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August in Buffalo is when many of the Curtain Up! productions began their rehearsals. (Mark your calendars: Curtain Up! is Friday, September 20th.) So, as many of the opening productions of the 2019-2020 season take shape, I think it’s a good time to look back at the 2018-19 season. As someone who runs their own theatre, I don’t attend nearly as many local productions as I would like, but here are some highlights from productions I did get a chance to see:

BIG FISH by Second Generation at the Smith Theatre was highly entertaining and, I would argue, the production itself was even better than the script. Director/Choreographer Michael Walline did a wonderful job creating many of the fantastical sequences through movement, sound and lights. The first 45 minutes were especially spellbinding. The national tour of HAMILTON at Shea’s Performing Arts Center was everything it was cracked up to be. Considering all of the hype that was no easy task! But it was accomplished beautifully and quite often in a refreshingly simple way. MusicalFare was proud to present the world premiere of Tom Dudzick’s CHRISTMAS OVER THE TAVERN. Quite amazingly, all of the tickets to all performances were sold out even before it opened! Its development continues with a new production in December 2019 at Shea’s 710 Theatre. Speaking of Shea’s 710, the 2018-19 season was a strong one for the theatre. Beginning with the groundbreaking collaboration by All For One Productions of THE THREE MUSKETEERS, and including CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY, ALMOST MAINE, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, and the exquisite FUN HOME, it was a strong season. The Road Less Traveled production of ALMOST MAINE featured a scene where actor Nick Lama repeatedly flopped around the stage like a fish out of water. For anyone who was there, it was a memorable and hysterical moment in a production filled with charm and humor. The Kavinoky’s production of SPAMALOT was very well done. While I tended to tire of the premise after the first hour or so the appealing cast kept my interest throughout. Director/Choreographer Lynne Kurdziel Formato did a great job of keeping the action moving, staging wonderful productions numbers, and allowing the actors to shine. Finally, kudos again to Director/Choreographer Michael Walline for his conceptual world premiere production of LATE IN THE EVENING: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO PAUL SIMON. It would have been easy to create a “greatest hits” revue of Paul Simon’s work but Michael dug deeper and created a moving story that was inspired by the death this past winter of Lawrence Bierl. And kudos to the MusicalFare audiences for going with Michael on this journey. In the end, I think we all won on that one.

Again, this is a very long way from a comprehensive list. But, it’s nice to look back and realize the quality of local theatre and the indelible memories it generates each year. Here’s to the new ones we will all create in the 2019-2020 season.

Randall Kramer is the Artistic and Executive Director of MusicalFare Theatre, the Founding President of the Board of Arts Services Initiative, a member of the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance and a past President of the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo.