THE CAKE: Meet the cast!

MONDAY June 12 @ 7:00 pm, join us at the Shea’s Smith Theatre for a free reading of THE CAKE!

Stick around after to share a slice of cake from our subscriber perks partner, Buffalo Cake Pops. In the meantime, MEET THE CAST starting with Jen Mysliwy and Bob Mazierski. Read on and then register HERE!


SGT: What’s your favorite kind of cake ?

JM: Carrot Cake…but it must be super moist and have cream cheese frosting and I’ve hit the cake lottery jackpot if it has raisins and/or pineapple.

SGT: Describe your character in 5 or fewer words

JM: Traditional, conservative, kind-hearted, conflicted, passionate.

SGT: Describe THE CAKE in 1 sentence

JM:  “The Cake” is a heartfelt and thought-provoking play that explores the complexities of love, faith, acceptance, and personal beliefs.

SGT: What character do you relate to most/why? 

JM: While NO ONE will be asking me to star in any sort of baking show, I did identify with Della. Relating to a character doesn’t mean you have to agree with all their actions or beliefs. It’s about understanding their humanity and connecting with their struggles and emotions.

SGT: Why should people come and see THE CAKE?

JM: Because it’s delicious. Also, in witnessing “The Cake,” audiences can gain new insights, broaden their perspectives, and engage in meaningful discussions about social issues. This piece is a wonderful catalyst for empathy, understanding, and personal growth, making it a valuable theatrical experience for people from all walks of life.


SGT: What’s your favorite kind of cake ?

BM: This will be an affront to all the real bakers (and most humans possibly) out there……but my fav cake is all about what we served in my youth on a “family of 5” budget — the Pepperidge Farm Coconut Layer cake.  It’s a memory thing but I love it 🙂

SGT: Do you bake?

BM: Strictly box cake but capable 🙂

SGT: Describe THE CAKE in 1 sentence.

BM: THE CAKE tells a story we’ve all heard in the news, but in a personal and multi-dimensional way that explores all the shades of grey in a world that people at times still want to be black and white.

SGT: Why should people come and see THE CAKE?

BM: People should see THE CAKE to see a topical and poignant story told in an interesting and sometimes irreverent way…..and you get to eat cake!

Tick, Tick…BOOM! is haunting, powerful…

BUFFALO NEWS REVIEW 5/24/23 by Anthony Chase

The career of Jonathan Larson is tantalizing. All the accolades that were heaped upon him, including three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, came after his death. He died abruptly and unexpectedly of aortic dissection the day before the first off-Broadway preview of his musical, “Rent.”

He is known only for “Rent,” and for an earlier musical, “Boho Days,” which was adapted by others into the three-person musical, “Tick, Tick … Boom!” after his death. Second Generation Theatre has just opened an exquisite production of “Tick, Tick … Boom!” at Shea’s Smith Theatre.

Larson’s early death gives his musicals, all about youthful hope and fear, a haunting quality. The material is both timeless and very much of the AIDS era. Younger and older audiences are likely to respond to “Tick, Tick … Boom!” very differently. The name of the stigmatized disease is not even mentioned in the script, and it is possible that younger audiences will not understand exactly what is being said.

I think that an uncontrollable groan of emotion might have escaped from my choked-up throat when Jon, the central character, vows to be with a friend who has AIDS at the time of his death. Life teaches us that such promises are not always possible to keep.

The quality of the material, which was recently made into a film, directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and released on Netflix, is clear. Happily, this production, meticulously directed by Lou Colaiacovo and joyfully choreographed by Elizabeth Polito, with music direction by Joe Isgar, is excellent. The production moves beautifully and sounds terrific. It is also imbued with great wit and penetrating insight.

Sean Ryan plays Jon, a character based on Larson, who is struggling to have a career writing musicals but is beginning to doubt his prospects. A talented actor, singer and dancer, Ryan’s good looks make him a quadruple threat. His performance is by turns thrilling and emotionally powerful. He simply exudes talent and charisma.

Leah Berst plays Susan, Jon’s girlfriend, as well as many other characters. She previously appeared in “Rent” for Starring Buffalo and has a large and lush voice that’s made for Larson’s music. She is wonderful.

Joe Russi alternately makes us bust out laughing and wrecks us with emotion as Michael, Jon’s friend who abandoned the theater to become hugely successful in marketing. This is the latest in a litany of fabulous performances from Russi.

For me, “Tick, Tick … Boom!” provided a wistful and contemplative look backward. Twentysomethings, emerging from a pandemic and wondering what the hell to do with their lives, are likely to respond very differently but just as powerfully. The production is first-rate.

Info: Presented by Second Generation Theatre through June 6 at Shea’s Smith Theatre, 658 Main St. For tickets, visit



We’ve all been there. We’re facing a landmark birthday and our BFF is on a new path and our significant other has expectations and we’re staring down a crossroads riddled with self-doubt, anticipation, enthusiasm, and fear. What are you supposed to do? What should you do? Is it ever too late?

That’s the essence of Tick, Tick…BOOM! magnificently performed at Shea’s Smith Theatre by Second Generation Theatre. It’s a three hander with a lot going on. With Sean Ryan as Jon, Leah Berst, and Joe Russi play multiple roles in the life of this aspiring composer who is facing down the days leading up to his 30th birthday.  Created by the late Jonathan Larson, it’s semi-autobiographical and wasn’t fully staged until after his way-to-early death at age 36, the day before his seminal work Rent was to open off-Broadway.

Jon is plugging away, getting ready to workshop his latest work. His girlfriend Susan is a dancer who is teaching ballet on the side. His best bud Michael, after trying his hand at acting, is a marketing executive with a BMW, fancy new digs, a corporate wardrobe and apparently few regrets about leaving the stage behind. Berst is also Jon’s mom, his agent, Karessa the ingenue in his workshop, making minor wardrobe and prop switches to emphasize her character changes. It’s her force of personality, command of her voice, and body language that put us there, though. It’s breathtaking. Equally powerful is Russi’s flexes from slick business guy to the deli clerk, and Jon’s pipe smoking dad.

Whew. Everything about the production is spot on. I couldn’t imagine a better SGT-selected cast. Ryan commands the stage, cleverly designed by Chris Cavanagh to suggest Jon’s less grand SoHo apartment, the subway, his buddy Michael’s uptown place, other places. It takes some theatre of the mind to get there, but the storytelling is so vivid, your mind’s eye doesn’t have to struggle. The score is a winner: standouts are “Therapy,” a Jon and Susan duet as they gently explore the minefield of a dysfunctional relationship. It’s comic, and charming, and sad all at the same time; “30/90,” Jon’s ruminations on his impending birthday, Michael’s “Real Life” reflection on the choices he made that are working for him; Karessa the ingenue’s “Come To Your Senses” ballad; and Jon’s “Why” as he reflects on choices. Music director Joe Isgar and his quartet play the dickens out of this powerful music.  Lou Colaiacovo’s direction makes great use of the two tier stage and the storytellers upon it.

Can I say it again? Whew. There’s more going on with this story, but I’m not about the spoil it for you. Just see it. And book your tickets now. This is the show to see as the theatre season is winding down.

Tick, Tick…BOOM! is performed in one glorious, 90-minute act. Fill your sippy cup in the lobby before you go in and then hunker in for one heck of a ride. Get tickets at

4 stars for THE SECRET GARDEN: Spring Version

Second Generation’s ‘Secret Garden: Spring Version’ is artfully staged, superbly acted

The Secret Garden: Spring Version” is full of mysteries, locked away: a garden, a boy, a heart. The 1991 musical by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon is based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel from 1911. The Second Generation Theatre production is a jewel: elegant, charming, exquisitely designed and expertly performed.

This is a 90-minute retelling of the story of Mary Lennox, a young English girl who is shipped off to an uncle she doesn’t know when her parents die in India. Uncle Archibald’s home in England is grand, but not happy. He is in mourning for his beloved wife, Lily, who died giving birth to their son, Colin. The boy is an invalid, confined to his room and forbidden to receive visitors. To make matters worse, Mary’s uncle can’t bear to look at her, because of her uncanny resemblance to her late Aunt Lily.

The secret garden of the title was Lily’s. In his grief, Archibald had it locked and abandoned when she died, but of course, nothing fascinates children more than something that is locked away, and the uncontainable desires of children propel the plot of this timeless story.

Since its inception, Second Generation Theatre has paid homage to the succeeding generations of Buffalo theater folk, so it is especially endearing that Mary Lennox is played by Ella Hinklin, the daughter of Buffalo theater veteran, Jenn Stafford, who also appears in the show, as a Scottish schoolmistress and in the ensemble. Young Ella clearly has inherited her mother’s formidable talent, as the teenager commands the stage with confidence and hits all the emotional notes of her character convincingly.

Directed and choreographed by Michael Oliver-Walline, with musical direction by Allan Paglia, the production is lovingly staged. An excellent cast sings strongly and performs Walline’s sophisticated choreography with grace.

Chris Cavanagh has undertaken light, sound, and scenery for the show. His clever design features a line of door panels that serve as screens for projections, or, when lit from behind, to facilitate shadow play. The circular playing area has levels and pivots around a fountain, allowing for marvelous fluidity in the staging.

Beautiful costumes designed by Jenna Damberger and built by her own “Houndstooth Costume Collective” are more meticulous than a production at this level should have any right to expect.

Among the young generation performers, Clark Garvey distinguished himself as Mary’s invalid cousin, bad-tempered Colin Craven. The role is endearingly comical, and his triumph over the adults in his world, not all of whom are exactly well-intentioned, is very satisfying.

The leaven in the dough of the play is Martha, the chambermaid from Yorkshire who encourages the children to explore their world and to be happy. Amy Jakiel is marvelous, playing the role with affable exuberance.

Joe Russi plays Martha’s brother Dickon, a youthful presence, but not a child. Having previously seen Russi as Emcee in “Cabaret” and as “Angel” in “Rent,” I checked the program to be sure I was seeing the same actor. He is convincingly transformed and entirely charismatic in the role of Mary’s playful co-conspirator.

Louis Colaiacovo is excellent as sad and conflicted Uncle Archibald, a man who is encouraged in his impulse to deny his better instincts. John Panepinto is similarly good as his brother, Dr. Neville Craven, a man of dubious motivation. Their rendition of “Lily’s Eyes” is a highlight.

Anne DeFazio as Mrs. Medlock, and John Kreuzer as the gardener, Ben Weatherstaff, give wonderfully enjoyable performances. She is the spooky ill-tempered housekeeper of many a gothic novel. He is the humble and world-weary but wise gardener who sees right past her forbidding exterior.

Kelly Copps is perfection as the ghost of Lily, a comforting maternal presence who sings angelically and moves ethereally.

Jenn Stafford, as always, milks every comic nuance from her character as Mrs. Winthrop, a school mistress who proves to be less clever than a fifth-grader.

The first-rate ensemble, includes Bob Mazierski and Leah Burst as the ghosts of Mary’s ill-fated parents, along with Anthony Lazzaro, Jenny Marie McCabe, Charles McGregor, Collin McKee and Maria Pedro.

Reductive newspaper star ratings of plays might have discouraged many from reading this review to the end, but for anyone still reading, understand that four stars, in this instance, means superb performances in a fully realized and artfully staged production of a lovely and moving play.

4/4 Stars

Anthony Chase for THE BUFFALO NEWS

Link to Review HERE

To purchase tickets call (716)508-7480 or CLICK HERE

3 WNY Theatres Team Up To Produce THE COLOR PURPLE

The Color Purple is an unforgettable and moving musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. With a book by Marsha Norman, and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, The Color Purple is a portrait of Black women in rural Georgia during the first half of the 20th century, fighting to survive and to thrive in the face of ever-present cruelties. This is a story of resilience and hope, a tale women around the world are relating to today as much as they were 40 years ago. 
The Color Purple marks the first collaboration between Second Generation TheatreUjima Theatre Company, and Shea’s 710 Theatre. Each company’s theatre professionals bring a variety of skills, qualifications, culture, and values that come together as one with the mission to create an inclusive and collaborative experience while telling this important story to our existing and new audiences.

Read the full article HERE!


Critics and patrons alike are going bananas over SGT’s regional premiere of THE TOXIC AVENGER! Click the links below to read full text of these incredible reviews!

THE BUFFALO NEWS – 3.5/4 Stars
ANTHONY CHASE- Theatre Talk Buffalo- a 5 star Show!
BUFFALO RISING – 5/5 Buffaloes-

11- year-old NINE star Max Goldhirsch on theater, SGT, and being a kid


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Max Goldhirsch was a typical 11 year-old until he auditioned for a part in a show. He wowed the director and landed a part in the Second Generation Theatre Company production of “Nine”, now playing at Shea’s Smith Theatre.

Max says he had performed in school shows but this was his first professional role. About his fellow cast members who are all adults and mostly female he adds “I love working with these people because it makes me so excited about how theatre is supposed to be”.

Kelly Copps, Second Generation’s Artistic Director and a member of the cast says that Max’s performance brings tears to the cast members eyes “he sounds like a little angel.”

NINE: Regional premiere opens June 14!

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Melinda Miller

As either the last production of the main theater season or the first of the summer shows, the musical “Nine” is making its regional premiere this week in Shea’s Smith Theatre, nearly 40 years after it took Broadway by storm. Leave it to Second Generation Theatre – founded by three women – to produce the multi-Tony Award-winning show about one man’s midlife crisis, as seen by the many women whose lives helped shape him. Maury Yeston, who wrote the music and lyrics, based his story on Federico Fellini’s art house classic “8 1/2,” a semi-autobiographical movie about a filmmaker who has hit a wall in both his personal and professional lives. It opened in New York City in 1982 with Raul Julia starring as Guido Contini but became famous for the sheer lacy catsuit Anita Morris wore as Guido’s mistress, Carla.

One reason the show may be debuting this late in the season here is that Second Generation didn’t want to drain other local theater productions when it assembled its dynamite cast of 14 women, including Aimee Walker, Lisa Ludwig, Arianne Davidow and Kelly Copps. Guido is played by Ben Michael Moran, who was so incredible earlier this year in SGT’s “Angels in America Part One.”

The show opens June 14 (opening night is sold out) and runs through June 30 at the Smith Theatre (658 Main St.). Tickets are $30; $25 for seniors and $15 for students, through the Shea’s box office or online at


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