Author: Second Generation Theatre

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Buffalo News Gives BIG FISH Four Stars!

With a big-hearted ‘Big Fish,’ Second Generation takes a major leap forward

This is the story of Edward Bloom, an Alabama traveling salesman who compulsively spins tall tales about his life. These incredible yarns are filled with fantastic people and improbable events. In time, his only child, Will, becomes frustrated with his father’s elusiveness about his true past, and resentful and suspicious of his father’s frequent absences.

This is a story of estrangement and reconciliation between father and son.

I liked the original production, which I first saw in Chicago previous to its Broadway run. The story was fresh. The characters were complex and compelling.

It was clear, however, that the lavish Broadway production smothered its intimate story under mountains of stage magic and scenic artistry. The show closed in less than three months.

By contrast, the Second Generation production, now at Shea’s Smith Theatre, bursts onto the stage with playful imagination, simplicity and love. The Smith Theatre has been reconfigured with seats wrapped around the audience on three sides, giving the space added intimacy.

Director/choreographer Michael Walline has approached the material with originality. In the opening prologue, his introduction of the characters that inhabit Bloom’s imaginary world is thrilling. A witch, a mermaid, a giant, a fisherman, a cheerleader and childhood friends quite literally leap into the action, setting the tone for everything to come.

The fanciful landscape of Bloom’s mind has been conjured with delightful invention by set designer Chris Cavanagh; video and projection design by Brian Milbrand; costumes by Jess Wegrzyn; and props by Diane Jones. It all seems to have been propelled from Bloom’s singular imagination by hand.

Effects that stole the show on Broadway – and not in a good way – here augment it. Broadway’s enormous dancing elephants are adorably replaced by nothing more than parasols, a gray sheet and some actors.  The supernatural mystery of a witch is established with the abrupt ripple of a handheld fans opening in unison. Themes and locations are whimsically suggested by Milbrand’s superior videography.

The witch, played by Victoria Perez, is entirely reconceived, not as a Broadway vamp, but as a Spanish lady of mystery, proffering Bloom’s future in her handheld crystal ball – an LED lamp that changes colors.  So simple. So magical. (And it doesn’t hurt that Perez is bewitchingly fabulous.)

Broadway assembled a cast of stars to play the Bloom family: Norbert Leo Butz as Edward, Bobby Steggert as Will and lovely Kate Baldwin as Susan. They were perfection, and yet the tension, wrought by the powerful alchemy of love and estrangement, feels far more potent at the Smith Theatre. With the proportions of the show brought down to human scale, the conflict between Edward and Will becomes more equally balanced, and the stakes seem more personal.

Lou Colaiacovo travels the journey of Edward’s life with irresistible gregariousness, while still showing us the qualities that so frustrate his son.

Ricky Needham embodies the difficult role of bitter Will with confidence, compassion, and a strong singing voice, proving that he can carry a show in the process.

As Sandra, Michele Marie Roberts provides several of the evening’s emotional highlights – especially in her solo numbers. Here is a woman who loves her husband unreservedly, and who needs her son to recognize the magic in the man.

Together, the three actors evoke a powerful bond of love and unresolved conflict.

This cast of 14 seems enormous. Each character is vivid. Dave Spychalski gives a sensational turn as Karl, the affable and erudite giant. Also convincing and wonderful are Brittany Bassett as Will’s sympathetic wife; Stevie Jackson as Bloom’s high school girlfriend; Bethany Burrows as the mermaid; Jacob Albarella as circus owner Amos Calloway; Bobby Cooke and Preston Williams as Bloom’s hometown friends; and Alex Watts and Alejandro Gomez in ensemble roles. Child actor Noah Bielecki, who plays Young Will, deserves special mention for giving a truly professional performance, amplified by his sheer adorability.

While watching “Big Fish” I predict that you will experience a strong impulse to reach out to characters who are physically within your reach, but purely imaginary inventions. I further prophesize that people and events from your own life will swirl uncontrollably in your memory as you leave the theater. This is a special evening, and Second Generation is emerging as major player on the Buffalo theater landscape.

Theater review

“Big Fish”

4 stars (out of 4 stars)

Presented by Second Generation Theatre Company through Oct. 28 at Shea’s Smith Theatre (658 Main St.). Tickets are $30 general with discounts available. Visit .


Big Fish

By Andrew Lipps

Edward Bloom is a traveling salesman whose stories have always been larger than life. When he falls ill and his grown son, Will, is faced with fatherhood, will his tall tales hold up?

Directed & Choreographed by Michael Walline

Music Direction by Philip Farugia


SPONSORED BY: The Buffalo Bisons & Rich Products

The Light in the Piazza

Summer 1953: Margaret Johnson, an elegant and strong-willed Southern woman, has taken her daughter, Clara, on a vacation to Italy. When a gust of wind blows Clara’s hat right into the hands of a young Italian gentleman, neither age nor language nor familial disapproval can stop their whirlwind love affair. As Clara and Fabrizio fall into each others’ arms, Margaret must grapple with the question of whether to disclose Clara’s devastating secret to Fabrizio’s warm, passionate Italian family.

Directed by Loraine O’Donnell

Music Direction by Allan Paglia

Starring Christopher Andreana (Ensemble), Leah Berst (Ensemble), Kelly Copps (Clara), Lucas DeNies (Ensemble), Steve Jakiel (Roy), Anthony Lazzaro (Fabrizio), Melissa Leventhal (Ensemble), Katy Miner (Signora Naccarelli), Debbie Pappas Sham (Margaret), Rebecca Runge (Franca), Marc Sacco (Giuseppe), Matt Witten (Signor Naccarelli)

Crimes of the Heart

November 4-20, 2016

 by Beth Henley

Under the scorching heat of the Mississippi sun, the three Magrath sisters are back together in their hometown for the first time in a decade. Winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize, this play teems with humanity and humor as the sisters’ past resentments bubble to the surface and each must come to terms with the consequences of her own “crimes of the heart.”.

Directed by Greg Natale

Starring Jacob Albarella (Barnett), Bethany Burrows (Babe), Charmagne Chi (Lenny), Arin Lee Dandes (Chick), Ben Michael Moran (Doc), and Jessica Wegrzyn (Meg)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Music & Lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Jeffrey Lane

Two con men meet on a train and decide to work together to swindle women, only to find that the small town on the French Riviera isn’t big enough for the two of them. A hilarious battle of cons ensues that will keep audiences laughing, humming and guessing to the end! Sophisticated, suave with a good dash of mischief, this hysterical comedy features a delightfully jazzy score by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) and was nominated for 11 TONY Awards.

Directed by Lisa Ludwig
Choreographed by Bobby Cooke

Starring Peter Palmisano (Lawrence), Jacob Albarella (Freddy), Amy Jakiel (Christine), Gregory Gjurich (Andre), Mary Gjurich (Muriel), Arianne Davidow (Jolene), Sean Murphy (Ensemble), Sean Ryan (Ensemble), Jon Yepez (Ensemble), Dan Urtz (Ensemble), Chloe Barg (Ensemble), Shelby Ehrenreich (Ensemble), Emily Prucha (Ensemble)

Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike

by Christopher Durang

Vanya and Sonia have never left the confines of their childhood home in Bucks County, PA, while their sister Masha has been gallivanting around the world as a successful actress. A surprise visit from Masha and her 20-something boy toy, Spike, throws the normally quiet household into utter upheaval as its residents and visitors get swept up in an intoxicating mixture of lust, rivalry, regret, and the sudden possibility of escape.

Directed by Doug Weyand

Starring Charmagne Chi (Cassandra), Louis Colaiacovo (Vanya), Lisa Ludwig (Masha), Ricky Marchese (Spike), Kelsey Mogensen (Nina), and Kristen Tripp Kelley (Sonia)

The Wild Party

Music & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Based on Joseph Moncure March’s ‘The Wild Party’

‘Queenie was a blonde and her age stood still…”

So begins Andrew Lippa’s exciting musical about deceit, drinks, and dance. Set in the roaring twenties, THE WILD PARTY tells the story of two vaudeville performers who set out for an evening of debauchery. Amidst an ensemble of questionable characters, what befalls all of them will surprise and shock.

Directed & Choreographed by Michael Walline

Starring Lauren Nicole Alaimo (Kate), Jacob Albarella (Kegs), Jamie Boswell (Oscar), Charmagne Chi (Madeline True), Bobby Cooke (Sam), Steve Copps (Black), Arin Lee Dandes (Mae), Arianne Davidow (Queenie), Matthew Iwanski (Phil), Amy Jakiel (Dolores), Sabrina Kahwaty (Nadine), London Lee (Jackie),Eric Rawski (Eddie), Matt Witten (Burrs)


February 12-March 1, 2015

 by Lyle Kessler

Lyle Kessler’s ORPHANS tells the story of two brothers living in an abandoned Philadelphia row house. An unexpected visitor turns their worlds upside down in ways they could never have imagined and marks their lives in a way neither expected. A darkly funny story, ORPHANS explores the complexity of family relationships.

Directed by David Oliver

Starring Anthony Alcocer (Treat), Greg Natale (Harold), and PJ Tighe (Philip)


June 26- July 13, 2014

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

This thought provoking and intense musical lays bare the lives of nine individuals who assassinated or tried to assassinate the President of the United States, in a one-act historical “revusical” that explores the dark side of the American experience.

Full of complex characters whose lives we know mostly from the papers, ASSASSINS sheds light on dark historical moments.

Directed by Chris Cavanagh
Choreographed by Kristy Cavanagh

Starring Jacob Albarella (The Proprietor), Christopher Andreana (Ensemble), Steve Copps (Czolgosz), Arin Lee Dandes (Fromme), Philip Farugia (Guiteau), Sophia Howes (Ensemble), Matthew Iwanski (Ensemble), Kevin Kennedy (Ensemble), Nick Lama (Hinckley), Renee Landrigan (Ensemble), Geoff Pictor (Zangara), Ben Puglisi (Booth), Michele Marie Roberts (Moore), Jonathan Young (The Balladeer)

Some Girl(s)

By Neil LaBute

Meet Guy. He’s just a normal, well… guy, traveling around the country and meeting up with old loves.

Oh, and he’s getting married.

SOME GIRl(s) played January 30- February 16 at the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park. Ted Hadley of the Buffalo News gave the production four stars.

Directed by Steve Copps

Starring Adriano Gatto (Guy), Meghan McAdam Gomez (Sam), Sophia Howes (Tyler), Diane DiBernardo Blenk (Lindsay), and Kristin Bentley (Bobbi)


716- 508- SGT0 (7480)

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Second Generation Theatre

P.O.Box 24

Kenmore, Ny 14217

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