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8 classic Buffalo stories about Marvin Hamlisch

HamlischIt was tough to write the tribute to Marvin Hamlisch that ran on the front page today. First, I was feeling bad, like everyone else, that he had died. And second, there were just so many memories. So many laughs. They all couldn't fit into the story, and it killed me to have to choose just a few.

God, that Hamlisch was funny.

Looking back I could not believe the number of times I had written about him in the Buzz column. He always had something to say. Here are a few tales of Hamlisch in Buffalo from over the years. I cut and pasted from The News' archives. Note: The first and the last stories are my favorites. They are both so out of bounds. Dear Marvin Hamlisch. We are going to miss him!

Oct. 2001: Hamlisch, at Kleinhans Music Hall, griped about CNN. He advised us to limit viewing to one hour a day. "That's enough," he told us. "And if anything big happens, you've got a friend who will call you and say, "Did you see that?'" In his finest hour, the maestro took aim at the hallowed hall itself. "Not to criticize this hall," he said, "but when you're playing the piano, you look up, for inspiration. And you see all those wires!" He pointed to the ceiling. "It looks like my West Side apartment where we'd do anything not to call an electrician. Twenty four billion dollars this place cost? You'd think someone would have said, like my mother used to say: "I don't want to see wires.'"

April 2002: Kleinhans Music Hall newcomers, beware: Just 'cause you're tucked into the balcony doesn't mean you won't find yourself talking with the conductor. Look at Christina Ciminelli, who sat there last weekend when Marvin Hamlisch conducted "Star Search." She was turning 50 and, after Hamlisch played "Happy Birthday" to her in the styles of Mozart and Beethoven, she yelled "Thank you!" Hamlisch whipped around. "That's it?" he yelled. "I just killed myself for you, and I get "thanks a lot,' and that's going to be it?" Ciminelli struggled to fix things. "I love you, Marvin!" she yelled. An interesting non-sequitur followed: "Do you make cannoli?" Hamlisch asked. "I need help," Ciminelli replied. "You sound Jewish!" shouted Hamlisch. And it continued. Later, when soprano Karen D'Angelo announced an Italian aria title, Hamlisch looked up and said, "What do you say to that, Christina?" Aw, Marv! Leave her alone!

Dec. 2002: Last weekend at the Holiday Pops concert, Hamlisch, who was conducting the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Pops concerts, outdid himself at the mic. "How many Jews are in the audience?" asked the maestro, who himself is Jewish and jokes about it constantly. A few hands went up, and a memorable exchange followed. "Did you exchange Hanukkah gifts?" Hamlisch asked one guy. The answer was inaudible, but Hamlisch filled us in: "He says he's waiting for Christmas." The crowd howled and cheered. Hamlisch also appealed to the young. "We're happy to see you at Kleinhans Music Hall," he told one kid. "It's so nice that you're here dot com."

March 2003: Hamlisch asked musicians why they chose the instruments they did. Tuba player Don Harry's explanation was one of the best. "Because in the bell of the tuba you can carry at least a six-pack," he dead-panned. Hamlisch shot back, "Which is why I go from city to city with my own piano."

March 2005:  Marvin Hamlisch shares our food sensibilities! His concert here last weekend, technically a tribute to Richard Rodgers, wound up being a tribute to Antoinette's Sweets, as Hamlisch rhapsodized constantly on the treats he'd enjoyed there. (We hear that Antoinette's, startled and dazzled, sent millions of chocolates to the BPO musicians on Saturday night. We hope their black tie still fits them next weekend.) After the concert, the fun continued: Stopping at Fiddleheads, Hamlisch ordered the entire dessert tray. Unlike a true Buffalonian, he shared it. But still, it's a start.

Dec. 2005: Marvin Hamlisch, conducting the Holiday Pops concerts over the weekend, beamed at Friday's crowd: "It was so nice and brave of you not to be scared away by Kevin O'Connell." 

March 2009: In a production of "Show Boat," Hamlisch, ponderous in his tails, picked good-naturedly on kids in the front row, kidding them about their iPods and their pop music. "This is going to be a shock. Luckily, we have child Tylenol ready," he told one 9-year-old. "Tonight, we've got singers, and you're going to be able to understand the lyrics."

Nov. 2008: Hamlisch came out on stage and read a paper someone had handed him about Irving Berlin's bittersweet ties to Buffalo. The songwriter, he read, had married a Buffalo girl who died five months after their honeymoon. Hamlisch told how Berlin had paid a florist on West Delavan to place a white rose on her grave every other day.  "That's romantic," he told us. He added: "Every day would have been over-the-top romantic."

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

George Duke opens Great Performer Series

 Music legend George Duke, Grammy winner Shawn Colvin and contemporary jazz artists Acoustic Alchemy are among the acts scheduled for the 2012-2013 Great Performers Series at the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall.

 Duke opens the series at 8 p.m. Nov. 9. Tickets are $25 for the lower-tier seating and $40 upper tier. Here's the rest of the schedule:

 • A double-bill featuring the Victor Wooten Band and Jimmy Herring Band is 8 p.m. Nov. 17; tickets are $40/$45.

• Colvin performs at 8 p.m.  Dec. 16; tickets are $30/$35.

• Canadian guitar phenomenon Jesse Cook is in concert at 8 p.m. Jan. 17; tickets are $30/$35.

• Acoustic Alchemy performs at 8 p.m. March 23; tickets are $30/$35.

• Closing the series is young Youtube ukulele sensation Jake Shimabukuro at 8 p.m. April 20; tickets are $30/$35.

 Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Aug. 27 through the Rockwell Hall box office, by calling 878-3005 or online at Buy three or more concerts in a flex pack for $32 each in the lower-tier seating or $27 in the upper tier.

New Nancy Rubins sculpture in Chicago


Above: "Monochrome for Chicago," a new sculpture by Nancy Rubins in Chicago's Gateway Park in a picture snapped by The News' Patrick Lakamp. Though somewhat smaller, the scultpure is remarkably similar in style to the artist's 2011 commission for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery:


--Colin Dabkowski

Falletta at the Proms


JoAnn Falletta went to the Proms over the weekend.

The Proms are England's most prominent classical music festival. Falletta, besides being the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, recently became the principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in northern Ireland. At London's Royal Albert Hall, she conducted Ulster musicians in Stravinsky, Chabrier, Mozart and a premiere by Elaine Agnew.

That is the Royal Albert Hall pictured above. The BBC is generous with letting us listen in on Proms proceedings and Falletta's appearance is at your fingertips.

James Galway is the soloist in a Mozart flute concerto. He is appearing here in Buffalo too, to touch off the 2012-2013 season on Sept. 22.

It is fun to listen to! The hostess announces Falletta as "the first American and the first female director of the Ulster Orchestra." Introducing Chabrier's "Espana" -- a tribute to Spain -- she also says that one of the youth musicians said that at first, they were just playing the notes, but when JoAnn Falletta began to conduct them, they really felt as if they were going to Spain. That is high praise!

Galway also speaks well of Falletta.

"I have a very good rapport with JoAnn," he says.

Then you hear from Falletta herself, talking about how vividly Galway plays the concerto.

Anyway, enjoy! So much to listen to, so little time.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


Live Book Club Chat with "Most Dangerous Thing" author Laura Lippman

Join The News Book Club Chat with "Most Dangerous Thing" author Laura Lippman at 10 a.m. today.


Infringement Daily Planner: Day 11

The final day of the 2012 Buffalo Infringement Festival, sadly, is upon us. If you still have any fuel left in your tank after yesterday's onslaught of Infringey activities, here are my five final picks for some Infringement activities to cap off the festival:

• Habit Dance performs "Dance Works & New Ideas" at 2 p.m. in the Alt Theatre at the Warehouse.

Keith Michaud, seen below performing his song "The Ghost of New Orleans" a cover of John Prine's "Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)" outside Rust Belt Books on Friday afternoon, plays today at 2 p.m. outside Cafe Taza.


• Aside from Babushka!, the comedy duo that's been performing at Infringement for the past few years, there isn't an overwhelming amount of comedy at the fest. But today, you can catch members of Stand Up Buffalo performing at El Museo at 8 p.m.

• Word on the street is that the Slyboots Drumming Ensemble is worth catching, which you can do today at Duke's Bohemian Grove Bar during "Clams and Jams: Infringement Edition" at 6 p.m.

• The only place to be tonight is, of course, the Infringement Festival Closing Ceremonies. That gets started at 8 p.m. in Nietzsche's and features plenty of musical performances along with the festival's annual Iffy Awards.

It's been a great festival, and I've had a blast covering it. Hope everyone else had at least as much fun as I did. Till next year, Infringe on,

--Colin Dabkowski

Infringement Daily Planner: Day 10

On this, the penultimate day of the 2012 Buffalo Infringement Festival, in the neighborhood of 100 separate performances are slated for venues across the city. It's perhaps the busiest day of Infringement so far. If you need some help deciding what to do, here are my suggestions for the day:

• At Old Wondermoth, the Buffalo Contact Improvisation Jam Performance Group perfroms their show "Random Contact" from 12 to 1 p.m. Contact improv (of which you can see an example in this video at around the 3:58 mark) is a form of dance in which the participants' bodies are always touching in some way during the performance. Done well, it can be beautiful to watch.

• Also at noon at the Occupy Buffalo house, a whole host of bands will play for the Occupy Buffalo-sponsored "Anti Warped Tour," which also features art from the Occupy movement and other events/activities.

• I have it on good authority (that of "Incident at Deer Lick" author and performer Franklin LaVoie, if you must know), that Erin Bouvy's performance of "Knot… My Best Moments" is an absolute must-see. The piece is a clown show "for mature audiences," featuring burlesque, physical comedy and character intensive acting." The show runs at 5 p.m. today and 6 p.m. Sunday in El Museo.

• At 7 p.m. in Wasteland Studios, the Francis Bacon Experiment presents "420 the Musical," a project in development about which the word-of-mouth is quite good.

• The Buffalo Burlesque Collective, along with Jayme Coxx and The Bad Grils, presents "A Midsummer Night's Drag" at 7:45 in the Alt Theatre at the Warehouse. A trio of naughtily named hosts will "lead the audience through a mystical, hysterical and off-color version of the classic Shakespearean comedy."

--Colin Dabkowski

Review: 'He Who Gets Slapped' at The Foundry


Here's my review of Torn Space Theater's "He Who Gets Slapped" (with an illustration of two characters, above, by Infringement artist J. Tim Raymond):

One of the most compelling reasons to participate in the Buffalo Infringement Festival is the opportunity to explore strange and often ad hoc performance venues far from the beaten track. The philosophy of being an urban pioneer, of peeking your head into creaky old buildings that have long since outlived their original use, also happens to be a tenet of Buffalo’s Torn Space Theater.

So it makes sense that the theater company, headquartered in the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle on Fillmore Avenue, has put together its own Infringement production. A new adaptation of Russian playwright Leonid Andreyev’s “He Who Gets Slapped,” directed by Megan Callahan, opened July 27 in an old warehouse at 298 Northampton St., the former headquarters of Buffalo ReUse and future home of a shared artisan workspace run by the new organization Net + Positive.

The building, which once housed rows of century-old doors and boxes of cabinet handles, door-knockers and other assorted materials salvaged from the city’s historic homes, was adapted into a temporary theater for this production. Church pews make up the seats, and the set is at least partially constructed from materials left behind after ReUse moved to new digs.

The one-act piece tells the sad tale of a writer-turned-clown (Chris Corporandy), whom we meet just after a stroke of bad luck has driven him to join the circus. We watch him fall in quite comfortably with a group of rough-and-tumble circus performers and fall in love — quite uncomfortably, as it turns out — with Consuela, a nimble young “bareback tango queen,” played by Bonnie Jean Taylor.

The production is highly stylized, an approach theatergoers have come to expect from Torn Space. Dramatic lighting and sound shifts sometimes interrupt the action or dialogue and nudge both audiences and performers into a sort of dream state of heightened awareness. This almost always works to the advantage of this play, which, even in this wise new adaptation, is not what you would call fully fleshed out.

Corporandy’s performance is a case study in the subtle creep of madness, a process that seems to be accelerated by the application of makeup and consummated by Consuelo’s rejection of his crazed love. You get the idea that if his character — known in the play only as He Who Gets Slapped — had taken a slightly different course, he might have actually become the Joker, circa Heath Ledger.

Fine performances also come from Jon Elston, Bob Bozek and Jennifer Fitzery as a trio of clowns and Gerry Maher as Consuela’s unscrupulous father, who thinks nothing of sacrificing his daughter’s happiness for financial gain.

As Infringement fare goes, “He Who Gets Slapped” is more confident and polished than most offerings. That, and the opportunity to explore an exciting (if only ad-hoc) new performance space, are the only excuses you should need to catch the show in one of its two final performances.



3 stars

WHAT: “He Who Gets Slapped”

WHEN: Through Sunday

WHERE: The Foundry, 298 Northampton St.


INFO: 812-5733 or m

--Colin Dabkowski


Miers on Music live chat

Infringement Daily Planner: Day 9

Only three days of Infringement remain. If you haven't yet Infringed, the final weekend of the festival is jammed with hundreds of performances of every conceivable stripe. Here are just five of the many dozens of performances on the slate for today:

Steve Roylance, whose play "Dependent, Undisciplined and Sleeping Late" played Road Less Traveled Productions' Blacklight series earlier this year, will present his "City Sketches" fro 3 to 3:45 p.m. in Main (St)udios.

• What the Infringement Festival would be like without "El" the Mime, I would rather not imagine. You can catch her 15-minute performance of "Midnight Snack" and "Inconvenient Robbery" at 4:30 p.m. in El Buen Amigo.

• One of the best parts of the Infringement Festival is the opportunity to encounter motley bands of eccentric artists and personalities wandering through the streets of Allentown. Today, an event that's been dubbed "Infringement on Parade" begins at 5 p.m. at Casa de Arte and Old Wondermoth and makes its way to various Allentown venues throughout the evening. From 6 to 9 p.m., you may also encounter members of "Artists and Cyclists," including the 12/8 Path Band, "artist tables and installations, recycled bicycle art and activities from GO Bike Buffalo."

• As part of the always-busy Allentown First Fridays gallery walk, several Infringement venues will be holding art openings. These include Casa de Arte, where the themed group show "Booze and Drugs: The Ravages of Addiction" is on view; as well as installations, exhibitions and performances at Coming Home, El Museo and Sp@ce 224, among others.

• Starlight Studio, an organization dedicated to helping the developmentally disabled through the arts, will host its own opening at 7 p.m. The event will feature members of Starlight's art/poetry group "Monsters for Peace on Earth" -- captured at the end of this video in early July -- as well as readings of "Monsters for Peace"-themed works by Robin Brox and Geoffrey Gatza.

--Colin Dabkowski



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