It’s that time again, folks. Buffalo United Artists’ annual camp show is back.

by Ann Marie Cusella

Alley of the Dolls is playing at the Alleyway Theatre

Summer Camp Has Begun

‘Tis the season for summer camp and if mosquitos and s’mores aren’t your thing, consider attending the camp at Alleyway Theatre weekends this month for a totally different experience.

Yes, it’s that time again, folks. Buffalo United Artists’ annual camp show is back. This year Alley of the Dolls graces the stage, a deliciously overwrought and angst-ridden version adapted by Jimmy Janowski (who also appears in two roles), from the 1966 film Valley of the Dolls. The cast of eight, directed by Chris Kelly, overacts their hearts out, costumed and wigged to the nines, courtesy of the multi-talented Jimmy Janowski and Bebe Bvlgari. At the same time, there are moments that speak to human desires, frailties, and suffering beneath the broad comedic surface, as well as some excellent characterizations by the cast that give the show a surprising depth – not too deep, mind you.

The ‘dolls’ are pills, ”uppers and downers”, that proliferated in the 1960s, were highly addictive, and sometimes fatal. In …Dolls, a bitchy aging diva, Helen (Jimmy Janowski), who has very expressive shoulders, demands that a talented young woman, Neely (Renee Landrigan), be removed from her show. Neely goes on to stardom on her own, becomes addicted to the dolls and alcohol and falls from grace. Plots abound, including romances, deceptions, illnesses, diseases, and more. Wikipedia provides an excellent seven-paragraph synopsis of the plot, so no need for this writer to attempt to explain it in seven sentences.

The amazing Jimmy Janowski is Helen

Oh, the Wigs

Renee Landrigan absolutely kills it as Neely. She does excellent work in transitioning her character from the young, eager ingenue to the out-of-control star. She was at once hysterically funny and pitiful, Well done.

Chris Standart plays Anne, a secretary not suited for the legalities of the cutthroat show business system. A delicate flower, she falls in love with Lyon Burke (Michael Seitz), a partner in the law firm, who woos her in a series of double entendres and explicit gestures but refuses to marry her. Tsk tsk. Will she succumb to Lyon’s charms? She later sports two hot pink costumes that capture the essence of her sweet soul. Do they?

Michael Blasdell (aka Bebe Bvlgari) is Jennifer, another sweet soul, who befriends Neely and Anne. She is of limited talent, with large bosoms and flowing blond hair, and is mostly dressed in a long-sleeved onesie. She wears the show’s most compelling headdress, a white concoction with feathers, glitter and sequins (glitter and sequins being de rigueur for her later costumes). She suffers greatly, with many long looks and sweeping gestures, as her lover and husband…

Tony Polar, a butter-voiced crooner played by Alex Garcia, succumbs to Huntington’s chorea, and can no longer perform. Alex  Garcia plays several other roles, along with Matthew Refermat and Dan Urtz, all of whom display their fine acting abilities and some impressive dancing chops. Their Newsies numbers are a delight.

The costumes and wigs are characters in their own right. “Dame Chevon Davis” also had a hand in the designs. The wigs take on a life of their own as the evening progresses, becoming larger and wilder, as the characters evolve, or devolve, depending. Jennifer’s sequined gown at the end is a knockout, but by no means the only one.

the Best of Buffalo United Artists

The stage is bare throughout. Characters wander on and off, often with grand gestures. The night I attended, there were technical difficulties that resulted in the audience missing out on several projected films, which were world-class, according to Mr. Janowski in an explanation at the end of the show. Bummer. However, he suggested we all return another night to see them. Why not?

Alley of the Dolls is the 30th Anniversary Production by BUA. It is great fun, with some dialogue that will make you groan, some great singing and dancing, a cast of actors who are clearly enjoying themselves, and provides a Summer Camp experience like no other. You can leave the mosquito repellent at home, but definitely bring your sense of humor.

Dates, Tickets and More Information

Alley of the Dolls from Buffalo United Artists is playing at the Alleyway Theatre from July 9th – July 31st, 2022.

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