Thursday, May 19, 2016

2016-2017 Palace Season Unveiled

This year marked the third consecutive year that Wendy and I attended the “Evening With the Stars” performance at the Historic Palace Theater in Lockport. Once again, we waited in eager anticipation of the unveiling of the newest theater season. This year, somehow, we made it to the show amid a ton of craziness in our family life. Because of that craziness, my review of that show has been severely delayed. But, never fear. The review is here.

First off, we love these evenings out, which is why we once again purchased season tickets. Hopefully, we get the same seats we’ve had for the last couple years. They are fantastic seats. We met up with some friends and went out for dinner at the New York Beer Project on Transit. It was pretty crowded that evening, as it was the day of the Kentucky Derby. And then it was on to the Palace for some hors d'oeuvres.

When the lights went down for the show, a small group of actors and actresses filed on stage for a quick rendition of “On Broadway.” Christopher Parada and Ellen Schratz welcomed the season ticket holders to the Palace for the big unveiling. With only a couple weeks between the end of the “Mary Poppins” run, “An Evening With the Stars” came together in a very short time.

The first show of the season will be Mark Twain Live! Starring Mike Randall of WKBW as the great, American author. Randall has performed as Mark Twain since 1972, appearing throughout the United States and Canada. As a self-avowed Twain fan, I am eagerly awaiting this performance on September 17, 2016.

Fulfilling a tradition that began in 2003, “Scrooge: The Musical” will once again grace the stage December 2-4, 2016. I would venture a guess that the Bacon Bits will once again audition for a part in the Christmas performance. In fact, in the video clips of the show, all three of my daughters who were in it last year were easy to spot. The evening ensemble performed “It’s Never Too Late to Say Merry Christmas,” followed by Geoff Koplas, Meghan Curr, and Dan Cassidy singing “How Can a Woman Like Her (Love a Man Like Me).”

January always brings the non-musical portion of the schedule. This year, Agatha Christie’s “Ten LIttle Indians” will be performed. Considered by the author to be the most difficult of her works to write, this play was adapted from the 1939 novel into a stage production by Agatha herself. In 2005, the play was rewritten by Kevin Elyot, which took the play back to its original, darker roots. As a devout Agatha Christie fan, I am eagerly awaiting this production, January 19-22, 2017.

Disney will return to the Palace stage for the spring show with a performance of “Beauty and the Beast.” A highlight of the season, this musical gives the season its name. The Palace would love for you to be “Be Our Guest” for the new season. This is a show that I’m sure my daughters will love.

As a teaser for this show, we were treated to three songs by our local actors. The first, “Be Our Guest,” began with Robby Syruws singing alone before being joined by four backup singers. The namesake song was performed wonderfully. Emily Prucha then sang “A Change in Me” as Belle. As always she nailed it. Finally, Jake Hayes sang “If I Can’t Love Her.” All three songs made me eager for the musical, March 31-April 9, 2017.

 The season unveiling will be the next show on the docket. “An Evening With the Stars” will give season ticket holders a chance to mingle with the actors they watch so intently during the rest of the year. We had a chance to do that this year, and I spoke with several cast members. It was a unique look at these talented people outside the normal elements. Again this year, the cast sang “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” to mark the year until the next announcement.

The last show of the 2016-17 season was one that I had never heard of before. In fact, I had to look it up when I got home. “Billy Elliot: The Musical” takes place in northern England during the miner’s strike of 1984-1985. Set against this backdrop is the story of Billy Elliot, a young boy who would rather dance than box, and all the struggles he has to overcome to achieve his dreams. The show will take place July 13-23, 2017.

As a teaser for this show we were treated to Geoff Koplas, as Billy’s father, and Nicholas Kleinhans, as Billy, singing “Deep Into the Ground.” Kleinhans, a 7th grader at North Park Middle School, is new to the stage, but showed no jitters as he wowed the audience with his singing voice. A second song, “Solidarity,” was sung by Koplas, Dan Cassidy, and Jake Hayes.

Speaking of Dan Cassidy, he was honored during the evening as the Palace “Shining Star of the Year.” As Ellen Schratz explained, “From performing on stage, to performing in the pit, Dan has done it all. He truly is a shining star keeping the lights on at the Palace.” It is a great honor, and we at Niagara’s Watercooler salute your achievements, Dan.

Wrapping up the show was a quick look at the final production of the 2015-2016 season, “All Shook Up.” Using the music of Elvis Presley, this musical is based upon William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” This one will feature all your old favorite Elvis tunes, and is sure to be a popular show. Get your tickets early. The ensemble sang, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love.” With Emily Prucha and Jake Hayes leading it off, we are definitely in for a big treat in July. Stop in at the Palace July 7-17, 2016 to get “All Shook Up.”

The 2016-2017 season announcement had a couple surprises. It’s those surprises that keep us coming back for more. Wendy and I are always open to new productions that we’ve never seen before as well as enjoying old favorites. This season has both. So, if you’re looking for a date night with your significant other, and you want to support a local institution, head out to the Palace Theater. I’ll be there. Stop over and say hi.

All photos courtesy Jeanette Sheliga.

Craig Bacon attends many theater performances, and then he writes about them. Maybe someday he'll write one.