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Musicalfare: Not Afraid To Be New

Not Afraid To Be New

Artistic Director Randall Kramer on upcoming productions

MusicalFare continues to advance as the region’s foremost champion of American Musical theater. They’ve happily settled into their newly expanded space on the Daemen College campus, with its spacious lobby, and a cabaret space that boasts one of the nicest theater bars we’ve ever saddled up to. This is one of the few remodels that actually exceeds the promise of the architect’s rendering!

The MusicalFare programming also seems to be evolving. Yes, the current offering is a revisit to a popular show from their past, Sisters of Swing: the Andrews Sisters Musical, which invites us to hear some glorious Andrews Sisters harmonies, gorgeously performed by a charismatic trio of musical theater actresses—(the point of the show is the music, as the main virtue of the script is merciful forgettability—O.K! O.K.! Let’s get to the songs!) But programming that formerly favored revues has, over the years, gradually evolved back in the direction of book musicals and even musical theater classics.

In recent years they have given us boldly re-envisioned productions of Oliver! and The Music Man. Last season, the company bravely ventured into Rodgers and Hammerstein territory with Carousel. The coming season gives us Frank Loesser’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, nestled among other book musicals, specifically In the Heights and Evita.

In addition, MusicalFare is increasingly confident in the development of brand new musical theater work. New work has always been a part of the MusicalFare mix, but at the moment, four projects are under development through a process of readings and workshops.

“We developed Zooma Zooma this way,” recalls Artistic Director Randall Kramer. “And also Talk to Me Now. It is so helpful for the creators of a musical to hear their script and their score, to hear the reaction of an audience, and to see the work up on its feet.”

First up is a show with the working title, Not Afraid to Be Ugly, a new musical written by Buffalo native, Marisa Guida, about a little girl whose guardian angel is famed television comedian from the 1950s, Imogene Coca. Philip Farugia is composing the music.

“The show was my MFA project at Virginia Commonwealth,” explains Guida, who has written the book and lyrics. “I am originally from Buffalo and have known [actress] Nicole [Marrale Cimato] since we were kids. I saw her in S’Wonderful at MusicalFare and thought, ‘Wow! She’s Imogene Coca!’”

Coca was an icon of early television, best known for her work opposite Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows.

Not Afraid to be Ugly, which will have a workshop performance on Saturday is being described as “a coming of age story inspired by the life and work of comedienne Imogene Coca. Mom gets a promotion, Dad gets fired, and their pre-pubescent daughter, Genny, is being picked on at school. With Imogene’s help Genny learns how to be herself, make a best friend, and teach everyone the true meaning of beauty.”

The opportunity to have a workshop has been a remarkable boon to Guida.

“This is a chance, not just to see the work on its feet, but to get people interested,” she says. “By working at MusicalFare we’ve gotten the space and support we need, and artists who have been interested to participate. If we had come to town as strangers, we never would have gotten so much support. Also, before I got here, I didn’t have a composer. I found Phil [Farugia] here.”

MusicalFare also has a new musical by Tom Dudzick on the horizon. Dudzick is best known as the Buffalo born author of Over the Tavern. He came to MusicalFare with the script and score for a musical reworking of one of his earlier plays.

“Initially, we were considering it for our 2015-16 season,” reveals Kramer. “But then I thought, let’s do this properly, with a reading and a process of development. Kramer will assist with the music. Dudzick, who will direct the piece himself, was delighted.

Other workshops on the roster include the continued development of “Something So Right,” a program of song, dance, and storytelling using the music of Paul Simon that MusicalFare presented with Lehrer Dance at UB in 2011. It had been a large undertaking.

“We are looking to make something smaller in scope,” says Kramer. “Something less abstract, and using only two actors and two dancers.”

Finally, Kramer is going way back in his career to Wax World, an original musical set in a wax museum. That’s going back into the trunk 20 years or so!

“Yeah, sometimes a musical can have a very long gestation period,” jokes Kramer.

In the meantime, Sisters of Swing continues through August 9th, and Not Afraid to Be Ugly will get a viewing on Saturday.