December 17, 2014

Elf and The Wizard of Oz

When Elf (the movie) came out in 2003 people were expecting a goofy Christmas romp. While it was hilarious, the reason it remains a seasonal favorite is because of the sweet message at its core. What could have been pure comedy instead had real heart, encouraging even the grumpiest of adults to find the magic in Christmas. Now the movie is a musical and Broadway Across America has brought the cheerful production to Indianapolis just in time for the holidays. 

That unbridled enthusiasm translates well into a stage musical, where bursting into song is expected, but something is inevitably lost with that expectation. We know there will be singing, so it's not surprising when Buddy the Elf starts singing in the midst of Macy's Christmas rush.

The musical takes that same plot of the film and adds bubbly songs and gives a few characters a bit more meat. Buddy's new stepmother Emily and his father's assistant Deb both benefit from the changes and are great in their respective roles. Emily particularly excels at the songs with playful banter with her husband, like "In the Way." 

The whimsical set captures the storybook feel nicely. Buddy the Elf is tireless in his eagerness to please. The show will be a delight for kids who have grown up with Buddy the Elf as a Christmas staple, but adults should be ready for a bit more sweetness than the film provides.
Don't Miss the Show 

The show runs until Sunday, Dec. 21 at the Old National Centre (Murat Theatre) so hurry to get tickets. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, The Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online here. 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 courtesy of Broadway Across America

The Wizard of Oz 

As the music swells in the orchestra pit, the familiar score immediately takes audiences back to a tiny farm in Kansas. The Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre's holiday offering this year is The Wizard of Oz.

I viewed a rehearsal of the production and so things were still being ironed out in that performance. The set and costumes were the final versions and those were both breathtaking. It's no surprise that veteran set designer Robert Koharchik knocked it out of the park. He created a farm yard steeped in sepia tones and a vibrant city of Oz with all the trimmings. There is a yellow brick road, a rainbow tunnel, a forest, and even the cornfield bursting with glittery brilliance. It's truly a visual trip to Oz.

The costumes, designed by Adrienne Conces, were just as luxurious. From the tiniest of munchkins in the Lollipop Guild to the sheer size of Glinda's poofy sleeves, no detail was neglected. I was also impressed, for the second time in the last couple months, with Damon Clevenger's performance. He plays the scarecrow perfectly, embracing both the tenderness of the character and the physical comedy the role requires.

The family-friendly show is a good fit for those who've loved the musical for decades and those who are new to the story.

Don't Miss the Show 
Performances: The show runs until Jan. 3. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday 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 $24 to $46.50 and can be purchased by calling (317) 843-3800 or visiting 

Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing

December 4, 2014

A Beef & Boards Christmas and A Very Phoenix Xmas 9

A Beef & Boards Christmas 

Luxurious sets and a whirlwind of costume changes are always hallmark elements of the annual Beef & Boards Christmas production. The variety show style offers up holiday favorites for crowds. There are familiar songs and faces from a quartet of singers that includes, Matt Branic, Peter Scharbrough, Heather Patterson King and Bobbi Bates. 

Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard are back as well dancing across the stage together. There are also no shortage of Christmas icons in the cast, Frosty, Rudolph and the Grinch all make appearances. The show features half a dozen high-kicking dancers to jazz up most numbers.

The show mainly stumbles when it tries to do too much. There are times when Lucas, the quartet, co-hosts Wims and Shepard, Santa and six dancers are all vying for the audience’s attention on stage at the same time. The frantic nature of those numbers makes it hard to appreciate any single element, much less all of them at once. The quieter moments, like Branic’s rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” have a deeper impact. A knock out performance of “O Holy Night” by newcomer Kendra Lynn Lucas was an also absolute highlight. 

Don't Miss the Show 

Performances: The show runs until Dec. 23. 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 $38.50 to $63.50 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet.

Beef & Boards is also celebrating its 20th anniversary of its one-hour show A Christmas Carol. The production is on stage from Dec. 6 through the 22 and tickets range from $$24 to $34.  

Photos courtesy of Beef & Boards

A Very Phoenix Xmas 9: Flashing Through the Sno

There are so many good Christmas shows for crowds hoping for a bit of nostalgia, but the Phoenix’ annual holiday tradition takes a different route. The sketch comedy Christmas show is now in its ninth year. Full to the brim of hilarious riffs of beloved Christmas stories, this year’s show also features some incredible a capella singing and even a gasp-inducing aerial dance. 

The cast includes Olivia Huntley, Rob Johansen, Carly Kinkannon, Ryan O’Shea, Dave Ruark, Lincoln Slentz and Arianne Villareal, all of whom pull their weight in the varies skits and performances and share memories in monologues between the sketches. Johansen deserves special praise for his sheer range in the show. He swings from the rafters on a ribbon and plays everything from a militant “Merry Christmas” enforcer to the overly zealous miner Yukon Cornelius. 

The sketches themselves are strong. We see a family reach their breaking point when the secret of Santa is revealed and then there’s the flashback story of how Santa Claus and his wife fell in love. There’s also a powerful version of “Hallelujah” combining the hymn and the Leonard Cohen lyrics. “Les Miserabelves” a parody of the famous musical which combines Victor Hugo’s story with the classic Rudolph tale is particularly brilliant. The whole show is much-needed alternative to the sometimes saccharine shows produced around the holidays.  

Don't Miss the Show 
For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave

Performances: The show runs until Dec. 21st and offers five performances a week. Wednesdays and Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 

Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-PLAY (7529). Prices range from $22 to $35. The play has one intermission and contains adult language.

Photos courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre.