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Rucker, Crow play Taste of Country

Darius Rucker, along with Sheryl Crow, Rodney Atkins, Gloriana and Jana Kramer, will perform as part of the 2013 WYRK "Taste of Country" taking place June 14 at Coca Cola Field.

Rucker, the former frontman for the rock band Hootie &the Blowfish, has released his third country disc, "True Believers." Crow is also busy working on a new recording, as well as a musical version of the film "Diner" for Broadway.

Tickets for "Taste of Country" are $59 and $29 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through the Bisons box office,, and charge by phone at (888) 223-6000).

MusicalFare to mount intimate take on 'Rent'

Before the Pulitzer-winning musical “Rent” began its legendary, 12-year run on Broadway in 1996, it existed in a smaller, more intimate form in New York Theatre Workshop’s 199-seat space in Manhattan’s East Village.

When it transferred to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre, said MusicalFare Theatre artistic and executive director Randall Kramer, Jonathan Larson’s masterwork “became this huge sensation, this huge money-maker, playing 2,000, 3,000-seat houses.” But in a new production of the musical opening tomorrow at MusicalFare (4380 Main St., Snyder), Kramer and his cast are shrinking the show down to size.

“We want to bring it back to its roots,” Kramer said. In an approach that will echo MusicalFare’s productions of “Man of La Mancha” and “Cabaret,” many actors will play their own instruments throughout the performance with the help of a four-piece band.

“I like that idea because this is about musicians and this is about creativity, and so to see that on stage and to see actors playing instruments on stage while the story is being told I think only enhances all of that,” said Kramer, who directs the show. “It’s still going to rock in a small space, but we’re also going to be looking at the other things, the things that can only happen when you have the intimacy of a 130-seat space that we have at MusicalFare.”

The show, which tells the story of a group of poor, city-dwelling artists striving to make something of their lives while confronting the dual scourges of drug abuse and AIDS, is based closely on Puccini’s opera “La Boheme.” It stars Steve Copps, John Kaczorowski, Key Keriman, Marc Sacco, Charmagne Chi, Paschal Frisina III, Ben Puglisi and Amy Jakiel in the major roles.

Tickets are $15 to $39, with limited $10 on-stage seats available through a pre-performance lottery. Call 839-8540 or visit

– Colin Dabkowski

Finding a new footing at Buffalo Arts Studio

Earlier this month, I wrote a column about the forthcoming merger between CEPA Gallery and the smaller Big Orbit Gallery, both run by the tireless director and curator Sean Donaher. In the column, I stressed that other organizations could draw lessons and inspiration from the move, which struck me as a particularly wise marriage of resources and programming.

In the column, I singled out Buffalo Arts Studio, the excellent studio and gallery space founded by Joanna Angie in the early '90s. After Angie retired to pursue her art career in 2011, curator Cori Wolff stepped up to the artistic director position and Jeff Langridge took the reins as executive director. Shortly thereafter, though, Langridge departed, and Wolff found herself in the unenviable position of directing the entire organization.

At the same time, as BAS searches for a new economic model to sustain itself, Wolff has maintained the high quality of the organization's international exhibitions. This week, BAS opens a show featuring work by Andrzej Maciejewski and Lynn Richardson and it has mounted several compelling exhibitions since Angie's departure.

Even so, I thought it pertinent to use BAS as an example of an organization that finds itself searching out new footing in a new funding landscape. It wasn't my intention to paint a negative picture of BAS. Quite the contrary, I wanted to stress that its recent management shakeups provided the opportunity for the organization to seek out and forge new collaborative projects (if not outright mergers) with other groups.

In a recent conversation with Wolff, who was understandably concerned about her organization being painted as anything other than completely stable, I learned that the organization is doing just that. (Too early for details, though.)

She reassured me the organization is in good shape and is excited to puruse new ways of staying very much in the game. This is good news for one of Buffalo's most important visual arts organizations, and I look forward to writing about what comes next.

--Colin Dabkowski

Video: Boyd Lee Dunlop to release second CD at concert today

Pianist Boyd Lee Dunlop bounced back from the brink of death last year after a heart attack. And now, at 86, he is releasing a new CD that he will celebrate in concert at 2 p.m. today in Asbury Hall.

Mary Kunz Goldman profiled Dunlop in Friday's Gusto cover story with this video by Joseph Popiolkowski:

Live chat: Miers on Music at noon

Bon Jovi to play First Niagara Center on Feb. 24

Jon Bon Jovi performs at "12-12-12" a concert benefiting The Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy presented by Clear Channel Media & Entertainment, The Madison Square Garden Company and The Weinstein Company at Madison Square Garden on December 12, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

Bon Jovi is coming to Buffalo next month.

The concert is set for First Niagara Center on Sunday, Feb. 24.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Jan. 25 through outlets.

Tickets will start at $19.50 (plus service fees), according to a press release from First Niagara Center.


Live video chat: Critics' Corner with Jeff Miers, Colin Dabkowski at 1 p.m.


The tenor who aced the Met audition


Here is a YouTube video of Juan Jose de Leon, the tenor from the Pittsburgh district who aced the regional Metropolitan Opera auditions held in Buffalo last weekend. He certainly has quite the voice! His high notes are so bright and clear. He also has beautiful articulation. My French is not that great but I can understand most of what he is singing.

The video comes from Dallas. Juan Jose de Leon placed in a competition there in 2010. That is a great name for opera, by the way, Juan Jose de Leon. That name is musical and glamorous.

Dianne Rubin, organizer of the Buffalo auditions, tells us that Juan received a prize of $3,000. Awarded a second prize of $1,500 was Four City baritone Paul Scholten. Third prizes of $500 each went to sopranos Caitlin Wood from Alberta, Canada, and Meredith Lustig, of Nashua, New Hampshire.

In the Four City District competition, prizes of $1,500 were awarded to Scholten, Wood and mezzo Rihab Shaieb.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


Rounding up coverage of new Albright-Knox director

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Newly appointed Albright-Knox Art Gallery Director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén with gallery board president Leslie Zemsky on Monday. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News.

After yesterday's annoucement that Helsinki Art Museum Director Janne Sirén will become the next director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, art blogs and publications lit up with coverage. Here's a look at what some have been writing:

At Real Clear Arts, Judith H. Dobrzynski notes that Sirén is "not one of the usual suspects."

Lee Rosenbaum, aka CultureGrrrl, has some insight on Sirén and his scuttled initiative to bring a Guggenheim Museum outpost to Helsinki. (Look for more on this next week.)

More coverage from ArtInfo, Business First, The New York Times and And this article over at Buffalo Rising carries some intriguging comments.

And finally, some thoughts via Twitter from critic Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes:

"This is key for Siren at A-K: Before he can do cultural tourism, he needs to get Buffalo excited about the A-K."

"...That Guggenheim Finland thing is in the 'worst idea ever' category. Hmm."

"...Buffalo does not know how great the A-K is. To ignore the local and to go cultural tourism would be a big mistake."

Much more to come, on Sirén's Guggenheim experience and his perception by Helsinki's residents, in future stories.

--Colin Dabkowski

Janne Sirén, new Albright-Knox Director: 'Remarkable things are on the cusp.'

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Finnish musuem director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén stands with Albright-Knox Art Gallery board president Leslie Zemsky in front of Jackson Pollock's "Convergence" in the Albright-Knox Monday morning. Sirén will become the 11th director of the musuem in the spring. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News.

Today, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery announced the appointment of Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, director of the Helsinki Art Museum, as its new director. He will replace former director Louis Grachos, who left at the end of 2012 for a new post in Austin, Tex.

Check out my story for more on Sirén's appointment. And below, please listen to an excerpt of my interview with the American-educated director that gives lots of background about his past experience in Helsinki, his thoughts about the City of Buffalo, and hints about the direction in which he'll take Buffalo's flagship cultural institution:

--Colin Dabkowski

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