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Andrew Rannells

Stage star Andrew Rannells has been quite busy these past few years, thanks to his 2011 Tony-nominated breakthrough performance as a Mormon missionary in Broadway’s mega-hit The Book of Mormon. He had a recurring spot on HBO’s Girls and now a starring role on NBC’s new two-gay-dads sitcom The New Normal, which premiered this week on channel 2. No such luck in Salt Lake City, where an NBC affiliate owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has refused to air the show.

Speaking of The Book of Mormon, the touring production kicked off in Denver this past August and sold out its three-week stay within a few hours of when tickets went on sale. The Chicago stop, scheduled for a December-March run, has already been extended through June 3. The show will play Shea’s June 6-16 (one week only!) as part of the theater’s 25th Anniversary Broadway Season, which kicks off later this month (September 25) with Billy Elliot. No date for ticket sales for Mormon has been announced, so the only way to guarantee your seats now is to subscribe to the season, which also includes Jekyll & Hyde (with Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox), White Christmas, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Sister Act.

Congratulations to Subversive Theatre Collective, now celebrating its 10th anniversary with a remount of the first play they produced, Dario Fo’s The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. The play opened at Rust Belt Books on August 31, 2002, directed by Kurt Schneiderman with a cast featuring Todd Benzin, Tom Scahill, Kim Dossinger, Carlton Franklin, Brian Zybala, and Monica Karwan. The current production, also directed by Schneiderman, opened last week at the Manny Fried Playhouse and runs through September 29. On opening night a congratulatory letter from Nobel Prize winner Fo was read.

Congratulations as well to the Jewish Repertory Theatre of WNY, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary season. Back in December 2003, the company performed its first show, The Chosen, at the Andrews Theater. The current season opens on October 18 at the Maxine and Robert Seller Theatre with the play The Whipping Man, directed by Saul Elkin, starring Greg Howze, Dee LaMonte Perry, and Stan Klimecko.

The Geva Theatre in Rochester opens its 40th anniversary season this week with the classic comedy You Can’t Take It With You starring Robert Vaughn, best known for his role in TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The show runs through October 7.

A. R. Gurney’s new play Heresy opens in New York on September 30, with a cast that includes Kathy Najimy and Annette O’Toole. Gurney, who was honored by Road Less Traveled Productions at its Spring Gala in May, has agreed to be part of the company’s National Advisory Board.

Theater for Change founder Darleen Pickering Hummert has been named by Business First as one of the “2012 Women of Influence in WNY,” in the category of creativity. She and several other women who have made contributions to the community in eight categories will be presented with the award on September 20 at a luncheon in Salvatore’s. Congratulations!

Sherman Hemsley

Save the date! On Sunday, November 4, Shakespeare in Delaware Park will hold its annual fall fundraiser with a reading of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s bloodiest play. Directed by Anthony Chase, the reading will star Saul Elkin (Titus), Lisa Vitrano (Empress Tamora), Greg Howze, Matt Witten, Jeffrey Coyle, Jonathan Shuey, David Hayes, Adriano Gatto, Jacob Albarella, Dave Lundy, and Susan Drozd.

Over the summer The Lion King became the fifth longest-running show on Broadway. In London, Chicago closed on September 1 after a record-breaking 15-year run. The Broadway production is still running. Also over the summer we lost several theater personalities, including Sherman Hemsley , star of Broadway’s Purlie, but best known for TV’s The Jeffersons. Hemsley died on July 24 but his embalmed body is being kept in refrigeration at a funeral home in El Paso until a local court rules on the validity on his will. RIP.