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Showing posts from 2008

This Wonderful Life

The Indiana Repertory Theatre's new Christmas show is a one man rendition of "It's a Wonderful Life." The initial concept sounds odd, but in the hands of actor Jerry Richardson it's delightful. It enhances the original classic film, while at the same time standing on its own as a great performance.

Richardson provides the narration and plays all of the characters. He adds humor with his energetic portrayal of everyone from the evil Mr. Potter to the coquettish Violet. He is able to channel Jimmy Stewart in a way that's almost spooky. The well-known story is interspersed with commentary and is at times hilarious and at others, heartbreaking.

Unlike most Christmas stories, there is no Santa Claus and no ghosts of Christmas present of past. The plot focuses on one man's simple life and his struggles. George Bailey is just a good man who has come to the end of his rope and feels lost. It's a feeling that most people can identify with. Because of this, the …

A Beef & Boards Christmas

The dinner theater's popular Christmas show returns with new musical numbers, dance routines and Mrs. Claus as its gracious host. It provides all of the tinsel and tap dancing needed to fill the holiday season.

This year's production includes a brand new country Christmas section. Songs like "Tennessee Christmas" and "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" shower the audience with plenty of twang and calls of Yee-Haw. Jayson Elliot, who plays the recurring role of Uncle Stanley in "Smoke on the Mountains," joins the Christmas show's cast this year.

The production's quiet song, especially Gerald Atkins' "O Holy Night" remain its greatest strengths. The theater's inclusion of dinner in the ticket price makes it a great choice for a night on the town this year and the family-friendly content means that kids are sure to love it.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Dec. 31. Doors open for evening performances…

Lion King

As elephants and zebras make their way through the aisles of the Murat Theatre audience members quickly realize "The Lion King" isn't an average show. With a huge cast, extraordinary costumes and impressive sets the Disney musical is a treat for people of all ages. This is a show that could not be done with a local theater's budget. Broadway Across America has literally brought Broadway to Indianapolis' collective doorstep.

The show sticks closely to the 1994 animated movie of the same name. The familiar characters make it a wonderful show for families. There are a few additional songs, including one from the adult Simba and another from the adult Nala, both of which are lovely additions and great opportunities to showcase the talented cast members' vocal abilities.

The cast does a superb job bringing their animal characters to life with each movement, despite the size of their costumes. Timothy Carter is particularly delightful as Scar and pours out his cond…

The Sound of Music

At Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre the stage is alive with "The Sound of Music" until Nov. 23. The family friendly show is a mainstay at the theater and features songs made famous by the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein film.

Although the theater's production doesn't feature any Austrian mountains, it still captures the heartwarming true story of the singing von Trapp family. The show hits its stride with the "Sound of Music reprise" in the instant that Captain Georg von Trapp realizes, with a little prodding from Maria, that he doesn't know his children.

Christine Negherbon stars as Maria, the nun turned governess turned mother. She's enthusiastic and sincere as a woman trying to understand her own heart.

Sarah Hund plays Elsa Schraeder, the baroness vying for the Captain's heart. Though the role is small it's a notable change from Hund's recurring role as June Sanders in the "Smoke on the Mountain" shows. In this show she is res…

Macbeth

"Macbeth" is currently on the Indiana Repertory Theatre's Upperstage. Macbeth is the latest in the IRT's long line of Shakespeare shows that work to make the Bard more accessible to younger audiences. The 90 minute show is brief enough to appeal to Shakespeare novices, without losing the meat of the play. The original language hasn't been altered, just trimmed. In addition to shorten the original play, the production embraces modern dress for the cast, complete with military attire for the men.

The set is an original design by Gordon R. Strain. This is Strain's first solo run as a scenic designer and the stage captures the stark, yet restricted feel of the plot.

IRT regular Jennifer Johansen plays the manipulative and ambitious Lady Macbeth. Johansen gives a mesmerizing performance as the voice of evil in her husband's ear. Her intense portrayal alone makes the show a must see as her character feeds Macbeth's desperate thoughts.

Andrew Ahrens embraces h…

Avenue Q

The lights go up on a shady version of Sesame Street, but this show and these puppets are not for kids. "Avenue Q" is on stage now at Clowes Memorial Hall courtesy of Broadway Across America. The show follows a mix of people, puppets and monsters that live on a street in a dodgy New York neighborhood. The newest resident, Princeton, is a recent college graduate hoping to find his "purpose" in life.

The premise sounds innocent enough, but the show is an exercise in adult humor and hilarity. The musical numbers have titles like, "Everyone is a Little Bit Racist" and "It Sucks To Be Me." There is also puppet sex, which odd as it sounds, is pretty graphic.

The talented cast, including Indiana native Carey Anderson, does a wonderful job. Despite being in full view of the audience, their animated antics add to their puppets' personality instead of becoming a distraction. Anderson has a gorgeous voice, showcased in "There's a Fine, Fine Li…

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure

The Indianapolis Repertory Theatre decided to open its 2008/09 season with a new adaptation of a classic tale, "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure." The play follows Holmes through his final case. The iconic detective meets his match both in Dr. Moriarty as his nemesis and Irene Adler as the beautiful, witty woman who steals his heart.

The show is a celebration of IRT's talent and is filled with many of the theater's regular performers; Mark Goetzinger, Ryan Artzberger, Robert K Johansen and Robert Neal. It also welcomes a few newcomers to the local stage, all of which meld nicely with the familiar faces.

The show is one of the most technically difficult IRT has done. The elaborate sets, including a train car, a bridge over a waterfall, Holmes' study and a warehouse, sweep the audience away into Holmes' Victorian England.

Jonathan Gillard Daly embodies the clever Holmes with every dry observation he udders. Goetzinger works well with Daly as Holmes' loyal…

The Producers

When one thinks of Mel Brooks, creator of the films "Spaceballs," and "Blazing Saddles," subtly and quiet laughs don't generally come to mind. Instead, the genius behind those comedy cult classics tends to lean towards over-the-top bawdy humor. Brooks crosses every racial, sexist and religious line in his movies and musicals. He embraces taboos and has brought audiences to their knees with belly laughs for decades. His film "The Producers" was turned into a Broadway smash hit and is now being presented for the first time, by an independent theatre, in Indianapolis.

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre has the show on its stage until Sept. 28. It stars the duo, Eddie Curry and Doug Stark, two actors more frequently found behind the scenes than on the stage in recent years. Stark is the owner of Beef & Boards and Curry is a real life producer and director at the theatre. The pair's easy friendship on stage comes from two decades of collaboration in …

Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming

Bluegrass gospel songs and sarcastic sass don't often go hand-in-hand, but in the newest Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre show they work together like peanut butter and jelly. "Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming" is a sequel to last year's sleeper hit "Smoke on the Mountain." The hilarious show's success spread through word-of-mouth and now the entire cast has returned to reprise their roles as the Sanders Family Singers.

Each of the characters, from the scripture-quoting Vera to Dennis, the preacher with stage fright, return exactly as last year's audiences will remember them. The actors slipped easily back into their roles. They also had no problem moving from instrument to instrument during the show. The cast members played the guitar, banjo, piano, upright bass, fiddle and more; proving their musical versatility with each number.

The show picks up seven years after the original "Smoke" production. The Sanders family has undergone some c…

The Fantasticks

"The Fantasticks" is the longest running musical in the world ... and before this summer I had never seen it. Currently on the Indiana Repertory Theatre's main stage, the show is split into two acts. The first is all roses and sonnets and moonbeams. It is the quintessential romantic musical. A young couple fall for each other, then they run into a few obstacles, but their passion prevails and love triumphs. Call me a cynic, but I wasn't impressed. It felt so pat and predictable, but the show wasn't over yet. The real meat of the show lies in the second act where the perfect pictures falls to pieces.

The impressive thing about "The Fantasticks" is that it was first produced in 1960 and yet it avoids all of the normal musical trappings of being predictable and borderline cheesy. The second act is cynical, witty and filled with humor. It doesn't mock love stories, it simply shows a more realistic view of life.

In this particular production the cast does…

Iron Kisses

Four characters, three scenes, two actors and one big issue. The Indiana Repertory Theatre presents “Iron Kisses” on its upperstage.

Written by the IRT’s playwright-in-residence, James Still, the show is about family relationships. On the surface the show is about love, both hetero and homosexual and it would be easy to focus solely on that element. Gay marriage is a hot topic and one which is divisive in almost all circles. But this show reaches much deeper than that subject. It revolves around one family and its struggles to accept and love each other despite the countless flaws that get in the way.

Using only two actors, the production tells the story of Billy and Barbara, siblings who were raised in a small Midwest town. After growing up, Billy moves to San Francisco and Barbara marries and stays in her hometown. During the course of the play Billy and Barbara’s parents are invited to their gay son’s wedding and learn that their daughter is getting divorced.

The parents’ thoughts and…

Black Gold

The Phoenix Theatre presents the Indianapolis premier of “Black Gold.” The show celebrated its world premiered in Philadelphia earlier this year.

This black comedy takes a look at a Detroit man, who is struggling to support his family. He decides to purchase an oil rig on eBay and strikes it rich in his backyard.

The events that follow throw both his neighborhood and the wider world into chaos.

The play deals with real issues; racism, political upheaval, America’s dependence on oil. No one is safe from the show’s mockery, including Osama Bin Laden.

The cast consists of six actors who play more than 80 roles. There is no intermission and the lightning quick dialogue keeps audience members on their toes. With so many costume and attitude changes the show hinges upon the actors’ ability to work well together and make the audience believe that the plot is plausible.

Though there are plenty of opportunities to laugh, the show packs an unexpected poignant punch. It raises the important and …

Show Boat

One might assume that an 81-year-old musical couldn’t pack a punch for audiences in our current society, but visitors to Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre are sure to find out differently. “Show Boat,” which was first released in 1927 is onstage now at Beef &. It is a delightful show which is able to delve deeper into the lives of its characters than many musicals, because it spans 40 years in their lives. I begins in 1883 and ends in 1927.

I was expecting something lighter, fluffier, something along the lines of “Okalahoma.” What I got instead was a plot which didn’t shy away from issues of racism, gambling, alcoholism and the difficult task of raising a child.

Elisabeth Broadhurst’s role as Julie is particularly good. One of her numbers, “Bill,” is a silly love song, but with her rich voice she turns it into a heartbreaking ballad.

The show is not without humor though. There is a play within the play, which is campy and fun with overacting hilarious embraced. The comedy duo Frank …

My Fair Lady

In the 1950s the world was introduced to "My Fair Lady," an Alan Lerner and Frederick Lowe musical filled with what are now, well-known ballads. The original Broadway production later became an Oscar-award winning feature film starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

Broadway Across America's production is now onstage at Clowes Memorial Hall. The show, straight from its U.K tour, features beautiful costumes, lush sets and stellar performances.

The classic tale begins in the gutter with a simple flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, who butcher's the English language every time she opens her mouth. Audiences watch as the girl becomes a lady, both in speech and actions.

The talented Lisa O'Hare is Eliza. Her performance is stunning and her voice is unstoppable. Every dropped H is heaven as she bemoans the evil 'enry 'iggins.

Christopher Cazenove plays Higgins, Eliza's instructor, a confirmed bachelor and callous curmudgeon. He captures the spirit of Harrison&#…

The Piano Lesson

The Indiana Repertory Theatre's current main stage production is a great choice for February, Black History Month.

"The Piano Lesson" is one of a ten-part series written by August Wilson that chronicles black American culture and experience. Each of the plays represent one decade in the 20th century. The IRT included one of the plays, "Gem of the Ocean" in last year's season. The entire work captures the life styles and struggles black Americans faced during the tumultuous century.

This show, a Pulitzer-prize winner, is set in the 1930s and follows the Charles family. Brother and sister Boy Willie and Berniece find themselves on opposite sides of an argument when Willie decides he wants to sell a family heirloom of which they share ownership. The object in question, a priceless piano, is covered with ornate carvings detailing the family's rise from slavery.

Boy Willie is a bubbling cauldron of trouble and bad attitude. He sees only his own future and wh…

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

The Phoenix Theatre presents "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" on its main stage. The black comedy follows a crazy Irish man, Padraic, whose pet cat meets an untimely end. The death of the animal opens a big can of worms in the tiny hamlet, Inishmore

Shane Chuvalas as Padraic is excellent in his obscene madness. He's off his rocker, but his own strange way he means well and his loyalty to his feline is oddly touching.

Padraic is a member of a rebel group in Ireland. His haphazard way of punishing those who cross the moral line have put his fellow Irish National Liberation Army, (INLA) members on edge. When he decides to torture a drug pusher who has been paying them off they decide it's the last straw and the group turns on him. When Padraic returns home to tend to his ailing pet a trap awaits him.

Joanne Dubach plays Mairead, a spitfire of a girl whose ambitions to join the INLA are stunted by her gender. She's the only person who could dare to match Padraic's in…

West Side Story

Two warring cultures, young people from opposing sides falling in love, sound familiar? It's not "Romeo and Juliet," it's "West Side Story." Inspired by the Shakespearean saga, the musical is set in New York in the 1950s and is now onstage at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis.

The Jets, a gang led by Riff, have decided to declare war on the Sharks, a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants. In the midst of the building tension, Tony, a member of the Jets, and Maria, sister of the Sharks leader, Bernardo, manage to fall in love.

The tragic tale of the star-crossed lovers is set to the music of Leonard Berstein, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The well-known songs, like "Tonight" and "I Feel Pretty," are crowd pleasers.

The two leads are new to Beef & Boards. Evy Ortiz stars as Maria and Loren Christopher plays, Tony. They are both talented actors. Ortiz's voice is beautiful and it brings a richness to each number she's …

My Way

Frank Sinatra is said to have created eras. His career, which spanned 50 years, touched countless lives and his work will never be forgotten. The Indianapolis Civic Theatre's current show, "My Way" pays tribute to “Old Blue Eyes'” entire catalogue of work. There are songs from Sinatra's Rat Pack days, Broadway tunes, films and more.

The talented cast, which includes, Troy Johnson, Tobin Strader, Annette “Missie” Hirsch and Katy Gentry, each have a chance to shine during the show. Hirsch is best when crooning her velvety version of "My Funny Valentine" and "All the Way." Strader excelled at embracing Sinatra's smooth side with numbers like "That's Life" and "Summer Wind."

Johnson was playful and endearing when performing "Chicago" and singing duets with Gentry, who's sultry voice came alive when she sang "I Love Paris" and "The Best is Yet to Come."

The songs were chosen to suit the …

Menopause the Musical

Making "the change" funny since it opened in 2001, "Menopause the Musical" is now onstage at the American Cabaret Theatre in Indianapolis.

It follows four women, with seemingly nothing in common, who meet in a department store. A business woman, soap opera star, Iowa housewife and a hippie, the women find that they are all in the midst of menopause. They bond over their shared ailments and sing their way through the woes of insomnia and mood swings.

The show is geared towards women who are going through or have already gone through the change, so it's more commiseration than education. It provides laughs, while at the same time showing that menopause is a universal bond between all women.

The songs are all well-known '60s and '70s classics, with a new sets of lyrics. Tiffanie Bridges, who plays the professional woman, has a wonderful voice, the strength of which carries many of the songs. Her version of "I'm Sorry," reworked as "I'…

Doubt

The Indiana Repertory Theatre currently has John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play "Doubt" on its main stage. The 90-minute production touches on many of the controversial issues that tend to be hot buttons in our culture. Though it's set in a Catholic school in 1964, the topics of race, religion and abuse are timeless in their application.

The plot follows Sister Aloysius as she accuses a priest, Father Flynn, of abusing a student. He denies it and she vows to find the truth.

Though the initial description may sound like an uncomfortable sermon, it's nothing of the sort. It sheds light on subjects often left in the dark. The thin line between holding someone accountable for their actions or just accusing someone of a crime without proof are tested as the characters struggle with their own views.

This is a show influenced by whatever religious background or beliefs that each individual brings with them. The play must first filter through th…

The Wedding Singer

Crimped hair, mega mullets and ugly cars; these are a few of the priceless trends revisited in the musical "The Wedding Singer." The modern love story is set in 1985, when greed is good and music is bad.

Merritt David Janes plays the romantic main character Robbie. He's a wedding singer in love with the idea of love. After being left at the altar his views change.

Erin Elizabeth Coors plays Julia. She is sweet and perky with a good voice. She fills the role nicely and deserves extra props for her ability to sings lines like "You're back in the dumpster, that's like a metaphor," with a straight face.
Linda, played by Nikka Wahl, spends only a few minutes on stage, but manages to steal the scene each time. Her love-to-hate-her character brings a great skeezy quality to the show. Fellow supporting actor, John Jacob Lee is a delight as Culture Club-loving George. His attire and attitude are crowd pleasers.

The music is fun, with big '80s style songs. Th…

End Days

The dark comedy "End Days" is currently onstage at the Phoenix Theatre. The show explores the inner workings of one of America's many dysfunctional familes.

The family, originally from New York City, fell to pieces after Sept. 11, 2001. The father was thrown into a deep depression; the mother found solace from her insurmountable fears through faith; and their daughter, Rachel, has embraced the Goth look and an angry demeanor.

The cast does a great job with the high-strung characters. They demonstrate teen angst, fanatical beliefs and quiet inner struggle with ease.

Matthew Van Oss plays an Elvis impersonating neighbor and brings hope and optimism to the show. He embodies a childlike sincerity. He's so in awe of the world around him, despite the personal tragedies he has endured, that others can't help but get caught up in his enthusiasm.

Stephen Hawking makes a cameo as a figment of Rachel's drug addled brain. His advice and straight man mockery make for the…

Run for your Wife

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre opened their 35th season with the British farce "Run for your Wife," on stage now. Since 1973 the Indianapolis theatre has provided quality shows and delicious dinners. The one stop evening out includes not only a live performance, but a dinner buffet.

The current show is a first for Beef & Boards. John Smith, an ordinary cab driver in London, panics when a head injury puts his quiet life in the spotlight. All of a sudden his seemingly humdrum world is anything but. He worries that the world will discover that he has not one, but two average lives, with two separate wives.

For years he has kept his parallel lives on strict schedules. Now everything is thrown into chaos as his neighbors, police officers and his wives begin to suspect that something is not quite right.

With over-the-top characters and exasperating misunderstandings the show is everything a farce should be; confusion at its most amusing. The more improbable the situation, the b…