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Thursday Theater Roundup

Just one solitary show appears in this week's Thursday Theater Roundup, as we await word on "The Whipping Man" at Jewish Repertory Theatre and "The Dead English" at the American Repertory Theatre of Western New York, both of which open tonight. Meanwhile, allow us to send you to:

"Tru," through Oct. 27 in the Buffalo United Artists Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "[Christopher] Standart has approached the role with a clear grasp of Capote’s mannerisms and affectations, those extremely stylized movements and utterances that made him an instant curiosity wherever he went. But he doesn’t go down the road of caricature, revealing from the start the roiling emotional undercurrent that seemed to underpin everything Capote wrote and thought at this particular point of his life." --Colin Dabkowski

Cultural community responds to Poloncarz budget

This morning, the movers and shakers of Buffalo's increasingly well-organized cultural community gathered in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park to formally endorse Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's proposed 2013 budget. The response to the budget was, to put it midly, rosy. Here's a video of the press conference shot by our Joe Popiolkowski featuring short statements from Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance co-chair Randall Kramer, Amherst Industrial Development Agency Executive Director James Allen and Arts Services Initiative Executive Director Tod A. Kniazuk:

Poloncarz's proposed budget -- summed up in this story by The News' Denise Jewell Gee -- includes $5.57 million for arts and cultural organizations, which represents an increase of $148,000 over last year's budget. It also funds 14 new organizations which have not received county funding in years past.

But Poloncarz has also directly tied the arts and library funding in his budget to a 3.4 percent property tax increase, thus increasing the chances that the arts may once again become a political football in the ensuing debate over the budget in the Erie County Legislature. From Gee's story, emphasis mine:

Without the tax increase, Poloncarz said, the county would have had to severely cut back on services such as libraries, arts and cultural funding and sheriff’s road patrols to make up for an $8 million deficit that remained after his staff trimmed vacant jobs and other budget lines.

During last year's heated debate over county cultural funding, one of many arguments the cultural community put forward was that tax increases were not necessary to continue or even increase cultural funding. The proposed tax increase, and the way Poloncarz has tied it directly to arts and library funding (along with other issues) complicates that narrative and gives the cultural community a tougher job in declaring its worth to Republican legislators, who are unhappy about the proposed increase, and the suburban taxpayers many of those legislators represent.

Look for more on this in my column next Sunday, Oct. 28.

--Colin Dabkowski

Bread and Puppet Theatre at The Foundry tonight

Members of the Bread and Puppet Theatre give a performance in 2007.

The political performance group Bread and Puppet Theatre will perform at 7 p.m. today in The Foundry (298 Northampton St.), the emerging community arts space run by the Buffalo organization Net+Positive.

--Colin Dabkowski

Music, books, movies and more -- Critics' Corner chat at 1 p.m.

Jeff Miers and I will be back at 1 p.m. today in this space to do our weekly on-camera chat with readers. All subjects for comments and questions--and I do mean all--are welcome, from political debates to memoirs by rock royalty to movies and TV shows and concerts, whatever is on your mind. We'll try to answer everything and even make some sense if we can.
Come join us.

--Jeff Simon

Searching for Sugar Man -- and for other legends

Everyone is talking about "Searching for Sugar Man." I might have to see this movie!

It reminds me of what I have heard about the folk revivals in the 1950s and '60s when people would go looking for these old blues musicians who may or may not be dead. They found Tampa Red -- once known as "The Guitar Wizard" -- working as a janitor in a nursing home, if I remember correctly. They found Big Bill Broonzy in some similar circumstance.

Thinking of those old blues legends, I often wondered how that felt to them, being rediscovered after all these years. They thought their careers were over, now they were touring again, playing on college campuses to all these white kids who were listening rapt. Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, all these old guys, suddenly experiencing this renaissance.

As in "Searching For Sugar Man," it's great when it happens when these old guys -- or gals -- are still alive.

Here is John Hurt at Oberlin College in 1965. He had been rediscovered at 71, when he had not sung in 30 years. He died about a year after he made this recording. This is one of those sweet naughty old blues songs and it is fun to hear him clowning around with the kids. If you listen closely you can hear one of them yell out, "Candyman!" right before he starts the song.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Beethoven hits the stage

Starting Oct. 31, MusicalFare Theater is doing "33 Variations," the Broadway play about Beethoven's "Diabelli" Variations. The title refers to the monumental variations Beethoven wrote on a simple waltz put out by the Viennese publisher Diabelli. He was holding a contest for composers to show what they could do.

I have not seen "33 Variations" but I have watched little promos on YouTube of various productions. It is about a dying musicologist who is obsessing over the music and also it involves her relationship with her daughter, too, as I understand it.

One thing I kind of disagree with the musicologist about. I saw in some clip or other that she thinks Beethoven appears to have been obsessed with this goofy little waltz that Diabelli wrote, and suggests that there must have been something special about it.

I think it was just this goofy tinny little waltz and Beethoven wanted to show that he could transcend it and build it into something great.

Not only that but he was hell-bent on squashing all his competition with a hammer. His competition, by the way, included a teenage Franz Liszt, also Franz Schubert. Some first-rate geniuses. So he had to bring out the heavy artillery.

There are all kinds of sites where scholars and amateurs alike chew on Beethoven's "Diabelli" Variations. YouTube has neat videos that let you listen and follow along. Listen to them and see what you think.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


The man who leapt from the Kleinhans stage


Motown guys are some of the hardest-working guys in show business. I was thinking that because of the encore appearance by Spectrum, the Motown tribute band joining the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall on Saturday.

I looked up my review of the group from the last time they were here, three years ago.

There was this:

Funny, even in historic Kleinhans Music Hall, someone can still figure out a new trick to pull off. Saturday, Spectrum singer Cushney Roberts hit on something I have never seen anyone do.  In the middle of "Backstabber," singing about people who say one thing to your face and another behind your back, he went airborne. He jumped off the stage and into the aisle. The big crowd gasped. Then, as it became evident that Roberts was fine, that he was sashaying up the aisle, the hall went crazy. The lights went up, so we could follow Roberts' antics.

Then there was this:

Roberts, who founded the group, is an especially graceful dancer, but all these guys can hold their own. Just in the first song, "Get Ready," all four were jumping in unison, turning this way and that, playing pattycake, miming the lyrics. In "The Way You Do the Things You Do," they formed what amounted to a chorus line.

Every time I am lucky enough to see one of these Motown groups, including Motown tribute groups like this one, I am amazed all over again by their synchronicity, harmonies, dress and derring-do. They're certainly a lot more fun to look at than musicians who just show up in T-shirts and stand there.

Saturday should be fun!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

From the Cutting Room Floor

There was so much to say about the joyous celebration of the Tralf this evening and so many people to say it that a couple of things had to be dropped to the cutting room floor. This seemed like a pretty good place to put them back--important extras, as it were, for the DVD of the story.

The straw that broke the camel's back with Ed Lawson's relationship to the new prorprietors of the downtown Tralf in the '80's was the moment they canceled his booking of Gato Barbieri--who had, by then, become commonly known as the composer of the music for "Last Tango in Paris" --in favor of a gig by wonderful comedian Pete Barbutti. Barbutti's gig was financially unscuccessful, according to Lawson, and Barbarieri, later, did indeed play the club and was, in fact, a financial success. At that point, though, Lawson admitted in a News story at the time that he didn't feel connected to what the downtown club had become. So he and its then management parted ways. That's the reason his presence at this evening's celebration is such a remarkable--and in its way-- heartening thing.

Representive of the antipathy held over the years by members of the original Tralf family is this, from an e-mail to me, by John Penney who is now a longtime producer and on-air personality in Detroit. Penney is well-remembered for his hugely popular '70's jazz show on WBFO-FM in Buffalo and his omnipresence at the original Tralf. Wrote Penney, with characteristic frankness and affection for Ed Lawson: "The Lawson Brothers never embraced the idea of running a business hard on the ground. Musicians came because they knew they would be treated well and appreciated and paid regardless of whether the club lost money.....

"The horror story began the moment Ed told me that he had sold out for a new location downtown without securing--ANY--rights. To the name, to management....the same naivete that made the original Tralf successful allowed him to get totally fleeced, and over the ensuing 30 years more sheep have been shorn."
For all that harshness in Penney's view, then and now, it is a tribute to exactly how glorious an idea the original Tralf was--and remains--that Penney too will be among those who are scheduled to be at the club this evening, celebrating the club that completely transformed, for the better, everything that we know about nightlife in Buffalo.

What will happen this evening, then, is a homecoming like very few others.

--Jeff Simon

Live chat: Miers on Music at noon CANCELLED

Jeff Miers is on assignment this afternoon and unable to conduct his weekly chat. Please tune in Wednesdays at 1 p.m. for the Critics' Corner live video chat with Jeff Simon and Jeff Miers.

Thursday Theater Roundup

"Way Wicked Women," through Saturday in a Brazen Faced Varlets production in Rust Belt Books.

From the review: "Don't try to reign in Kelly Beuth one bit, nor the other women in the well-directed cast... There's a lot of good material, and quite a history lesson, in "Way Wicked Women," more than enough to justify paying them a visit." --Melinda Miller

"And the World Goes 'Round," through Sunday in O'Connell and Company's home in Gleason Hall on the Erie Community College Williamsville campus. ★★★½

From the review: "Director [Joey] Bucheker has paired his singers well and when the quintet joins together, on 'Money, Money' and the title tune from 'Cabaret,' their harmonies surprise and please. Bucheker wears a choreographer's hat, too; on occasion, movement is endearingly clunky. But, the pace is generally full of nonstop fun, with minutes of overwrought kept to a minimum."--Ted Hadley


Richard Lambert and Josephine Hogan in "Mr. and Mrs. Nobody" at the New Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Mark Mulville/The Buffalo News.

"Mr. and Mrs. Nobody," through Saturday in the New Phoenix Theatre.  ★★★½

From the review: ""Mr. and Mrs. Nobody" is ingenious in many ways. Hogan and Lambert are marvelous bumblers. The Pooters are prone to gaffes whether at home or away, and the best of intentions go constantly awry. They tumble about, burst into ridiculous song, tangle with innocent looking props, dignity temporarily doused. They are hapless and hilarious." --Ted Hadley

"The Music Man," through Sunday at MusicalFare Theatre. ★★★ (SOLD OUT)

From the review: "Though on opening night the pistons were not all firing precisely on time, the production is more than well-oiled enough to allow audiences to suspend their disbelief to swallow Willson's questionable and even somewhat cynical premise about the wages of deception. Even if that premise rings slightly false in 2012 for those of us who've seen our share of Bernie Madoffs and Bashar Issas, there's no doubt that the music still rings true." --Colin Dabkowski

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