October 5, 2015

The Great Gatsby

The Indiana Repertory Theatre opens its 44th season with an American classic. The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous portrait of the dark side of the American dream. His novel captures the futility of spending your life longing to capture an illusion. In Simon Levy’s adaptation the play brings that heartache to life in all its glittering intensity.

We see the story unfold through the youthful eyes of Nick Caraway (Zach Kenney). In the midst of the jazz era he moves to New York City and connects with his cousin and the wealthy elite in her crowd. He’s in awe of his new friends, but also troubled by the strange lack of morality they all seem to embrace.
Hillary Clemens portrayal of Daisy Buchanan brought something to the role that I’d missed in other film portrayals. For me, her struggle had more depth and felt more real. She’s a character that’s often depicted as shallow and selfish with little else to offer, but Clemens instills her with a relatable disillusionment. The audience can see her waiver between her longing for security and comfort and her desire to follow her heart. 

As Gatsby, Matt Schwader exudes a vulnerable desperation. He’s trying so hard to be part of this new world, but it’s clear he’s never comfortable in the role. I’d been impressed by Schwader’s turn as Hamlet at theAmerican Players Theatre and was not disappointed by his performance in this title role.

The trouble with seeing The Great Gatsby on stage is that the play’s focus is on excess and luxury. We see it in Gatsby’s parties, in the Buchanan’s East Egg home, and in the overall lifestyle of that time period. It’s a crucial part of the story, but it’s almost impossible to capture the lavishness of that world on a small stage. 

The set design adds in small elements with touches like a chandelier, and the use of a multi-media backdrop helped enhance scenes by enlarging the parties or showing the valley of ashes. But the sparseness that’s necessary with so many scene changes means it’s difficult to be overwhelmed by the wealth and opulence that’s intended.

Tracy Dorman’s costume design was outstanding in this production. Clothing plays a huge role in the creation of each character in The Great Gatsby and Dorman nailed the tone. From Daisy’s flowing gowns to the men’s perfectly tailored suits, no detail was neglected. 

The production is a wonderful season opener. It’s a difficult show to stage, but the story is timeless. Whether you’re new to it or have read the book and seen the movies, it’s still a treat.

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 Great Gatsby" runs until Oct. 25 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

September 15, 2015

Little Women

 After celebrating its 100th anniversary last season, the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre kicked off its next century of performance with the Broadway musical “Little Women”. The show is based on the beloved book by Louisa May Alcott, but it doesn’t stick strictly to the text. It wisely begins with the lead character, Jo March, away from her family in New York. Early scenes with the sisters can feel a bit slow and beginning it later in the story gives the show a stronger opening. 

The musical incorporates some of Jo's stories into the performance. As she reads them aloud to her sisters or friends we see the adventures acted out on stage. The campy dramas provide laughs as her "blood and guts" tales come to life. 
Julia Bonnett plays Jo March and it’s her role that truly stands out in this production. Bonnett is fiery and ambitious as the young writer. Her enthusiasm and temper sometimes get the better of her and it’s the character’s flaws that make the audience love her as much as her strengths. Bonnett’s voice is beautiful and she proves to be the heart of the show with solo numbers like “Astonishing”. 

As a whole, I believe Little Women might have worked better as a play than a musical. The quiet moments the sisters share and the burgeoning romances felt interrupted when characters broke into song. The relationships between most of the main characters felt rushed. This particular production is still a fun one and the Civic Theatre handles the show well. It’s a good fit for a girls' night out or a family outing as it’s kid-friendly. 
Don't Miss the Show:

Performances: The show runs until Sept. 26. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Thursday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is located at 3 Center Green, Carmel, IN 46032 at the Center for the Performing Arts.

Tickets: Ticket prices range from $20 to $40 and can be purchased by calling (317) 843-3800 or visiting www.civictheatre.org. 
Up next is “The Game’s Afoot” in October.  

 Photos courtesy of the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

September 1, 2015

Beef & Boards announces 2016 Season

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre is thrilled to announce its 2016 season.

Run for Your Wife
It all kicks off Dec. 29 with the return of Run for Your Wife, the funniest show ever performed at Beef & Boards. In this uncanny comedy, a cab driver manages to maintain two marriages – keeping each wife a secret from the other – until one mishap leads to an unraveling of his precise schedule. His double life is in danger of being revealed as complications and hilarious situations pile up faster than he can handle them. This fast-paced farce is on stage through Feb. 7 and is rated PG-13 for adult humor.

Sister Act
Opening Feb. 11 is the first of two new shows in 2016, Sister Act. Based on the hit movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, this musical follows disco diva Deloris Van Cartier who witnesses a murder and is put in protective custody – in a convent! Disguised as a nun, Deloris breathes new life into the church with her disco moves and singing talent, but blows her cover in the process. Nominated for five Tony Awards and on stage through March 26, this show is rated PG.

Guys and Dolls
A sure bet for fun, Guys and Dolls opens March 31. Set in New York City, this odds-on favorite follows gambler Nathan Detroit, who is trying to set up the biggest craps game in town while dodging the authorities and his girlfriend of 14 years, nightclub performer Adelaide, who wants to get married. Nathan turns to fellow gambler Sky Masterson for the dough, but Sky ends up chasing the straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown. This five-time Tony Award winner features the songs “Luck be a Lady,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” On stage through May 15, Guys and Dolls is rated PG.

Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s magical musical Beauty and the Beast opens May 19 as the 2016 Family Show at Beef & Boards. Belle yearns for more than her simple life in a provincial town. When her father disappears, Belle bargains with the Beast who imprisoned him and takes his place in the Beast’s enchanted castle. As she spends more time with the Beast, Belle discovers his life without love is the greatest prison of all. Will their love bloom before it’s too late in this tale as old as time? With $10 discounts for all children ages 3-15, Beauty and the Beast is on stage through July 10 and is rated G.

Church Basement Ladies
Then cool off in the basement during the summer as the Church Basement Ladies returns on July 14. This is the show that got this laugh-a-minute series started! Set in Minnesota in 1965, the times are changing quickly for the Lutheran ladies who keep things cooking at their church. With heaping helpings of laughs, this show is equal parts silly and sweet. On stage through Aug. 21, Church Basement Ladies is rated PG.

Menopause the Musical
Ladies who love life and learn to laugh at the changes it brings are celebrated in the musical parody Menopause the Musical, opening Aug. 25. Changing perspectives about the “silent passage,” this lighthearted show is staged to classic tunes from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Four women from different walks of life meet in a department store and find they have much more in common than they would have thought. This hilarious celebration of women and “the change” is on stage through Oct. 2 and is rated PG-13 for adult humor.

Into the Woods
Fall takes audiences Into the Woods starting Oct. 6 for the Beef & Boards debut of the Stephen Sondheim musical. Classic fairy tales all converge in the woods, including a baker and his wife who wish to have a child, Cinderella who wishes to attend the King’s Festival, and Jack who wishes his cow would give milk. Their wishes may come true – but happily ever after comes at a price. This Tony Award winner was made famous by the recent Disney film and is on stage through Nov. 20. Into the Woods is rated PG-13.

A Beef & Boards Christmas
The holiday season is celebrated with the theatre’s original production, A Beef & Boards Christmas, opening Nov. 25 and featuring beautiful costumes, heartwarming songs, dazzling dancing and even Santa himself. A tradition at Beef &Boards for more than 20 years, and perfect for the entire family, this seasonal celebration is on stage through Dec. 23.

A Christmas Carol
Also returning in 2016 is Beef & Boards’ one-hour adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, on stage for select performances Dec. 5 through 19. Enhanced with holiday carols, this iconic tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who is given a second chance is the ideal way to enjoy the holidays.

August 24, 2015

South Pacific

South Pacific is a musical that’s been around long enough for most people to already know whether or not they love it. Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s latest production of the show hasn’t changed much since its last turn on the stage almost ten years ago. Deb Wims reprises her role as the na├»ve nurse from Arkansas, Jeff Stockberger is back as Luther Billis, and Cynthia Thomas returns as Bloody Mary.

Lt. Joseph Cable and Emile de Becque are played by newcomers to Beef & Boards, Mickey Rafalski and Robert Wilde respectively. Both were excellent, and Rafalski’s voice brought a particularly beauty to numbers like “Younger Than Springtime”.

There’s not much time to see the romances develop throughout the show. From the opening scene we learn that Nellie and a Frenchman, Emile de Becque, have met and fallen in love. Later Lt. Joseph Cable falls for a local Polynesian girl, Liat, in a matter of moments. It’s hard to root for relationships that seem to develop so suddenly.

Despite the cheerful tone, the premise behind South Pacific is a heartbreaking one. The song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” reminds audiences that racism is a learned trait. For most of the characters it is embedded so deeply into their mindset that they aren’t even conscious of their prejudice.

Fans of Rodgers and Hammerstein are sure to love this classic and will leave humming “Some Enchanted Evening”, but don’t attend expecting any new revelations.

Don't Miss the Show  

Performances: The show runs until Oct. 4. 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. 

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Prices range from $40 to $65 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. 

Photos courtesy of Beef & Boards