African-American theater, Jewish theater, musicals, comedies, LGBT theater – Buffalo has an amazingly rich and sophisticated theater scene that appeals to almost every taste in live entertainment.
With more than 20 producing companies, Buffalo’s theatrical community is anchored by the magnificent Shea’s Performing Arts Center in the heart of downtown’s Theatre District. Built in 1926 as a movie palace, the theater has been meticulously restored and the stage house expanded to accommodate the largest of today’s mega-musicals. Shea’s offers theatre-goers the best of Broadway in a setting that is opulent and elegant — a not to be missed treat. Shea’s Smith Theatre, located alongside the performing arts center on Main Street, presents cabaret-style productions, comedies and collaborations with local companies.
Across the street, theater buffs can enjoy the best of classic plays at the Irish Classical Theatre Company in the intimate theater-in-the-round of the Andrews Theatre. Immediately adjacent to Shea’s, the Alleyway Theatre, housed in what was once the Greyhound bus terminal, is dedicated to the production of new plays and musicals. Alleyway is also home to Buffalo United Artists, a company that explores and celebrates the gay experience.
Other noteworthy companies working in the region include MusicalFare Theatre based on the campus of Daemen College in suburban Amherst. As its name suggests, MusicalFare specializes in classic and contemporary musicals, always done with wit, style and sophistication.
Torn Space Theatre offers its audiences challenging contemporary drama and provocative avant-garde fare in its idiosyncratic home in the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle on the city’s East Side.
The Kavinoky Theatre is housed in a jewel like space that recalls London’s West End on the campus of D’Youville College. It’s programming ranges from musical romps to serious drama.
The Theatre of Youth offers families the enduring classics of childhood drama and comedy as well as new productions designed to engaged and educate young audiences. Based in the beautifully restored Allendale Theater in the city’s Allentown neighborhood, the Theatre of Youth is a delightful experience for the entire family.
Another mainstay of the Buffalo theater scene is the annual celebration of Shakespeare held every summer in Buffalo’s beautiful Delaware Park. This is the second largest Shakespeare festival in the United States, annually attracting more than 50,000 customers to the bucolic Olmsted-designed landscape — a perfect setting for the works of the immortal Bard.
Finally, Buffalo inaugurates and celebrates the opening of its theater season every September with its annual Curtain Up event. Pre-curtain cocktails and dinner are followed by post-theater music, dancing and partying into the wee small hours of the night. It’s a tradition befitting a city that loves its theater.
— Ed Healy