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Showing posts from 2009

The Color Purple

"The Color Purple," presented by Broadway Across America, is on stage now at Clowes Memorial Hall. Based on the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book of the same name, the musical's central character is a subservient, sweet-natured girl named Celie.


Celie's story is one of heartache and pain. She is beaten, raped and mistreated by all of the men in her life from a young age. The few people in her life whom she loves, her sister Nettie, her two children and a woman named Shug, are all taken from her at some point. She's lived under the oppressive thumb of her husband since she was only 14. Yet somehow, despite the unimaginable sorrows the characters face, this story exudes hope and love.

"The Color Purple" is truly about Celie finding her footing in a harsh world. Celie is played by Kenita R. Miller, whose small stature disguises a vocal powerhouse. Miller is the perfect choice for the role and her solo numbers are breathtaking.

The production's supporting cast, …

Love Letters

The plot is deceptively simple, two people, a man and a woman, who have been corresponding for their entire lives. Through their letters the story unfolds and the audience is quickly reminded that there is nothing more complicated than just one man and one woman.

A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" is on the Indiana Repertory Theatre's Upperstage right now. IRT favorite Priscilla Lindsay plays the woman, Melissa, and Patrick Clear is Andrew. They grew up together and from their first notes in second grade to postcards sent from family vacations to family Christmas letters as adults their lives have remained entwined.

Lindsay is wonderful as Melissa, but she definitely excels in the second half when Melissa moves past her melodramatic teenage angst into a bittersweet melancholy. Lindsay manages to find the perfect balance between sassy quips and an all-consuming unhappiness that she can't ever seem to shake off. Melissa's flip comments and cavalier tone hide a world o…

Christmas

The Indiana Repertory Theatre's annual show, "A Christmas Carol," is back for its 14th year. The show is 90 minutes, with no intermission, perfect for both kids and adults to enjoy. The IRT once again captures the true macabre atmosphere of the Victorian era story, but it also manages to sprinkle humor and carols throughout the show.

The production is beautifully choreographed. The entire cast felt perfectly in synch as they moved from spot to spot on the stage picking up props as they went and adjusting each scene by opening and closing trap doors in the floor. The narration of the show is also done by the cast as a whole, they trade lines in a seamless flow. The costumes are exceptional in this show. Everyone from the shady laundress to the British officers are decked out in the perfect attire for their character.


Charles Goad is back as the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge. As he relives his memories, both the joyful and the painful, he shows a sweet intimacy. Goad gives t…

Beef & Boards Christmas

The Beef & Boards Christmas show is back with a kid-friendly theme this year. Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Grinch, Santa and tap dancing reindeer all make appearances. The young Anna Lasbury, one of the mop-topped orphans from "Annie" earlier this year, brings a sassy spunk to the holiday numbers.

This year's cast includes many B&B regulars, such as hosts Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard, but also introduces some new faces. Doug Stark revises his role as a cheeky Santa Claus. Chris Dickerson performs as one of the featured singers. His deep baritone voice lends an operatic feel to a few of the classic Christmas numbers. Though Dickerson does a wonderful job with "O Holy Night," previous year's performer Gerald Atkins is sorely missed.

Up next at Beef & Boards is their 2010 season opener "The Foreigner." The comedy begins January 6th. VIP tickets are also available if you think you'll be able to see a few shows this season. For more informa…

La Bohème

One of Giacomo Puccini's famous operas, "La Bohème," is on stage at Clowes Memorial Hall. The opera, set in Paris around 1830, follows a poor group of friends who are all true starving artists, musicians and poets.

The show is sung in Italian, but the English translation is projected on a screen above the stage. It's split up into four acts, with two 15 minute intermissions and a brief break between the first and second act.

The sets are masterpieces. Incredible scenes are laid out for each act, seducing the audience into the illusion of the Parisian world.

The performers' sumptuous voices resonate with each delicious sentence they sing. There's something beautiful about the rolling Italian syllables. They can turn the most mundane chatter into a work of art. Each character's voice has a unique lyrical cadence and they all melt together to create a glorious sound.

I wasn't expecting the show to be so hilarious. The friends have an easy camaraderie and the…

Never the Sinner

The true story of Leopold and Loeb is one that has fascinated people for decades. Two wealthy young men decided to commit the perfect murder in 1924. The cocky college students take down a young boy and assume they've proved their genius with his demise. Quickly their plans begin to unravel as the evidence mounts against them and they find themselves on trial for their lives.

"Never the Sinner" is a play based on the murderous tale and it was recently on stage at The Theater Within, located in Fountain Square.

The stage is small and unassuming, mere feet from the audience. The set is simple, the cast is limited and yet the director, Rod Isaac, manages to pull off just the right ominous tone. His use of eerie imagery projected on a blank screen to transition between scenes was chilling.

Zach Stonerock is excellent as the fidgety and condescending Leopold. He is both incredibly intelligent and socially stunted. He finds the attention he longs for in his relationship with Loeb…

The Giver

"The Giver" is one of the first dystopian books I ever read. I was in junior high at the time and I remember being completely awed by this strange society, where everything seemed perfect at first, but the dark secrets of the community were quickly revealed. The book fascinated me and challenged my thinking, which is why I was filled with both excitement and apprehension when I found out "The Giver" was part of the Indiana Repertory Theatre's season this year. Anytime a book resonates with you it can be difficult to see that story brought to life on stage or film. There's always the fear that it won't be recreated quite like you imagined it and it will somehow mar the integrity of the story.

The IRT's version of "The Giver" did nothing but enhance my original feelings. It's an amazing production, condensed to an 80 minute show with no intermission. The set, costumes and acting all played their unique parts in capturing the menace of th…

The Heavens Are Hung In Black

I wasn't sure what to expect with the Indiana Repertory Theatre's season opening show, "The Heavens are Hung in Black." The play focuses on Abraham Lincoln's presidential term and in less gifted hands it could have become a dry historical drama. Instead it's a portrait of a tortured man. A man wracked with grief, who is forced to make some of the toughest political decisions of all time, all while desperately trying to hang on to his sanity.

The play was originally commissioned by the Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated, in Washington D.C. This being the bicentennial year of Lincoln's birth, there's no better time to bring it to an Indiana stage. It's relevance is obvious on that front, but its deeper significance becomes evident as the show progresses. America has a black president for the first time and Lincoln was the the man behind the Emancipation Proclamation which gave slave their freedom so many years ago.

The show is written…

Evita

The Indianapolis Civic Theatre kicked off its 2009/2010 season with a big Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but not with a Midwest regular like "Phantom of the Opera" or "Cats." Instead the ICT chose "Evita," the story of a real woman from Argentina who became an icon to her country during her short life.

Evita, whose real name was Eva Perón, lived a rags-to-riches, fairy tale life. Though her country was racked with rebellion and discontent, she managed to climb the society ladder from her start in a poor family to becoming the country's first lady. She married Argentina's president, Juan Perón, and won over the people's hearts with her political activism.

The choreography and costumes were two stand out elements in this show. Each scene was filled with constant movement, making the most mundane scene fascinating with delicate dances between the characters. The costumes captured the 1930s glamour and poverty. There were glorious hats, gloves and gow…

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is one of the rare musicals that was made into a movie long before it ever reached the stage. It was released in theaters in 1954 and become a stage musical in 1985. It is on stage now at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre for the first time in almost a decade.

Seven brothers live alone up in the mountains. Their house is full of men and in desperate need of a female hand. The eldest brother, Adam, goes into town and returns with a wife, Milly. Soon all of the brothers want their own wives. Inspired by an old Roman tale, the brothers decide to steal their wives from the local town.

The show's lead couple, Tony Lawson, who plays Adam, and his wife Milly, played by Krista Severeid, are a couple in real life and will marry two weeks after the show closes. Their chemistry is clear on stage and whether fighting or courting, they are delightful to watch together.

The camaraderie between the seven brothers works well. Fun dance sequences and a const…

Much Ado About Nothing

There are few things as magical as watching Shakespeare's work being performed outdoors. Even the Globe Theatre in London was designed to recreate the original roofless Globe, combining the Bard's beautiful words and starry nights.

The Heartland Actors' Repertory Theatre presented a weekend of Shakespeare on July 31st and August 1st. The show, "Much Ado About Nothing" was performed on a simple, yet beautiful set in White River State Park. With the river created the perfect backdrop and the performers shared barbs and banter as the sun set.

When performed without a sense of humor Shakespeare can feel stale and archaic, especially a comedy like "Much Ado About Nothing." HART's performers took the classic material and brought it alive, embracing the author's wicked wit. The cast included seasoned actors like Charles Goad and Mark Goetzinger, talented HART regulars Ben Tebbe, Michael Shelton and Diane Timmerman, a few newcomers and many others. They q…

Sanders Family Christmas

For the third year in a row Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre has filled its July show slot with the music of the Sander's family. This third installment of "Smoke on the Mountains" has the Sanders family performing their hymns and bluegrass songs on Christmas eve.

Set in 1941, the Sanders family returns to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church for a Christmas performance. The country has just gone to war and one of the Sanders' own, Dennis (played by the incredibly talented musician Andrew Ross), is set to ship out in a few days.

Fans of the past two shows will not be disappointed this year. Those who are new to the Sanders family's antics are sure to love the "Sanders Family Christmas." The same cast returns with the addition of Laura Goins and Lynne Perkins, portraying Dennis' twin sister Denise and Vera, the group's matriarch respectively.

Sarah Hund returns as June, the member of the Sanders clan who is "skilled" in sign language. June could …

Wicked

Broadway Across America has once again brought the Great White Way to our fair city. "Wicked is on stage at the Murat Theatre.

"Wicked" is not a children's story about trying to find your way home, like "The Wicked of Oz" was for a different generation. It is a saga of social injustice, romance, twisted perceptions and discovering who you are and what matters to you.


The deliciously dark musical is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The show immediately sucks you into to its fantastical world with the complex set. The plot tells the "real" story of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, and explains how she became the despised creature that Dorothy melted into oblivion with a bucket of water.

The music is wonderful. The songs are beautiful as stand alones, but also work in tandem with the story to propel it, rather than acting as forced interludes between scenes.

The performances given by Marcie Dodd as the misunderstood Elphaba and Helene York as the…

Interpreting William

For its final show of the season the Indiana Repertory Theatre presents the world premier of "Interpreting William." The fascinating play is the work of the theater's playwright-in-residence, James Still. It splits its time between the life of frontiersman William Conner, of Conner Prairie fame, and the present day character Bill Montgomery, who is a professor attempting to finish his book about Conner.

Anna is a caffeine-addled, former professor who inspired Bill during his days as an undergrad. Her life has since disintegrated in many ways, but her razor sharp wit has not dulled. She is wonderfully written and brought to life with perfect execution by Carmen Roman. Her quick quips are captivating to watch and clearly cover a deeper pain. The show is at its best when Anna and Bill are conversing. They have a perpetual student/teacher dynamic that fuels discussions.

Still's greatest strength in this show, as well as in his past IRT productions, is his ability to captur…

Annie

"Annie" is the latest family-friendly show to grace the stage at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. The familiar musical includes songs like "Tomorrow" and "It's the Hard-Knock Life." A few lesser known songs, like "N.Y.C.," provided highlights as well.

A young girl, abandoned by her parents, refuses to give up on finding them. She endures much before falling into a two week visit at a millionaires home for the holidays. Despite their drastic differences, Oliver Warbucks, the millionaire, and Annie develop a unique kindred relationship. Annie's sweet optimism has a softening effect on the business titan and he finds himself wanting to adopt the unfortunate adolescent.

"Annie" has a talented and enthusiastic ensemble cast from the ragamuffin orphans all the way up to the President of the United States. A few particular stand outs were John Vessels as the smarmy radio host Bert Healy, Cynthia Collins in the role of the perpetually u…

Rabbit Hole

From the first moments of the show there is an overwhelming feeling that you've stumble into someone's house and you're overhearing their conversations. That atmosphere, aided by the homey set, lends an air of authenticity to the actors' emotions.

"Rabbit Hole" is the story of the intense pain of four very different individuals; a married couple, the wife's mother and her younger sister. Even though their heartbreak comes from the same loss, no one deals with it in the same way. The play has something everyone can identify with; family relationships, spousal tension, life's shattering disappointments and the struggle to overcome them, the ache of not knowing how you will possibly make it through another day.

When people experience pain to this extent it's almost impossible to believe that anyone else's pain hurts as much as yours. They inevitably compare and critique each other's grief in an effort to understand their own.

In one particularly…

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The endearing musical "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" is on stage now at Clowes Memorial Hall, presented by Broadway Across America.

Based on the classic 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke, the musical includes all of the whimsical elements audience members will remember from the movie. It has elaborate sets, kooky characters and a clean story that makes it a perfect treat for families. It’s “Mary Poppoins” meets “The Love Bug;” an odd blend, but it works.

The plot follows an eccentric widower, Caractacus Potts, who cares for his two children in England. His simple life is turned upside down when he meets an opinionated woman,Truly Scrumptious, and buys an old jalopy. As he fixes up the old car he discovers it has a mind of its own and a few hidden abilities as well.

Along for the ride are two clueless villains attempting to steal the car for the juvenile Baron of Vulgaria. Their cheeky humor will have the adults laughing right along with the kids. The entertaining production has cheer…

Penelopiad

The Indiana Repertory Theatre and Dance Kaleidoscope recently presented a fascinating collaboration they had work-shopped for only one week. The performance was not to raise money or to garner attention for the groups. It was produced for the sole reason of trying something new.

The production was based on Margaret Atwood's novella, "Penelopiad," which tells the story of the Greek adventurer Odysseus' wife. It was a brief 25 minutes that left audience members wanting more.

The two organizations were experimenting with a combination of dancers and actors working in tandem for the single piece. As a result, the dancers were given a voice and the actors became much more aware of their movements in each scene.

The show was exhilarating. It was something new and original in a time when many theaters are embracing old stand by shows, which are sure to sell tickets.

It was a reminder that not only is theater entertaining; it is something that fuels conversation and creativity. …

Treasure Island

Cries of "Shiver Me Timbers" will be emanating from Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre for the next month as the theater hosts the Midwest premier of "Treasure Island."

The production is a musical take on the adventure tale. The story's central character is young Jim, a boy on the cusp of manhood. The show opens with the death of his father, after which his life quickly takes a turn from the ordinary. Soon he finds himself sailing the seas in search of treasure with a ship full of mutinous crew members.

The show, based on the classic novel, was written by Curt Dale Clark, who also stars in the production, and Marc Robin, who directs.
The musical seems to be struggling to be both a whimsical story of pirates and a serious tale or morality and friendship. Though at times the show's emotional songs feel forced, it hits a solid note with other cheerful ballads.

The infamous Long John Silver is played by Jamie Jackson. He gives the nefarious captain a sweet side not n…

West Side Story

When a community theater decides to produce a big, well-known musical, there is always a risk that its production will unwittingly beg comparisons with other versions of the same show audience members have seen in the past. It's next to impossible not to picture the other dance sequences or compare the actors' voices in your mind.

The Indianapolis Civic Theatre's current production of "West Side Story" does just that. It's a fun show in its own right, but it's definitely not a big budget production. Half of the men in the Sharks gang were caucasian. The Sharks' tense relationship with the rival gang, the Jets, is based on the fact that it is made up of Puerto Ricans who recently immigrated to America. Inconsistencies like that can be distracting.

The best part of attending shows at a theater made up of avocational actors is seeing a break out star. The musical's Maria, played by Angela Nichols Manlove, is the perfect example. Her obvious talent rise…

The Ladies Man

Audiences often go to the theater expecting dour, deep plots that challenge their thinking. Though thought provoking, the shows can sometimes be exhausting. Sometimes it's great to see a show like "The Ladies Man." It's refreshing to laugh at frivolous misunderstandings.

With its current mainstage production, the Indiana Repertory Theatre has reminded audiences that it is not only OK to laugh while at the theater, it's encouraged!

With slamming doors and swirling skirts the characters fly through each scene compounding the confusion with each jumbled explanation.

Dr. Molineaux is exasperated as his young wife and her mother try to pin him down on the details of his night of indiscretions. His friend and former patient Bassinet, a happy-go-lucky fellow, appears at the doctor's home and unknowingly forces the situation to come to a boil.

The Prussian soldier, played by Mark Mineart, is enormous, both in size and sense of humor. Using his own unique phrasing, he is …

STOMP

Performers often tread the boards at Clowes Memorial Hall, but they rarely stomp them. The eight-member percussionist troupe, known throughout the world as "Stomp," is on stage now, presented by Broadway Across America.

The talented musicians bring a whole new meaning to the word rhythm. Using everything imaginable, including the kitchen sink, they make music. They turn the simplest actions, like flicking open a lighter, into music. By simply banging on trash cans and sweeping with brooms they create beats that shake the hall and incite crowds to cheer.
The show, which at first seems hectic, quickly makes it clear that every movement is perfectly coordinated to create a seamless stream of sound.

The multi-level set looks like an abandoned junk yard. It's strewn with metal parts and plastic barrels that become the instruments of choice throughout the show.

The energetic performers climb ladders and swing from harnesses, enthralling audiences with their antics. In addition to …

Crime and Punishment

"Crime and Punishment" is currently on the Indiana Repertory Theatre's Upperstage. Three actors and a sparse set greet audience members attending this condensed adaptation of the classic book. For 90 minutes sinners and saints tangle together in the mess that is human life.

Andrew Ahrens plays Raskolnikov, a man tortured by his inability to reconcile his intellect and faith. Ahrens' turn as Macbeth earlier this season now feels like a taste of what was to come in this role. Like Macbeth, Raskolnikov's guilty conscience seeps out in all of his actions. Even his health begins to suffer under the wait of his guilt.

He is dressed in threadbare rags, the edges caked in mud. The former student finds it easy to postulate about the necessity for great men to break the law for the greater good, but his life falls apart when he attempts to introduce his theory into the real world. The abstract idea of morality is easy for him to discuss, but as soon as he puts himself into t…

Movin' Out

Over Valentine's Day weekend the Murat Theatre rocked with the familiar songs of Billy Joel. Broadway Across America presented the Tony awarding-winning "Movin' Out" for one weekend only.
The loose narrative follows a handful of youths whose idyllic lives are shattered when the men are shipped off to fight in Vietnam. The guilt, anger and mourning that follow cripple the characters as they try to find their way back to a normal life.

"Movin' Out" is created in the same vein as other rock shows like "We Will Rock You," which showcases Queen's music, and "All Shook Up," an Elvis musical. It is unabashed celebration of Billy Joel's music. It forgoes a complicated plot to become a choreographed concert.

The show is an original collaboration between Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp. Tharp's unique dance routines embrace every style of motion - swing, ballet, modern and more.

Tharp uses sweet melodies like "Just the Way You …

To Kill a Mockingbird

As classic books go, "To Kill a Mockingbird" has long been an American favorite. The story, which deals with tolerance, racism and poverty, is all the more poignant because it unfolds through the innocent eyes of a child.
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is currently producing the play on its main stage. The set, designed by Robert M. Koharchik, transports the audience to the quiet street where the Finch family lives. The depth of the set, complete with peeling paint on the walls and a red dirt road, transforms the theatre so completely that it's easy to forget you aren't actually down south.

Lynne Perkins plays Miss Maudie and acts as the narrator for the show. Her constant asides to the audience keep scenes flowing with minimal explanation. Mark Goetzinger's Atticus Finch is patient, but stern. His portrayal of the iconic figure is wonderful in its simplicity. Atticus Finch is one of the most revered literary figures, but Goetzinger captures his humble nature and st…

Happy Days

At the midst of the turbulent 1970s a TV show came out that offered viewers a nostalgic embrace of the '50s; a sweeter time filled with "Happy Days." It was a time when people's biggest problems were trying to talk to girls and keeping the local diner afloat, at least on TV. That show is now a musical and is on stage at Clowes Memorial Hall courtesy of Broadway Across America.

Set in Milwaukee in 1959 we are reintroduced to The Cunningham family, the Fonz, Joanie and Chachi and the rest of the gang. They still hang out at Arnold's and idolize the town rebel. Joey Sorge plays the Fonz and his "Whoa" and "Hey" sound remarkably like Henry Winkler's version of the same.

One of the show's strongest moments is a complete break from the normal 1950s housewife mentality. Pinky Tuscadero, Marion and Joanie Cunningham sing "What I Dreamed Last Night" and demonstrate that despite outward appearances each of the women may be dreaming of …