The lyrics, “It’s so nice to have you back where you belong” take on a new meaning in Starring Buffalo’s upcoming production of Hello, Dolly!
Leading actress Michele Ragusa, a Buffalo native and graduate of Holy Angels Academy, ECC, and Niagara University, and has gone on to appear in countless shows on and off Broadway, tours, and in major regional theaters across the country. Ragusa received her Equity card and gained entrance to the theatrical union, at Studio Area theater, now renamed Shea’s 710, where Hello, Dolly! will be presented on June 2 and 3, 2023. “It’s going to be really cool to be back inside the building,” shared Ragusa.
Starring Buffalo stages concert versions of Broadway shows. Drew Fornarola, Artistic Director, was inspired by NYC’s City Center Encores! Series, which offers short-run, unstaged versions of musicals starring superb Broadway performers, a perfect model for attracting busy acting professionals to build top-quality musical experiences out of town.
After their successful production of Evita earlier in the year, Fornarola felt Buffalo audiences might enjoy something different. “We’ve had a little bit of everything. We’ve had comedy. We’ve had rock. We’ve had contemporary musical theater. We’ve had Sondheim. We haven’t done the Golden Age of Musical Theatre yet, so it was time. I love composer Jerry Herman. I love this story and this is a style of music, sort of Golden Age Broadway, that we haven’t had represented in our company yet, and I think it’s going to be a real treat for theatergoers.”
Ragusa has played the role before but is looking forward to revisiting one of the biggest and most exciting roles in the musical theater canon. Audiences can expect to be delighted by her performance, which is guided by humor. “I like to bring as much comedy as I can,” shared Ragusa. “I also love the moments where she’s talking to her husband, Ephraim, you know, it’s so heartfelt and just beautiful.”
Fornarola’s presentation of classic musical titles in concert format has many benefits.
Starring Buffalo looks to connect not only audiences but also local actors and musicians with Broadway performers. “As I was dipping my toe back into the Buffalo Theater community and realizing how talented the folks are in our community, I wanted to create some kind of exchange where we brought some people from New York into Buffalo to share ideas, but also that the New Yorkers got to interact with and learn from the Buffalo folks,” shared Fornarola.
“And we’ve had several Western New York actors, after their Starring Buffalo experiences, go on to book national tours or book shows in New York and also come back to Buffalo and continue to perform. So I think demystifying that pipeline…is something that’s important to us.”
Hello, Dolly! features a nine-piece orchestra, conducted by Alison d’Amato, and stars Michele Ragusa as Dolly Gallagher Levi, Ali Ewoldt, who recently played “Christine” in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera, as Irene Molloy, Kevin Zak (Waitress The Musical) as Cornelius Hackl, and Buffalo Artie Award-Winner Gregory Gjurich as Horace Vandergelder. Jake Hayes, Melanie Klaja, Lizzie Arnold, Anthony Lazzaro, Jetaun Louie, Kayla McSorley, and Marc Sacco round out the cast, as well as the Starring Buffalo Community Chorus, dancers, and musicians.
“Put on your Sunday Clothes” and go to Shea’s 710 to see this incredible golden age musical.
Shea’s 710 Theatre
710 Main Street
June 2, 2023, 7:30PM
June 3, 2023, 2:00PM & 7:30 PM