Sept 9, 2016 – An annual celebration to mark the opening of Buffalo’s Theatre season is unlike any other in the country.
Buffalo’s ongoing renaissance has ushered in economic growth, new construction and fresh faces unfamiliar with the bustling music, art and theater scene of the Nickel City. This post will shine a spotlight (pun intended) on ‘Curtain Up!’ Buffalo, an event that signals the start of Buffalo’s theatre season. John Schaller, Director of Development for Shea’s Performing Arts Center was kind enough to sit down with us for a short Q and A about this year’s ‘Curtain Up!’ event and what we have to look forward to this season at Shea’s.
Q) What exactly is curtain up for those who are unfamiliar with this event?
A) Curtain Up! is the annual celebration of the opening of Buffalo’s Theatre season. Now in its 35th year, it is presented by the Theatre District Association of Western New York and it is being sponsored by M&T Bank. When people think of Buffalo, they think of our sports teams or infamous wintery weather. But what they sometimes overlook is that Buffalo has one of the largest, most diverse theatre communities in the nation. We have over 20+ different theatre companies that offer a wide variety of productions to suit your preferences. And Curtain Up! celebrates these theatres by offering a way to showcase their seasons to a broad section of loyal and/or casual theatre goers.
Curtain Up! is theatrically designed in three acts, which can be totally customized to your needs:
Act I (5-7:30pm): start the event with cocktails and an elegant, creative-black tie dinner on Shea’s Main Stage OR make reservations at any of the fine restaurants in the Theatre District. We’ll also be inducting Mary Kate O’Connell into the Theatre District Plaza of Stars on the corner of Main and Tupper at 5pm.
ACTI II (8-10pm): After dinner, catch a show at any one of the participating theatres. Curtains rise promptly at 8pm and advanced ticketing is recommended.
ACT III (10pm-1am): When the curtains fall, the Theatre District comes alive with a one-of a kind street party on Main Street. Featuring live music, fireworks, street performers, cash bars, food trucks and a few surprises, it’s one of the area’s biggest outdoor parties – and it’s free to attend!
Q.) Being that this the 35th year this event is taking place, and given the popularity of Shea’s Buffalo, I can only imagine this gala is growing every year. Do you have an expected turnout for this year’s event?
A.) This event has grown substantially over the years. We’re estimated to have 550 people at the black-tie dinner at Shea’s and the restaurants are typically at capacity for dinner before the shows. Many of the theatres will also sell out on opening night so advanced ticketing is strongly recommended. The street party is one of the most exciting features of the event. Last year, we estimated between 4-5,000 people on the street, celebrating and having a good time. And the best part, it’s truly a Buffalo-originated tradition. Other cities have attempted to clone this event but have not been as successful which is a testament to our passion and affinity for theater in Buffalo.
Q.) Every year Shea’s welcomes back productions and introduces some new ones. Can you give us an idea of some of the more anticipated shows Shea’s will be putting on this season?
A.) As a theatre, Shea’s Buffalo is continuing to see record numbers of patrons come through our doors. It will be the third straight year with 13,000+ season ticket holders which keeps us as the top location for Touring Broadway in the country! It’s also one of the reasons why Broadway Shows fight and clamor to make sure Buffalo is one of the first places they come to once their tours are launched – because they know, chances are, they’ll be playing to packed houses each and every night. And this season is no different. We have a wonderful mix of classic Broadway productions like Wicked, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Stomp and 42nd Street. But we also have brand new, straight from Broadway, Tony-Award winning productions such as Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, American in Paris and our first season show, Finding Neverland. We are bringing Broadway to Buffalo in a big way. It’s going to be an exciting season and I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next few years.
Q.) Now that you have informed us of some of the more popular performances coming to your theater, what is the easiest way one can go about purchasing tickets to a specific performance?
A.) There are several ways to purchase tickets to any of the productions at Shea’s. You can go online at Ticketmaster.com or set-up an account on www.sheas.org and look for tickets there. Or come visit our Box Office – they are open weekdays from 10am-5pm, Saturday from 10am-2pm and during show nights.
Q.) Working first hand with these productions on a regular basis, you must have great interest in the performing arts. Are you personally looking forward to attending a specific play this year?
A.) There are so many cool things happening this year that it’s hard to pick just one. Some may have heard that we’re actually teching our first show here in Shea’s which is very exciting. What that means is – if you remember how the Film Commission lobbied Albany to give tax credits to bring movie filming here to Buffalo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Marshall, etc.)…well we did the same thing to “tech” Broadway shows right here! So for the first time, Finding Neverland will be here in Buffalo for 3-4 weeks, building the sets, working out the lighting and sound, rehearsing with actors and so much more, right here in Buffalo on Shea’s Stage before they launch the tour at Shea’s in early October – resulting in jobs and heightened economic impact for the area. And the best part?!? You don’t have to worry about a bunch of Ninja Turtles clogging up the 33! So keep your eye out on Finding Neverland here at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre.
Many thanks to John Schaller for taking the time to speak with us. For Curtain Up! tickets call Robert Brunschmid at (716) 829-1180. And don’t forget to visit www.sheas.org for schedule and ticket information. Break a leg everybody!