the job since day one. The play, directed by Darien Brown and produced by Curtain Up Productions, runs at the Historic Palace Theater on East Avenue in Lockport, New York, and runs through Sunday, July 23. Some of my favorite actors have appeared on the stage just recently (Sean Ryan, Joe Russi, Chris Bartolomeo), but I’ve never stepped up to this venerable space.
My first thrill came from the impressive and huge (by local standards) pit orchestra, which does not rely on sampled keyboards and features 17 (17!) live musicians: 5 winds, 5 brass, 5 stringed instruments, piano and percussion. What a sound! If you have an English horn player (Jennifer Ross-Colling) in your orchestra, you know they’re serious. Also, orchestra director David C. Stacey was running a tough ship. The next thrill was the stage itself, a large old proscenium theater with curtains and flyes, the set was very well done. So were the epic dance numbers, the barbershop quartet, and the women of the school board.
Below is a list or “basic” of dates and locations for each of the shows mentioned.
Basics: “THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD” is a classic Irish play written by JM Shinji and directed by Jackie Maxwell, presented by Shaw Festival at the Jackie Maxwell Theater (behind the main Festival Theatre). 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, L0S 1J0, Canada 1-800-511-SHAW. www.shawfest.com/playbill/the-playboy-of-the-western-world It’s in the repertoire until October 7th. Recommended for Grades 9 and up | Ages 14+ Play time: 2 hours 15 minutes.
Basics: WHERE THERE’S A WILL THERE’S A PLAY is an hour-long production of Shakespeare scenes and sonnets, adapted by Brendan Didio, directed by Norm Sham, starring Emily Bassett, Heather Casselli, Connor Graham, Nathaniel “Nate” W.C. From June 14th to August 21st, all shows are he free from 7:00 (with one additional matinee he will be held at the Freedom Run Winery on July 23rd from 4:30). All performances are free, no tickets required and open to the public. For dates and locations, scroll down or visit shakespeareindelawarepark.org/2023-tour-locations.
runtime: 60 minutes without breaks
A picnic is recommended, bringing your own chairs and blankets.
July 21st (7:00PM) – Buffalo Central Terminal
495 Dr. Paderewski, Buffalo, NY 14212
July 22 (7pm) – Richard E. Pascucci Bandshell
200 Oxford Avenue, Lancaster, NY 14086
July 23rd (4:30pm and 7:00pm) – Freedom Run Winery
5138 Lower Mountain Rd, Lockport, NY 14094
Rain or shine – indoors
July 24th (7pm) – Five Points Bakery
44 Brayton St, Buffalo, NY 14213
July 25 (7pm) – Kenan Center
433 Locust St, Lockport, NY 14094
Rain or shine – indoor use is restricted
July 26 (7pm) – Nike Base Park
3278 Whitehaven Rd, Grand Island, NY 14072
July 31 (7pm) – Taylor Road Park
6765 Taylor Rd, Hamburg, NY 14075
August 7 (7pm) – Garanti Park
230 Martin Rd, Lackawanna, NY
August 8 (7pm) – Clarence Town Park
10405 Main St, Clarence, NY
August 14 (7pm) – Academy Park
851 Center St, Lewiston, NY 14092
August 21 (7pm) – Bassett Park
359 Klein Rd, Williamsville, NY 14221
Basics: THE MUSIC MAN, The Musical by Meredith Wilson, Presented by Curtain Up Productions July 13-23, Thursday-Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sunday 3:00 p.m., Lockport Palace Theater, 2 East Ave. Lockport, NY 14094 716.438.1130 lockportpalacetheatre.org
runtime: Less than 3 hours including breaks