February 6, 2018

Mamma Mia!

One bride, one mom, and three potential dads all on one Greek island; the premise of Mama Mia! might seem silly, but its playful absurdity provides the right framework for a musical built around ABBA songs. Beef & Board Dinner Theatre’s current production captures that spirit and runs with it.

The 2007 Broadway Across America production felt much more like a concert. Beef & Boards’ show instead has a more intimate feel and it shines a light on the lovely mother/daughter relationship at the heart of the story. It also emphasizes the message that your identity is not created by your “family”, it’s something you must discover for yourself.

Both Sophie (Rachelle Rose Clark) and her onstage mother Donna (Amy Bodnar) give enthusiastic performances. Bodnar is a Broadway veteran, who is new to the Beef & Boards stage. Her performance of “The Winner Takes It All” completely knocked it out of the park. Her vocal skills shine in those powerful solo moments.
Tanya played by Jalynn Steele was a particular favorite as well. She brings just the right amount of sass and sexiness to the role as Donna’s best friend and backup singer. Her partner in crime, Rosie (Lanene Charters) hams it up, and finds a bit of romance for herself. Mark Epperson, Don Farrell, and Jeff Stockberger do a great job filling the roles as the father candidates as Sam, Harry, and Bill respectively.

Michael Layton’s set is wonderfully done. The crisp white lines and shades of blue instantly transport you to Greece. The animated choreography, created by Ron Morgan, conveys the energy of the songs. There are times when it’s almost too much, but moments like “Lay All Your Lone On Me” complete with scuba-gear-clad dancers were more than enough to impress.

In the end, the show is definitely entertaining. Get ready to find your inner dancing queen in this hilarious romp.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until April 8. Doors open for evening performances at 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The buffet is served from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. For Wednesday matinees doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the buffet is served from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The show begins at 1 p.m. For Sunday matinees doors open at 12 p.m. and the buffet is served from 12:15 to 1 p.m. The show begins at 1:30 p.m.
: To purchase tickets call (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Prices range from $44 to $69 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet.

Photos courtesy of Beef & Boards

January 31, 2018

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

I think we all felt the earth move a little bit at Clowes Hall this week. Beautiful, the musical of Carol King‘s life, is on stage now. The singer/composer famous for hits like "It's Too Late" and "You've Got a Friend" had a incredible career and the musical chronicles her rise to stardom in the 1960s.

I went into the show thinking I knew only two of King's songs, instead I was blown away by her body of work. Whether she sang the song originally or created it for another band like The Drifters or The Shirelles there were so many familiar oldies. I intentionally ignored the set list in the program until after the show because each new numbers provides a surprise as you hear her compose it with her lyricist husband. Those big reveals are half the fun of the show. In that way, the show is reminiscent of Jersey Boys. At times you hear a song in the early stages of creation and you get to watch its evolution as it moves from the songwriter's keyboard to the vocal stylings of a performer and see how it changes to reach its final iteration.

Sarah Bockel plays King and she does an incredible job conveying her grow from a young Brooklyn teen to one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. Her voice is incredible, full of the earthiness King was so famous for. Her best friend, Cynthia Weil, played by Sarah Goeke, is charismatic and provides a rapid fire dialogue and sense of humor. The supporting cast plays a slew of 1960s performers with relish. From the choreographed dances to the sequined costumes, you might as well be watching American bandstand. 

Broadway Across America shows can sometimes struggle with their elaborate sets and flawless sound systems overwhelming the story or the voices of the performers. In this show the songs are the stars and it was wonderfully balanced. The action slows a bit in the second act as the drama in King's marriage hits its peak and she searches for her own voice. But the satisfying conclusion brought the audience to its feet as you see her triumph.The show is a treat for devoted fans of King's work and newcomers alike.

Don't Miss the Show The show runs until Sunday, Feb. 4 at Clowes Memorial Hall so hurry to get tickets to the show. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, The Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online at broadwayacrossamerica.com. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
Photos by Matthew Murphy

January 16, 2018

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun, the seminal work of playwright Lorraine Hansberry, tells the story of Walter Lee Younger and his family. Their dreams and plans have been thwarted and yet a ray of hope remains in the form of a life insurance check which could provide a new future for all of them. The Indiana Repertory Theatre is producing the play just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History month.
Tony Cisek’s incredible set design transports the audience into Chicago tenements. There are worn rugs on the floor, holes in the ceiling, and every rustic detail pulls us back into the 1950s. It takes a moment to notice the second layer of the set. Three stories of staircases rise up behind the apartment walls, simultaneously demonstrating the oppressive nature of their situation and the hope of rising to a better future.

Kim Staunton is perfectly cast as the matriarch Lena. Her performance gives the entire show an earnest and raw sense of urgency. She seems the cracks in the relationships around her and is just trying to find a way to hold her family together.

Dorcas Sowunmi plays Ruth, the disenchanted wife of Walter Lee, and her exhaustion is palpable. Beneatha (Stori Ayers) is all sass and ideals, just like any college student. Walter Lee (Chiké Johnson) dreams big, but lives a life of frustration, beaten down by his circumstances and failed endeavors. Each actor embodies their role wonderfully, making the ensemble as a whole feel like a true family.

The work speaks for itself. Hansberry’s dialogue is beautifully written and completely believable. The play is about hope and heartbreak, trust and disappointment. It’s about the struggle to communicate, between spouses, generations, genders, and cultures. These messages are powerfully conveyed. It’s not an easy show to watch; though there are moments of humor. But this seems like the perfect time to revisit the Younger family and the story of a dream deferred.

Don't Miss the Show
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. The show runs until Feb. 3 on IRT's OneAmerica Mainstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com

Photos courtesy of the IRT

January 10, 2018

NoExit Performance Announces 2018 Season

NoExit Performance is thrilled to announce its 2018 season.

Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses

Created by Lukas Schooler
Choreography by Lauren Curry
Mesh on Mass Ave., February
Make reservations with NoExit Performance and Mesh to witness a collaboration between performance and fine dining. This alternative Valentine's Day event takes inspiration from the diverse menu at Mesh and the interpersonal connections forged while dining.

Nickel & Dimed
Adapted by Joan Holden
Directed by Callie Burk
Location TBA, May
 Based on Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, journey into the world of the working poor, with its exhausted fast-food cooks, waitresses, house cleaners, big-box-store saleswomen, and their striving managers. Can one survive on America’s minimum wage?

Drosselmeyer's All-American Cabaret
Created by Ryan Mullins
Location TBA, July
 Proud American (????) Wolfgang Drosselmeyer pulls out all the stops for a Christmas in July celebration of Lady Liberty, Old Glory, and Uncle Sam. Join his cohort of special guests for a night of performances, games, and celebrating all that makes America the world's butthole favorite nation.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Adapted by Bennett Ayers
Directed by Ryan Mullins
Location TBA, September
 First they set out to sea. Then, they were lost at sea. Now, they're under the sea! Watch how Professor Aronnax and her friends escape the amphibious humanoid Captain Nemo in this adaptation that combines dance, puppetry, theatre and music.

The Mutilated
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Ryan Mullins
Location TBA, November
 It’s Christmas Eve in New Orleans and two friends are navigating their usual territory, one filled with con men, cops, and the cruelty of fellow humans. But will their friendship survive the ravages they inflict on each other?

January 5, 2018

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

A rock musical, excellent vocals, intimate venue, what more can you ask for? Zach and Zack Productions newest offering, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, premiers at the Epilogue Playhouse tonight. The show hits all the right notes with a powerful lead performer, a perfect space, and audio and lighting that makes you truly believe you're in a punk rock bar.

Tim Hunt plays the titular character and his sheer charisma and talent carries the show. He portrays passion, humor, sex appeal, and vulnerability in every scene. Under a thin veneer of self-deprecating humor and a blustering diva attitude lies a sensitive soul trying to find their place in the world. Hedwig performs songs, but in true cabaret style she also tells stories of her life in East Berlin. She grew up as a young boy named Hansel, before a botched sex change left her with an "angry inch".
The rock musical has a dark premise and is clearly for mature audiences, but it's also filled with playful humor. In "Wig in the Box" he strips off his blond wig and recruits the audience to sing along. There's also a hefty balance of the heartbreaking raw honesty as Hedwig shares the pain of rejection and feeling like you don’t belong. In the final scenes Hedwig is stripped of all her finery and in the quiet moments of "Midnight Radio" we see the most powerful performance of the evening, proving the show is so much more than bright lights and big hair.

Hedwig's husband, play by Kate Homan, does an incredible job showing frustration and restraint with dry humor while assisting with wig changes and backup vocals. The wigs and make up, done by Andrew Elliot and Daniel Klingler, deserve their own mention. In classic drag queen style they are over-the-top and perfectly done.The Angry Inch, a live band onstage, provides music throughout the show.
This production is a perfect example of edgy theatre done well. There is absolutely an audience for it in Indy and I'm grateful to Zach and Zack Productions for tackling the show with such impeccable style. Truly, I can’t say enough about this excellent show. It’s a very limited run and it would be a crying shame to miss it.

Don’t miss the show

This limited engagement run ends January 14. Tickets are $30. Performances are held at the Epilogue Playhouse,
1849 N. Alabama Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202. For more information, a complete schedule of the shows or to purchase tickets, visit Zach and Zack's site here.
Photos Courtesy of
Zach Rosing