Buffalo News Review - LOVE, LINDA: THE LIFE OF MRS. COLE PORTER

Posted on June 29, 2021

MusicalFare's 'Mrs. Cole Porter' showcases the talent, charisma of Debbie Pappas - by Anthony Chase - Buffalo News digital (6/29/21)

ow starring in the one-person show, “Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter” at MusicalFare Theatre, let us sing the praises of Debbie Pappas, a charismatic performer with a lush singing voice and irresistible stage presence. Pappas has been a fixture on Buffalo’s musical theater stages for … let me be a gentleman and just say “years.”

I first saw Pappas in the 1980s, playing Joan in “Dames at Sea” at Ruben’s Backstage. Since then, she’s played a litany of musical theater roles and has won three Artie Awards. Not all musical theater performers make smooth transitions from ingenue to their later careers, especially not singers. Pappas has accomplished this with finesse and retains the supple and expressive voice that has always been the hallmark of her stage performances.

A few years ago, I spoke to Pappas after she had done yet another audition for yet another production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Tzeitel, the eldest daughter had been a go-to role for her, and a new production of “Fiddler” meant almost guaranteed employment. This time, however, Pappas was not hired. She peeked at her audition card, and was horrified to read “Too old,” scribbled beside her name.

Well, for an actress, the teen years rarely endure past the age of 35, and while Pappas might have become too old to play the Tzeitel, the daughter, she would not be too old to play Golde, the mother; or Princess Puffer in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”; or Margaret Johnson in “Light in the Piazza”; or Trina in “Falsettos”; or the Stepmother in “Cinderella”; or Greta in “James Joyce’s ‘The Dead.’” She began to land and conquer these roles, one by one.

Indeed, Pappas now reveals in her credits that her most thrilling role to date is the real-life role of grandmother. (I suspect this admission is motivated by a combination of pride and an awareness that audience members will read the word “grandmother” and exclaim, “Impossible!”)

With “Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter,” MusicalFare has provided a showcase for her magnetic allure and remarkable talent. As the lights come up, Pappas is revealed in a stylish Art Deco living room, wearing a sleek evening gown of cornflower blue and midnight blue that compliments the decor. The gown is punctuated with a generous three-strand pearl necklace and large pearl bracelet. Her hair, deep brunette, is done in a classic Gatsby era style.

Pappas has been called upon to portray one of the most beautiful and fashionable women of the early 20th century.

Linda Lee Thomas had divorced her abusive first husband by the time she met Cole Porter in 1918. The couple would marry the next year, even though Porter was ten years her junior and as openly gay as it was possible to be in those days. The two would come to define jazz era glamor and sophistication, first in Paris, then in New York. At the same time, Porter’s reputation and popularity as a song writer would soar.

In the show, Pappas, as Linda Porter, narrates the story of her famed marriage with charm and humor, while highlighting its major events by singing 18 Porter songs. Sometimes the song selections are expected, as when she opens with “When a Woman’s in Love.” Sometimes the choices are surprising, or take on heavy irony, as when Linda describes how she coped with her husband’s most ardent male lovers by singing his seemingly innocent, “Let’s Be Buddies.”

Pappas demonstrates the value of experience with a performance that is well-paced and builds to a rewarding crescendo. She saves the full power and fluidity of her voice for the most unlikely vocal highlight of the evening, Porter’s “Wunderbar,” from his late-career masterpiece, “Kiss Me Kate.”

I’m not sure, but it’s possible that Pappas forgot some lyrics on the opening night. It was during Porter’s playfully risqué “Let’s Do It,” with its famously endless list of double entendres. The complex lyrics she starts to sing are not by Porter at all, but by Noël Coward, written for his Las Vegas act. At one point, she turned to the audience and entreated us to provide the next rhyme. It was an amusing bit, but then I thought, “Has she actually forgotten the words?” Then I thought, “Who cares? She’s fabulous! This is divine!”

The production has been directed by Norm Sham, who is married to Pappas. Music direction is by Theresa Quinn. The smart set and lights are by Chris Cavanagh, who has also provided expert sound. Kari Drozd designed the costume. Susan Drozd designed the wig and make-up. The total effect is wunderbar.

MusicalFare Re-Opening Article from Amherst Bee

Posted on June 28, 2021

By Samantha Flavell - Amherst Bee - 6/23/21

Live performances by MusicalFare return June 23 with the production of “Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter,” a one-woman musical that recounts through song and story the life of Linda Lee Thomas and her life with Cole Porter.

After a hiatus from live shows due to COVID-19, the theater community is eager and excited to get back on stage and veer away from virtual performances in favor of once again performing in front of a live audience.

“Being back is something that obviously everyone has been looking forward to. Not just the company; everybody in the theater community is happy to be getting back on stage and getting to do what they haven’t been able to do,” said Doug Weyand the marketing and production coordinator for MusicalFare. “I mean literally every artistic person has been sitting at home, unless they did a livestream somewhere along the line. But they haven’t performed in front of a live audience.”

With COVID restrictions easing and the number of vaccinated individuals increasing, MusicalFare is excited to welcome audience members back and ease back into live performances starting with this one-act, one-woman wonder.

“The cast for this, it’s a one-woman show. We purposely did that just to get people more comfortable because you don’t want to throw 20 performers at them. So, we’re doing a small show; it’s only an hour and five minutes long,” Weyand said. “There’s no intermission so it’s not like you’re going and sitting through the first act and then you have a 15-minute wait and then you have another act. So, you don’t feel like you’re there for a long time either. So, it’s giving people the entertainment that they want but keeping it restricted to a certain extent.”

Linda Lee Thomas, or Mrs. Cole Porter, is played by Debbie Pappas. Throughout the one-act musical Pappas enlivens her character to recount the life of Thomas and Cole Porter celebrating their love that blossomed through the unconventional relationship.

The musical showcases the fact that even though Porter was gay, the companion- ship and love between him and Thomas lasted through 35 years of marriage and a glamour-filled life. The musical scores are all music and lyrics of Cole Porter and include titles like “Love for Sale,” “Night and Day,” “Let’s Do It” and “Let’s Misbehave.”

“It’s a quick, nice, lovely little piece that is just going to enchant people and give them an hour’s worth of entertainment where they won’t have to watch TV,” Weyand said. “Obviously go at your own comfort level but all the theaters in town, including us, are taking all the precautions and are eagerly and enthusiastically awaiting their return. There is nothing like being in a room and experiencing something communally. It’s your first chance to get back out there, give it a try and see how you feel.”

Performances will be held at 7 p.m. today, June 23, and tomorrow, Thursday, June 24, as well as at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 26, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 27. There is no 7:30 p.m. Saturday performance for this production.

There will be one non-vaccinated performance held on Thursday, July 1. No proof of vaccination will be required but all patrons are required to wear face masks at all times and observe social distancing. Seating will not be assigned but will be limited to approximately 33% of capacity with social distancing between seats. Vaccinated individuals are able to attend this showing as well.

All other performances of “Love, Linda” will be for vaccinated individuals and proof of vaccination such as a New York State Excelsior Pass or vaccination card with a photo ID will be required to enter. Seating for vaccinated-only performances will be at 76% capacity.

“We did a survey of our subscribers before we even announced the show coming in and like 97% of them wanted to come back immediately; 97% of them only wanted to come back if everyone was vaccinated in the audience. So basically that’s why we’re doing the vaccinated-only production. At least for this production, it will probably adjust as things move along into September for the beginning of the season,” Weyand said. “We’re only selling the vaccinated performance to 76% [capacity] of our seating. We’re allowed to sell it all the way but we’re choosing to do it to 76%. Because that way there is still some distancing between people. Because you don’t know how you’re going to feel the first time you’re back in the audience.”

Tickets are $49 and the performance is sponsored by Beechwood Continuing Care.

“I’m really, really hoping that people will take the chance and will enjoy the lovely performance that we’re putting on,” Weyand said.

MusicalFare Theatre is hiring a part-time administrative Outreach/Inclusion/Equity Director.

Posted on June 15, 2021

MusicalFare Theatre is hiring a part-time administrative Outreach/Inclusion/Equity Director. MusicalFare understands that unless all voices are protected and elevated equally, the company will not be fulfilling its mission and truly committing to its core values   This position will interface with all MusicalFare actors, artists, interns, and board members to help develop best practices that drive fair and equitable BIPOC representation in all theatre roles, administration, and on the MusicalFare Board of DIrectors. It will also identify and facilitate group sales from community groups that have not been reached out to previously by MusicalFare while helping to make sure that the theatre is a place where diverse community groups and cultures feel safe and welcomed.  

Interested applicants should email a cover letter and resume detailing your relevant background and skills to Artistic/Executive Director, Randall Kramer, at rkramer@daemen.edu no later than Tuesday, June 29, 2021.  Please us the subject line: "Outreach/Inclusion/Equity Director Position."

MusicalFare Theatre provides equal employment opportunities to all applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, genetics or any other legally protected status.

MusicalFare's Black Lives Matter (BLM) & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Statements

Posted on June 9, 2020

Our BLACK LIVES MATTER (BLM) Statement:

MusicalFare Theatre is deeply saddened and angered by the injustice the Black community continues to face. We are committed to standing together with, listening to and elevating the voices of the Black community - onstage, on our creative and administrative staffs, and on our board - now and at all times.

We are not neutral. We reject white supremacy and racism, and we support the ongoing fight for racial equality. We also recognize the systemic inequalities in our field and know that our words are only as valuable as their accompanying actions.

We commit to developing concrete anti-racist actions to help move us all forward.

There is so much we don’t know. We re-commit to a culture of listening and self-challenge. We as an organization cannot fulfill our mission and truly commit to our core values unless all voices are protected and elevated equally.

Black Lives Matter.

 

Our DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION (DEI) Statement:

MusicalFare Theatre is deeply saddened and angered by the injustices the BIPOC,  AAPI, LGBTQ and other communities continue to face.  We are committed to standing together with, listening to, and elevating the voices of these communities – onstage, on our creative and administrative staffs, and on our board – now and at all times.

We are not neutral.  We reject white supremacy and any forms of cultural, societal, political and oppression, and we support the ongoing fight for equity.  We also recognize the systemic inequalities in our field and know that our words are only as valuable as their accompanying actions. 

We have committed to developing concrete Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies and actions to help move us all forward.  There is so much we don’t know.  We will strive to create a culture of listening and self-challenge.  We as an organization cannot fulfill our mission and truly commit to our core values unless all voices are protected and elevated equally. 

About the Future of MusicalFare Theatre

Posted on September 26, 2018

The complete text of various news articles from various sources about the Future of MusicalFare Theatre.

Reviews for PUMP BOYS & DINETTES are in!

Posted on September 7, 2018

Read the full text of the PUMP BOYS & DINETTES review in Buffalo Theatre Guide!

Stellar Reviews for MURDER FOR TWO!

Posted on July 13, 2018

Read the full text of the MURDER FOR TWO reviews in The Buffalo News, Buffalo Rising, and Buffalo Theatre Guide!

MusicalFare Announces Its 2018-2019 Season of Musicals

Posted on March 1, 2018

ALL MUSICALS - ALL THE TIME!
The list of productions below constitutes MusicalFare Theatre's 2018-2019 Season of Musicals for their Mainstage.  Other productions at the Premier Cabaret or those in conjunction with Shea's 710 Theatre are not a part of the Subscription Season.