December 22, 2007

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is on stage now at Indianapolis Civic Theatre. The show, a creation of Broadway icons Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, is a mutt of various productions. It combines everything from country-western to calypso musical stylings.

The show is a recreation of the Biblical tale of Joseph and his 11 brothers. Joseph is the apple of his father's eye and his brothers are jealous. Their anger sends him on a one-way trip to Egypt, where he is sold into slavery. The show may have its basis in a Biblical story, but God has no part in the production. Instead, the musical turns the tale into an upbeat, jovial romp. With an Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh of Egypt and a singing camel, it relies heavily on its jokes and gags.

Joseph Robert Doyel makes a great Joseph. In an over-the-top musical, he underplays most scenes, bringing a quiet humor to the show with his expressions. His vocals had a soothing quality and provided a glimpse at his obvious talent.

Supporting character Tom Beeler plays Reuben, one of Joseph's many brothers. His solo performance of "Those Canaan Days," a soulful French number was delightful.

The musical is light-hearted and entertaining, but audiences shouldn't expect a deeper message from this holiday show.

Performances: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" closed Jan. 6, 2008.

December 19, 2007

Tuesdays with Morrie

The bestselling book "Tuesdays with Morrie" has been adapted for the stage and the Indiana Repertory Theatre is currently presenting it on its upperstage.

The story revolves around Mitch Albom, a successful journalist who has become caught up in all of life's trappings. Success, money and fame have become priorities and he has lost touch with the simple things he used to love. One day he hears his old college professor Morrie Schwartz is dying. His whirlwind life freezes and he realizes he should visit his ailing friend.

The show is based on Mitch Albom's real life experience. His conversations with Morrie force him to focus on what is truly important in life; community, love, family, joy, beauty and even death. He is searching for the meaning of life, or rather how to find meaning in life.

With death creeping nearer Morrie's thoughts and emotions are raw. His beliefs become clearer and his drive to make sure Mitch finds happiness becomes urgent. Even in the depths of his pain, Morrie is set on sharing his wisdom with Mitch.

The gifted actors make the characters come alive. Their flaws, pain, hope and love are evident in each trembling hand and hurried hug. Ryan Artzberger plays Mitch Albom and Jon Farris plays Morrie. Both men are wonderful, showing in their own ways that though Morrie is physically weak, Mitch is the one whose life is broken.

This simple tale of two men highlights how much one person can influence another's life. One is the teacher, one the student, one is old and the other young. Morrie is losing his freedom, dignity and his strength and Mitch is finding his purpose. The show is a lesson in friendship. It shares the important fact that those willing to make sacrifices in their lives, whether its time, money or comfort, etc., open themselves up to gain so much from others.

Performances: "Tuesdays with Morrie" closed Jan. 13, 2008.

December 13, 2007

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Broadway Across America's newest production "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is based on the 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. The show is onstage at Clowes Memorial Hall and unlike the film, it's a musical. The basic plot remains the same, but big Broadway numbers have been woven into each scene.
Two con men meet, one an elegant gentleman who woos women and eventually takes their money. The other is a crass, vulgar cretin with seemingly no morals or restraint.

Circumstances throw the two together they find they make the perfect team. With their very individual skill sets they can dupe wealthy women into forfeiting their riches.

At first the classy gent, Lawrence, tries to train the other, Freddy, to be at least presentable. It's like a topsy turvy, and much more depraved, version of "My Fair Lady."

Shortly after the partnership begins they fall out and turn against each other. They decide that instead of working together, they will make a bet and determine which one is the better deceiver. And as always, winner takes all, including the French Rivera territory where the show is set.

Jamie Jackson does a great job playing Lawrence Jameson. He is cocky, but eternally smooth as he swindles the female tourists. Jenny Gulley shines as Christine Colgate, an ernest and optimistic heiress.

One of the show's numbers, "Love is My Legs," has some of the worst and cheesiest lyrics in show business, but that's intentional. The song features eloquent phrases like, "faith are the toes attached to your feet." The words are atrocious and that's the point. The show is cheeky and not to be taken too seriously.

The three supporting characters, Muriel Eubanks, Andre Thibault and Jolene Oakes, are treats for the audience. Their parts add flavor and hilarity to the show. The over-the-top Frenchman, Andre, is played by Jeff Essex, with excellent snide pompousness.

The show is not appropriate for kids, but for those who enjoyed the movie or just want a good laugh, it's a good fit.

Performances: "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" closed Dec. 16, 2007.

December 12, 2007

A Very Phoenix Xmas

The show begins with a warning, "If you're looking for 'A Christmas Carol,' this isn't it." They aren't kidding.

"A Very Phoenix Xmas" is on stage now at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis. The comedy show is presented annually, but with new sketches every year, written by Phoenix playwrights and submitted by audience members.

Taking snatches from Christmas tales and holiday movies the writers have melding these elements together to make a completely original creation. Featuring skits about the island of recalled toys and the tragedy of a broken Christmas cookie the show is both entertaining and a little strange.

Any Christmas show that includes a song called "Don't Eat the Baby" definitely falls into the "out of the ordinary" category. Everything from local fast food eateries to 'The Wizard of Oz' is fair game at the Phoenix.

The six person cast does a great job bringing each story to life. Michael Shelton and Sara Riemen particularly stand out. Their varied characters include munchkins, a jewish couple and a myriad of others.

The Christmas extravaganza is everything that other Christmas shows are not. It's sarcastic and dark and incredibly funny. It's probably the only holiday show that has ever included nose flutes. Yes, they exist and they are as hilarious as they sound.

The show is a breath of fresh air in a season steeped in unoriginal traditions. Seeing the normal Christmas productions is always fun and shouldn't to be forsaken, but for anyone hoping for something a little different, the Phoenix awaits.

Performances: "A Very Phoenix Xmas" closed Dec. 23, 2007.