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Thursday Theater Roundup

Our weekly theater roundup features shows recommended by our reviewers:

"Cloud 9," through Dec. 22 in the New Phoenix Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "The New Phoenix Theatre has just opened [Caryl] Churchill’s early career sex farce, 'Cloud 9,” a wild, erotic, gender-bending story that crosses oceans and centuries. It’s a hilarious, obscene romp populated with unforgettable, cartoonish characters, situational foolishness, sight gags and chase, but leaves room for messages: know thyself, respect others, ditch preconceived notions about people, be on the alert for double standards." --Ted Hadley

"Other Desert Cities," through Dec. 16 in the Kavinoky Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "Baitz’s play, unlike far more simplistic living room dramas like Yasmina Reza’s 'God of Carnage,' is overloaded in the best possible way with emotional and political ammunition. It can be read from a strictly political angle, a strictly emotional one, or any combination of both. It says important things about mental illness, about apathy, about the need for a broader perspective than one was raised with, and about the use of dishonesty as the means to a laudable end – a deeply political notion if ever there was one." --Colin Dabkowski

"It WAS a Wonderful Life," through Jan. 5 in the chapel at Forest Lawn Cemetery. ★★★½

From the review: "The one-hour-plus presentation is less revue and more monologue cycle. It is built on the premise that the long-term residents of the famous Buffalo cemetery have come to share their holiday memories. What sounds like a morose, potentially morbid display of friendly ghosts and black-and-white nostalgia, is actually a delightfully salient little piece." --Ben Siegel

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The Top 10 Christmas songs of 2012

The numbers are in! This annual report arrives from ASCAP which has spent all last month crunching numbers the way the rest of us crunch brandy snaps.

Here they are!

10. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"

Written by Meredith Willson

Most popular artist version performed by Bing Crosby


9. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"

Written by Johnny Marks

Most popular artist version performed by Brenda Lee


8. "Jingle Bell Rock"

Written by Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe

Most popular artist version performed by Bobby Helms


7. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)"

Written by Mel Tormé, Robert Wells

Most popular artist version performed by Nat King Cole


6. "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Written by Gloria Shayne Baker, Noël Regney

Most popular artist version performed by Whitney Houston


5. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

Written by Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie

Most popular artist version performed by Bruce Springsteen


4. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Written by Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin

Most popular artist version performed by The Carpenters


3. "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

Written by Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne

Most popular artist version performed by Harry Connick Jr.


2. "Winter Wonderland"

Written by Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith

Most popular artist version performed by Eurythmics


... And the No. 1 song? The colossal Christmas hit sung by the most popular performer? The song that has the whole country humming?


Of course, it's Adolphe Adam's "Cantique de Noel," sung by the great Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling.



OK, just kidding. We just wanted you to listen to Jussi Bjorling singing "O Holy Night." It is fantastic.


But ASCAP's actual No. 1 hit is a classic. It's Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." The most popular performer is, yes, Leroy Anderson.


Let's hear it for those old chestnuts!


-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Lorna Hill and Annette Daniels-Taylor to read in Earth's Daughters Series

Two leading African-American woman poet-playwrights--Lorna C. Hill and Annette Daniels Taylor--will read from their work tonight (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. at Hallwalls  Cinema, 341 Delaware Ave. (near Tupper St.) as featured guests of Earth's Daughters magazine's Gray Hair Reading Series.  Admission to the event is $5.

Ms. Hill is a nationally-recognized poet, playwright, actress, teacher, theater director, radio series producer, and the founder and artistic director of Buffalo’s Ujima  Company, Inc., a multicultural membership organization that is the oldest professional  repertory theater company in Western New York.  Her best known play, “Yalla  Bitch,” originated as a book of poetry by the same name, and was performed as part of the first International Women Playwrights Conference in 1986.

In 2008,  Ms. Hill  produced and hosted  "Uncrowned Queens: Voices of African American Women," a series of  one-hour radio programs on Western New York Public Broadcasting's WNED-AM comprised of oral history portraits of African-American women community builders in the Buffalo area.  The series went on to receive a 2009 Gracie Award from the American Women in Radio & Television, and was re-broadcast in its entirety in 2009.

Widely-known as stage and screen actress, storyteller, and educator, Ms. Hill--who was the first woman accepted to Dartmouth College, from which she received her B.A. in American Intellectual History in 1973--currently, teaches theater at the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts and is a Ph.D. candidate at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she received her M.A in 1978.

Annette Daniels-Taylor is a Buffalo-based playwright, poet, actor, teacher, singer and theatrical costume designer who has worked on or behind many notable Buffalo and New York City performances and productions, including HBO' s Def Comedy Jam, MTV, Apollo Theater, Black Entertainment Television, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Ensemble Theatre, La Mama, and Nuyorican Poets Café. While working as a designer and stylist for Ruby Dee, Queen Latifah, Lenny Kravitz, and Russell Simmons, among others, she wrote and acted, and received a scholarship from the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.

In 2009, she won the Emanuel Fried Award for Best New Play, “A Little Bit of Paradise,” which premiered at Road Less Traveled Productions in 2008.  Her poetry has been included in "Mom Egg," a collection of mother-inspired literature, and her performance piece for young audiences “Mama Songs for Children” has toured WNY.

Ms. Daniels-Taylor is currently writer-in-residence at Buffalo’s Langston Hughes Institute. 

--R.D. Pohl

A.J. Fries on 'Light in Shadow'

On Monday afternoon, I caught up with Buffalo painter A.J. Fries to talk about his latest solo show, "Light in Shadow," on view through Jan. 21 in Big Orbit Gallery. Look for a review on Friday, but in the meantime, here's Fries on some of his new work:

--Colin Dabkowski

Exhibition views: three shows

This afternoon, I Instagrammed my way through a pair of shows on view in the University at Buffalo Anderson Gallery and another at Big Orbit in preparation for a trio of reviews running in Gusto on Friday. Here's a peek at what I saw:

A radical reimagining of the Central Park Plaza, part of the Anderson Gallery show "Strip Appeal: Reinventing the Strip Mall," up through Feb. 24:

Photo 1

A 3-D model of that same reimagined plaza from "Strip Appeal":

Photo 3

A detail of "Gameland I," a 1992 painting by Arnold Msches in the Anderson Gallery:

Photo 2

And finally, an installation view of A.J. Fries' exhibition "Light in Shadow," up through Jan. 21:

Photo 4

--Colin Dabkowski

Tonight: Bryan Scott's 'Evening With the Arts'

Bills 12
Bryan Scott of the Buffalo Bills performs the song "Dedicated" at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls as  a part of awareness for the fight against breast cancer in October, 2012. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News)

Tonight, Artisan Kitchens and Baths will host a fundraiser for the Pick Your Passion Foundation for the Arts, a charity founded by Buffalo Bills linebacker Bryan Scott.

The foundation funds a program called ARTventure, which sponsors arts-based field trips for local students with help from Child and Family Services of Erie County.

“I am really excited about the chance to get more hands on with the students in the Buffalo community,” Scott said in a statement. “I have always had a tremendous passion for the arts and this is a great opportunity to connect with students to share that excitement and impact the younger generations.”

The event, which runs from 6 to 10 p.m., includes live music, a cooking competition, a silent auction and appearances from Bills players George Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mario Williams, Jairus Byrd, Alex Carrington, Arthur Moats, Chris White and Rian Lindell. Tickets are $75.

--Colin Dabkowski

Bieber to play First Niagara Center

People Cannon Bieber
Associated Press file photo

Pop superstar Justin Bieber will bring his "Believe World Tour" to Buffalo with a stop July 15 at the First Niagara Center.

Tickets are $39.50, $59.50, $69.50 and $95 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday (Dec. 14) through the center box office, online at or charge by phone at (888) 223-6000.

VIP packages will also be available for the tour. For information on packages, visit

For general ticket information, visit

An interview with Jeffry Denman of 'The Holiday Guys'


Actors Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman perform in "The Holiday Guys In Happy Merry Hanu-Mas" Press Day at The York Theatre on December 4, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Last night, I had the good fortune to catch the opening of "The Holiday Guys: Happy Merry Hanu-Mas" at MusicalFare Theatre. Jeffry Denman and Marc Kudisch's show, reviewed here, is in town only through Sunday. And in this reviewer's humble opinion, it's worth canceling whatever appointments you might have to cancel in order to catch one of its remaining performances. (And for what it's worth, I also think this would make a perfect show for the 710 Main Theatre next season.)

Earlier in the week, I caught up with Denman, a Western New York native who often tests out work back on his home turf, about the show's origins and the warm reception it's received. Here's our conversation:

--Colin Dabkowski

Live chat: Miers on Music at noon

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