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Thursday Theater Roundup

Brian Riggs and Charmagne Chi star in the Kavinoky Theatre's production of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change."

"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," through July 7 in the Kavinoky Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "Joe Demerly’s first directorial assignment for The Kavinoky is very impressive. Each skit, each song, is presented with great care . It matters little if the stellar quartet of a cast – Kelly Meg Brennan, Charmagne Chi, John Fredo, Brian Riggs – are in joyous relationships or suddenly on would-be love’s downside, the vignettes, for the most part, work. A few skits begin lamely and go nowhere. These are minority minutes." --Ted Hadley

669842  Into the Woods KI#5

Bobby Cooke, Loraine O'Donnell and Jenn Stafford star in Second Generation Theatre's "Into the Woods."

"Into the Woods," through June 23 in the New Phoenix Theatre in a Second Generation Theatre production. ★★★★

From the review: "[This] version of Sondheim’s dark mutation of classic fairy-tale tropes, directed with keen attention to detail by Chris Kelly and performed by a phenomenal cast of newcomers and vets, takes us dangerously deep into the strange thicket of Sondheim’s imagination. After almost three hours in this alternate universe, so powerfully rendered by SGT’s cast and design team, we emerge into the real world with a renewed faith in the fairy-tale powers of the theater." --Colin Dabkowski

At the Shaw Festival:


"Guys and Dolls," through Nov. 3 in the Festival Theatre. ★★★½

From the review: "For this production, directed by Tadeusz Bradecki with molecular fidelity to the original material and choreographed to within a millimeter of its life by Parker Esse, the Shaw has rounded up a phenomenal cast." --Colin Dabkowski


"Major Barbara," through Oct. 19 in the Royal George Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "Director Jackie Maxwell’s production of Shaw’s long-winded but monumentally engaging play about the tug-of-war between public and corporate interests sets out to rescue Undershaft from her status as a weak protagonist all too willing to mold her ideals to the arguments of others. Alas, despite Maxwell’s laudable efforts and a remarkable performance from the magnetic Nicole Underhay in the title role, the show fails to transform Shaw’s projection screen of a protagonist into a living, breathing human." --Colin Dabkowski

Claire Julien and Julia Course star in the Shaw Festival's production of "Our Betters."

"Our Betters," through Oct. 27 in the Royal George Theatre. ★★★

From the review: "The play, which explores the efforts of newly wealthy Americans to seek ancient British titles and the status that accompanies them, is timed to exploit our culture’s renewed obsession with the roaring ’20s and the surrounding decades. The play, though a bit clunky in its conceit, is positively 'Gatsby'-esque in its attempt to uncover the emptiness of the British aristocracy and the equally vapid American climbers who try to invade it." --Colin Dabkowski

James Gandolfini changed television as we knew it

Obit James Gandolfini.JP#15

By Jeff Simon


No one dies at 51 anymore. So we tell ourselves. But James Gandolfini somehow did.

Tony Soprano’s heavy breathing was part of the astonishing reality of “The Sopranos.”

What we told ourselves is that it was the sound of a big, overweight, hopelessly urban man who moved to the suburbs without fully investigating what all those pollens might do to him.

But we know now that it was Gandolfini we were always hearing, not Tony Soprano. So overpoweringly real was the show to us – one of the greatest in TV history – that most of us lacked all ability to think about Gandolfini the actor.

All we could think about was a mob boss like no other – a middle-class suburbanite in a terry-cloth bathrobe anyone might see going outside to get his morning paper in the driveway. You could meet this guy at the deli counter at Wegmans or in a coffee shop.

The major difference is that this suburban neighbor was a mob boss who whacked people, even when he took his daughter to Maine on her college trip. He was a guy who had them whacked and who never expressed more joy than when he and his nephew Christopher could personally heist a truck.

It may have been writer-producer David Chase’s genius that made “The Sopranos.” But it was Gandolfini who made the show a turning point in American television.

It’s literally true that television after “The Sopranos” will never be quite the same again. He was, like Jean Stapleton, so good at playing one character that the one character he played was as alive as our own next door neighbors. Gandolfini, the actor, made a lot of movie after his debut as Tony. He was always capable. But we could never quite believe any of those characters.

He could never be them. Just as Stapleton was always Edith Bunker, the most lovable character in TV history, he was always Tony Soprano, an evil man but one so vividly like the rest of us that he taught us more about being human than our own lives usually did.

And now, for entirely different reasons, James Gandolfini is dead far too young.In that one way, he’s just like a mob boss whose lights went out instantly over an ordinary dinner out with his family. An amazing actor. He and his show changed what Americans knew – and what Americans thought they knew.

Encounters with Artemis

Last night, former Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan, now public editor for the New York Times, posted an interesting picture on my Facebook wall. It showed Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén, the newly appointed director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, posing with one of the gallery's most famous former residents in the Metropolitan Museum's grand Greek and Roman sculpture galleries: the statue previously known as "Artemis and the Stag." Here's the photo:


The statue, from the late-Hellenistic or early Roman period, was the focal point of the gallery's 2007 controversial sale of more than 200 objects from its collection to finance the purchase of new art. It is this iconic work to which the gallery owes a great deal of its new purchasing power -- $25.5 million, plus returns. So it's fitting that Sirén, who became the gallery's 11th director in April after the departure of former director Louis Grachos, paid a visit to the piece. It has occupied a prominent place in the Met's galleries since shortly after its sale and is on long-term loan to the museum from its anonymous buyer.

In my research into Artemis, as the statue became known during the fierce public debates over the 2007 sale, I ran across another picture. This one showed former gallery director Gordon Washburn, left, admiring the statue along with then-director Edgar Schenck shortly after the gallery acquired it in 1953:


I've retyped the accompanying news article, fascinating for anyone interested in more about the history of the statue, after the jump.

--Colin Dabkowski

Continue reading "Encounters with Artemis" »

The Voice crowns its champion

A 16-year-old Texan has The Voice.

At least this season she does.

Danielle Bradberry of Cypress Texas, was crowned the winner Tuesday of the singing competition on NBC.

Bradberry hugged second-place winner Michelle Chamuel of Amherst, Mass. when host Carson Daly announced the results. Asked for her reaction as the audience cheered, she seemed too overwhelmed to put a sentence together.

Brothers Zach and Colton Swon, of Muskogee, Okla., finished in third place.

The Voice, a singing competition that uses a quartet of celebrity judges, has become more popular as its nearest competition, American Idol on FOX, heads in the opposite direction.

More than 14 million viewers watched the show in April, around the same number “Idol”
had for its finale.

The two-part “Voice” finale concluded Tuesday night.

Replay video chat at 1 p.m.: Critics' Corner with Simon & Miers

Arts Editor Jeff Simon and Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers answered reader questions about music, movies, TV and more submitted via the chat console below.

Blondie to rock Niagara Falls

Iconic '70s rockers Blondie will be joined by punk rock band X at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls).

Tickets are $45 advance, $50 day of show and go on sale at 10 a.m. June 21 through the box office, at or charge by phone at (877) 435-9849.

For more information, call 205-8925 or visit

A sultry opera on a summer night


By Mary Kunz Goldman

If it's rainy on Wednesday night, or if it's hot ... go to "Carmen."

The smoldering opera by Bizet, one of the greatest hit operas of all time, is being broadcast in a Metropolitan Opera performance in high definition. It stars Elina Garanca as Carmen and Roberto Alagna as Don Jose. Alagna has a smoldering, obsessive quality that should make him a great Don Jose, the officer who falls desperately in love with Carmen. He is also a little guy which should ratchet things up a bit. In the opera, the officer finds he is no match for Carmen. It is a passionate story but also a pathetic one.

"Carmen" is part of the Met Summer Encores series. This performance was originally broadcast in January 2010. Renee Fleming interviews the opera's stars at intermission.

The opera screens at the Regal on Transit and on Regal Elmwood Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday.


Drake heading to First Niagara Center

Drake, with guests Future and Miguel, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 in the First Niagara Center.

Tickets are $49.75, $69.75 and $99.75 and go on sale at 10 a.m. June 21 through the box office, at or or charge by phone at (888) 223-6000.

For more information, visit

Jason Aldean on a Night Train to Darien Lake

Country star Jason Aldean brings his 2013 Night Train Tour to the area with a concert on Aug. 17 at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. Joining Aldean are guests Jake Owen and Thomas Rhett.

Tickets are $59.75 reserved and $30 and go on sale at 10 a.m. June 21 through, or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Live chat at noon: Miers on Music with The News' pop music critic

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