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Santa’s sleigh is stuffed with theater, opera, choral, and classical offerings this early December.

Was it Mae West or was it Mrs. Claus? who said “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!”

As Auntie Mame tells her nephew Patrick in MAME: “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.”  After a year and a half of empty theaters, we were starving for live shows and now, for the first weekend in December, we have a banquet of shows, eight of them opening (or one night only) this Friday, December 3 including A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  And not a moment too soon, for, as Jerry Herman’s lyrics tell us in times of trouble “… we need a little Christmas, right this very minute / Candles in the window, carols at the spinet / We need a little Christmas now!”

We’ll get to all of those eight openings in a minute, but first a reminder that some good shows are continuing, right now through this Sunday.

ALL IS CALM, an acapella musical by Peter Rothstein, directed and staged by Susan Drozd, about a special Christmas Eve ceasefire during World War One, presented by MusicalFare, runs through December 12 on stage at 4380 Main St. on the Daemen College Campus. Wednesday – Thursday 7pm, Friday 7:30, Saturday 3:30 and 7:30, Sunday 2pm. (716-839-8540) musicalfare.com

HAND TO GOD, the hilarious play by Robert Askins about teenaged Jason and his puppet Tyrone, directed by John Hurley, runs through December 5, Thursday – Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:00 at Road Less Traveled Productions, 456 Main St., Buffalo. (716-629-3069) roadlesstraveledproductions.com. Final shows canceled due to illness.

PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL, the national tour and part of the M&T Bank Broadway Series, based on the 1990 Richard Gere/Julia Roberts movie, runs through December 5 (Thursday and Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00, Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30 at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.

SLICES OF LIFE, An Evening of 4 Short Plays: THE LONELY GODFATHER by Andrew Calderon; RYAN’S LEGACY by Amber Dudley; ONCE UPON A SONG by Madisyn Ross; and LET’S EAT THE QUEEN by Keller Vogelsang, presented by Unique Theatre Company (December 2 – 11) Thursdays-Fridays 7:30, and the first Saturday (12/4) at 7:00, and the second Saturday (12/11) at 5:00 at Compass Performing Arts Center, 545 Elmwood Avenue (the old “TheatreLoft”), (716-243-8889) uniquetheatrecompany.com.  They say “Please join us in our 7th year of producing plays that provide an arena where actors of all abilities give theatre a try.”

TRIBUTE, a bittersweet play by Bernard Slade, directed by Jay Desiderio, about a father and his son misunderstanding each other continues at Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre through December 18 in the back of Bobby J’s American Grill 204 Como Park Blvd Cheektowaga featuring Gregory Gjurich, Zachery Gammel, Lisa Hinca, Jennifer Starr, Lisa Ludwig,  Robert Insana, and Marie Costa. Shows run most Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays (& some Wednesdays).   (www.mybobbyjs.com/desiderio-s-dinner-theatre) Reservations by telephone only 716-395-3207  Evening: 6pm Dinner, 7:30pm Show  Matinee: 1pm Dinner, 2:30pm Show

THE SIX THEATER OPENINGS THIS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2021 ARE:

Shea’s Father Christmas standing on the piano | Photo credit Peter Hall

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, play with caroling, based on the short story by Charles Dickens, 39th Annual Production, adapted and directed by Neal Radice, arrive early for professional caroling in the lobby prior to the show, December 3-23, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 and 5:00 at The Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain up Alley (just north of Shea’s), Buffalo, NY 14202

(716-852-2600) alleyway.com

MIRACLE IN LEVITTOWN, a play by Michael Fanelli, presented by Subversive Theatre at The New Phoenix Theatre, (December 3 – 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3:00. (716-608-3001) subversivetheatre.org  Note: This is NOT a New Phoenix production and so the start times are at 7:30 pm or 3:00 Sundays at 95 Johnson Park, Buffalo, NY.  Described as “an off-the-wall, tongue-in-cheek, mind-bending misadventure that takes audiences to a spoofy part two of the movie ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ where the sweet little girl from the classic Christmas Tale discovers the ugly truth about racial discrimination in the new housing development that her family has just moved into and embarks on a surreal eye-opening odyssey through past, present, and future.”

MIRACLE ON SOUTH DIVISION, a Christmas play by Tom (“Over the Tavern”) Dudzik, who takes us back to his South Buffalo upbringing, (December 3 – 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 at the Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Avenue Lancaster, NY 14086 (716-683-1776) lancasteropera.org

SMART PEOPLE, a play by Lydia R. Diamond, directed by Phil Knoerzer, about four Harvard community members struggling to talk about race (December 3 – December 19), Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 4:00. Ujima Company Inc.  The theatre is located in School 77, 429 Plymouth Avenue, Buffalo, 14213 (716-322-5178) ujimacommunity.org

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS, a musical, presented by O’Connell & Company (December 3 – December 19) Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00 on the Ken-Ton Elmwood Commons Mainstage, 3200 Elmwood Avenue, Tonawanda, NY 14217 (oconnellandcompany.com) (716-848-0800) “Based on the book by L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this musical chronicles the life of Claus.”

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE presented by the Springville Center for the Arts, (December 3-11) Fridays, Saturdays at 7, Sunday at 2, Saturday 12/11 also at 2 at 37 North Buffalo Street, Springville, NY 14141  springvillearts.org  (716-592-9038)

THE THREE CLASSICAL, CHORAL, OPERATIC OPENINGS FRIDAY ARE:

A VOCÁLIS CHRISTMAS brings back the Vocális Chamber Choir’s traditional concert of intimate choral Christmas music, including a new song by Buffalo’s Caroline Mallonée Friday, December 3, at 8:00 at S.S. Peter and Paul Church, 5480 Main Street, Williamsville, NY and .Saturday, December 4, at 7:30 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, 220 North Street, Buffalo, NY (on the corner of Elmwood Avenue.

CARMEN, the opera by Georges Bizet, conducted by Jaman Dunn, directed by Tim Kennedy, presented by Buffalo Opera Unlimited, opens on Friday, December 3, with two performances, Friday, December 3 at 7:30; Sunday, December 5 at 2:30 p.m. at Rockwell Hall Performing Arts Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave. on the Buff State campus. (716-878-3005) buffalooperaunlimited.org

ELF IN CONCERT, the original film with live orchestra, December 3 at 7:30. The Buffalo Philharmonic plays the musical score as you watch the original movie starring Will Farrell.  Kleinhans Music Hall (716-885-5000) bpo.org

AND OTHER CONCERTS INCLUDE A MUSICAL AND A BALLET:

The BUFFALO CHAMBER PLAYERS present a concert performed by select members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, one night only, this Thursday, December 2, at 7:30 at Asbury Hall (a.k.a. “Babeville”) 341 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202.  The concert will feature: Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen, Jessie Montgomery’s Voodoo Dolls, John Cage’s String Quartet in Four Parts, and Grace Ann Lee’s On the Ecchoing Green for violin and cell.

HANDEL’S MESSIAH (Note Swormville venue for this second performance!) presented by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus at St. Mary’s, December 5 at 2:30 at St. Mary’s Swormville, 6919 Transit Road, East Amherst, NY. Note: Tickets are not available through the BPO Box Office this year. Tickets can be purchased at bpchorus.org or by calling 716-980-5701.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS WITH HARMONIA, features the Harmonia Chamber Singers (the group that was selected to accompany The Rolling Stones on their last Buffalo tour date).  Two performances, Saturday December 18 at 7:30 at St. Peter RC Church, 620 Center Street, Lewiston, NY 14092 and Sunday, December 19 at 4:00 at St. Joseph University Church, 3269 Main Street (near Winspear), Buffalo, NY 14214. (harmoniacs.org)

VANESSA WILLIAMS Holiday Concert with The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Tuesday, December 7 at 7:30 pm Kleinhans Music Hall 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo (bpo.org) (716-885-5000) “Television, film and Broadway’s Vanessa Williams sings holiday favorites along with Broadway show tunes.  An Emmy, Grammy, and Tony nominee with 7 NAACP Image Awards and 3 Satellite Awards, her ‘Colors of the Wind’ from Disney’s Pocahontas went platinum. Williams is a strong advocate for equal rights, especially concerning the LGBTQ+ community and minorities.”

JOANN’S CLASSICAL CHRISTMAS Friday Dec 10 at 10:30 am (free coffee and donuts) and Saturday Dec 11 at 7:30 pm.  Kleinhans Music Hall 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo (bpo.org) (716-885-5000)  “Celebrate the holidays with a collection of traditional classical treasures when JoAnn Falletta is joined by operatic soprano and Buffalo resident, Sirgourney Cook.”

CINDERELLA, the Prokofiev ballet, with The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine, one night only, Friday, December 10, at 7:30 pm.  Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410)  Sheas.org.

THE LINDSEY STIRLING CHRISTMAS PROGRAM, one night only, December 11, at 8:00.  Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.

HAMILTON, Dec 14, 2021-Jan 2, 2022 (a three week run!)Tuesday – Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00, Sunday at 1:00 and 6:30 (performances on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day but NO PERFORMANCE CHRISTMAS EVE DECEMBER 24.) Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 650 Main St. Buffalo (716-847-1410) Sheas.org.

JOHN MORRIS RUSSELL’S JAZZY HOLIDAY POPS Thu-Sun Dec 16-19, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 am, Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sunday at 2:30 pm.  Kleinhans Music Hall 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo (bpo.org) (716-885-5000)  “This Western New York holiday tradition promises to be both heartwarming and fun.”

The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus presents OUR FINEST GIFTS two holiday concerts, Saturday, December 4 at 7:30 at Trinity Episcopal Church 371 Delaware Ave. Buffalo and Sunday, December 5 at 3:00 at the North Presbyterian Church, 300 North Forest Road in Williamsville. buffalogaymenschorus.org


Lead image: Shea’s is all decorated for December | Photo credit Peter Hall

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For over 20 years, as a producer and program host on WNED Classical (94.5 FM), he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?" These days Peter can be heard regularly on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5.

On “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?" As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take."

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he was an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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