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 https://buffalonews.com/2019/10/26/second-generations-toxic-avenger-grotesque-absurd-and-sensational/
ANTHONY CHASE- Theatre Talk Buffalo- a 5 star Show!  https://www.theatertalkbuffalo.com/post/the-avenger-advantage
BUFFALO VIBE – https://www.buffalovibe.com/articles/arts-culture/review-the-toxic-avenger-sheas-smith-theatre
BUFFALO RISING – 5/5 Buffaloes- https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.buffalorising.com/2019/10/the-toxic-avenger-is-a-hilarious-hit-as-five-super-talented-singer-actor-dancers-and-crew-create-a-five-buffalo-show/amp/

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 secondgenerationtheatre.com.


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40 Allegany Avenue
Kenmore, NY 14217

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