December 19, 2010

Wicked


There was trouble in Oz long before Dorothy and Toto showed up. “Wicked,” on stage now at the Murat Theatre, tells the story of how Glinda and Elphaba, aka the wicked witch of the west, first meet. Though complete opposites, the two characters form an unlikely bond. The musical, based on the novel of the same name, weaves elements of the famous children’s book into a new, darker tale, which reveals that things are not always as simple as they seem.

You’d be hard-pressed to find more beautiful and elaborate sets anywhere in Indianapolis. From simple cornfields to the sparkling Emerald City, no detail is neglected and it’s easy to forget that this is a mobile production. The fantastical costumes provide an eyeful in every scene as well.



During the performance I attended Vicki Noon starred as Elphaba and Glinda was played by the understudy, Rachel Potter. Potter hit her stride in the number “Popular,” using both physical comedy and hilarious energy to embody the perky character. Noon nailed all of her big numbers, like “Defying Gravity” and “No Good Deed,” hitting both the notes and the emotional intensity necessary. Both Glinda and Elphaba are forced to grow up quickly in the show and the pair did a wonderful job demonstrating that painful transition into maturity.


This is the third time I’ve seen the show and I’ve loved it more with each viewing. I can’t think of anyone who I wouldn’t recommend it to and I’ve yet to find someone who’s been disappointed by it. It’s a powerful story of friendship and prejudice, but it balances those heavy themes with a large dose of humor. It’s a musical with a message and it reminds us that evil isn’t always the obvious target. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice suggesting the easy way out and it takes a true hero to resist that temptation.




Don't Miss the Show

The show will be in town for two more weeks. Don’t miss your chance to experience “Wicked” for yourself. Tickets are going fast for the popular show, so don't miss your chance to see it. The show runs until Saturday, Jan. 1 at the Murat Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, the Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com. Ticket prices start at $50.

Broadway Across America is holding a lottery for every single "Wicked" performance. Individuals are welcome to put their names in a lottery drum two and a half hours before each show. Exactly two hours before the show begins officials will draw a maximum of 20 names. Those individuals are permitted to buy up to two tickets for $25 each(cash only). The lottery will be held in the Murat Theatre lobby before each show and you must be present to win.

Photos Courtesy of Broadway Across America

December 13, 2010

A Christmas Carol


Despite the heavy snowfall and treacherous roads, the Indiana Repertory Theatre welcomed a full house with sweet caroling this past weekend. Nothing could keep the crowds away from the IRT’s A Christmas Carol.

Even though the story is the same, the production is full of new elements. There is a new director, Richard J. Roberts, a new Scrooge, IRT favorite Ryan Artzberger, a new Marley, Robert Neal and a new Bob Cratchit, Jerry Richardson. Other roles featured seasoned performers who audiences have grown to love over the years.


Artzberger, who replaced the established Charles Goad as Scrooge, had some big shoes to fill. He’s a bit young to play the aged miser, but his joyful enthusiasm at the end of the show is wonderfully believable. I look forward to watching him settle into the role in future years.



As always the set, props, costumes and music are excellent. A Christmas Carol long ago found its groove and yet it manages to remain fresh each year. The supporting cast fleshes out the story beautifully. Each actor takes on a slew of characters and their performances are perfectly in synch. There is no weak link or tired part, the flow is crisp and the message strong, making each performance a delight.

The show is 90 minutes, with no intermission, perfect for both kids and adults to enjoy. The theatre’s Oh What Fun series adds a few additional delights to the performances, like live reindeer or the chance to roast marshmallows before the show. Visit the IRT’s website for a complete list of available events.



On a side note, the IRT always has a long spiel of sponsors to thank at the beginning of each performance and as you anticipate the play it’s easy to forget how amazing that really is. It’s so encouraging to be reminded of how businesses like OneAmerica, St. Vincent and others have supported the IRT for years, despite recessions and economic hardships. I’m proud to live in a city that values the arts so highly.

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. "A Christmas Carol" runs until Sunday, Dec. 26 on IRT's Main Stage. 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 Indiana Repertory Theatre

December 9, 2010

The Santaland Diaries


I first read David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries a few years back. I remember laughing until my stomach hurt, but seeing a live version of his hilarious tale is somehow even funnier. The production, currently on stage at the IndyFringe Theatre, explores Sedaris’ personal experiences working as an elf at Macy’s. This Christmas show is definitely for adults only, which of course means you know it’s going to be funny.

Scot Greenwell plays Crumpet the elf with equal parts impish glee and cynical sass. He makes acidic jokes about controlling parents, delusional Santas and his fellow elves all while learning something about the true meaning of Christmas.



Decked out in candy cane tights and a jingle bell hat, Crumpet attempts to hang on to his sanity (and dignity) in the middle of Macy’s hectic Santaland. The intentionally atrocious costume is just one small aspect of the department store’s over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. Oversized candy and fake snow crowd together to help create this wonderfully cheesy version of the North Pole.

This was my first experience seeing a show in the Indy Fringe Theatre. The small building provides a perfect setting for intimate productions. The high ceilings and open rafters keep it from feeling claustrophobic and the small stage is just right for this one-man show.

If you love Sedaris’ irreverent essays or have ever wished for a bit more rum in your eggnog or for fewer showings of weepy Lifetime Christmas movies, this is definitely the Christmas show for you. Take your mom to a traditional holiday show and then treat yourself to this sarcastic gem.

Don't Miss the Show

Indy Fringe Theatre through Sunday, December 12, 2010, with evening performances tonight, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and afternoon matinees on Saturday and Sunday. For more information call (317) 721-9458 or visit the IndyFringe website here. The theatre is located just off Mass Ave at 719 E St Clair Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202.

Photos Courtesy of Melinda Seader

November 30, 2010

Beef & Boards Christmas


A Beef & Boards Christmas is back for its 18th year in a row. The variety show includes dozens of Christmas songs, gorgeous costumes and even a flying reindeer. Though this production has been around for almost two decades, this year director Doug Stark has revamped the stale elements and introduced some new ones.

For the first time, Eddie Curry acts as the show’s emcee, announcing performers and telling bad jokes. His easy banter provides the perfect does of sass to balance out the holiday saccharine. He holds the show together and keeps things moving along nicely.

The lead quartet features Christine Mild, who made a splash in this year’s “Always… Patsy Cline.” She’s a great fit for the show and adding her beautiful voice to the mix works well. John Vessels, who has quickly become one of my favorite performers at Beef & Boards, is another new addition. He’s shown that he is wonderful in comedic roles, like “Smoke on the Mountain,” but this role proves he has the voice to back up the humor. It’s rare to find such a charismatic and versatile performer and I hope Vessels makes B&B his new home for awhile.

Another change this year, Terry Woods and the BBC Orchestra took center stage, set up band stand style, during the show. The talented musicians performed classics like “Carol of the Bells” beautifully, even while fielding friendly barbs from Curry.

If I could change one aspect, I would remove the two kids from the show. Though the sisters are perky and talented, it’s hard to make their numbers feel like more than an elementary school Christmas show.

A few segments remained the same and continued to work wonderfully. Christopher Dickerson’s deep baritone voice provided a rendition of O Holy Night for the second year in a row. They retained a tribute to those in the military service who won’t be home for Christmas. And most importantly they included a nativity scene, reminding us all of the real reason for the holiday.

Kudos to Stark and the entire cast and crew for breathing life into the production. I hope future years will feature more of the same. This was truly the best Christmas show I’ve seen at Beef & Boards.



Don't Miss the Show 



Performances:
The show runs until Nov. 21. 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 $35 to $58 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers discounts; call the box office for more details.



2011 Season

Beef & Boards 2011 Season includes some new shows and old favorites. Season tickets are on sale now. They may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays). Tickets for main stage shows range from $36 to $59, and include Chef Odell Ward’s dinner buffet, full fruit & salad bar and unlimited coffee, tea and lemonade.

- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Dec. 29 - Jan. 30)
- Hairspray (Feb. 3 – March 27)
- Annie Get Your Gun (March 31 - May 8)
- Cinderella (May 12 – July 1)
- Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping (July 7 – Aug. 28)
- Singin’ In The Rain (Sept. 1 – Oct. 9)
- A Wonderful Life (Oct. 13 – Nov. 20)
- A Beef & Boards Christmas 2011 (Nov. 25 – Dec. 23)


Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

November 15, 2010

My Name is Asher Lev

The Phoenix Theatre’s Frank & Katrina Basile stage is current home to “My Name is Asher Lev.” The play, based on the Chaim Potok’s novel of the same name, explores the meaning of religion and art in a Hasidic Brooklyn community in the ‘50s.


Asher Lev is raised by his troubled mother, who was scarred by the unexpected death of her sibling, and his temperamental father. At a young age Asher shows a natural proclivity for painting and wants to become an artist. His parents are at a loss for how to respond to their son’s gift. His father is particularly baffled by his son’s desire to draw the world around him and is ashamed that he can’t let go of his “hobby.”



John Michael Goodson plays Asher from age 6 to adulthood with a giddy childishness at moments and an emotionally raw vulnerability at others. He’s tortured and confused by his compulsion to draw. First he questions the world with a child’s innocence, later he remains baffled by the same questions that haunted his youth.

Bill Simmons plays all of the men in the show (except Asher), including Asher’s father and his mentor, Jacob Kahn. He swings between anger and parental pride in an instant and brings a wonderful passion to the scenes between Kahn and Asher. Kahn is a fellow artist who teaches Asher how to embrace his emotions while creating artwork.


One of my favorite aspects of the show is the fact that it could have used nudity or language to increase the shock factor, but instead it relies on the power of Asher’s struggle. Because of this, the issues of the show are able to shine without being overshadowed by unnecessary elements. Even the controversial paintings Lev creates are shown only as empty frames. This forces the audience to see the painting only in their imaginations, which makes the impact much more powerful.


It’s a wonderful show that addresses a dozen important issues; religion, art, responsibility to your community vs. responsibility to create as an artist and so much more. You’ll be mulling over the characters’ decisions long after the final bow.



Don't Miss the Show

For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave.

Performances: The show runs until Nov. 21 and offers four performances a week. 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 $15 to $20.


Photos Courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre

November 9, 2010

Mary's Wedding


Mary’s Wedding, on stage now at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, is a quiet play about falling in love, the horrors of war and the place where those two elements sometimes meet. Set in the Canadian frontier at the start of WWI we meet Mary on the eve of her wedding as she dreams of her first love, Charlie. The two cross paths by chance when a thunderstorm forces them to seek shelter in a nearby barn. Soon their sweet courtship is interrupted by the harsh realities of trench warfare.

As always, director James Still brought his own unique charm to the show. He decided to add a live cellist on stage throughout the performance. The talented musician is tucked away in an alcove ten-feet above the stage, but his presence is known every time he gently slides his bow across his strings. The sweet notes heighten each moment of exhilaration or pain and they add a palpable elegance to the production.



Wearing a simple white shift Gwendolyn Whiteside plays Mary with unbridled enthusiasm. In some scene she also plays Charlie’s hardboiled sergeant. Zach Kenney as Charlie is all wide-eyed earnestness in suspenders. His gentleness makes you fall in love with him alongside Mary as he tries to remember the lines from Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade” in the midst of the storm. Each character reveals a vulnerable tenderness at just the right moments and their chemistry is what makes the story so beautiful.

The set portrays Mary’s dream world and so it fittingly has an ethereal atmosphere. The floor and back wall are a sublime shade of blue and a long translucent swatch drapes one side of the stage. Yellowed pages litter the set, each covered in tight scrawls and representing the many letters between the two pining lovers.



By setting the show firmly within Mary’s dream we can see bits and pieces of what happen when they are both together and alone. There’s no clear timeline that must be followed and normal staging obstacles, like riding a horse, can be dealt with in a whimsical way. In a dream world a chair or a fence can become a galloping steed and an umbrella stands in for a rifle.

This show is a gem. It balances the IRT’s signature drama with excellent characters. There will be dozens of holidays on stages throughout the city soon, but before the fake snow covers every stage, make time to see Mary’s Wedding.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Saturday, Dec. 4 on IRT's Upperstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252.

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com Prices begin at $34 with discounts available for students and seniors.

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois Street and southbound Capitol Avenue.

Photo Courtesy of the Indiana Repertory Theatre

November 5, 2010

The Belle of Amherst


Creating a play about the life of a recluse is no doubt a difficult undertaking, but “The Belle of Amherst,” on stage now at the Indianapolis Civic Theatre, manages it beautifully. Using facts about the life of poet Emily Dickinson’s, along with her letters and poems, playwright William Luce created the one-woman show celebrating Dickinson’s life.


The two-act production is set in Emily’s bedroom and living room and the stage in richly decorated as a 19th century New England home. Luce seamlessly wove many of the author’s own words into a candid conversation with the audience. This format allows people to connect with the poet on a personal level, while at the same time having a chance to appreciate her lyrical prose. Her poems are sprinkled throughout the show. At times she reads them aloud, at others she is simple making observations of the world in the only way she knows how.


Carrie Schlatter plays the poet with a childlike wonder of the world. She brings and impish glee to the role, infusing the monologues with humor and playfulness. The tour-de-force performance includes a constant stream of chatter about issues both big and small and Schlatter never loses the flow for a moment. She gossips about her family and in the next breath she’s mourning the death of a child. She portrays both the frustration and joy that Dickinson’s simple life offered.


Dickinson wrote about nature, death, immortality and more while seldom leaving her childhood home. Although she knew only the world directly surrounded her, she saw clear truths in the simplest of human interactions. She embraced a quiet life and often used her poems to ask questions about death and religion while she coped with the loss of a loved one.


It’s a wonderful biographical play which anyone can enjoy, but it’s a special treat for literary buffs like me. It also ranks as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the Indianapolis Civic Theatre and shouldn’t be missed.


Don't Miss the Show


Performances: The show closes Sunday, Nov. 14. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The show continues until May 23. The Indianapolis Civic Theatre is located at 3200 Cold Spring Road on the Marian College campus.

Tickets: Ticket prices start at $25 and can be purchased by calling (317) 923-4597 or visiting www.civictheatre.com. For more information of to purchase tickets, visit their website.


Photo Courtesy of the Indianapolis Civic Theatre.


November 3, 2010

Dreamgirls


It goes without saying that anyone who manages to snag a lead in the national tour of “Dreamgirls” obviously has the pipes to fill the role. The musical, currently on stage at the Murat Theatre, is a celebration of soul and ‘60s R&B as it chronicles the rise of the Dreamettes, a trio of female singers.

Each member of the cast brings a unique flavor to the production. Curtis is the picture of blind ambition. The pompadoured Jimmy blows the audience away with his over-the-top charisma. Deena transforms from an innocent girl to a strong woman. Supporting players, like C.C. White and Lorrell, provide just the right balance of enthusiasm and earnestness. They leave the main stage open for the big personalities, but provide a much-needed grounding element.

Effie, played by Indianapolis native Moya Angela, is a boiling pot of sass and attitude. Even when she is silent she smolders with an anger that radiates throughout the theater. She is shameless in her opinions, often to her detriment, but that same uncompromising strength helps her succeed in the end.



Every moment in the show is expertly choreographed, but at times it distracts from the performers’ sublime voices. The bright lights of the set and sequined costumes are a lot to take in, and some of the show’s best songs are simple ones like “Listen” that showcase their voices sans jazz hands. That stripped down number allows the two divas to shine as they belt out the lessons they’ve learned through years of heartache.

There’s a lot of drama packed into the two-act show. The fights, jealousy and competition make for some heavy material. Just when things become a bit bleak, Jimmy breathes life into the show and shakes things up.

One of the best scenes in the show involves Jimmy attempting to make his act a bit more palatable for a straight-laced white crowd. The more he tries to reign himself in, the worse he gets and his antics have the audience rolling with laughter. Moments like that elevate the show from a dreary cautionary tale, to a hypnotic saga.



Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Sunday, Nov. 7 at the 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 at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com.
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

October 20, 2010

White Christmas


The holidays have come really early at Beef & Boards this year. In addition to its traditional Christmas show, the dinner theatre is currently putting on a production of “White Christmas.”


The production’s songs include of mix of hits from the original perennial favorite film, like “Sisters” and “White Christmas” and other well-known standards, like “I Love A Piano.” Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye left some big shoes to fill, but Curt Dale Clark and Timothy Ford take the reigns with gusto. Clark is particularly good in a jazzy version of “Blue Skies.”


Christine Mild returns to B&B’s stage after her outstanding performance in the title role of “Always Patsy Cline” earlier this year. She plays Betty Haynes and once again belts out some beautiful show-stoppers, particularly “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me”

John Vessels, who became a B&B staple after the Smoke on the Mountain shows, pops up in a great form to provide some laugh-out-loud moments. His perfect comedic timing is a great addition to any show.



The tap numbers are plentiful and well-choreographed by Ron Morgan. The costumes, designed by Brian Horton, are especially note-worthy. Horton nails everything from the cinched waists and puffy petticoats to the feathered fans and soldier’s uniforms.

If you’re in the mood for a bit of early holiday cheer, “White Christmas” is the perfect solution. But move quickly, because many of the final shows have already sold out.


Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Nov. 21. 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 $35 to $58 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers discounts; call the box office for more details.


Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

October 17, 2010

AMERICAN PLAYERS THEATRE: All's Well That Ends Well, Waiting for Godot and The Syringa Tree


When you arrive first arrive at the American Players Theatre in Wisconsin you feel as though you've stumbled upon Nick Bottom's acting troupe practicing in the woods in A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's secluded and everything seems tinged with magic. As you wind up a small path, farther and farther into the forest, you find the Up-the-Hill Theatre.

The wide open amphitheater provides stadium seating around an intimate stage. Young and old alike gather there to see productions put on by the professional theater. Even caught in a slight rain, audience members sit enthralled as the stage lights up. This is how Shakespeare's plays were meant to be absorbed, in the open-air, under the stars, performed with passion and humor, not just read from dusty pages.



All's Well That Ends Well

This Shakespearean "comedy" tells the story of the sweet Helena, the daughter of a poor physician. She falls for Bertram, the son of the countess who helped raise her and cleverly devises a plot to win him despite her low stature. Bertram, however, proves unworthy of her love, rejecting her out of his own selfishness.

I've never loved this particular play, always wondering why Helena loved the immature cad to begin with, but Ally Carey's sincere performance as Helena has the audience rooting for her to win her man, even though we know she could do better. She is loyal and devoted, even when Bertram is at his worst.

Jim DeVita steals every scene he's in as the fop Parolles. He plays Bertram's right-hand man as a pompous peacock full of talk, but little action and he is irresistible. He soaks each of his lines with the perfect amount of impetuous cheek, wringing out every ounce of humor that Shakespeare intended.

The costumes are beautifully detailed. Everything from the soldiers' medals to the ladies' jewelry. And enough cannot be said about the beautiful ambiance that the forest itself provides. When the trees are lit up around the stage, the effect is breathtaking.


Waiting For Godot

Samuel Beckett's famous play has inspired dozen of interpretations since its premier in 1953. Whatever your opinions of it may be, this particular version provides equal doses of laughter to balance out the bleaker bits.

Two tramps Vladimir, played by James Ridge, and Jim DeVita as Estragon, putter onto the stage and quickly the audience is sucked into their strange co-dependent relationship. They are waiting... for Godot, and while doing so they try to pass the time in a myriad of ways. They are both clearly miserable, but they seem to find solace in each other's company.

Ridge and DeVita have a lovely chemistry, complementing each other by remaining calm when the other is frantic. They provide a steady stream of troubled dialogue and physical comedy. Both men are worrisome creatures, frequently puzzled by their neurotic thoughts.


The audience never knows why they are waiting and really, that's not important. What matters is their struggle to make it through each day and to prove to themselves that they actually exist. They seem trapped in a repetitive cycle of confusing monotony. Godot will leave you pondering its meanings and reflecting on the brilliance of the cast long after you've left the theater.

On a side note, it was a delight to have a chance to see DeVita perform two very different roles within 24 hours. His range and talent are inspiring. The Indiana Repertory Theatre has included a play that DeVita wrote and will star in, "In Acting Shakespeare," as part of its upcoming season. I can hardly wait to see him in action again.


The Syringa Tree

What can I say about this one-woman show starring Colleen Madden? I was so deeply moved by the performance that I, along with most of the audience, was brought to tears, yet at the same time the show is peppered with humor.

From the opening moments the production is memorizing. The simple stage is set with only a single swing and scraps of colorful fabric. The subject matter is intense, the acting outstanding and the simplicity of the set and costume compliment those aspects perfectly, never distracting, only enhancing.

We see much of the story through the eyes of Elizabeth, a young white girl growing up in South Africa during the apartheid. She sees no race, only people she loves, whether they are her loving parents or gentle nanny, Salamina. Her naivete mirrors the brilliance of similar stories, like To Kill a Mockingbird, which allow a horrific story to be told by a narrator free of prejudices.

Madden plays two dozen different characters throughout the show, including both men and women of all ages and races. Yet her skill as an actress never allows a second of confusion about who she is at any given moment. Her voice booms as a black chieftain and murmurs primly as Elizabeth's mother. With the simplest hand motion or tilt of her head she slips between the characters, weaving a rich tapestry of love and oppression.


What I learned during my first visit to the APT is that you're in for a treat no matter what you see. Each of the shows were exceptional productions in their own way and I can't wait to return.

More Information:

The American Players Theatre is closed for its regular season. It will host a special holiday show, Gift of the Magi, from Nov. 26 - Dec. 19 at its indoor Touchstone Theatre.

The theater's outdoor seats are comfortable, but definitely bring a jacket, rain parka or blanket depending on the weather. The show will go on even if it's chilly or drizzling. There are easily accessible restrooms and concessions at both the Up-the-Hill Theatre and the Touchstone Theatre.

There are plenty of camping/B&B/cabin/hotel options nearby, depending on your preference. You can find additional information about where to lodge, restaurants and other attractions on APT's website.

For more information about APT and Spring Green, WI visit its website. Spring Green, Wi is only 6.5 hours from Indianapolis and makes a perfect weekend getaway.

Photos Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

October 16, 2010

Holes


The Indiana Repertory Theater opened its 39th season with “Holes.” Originally a young adult book by Louis Sacher, the story was turned into a movie in 2003. Now brought to life on IRT’s stage, audiences can see in the story of Stanley Yelnats unfold in person.

A teenage boy is wrongfully convicted of a crime and shipped off to a correctional camp in the middle of the Texas desert. There he meets an odd collection of misfits who spend each day digging holes in the desert.

The set is an impressive feat. It takes a particular talent to turn an intimate stage into an expansive desert filled with deep holes. It also has to accommodate a pick-up truck, couch and boat moving on and off during various scenes. Scenic Designer Robert M. Koharchik managed to design something that worked beautifully, giving the feeling of limitless space despite the restrictions.

Ben Tebbe and Jennifer Johansen, both regular IRT players, are wonderful as Stanley’s doting parents and in the many other roles they took on throughout the show, including Stanley’s grandfather and Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Newcomer Mauricio Suarez was also a delight as the soft-spoken Zero. He brought a quiet intensity to the role and I look forward to seeing him perform in future productions.

If there’s one show this season that would appeal to teenage boys, this is it. It has adventure, outlaws, stinky sneakers and treasure. And for boys, you can’t go wrong with that combination of elements.



Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Saturday, Nov. 6 on IRT's Mainstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252.

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com Prices begin at $29 with discounts available for students.

The IRT’s 2010/11 season has a great balance of old favorites, like The Diary of Anne Frank, and new shows that look fascinating. Below is a complete list and you can visit irtlive.com for more information about each show.

Mary’s Wedding
Nov. 3 – Dec. 4

The Diary of Anne Frank
Jan. 18 – Feb. 24

A Christmas Carol
Nov. 26 – Dec. 26

Going Solo: A festival of intimate stories brought to life by three actors, three scripts, three shows in repertory.
• Neat
Feb. 10 – Mar. 6
• Fire in the Garden
Feb. 12 – 27
• In Acting Shakespeare
Feb. 19 – Mar. 13

The Gospel According to James
Mar. 22 – Apr. 10

The 39 Steps, Alfred Hitchcock
Apr. 20 – May 14


Photos Courtesy of the IRT

September 27, 2010

Mary Poppins



Broadway Across America has opened its season with Mary Poppins at the Murat. The classic show brings the children's story to life in a musical extravaganza.

Bert, a cheerful jack-of-all-trades, acts as the show's all-seeing narrator. He is at times a painter and at others a chimney sweep, but he's always around. Nicolas Dromard plays the role with a wonderful warmth and a cocky accent is as thick as the London fog. He also wows the crowd with his gravity-defying antics and particularly shines in the show's best number, "Step In Time," an elaborate tap routine with elements of STOMP.

The show manages to capture many of the elements that made the original movie so magical, including Mary's bottomless carpet bag and rooms that help clean themselves. These tricks are difficult to pull off on a stage in front of an audience, but the production manages it smoothly.

The audience will recognize many of songs from the Disney musical, but there are are few new ones. One features toys that come to life and another has a pair of dueling nannies, neither adds much to the overall production.



At the start of the show, the Banks family finds itself in need of a new nanny and Mary Poppins fits the bill. Michael and Jane and the Banks' precocious children, played by Cade Canon Ball and Paige Simunovich in Friday's show. They're spoiled and a bit neglected by their harried parents and a strict but kind nanny is just what they need.

Mary Poppins is played by the excellent Caroline Sheen. She creates a prim and proper Mary with a mischievous spark and a delicious impertinence. Her rich voice is both strong and well-suited for the role. She can turn the simplest walk in the park into a fantastical adventure.


The sets are extravagant, sliding on and off stage or lowering from the ceiling they turn the blank canvas into a bank, park and home, all with rich depth and detail. The Banks' home adds a special dose of whimsy, unfolding like a dollhouse.

Mary Poppins is a great show to take the kids to, while being able to enjoy it as an adult. It has enough song and dance to keep the tots entertained, while providing a story with a powerful overarching message. Sometimes it's good when you're life gets shaken up a bit. It can put everything in perspective and make you realize what's really important.

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Sunday, Oct. 3 at the 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 at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com.
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

September 20, 2010

W;t


Vivian Bearing is a 17th century poetry professor who specializes in the sonnets of John Donne. After decades of choosing work over a personal life, she's been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Margaret Edson's play is a brutally honest look at one woman's fight against cancer and coming to terms with the world she's made for herself. This intelligent play speaks to the loneliness our society can breed when we wrap ourselves up in our work and alienate ourselves from others.

Even in this most dire time in her life Vivian can't help condescending to those she considers less intelligent than her, even those who show her affection. Her defensive nature has been built up to the point where she doesn't know how to ask for help or show weakness. She values intellect over kindness, even though it has left her alone.

Vivian is ironically facing the cold professionalism of doctors in the hospital in the same way her students have had to deal with her. Both she and her doctors prefer research to humanity and she's learning too late how cruel that can feel. In the midst of undergoing 8 months of chemotherapy, Vivian's thick shell begins to crumble as her body succumbs to the cancer. She escapes the pain by delving deeper into the world of metaphysical poetry, but soon she can't deny her vulnerability and she discovers that in the end the simplicity of human connection is what we long for above all else.

Susan Pieples is absolutely enchanting as the logical and distant Vivian. There's a delicate balance to portraying the prickly professor. The audience must understand how she's pushed away the people in her life and yet still have a deep sympathy for her. Pieples captured this balance perfectly.

Pieples shaved her head for the role, a seemingly small decision that demonstrates the essential dedication to character and enhances the power of the show. Though there are a few other characters, Pieples carries the show. Without her amazing performance it would have fallen flat.

The supporting cast is excellent as well. In the limited scenes the dialogue is sharp and the emotions are clear with each sigh and pursed lips. The only thing I would have changed about the show is the choice of music. Instead of enhancing the performances the odd collection of elevator music and Danny Elfman compositions became a bit distracting.

The simple set consists of a backdrop of seven black screens, each is turned around during the course of the show, to the opposite white side. The beauty of this simple act demonstrates the undeniable progression of her disease and the passage of time in a poignant way.

I've been continually impressed by the material The Theater Within has chosen to tackle. They've picked such excellent, challenging pieces that I can't wait to see what's next.

Don't Miss the Show
For more information about The Theater Within, visit their website. The theater is located at 1125 Spruce St., Indianapolis, IN 46203, just four blocks east of Fountain Square along Prospect Street immediately south of the KFC.

Performances: The show runs until Sept. 25 and offers two performances a week, Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 8 p.m.

Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 850-4665. Prices range from $13 to $15. Up next at the Theater Within is Death and the Maiden, which opens Nov. 5.

Photo courtesy of The Theater Within

September 13, 2010

Camelot


History's most famous love triangle, between King Arthur, his wife Guenevere and his best knight, Lancelet, is on stage now at Beef & boards Dinner Theatre in the celebrated musical "Camelot."

Beef & Board's owner Douglas Stark plays Arthur, the king of Camelot. Lerner and Loewe created the character to be a bit like Winnie-the-Pooh. Thinking may vex him, but his heart is sincere and he strives to bring peace to his lands. Stark captures the king's playful, yet troubled air masterfully. Jeff Stockberger adds a comedic boost as a quintessential Brit, peppering his conversations with "what whats" and sputtering indignation.



Krista Severeid stars as Guenevere, playing opposite her real-life husband Tony Lawson, as Lancelot, in their first Beef & Boards show since their wedding last fall. Severeid's voice is lovely and perfectly suited for Guenevere's duets and solos. Lawson, who played a similar role as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, embodies the egotistical and cocky Lancelot. He brings both humor and pain to the role.

The costumes are wonderful. They were originally created for the National Tour of Camelot, which starred Richard Harris. From fur-trimmed gowns to suits of armor, the costumes carry the audience into the medieval tale.

The show is filled with famous songs, like "Camelot" and "C'est Moi," sword fights and swooning. It's captivated audiences for decades and won't disappoint.



Don't Miss the Show

Performances
: The show runs until Oct. 10. 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 $35 to $58 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers discounts; call the box office for more details.

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

July 28, 2010

Church Basement Ladies


Over the past three years Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre's audiences have enjoyed the antics of the Smoke in the Mountains clan every summer. This year "Church Basement Ladies" fills the big shoes vacated by the Sanders clan. Though the "Smoke" shows are a tough act to follow, the cooking ladies of a Minnesota Lutheran church rise to the challenge.

The show is set in the 1960s in the church basement's kitchen as four women prepare meals for a fundraiser, funeral and a wedding. Dressed in sensible shoes and aprons, the women cook up heaping Norwegian dishes. In one musical number they celebrate the joys of cooking with butter and doing the "Pale Food Polka."


The cast works wonderfully together. The oldest of the group struggles to accept changes in the church, while the youngest tries to square her parent's beliefs with her own. Karen Pappas portrayal of Mavis is especially fun. She brings an impressive energy to her role, which provides constant bits of physical comedy in the show as she battles hot flashes and chops cookie bars. Eddie Curry is the only male in the estrogen soaked musical. He plays the church's pastor and helps give a balance to the women's interaction.

It's a sweet show and at its core it's about friendship and the common bond these women share. It's a great show for church groups or a night out with the "church basement ladies" in your own life.


Don't Miss the Show

Performances
: The show runs until Sept. 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 $35 to $58 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers discounts, call the box office for more details.

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre


July 19, 2010

Reasons To Be Pretty


"Show me a beautiful woman and I'll show you a guy that's tired of F***ing her."

As crude as that line is, it perfectly sums up the character of Kent, who says it during "Reasons to be Pretty," on stage now at the Phoenix Theatre.

The show premiered off-Broadway in 2008 and is the final play in Neil LaBute's trilogy about society's perception of beauty. The Shape of Things, the first play, was turned into a film starring Paul Rudd. The second, Fat Pig, was part of the Phoenix Theatre's 2007 season.

"Reasons to be Pretty" is about a couple, Stephanie and Greg, who fall out after she find out he called her face "regular" compared to a pretty co-worker's face. On the surface it's simple enough, but it delves much deeper into other issues in their relationship and in Greg's relationship with his self-centered friend Kent.


Angela Plank, who also co-starred in Fat Pig, plays Stephanie. She does an excellent job exuding a mixture of pain, strength and confusion that her character is dealing with. She soars in a delicate scene where she lashes back at Greg in a mall.

Ryan Artzberger plays Greg and manages to take a selfish character and completely turn him around. By the end of the show the audience sees a true change in Greg. His selfishness becomes selflessness as he makes hard decisions that benefit others. Though you don't see his chemistry with Plank until the end of the show, it's worth the wait. The two have a sweet, teasing ease, which makes the whole show more poignant.



Kent (Shane Chuvalas) is a stereotypical bully who has pushed others around throughout this life. He constantly makes degrading comments about women and is crass in every possible way. Unfortunately his type is not uncommon in the real world. In the end he teach Greg exactly what he doesn't want to be.

Mariana Fernandez plays Kent’s wife Carly. She balances her tough exterior as a security guard with her fragile, insecure true nature, bred from years with Kent.

In the end, the show is really about the pain that we can do to one another in relationships. In order to be close to someone, we have to be willing to open ourselves up and that often leads to a world of hurt. The words we use, good or bad, won't be forgotten and insecurities and distrust can be born out of casual, but cruel comments.

The show is meant for adults and the language and issues reflect that.


Don't Miss the Show

For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave.

Performances
: The show runs until Aug. 1 and offers four performances a week. 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 $15 to $20.

Photos Courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre

June 21, 2010

Proof


The Theater Within has once again chosen a play that tackles a complicated subject. "Proof," the 2001 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, deals with the thin line between genius and madness and the strain it can place on a family.

The story begins with Catherine on the eve of her 25th birthday. After years of caring for her mentally unstable father, a famed mathematician, she now has to cope with his death. She put her life on hold to care for him and the years have made her caustic and distrustful.

The cast finds its footing in the second half, moving past stereotypes into the meat of the roles. Glenn Dobbs plays the struggling mathematician and he shines in his scenes with Catherine (Danna Sheridan). His convincing paternal nature makes the audience understand her devotion to him. Jeremy Kinnett is fittingly awkward but sincere as Hal, Robert's social-stunted former student.

Kristin Katsu excellent as Claire, Catherine's older sister. With her A-type personality she swoops in, all crispness and calm, to try to rescue Catherine from herself. Claire is the oil to Catherine's water, so different that they can find no middle ground.

Director Rod Isaac presents an ideal setting in which we can explore family dynamics. The play looks closely at the relationship between a father and daughter and the one between diametrically opposite sisters. Like every family, love is blended with frustration and resentment to create a toxic mix.

Don't Miss the Show
For more information about The Theater Within, visit their website. The theater is located at 1125 Spruce St., Indianapolis, IN 46203, just four blocks east of Fountain Square along Prospect Street immediately south of the KFC.

Performances: The show runs until June 26 and offers two performances a week, Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 8 p.m.

Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 850-4665. Prices range from $13 to $15.

Photo courtesy of The Theater Within

June 17, 2010

High School Musical


For this year's annual Family show, Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre chose Disney High School Musical. The plot deals with high school cliques, pressure to succeed and balancing of diverse interests. But this is certainly not a serious drama. Perky songs and choreographed dance numbers keep things moving quickly and over-the-top drama queens provide comic relief.



The show features only two adult roles, which means decades of experience is not in the cards for most of the cast. Productions that depend so heavily on young actors can be tricky, but B&B manages it with ease. The cast brings a freshness and energy to the show that's infectious.

Gabriella, played by Jessica Ann Murphy, has both a beautiful voice and a natural ease, which makes her performance believable. She and her co-star, Tim Barsten (Troy), work well together. They have great stage chemistry.


Scenic designer Michael Layton turns a movie, that moves throughout an entire high school, into a single set production. The simple design allowed the stage to become a gym, auditorium stage, science lab and more during the show.


(Tim Hills and Michael Layton)

My own brother, Tim Hills, whose passion for theater rivals my own, assisted Layton in the design. Tim, 18, is a student at Brownsburg High School. He has Cerebral Palsy, which makes performing difficult and so he has chosen to fuel his creativity into set design. This show was the first time he had the opportunity to work with a professional theater.

This popular show provides good, clean entertainment and is a great opportunity to take teens to the theater. So whether you're new to the High School Musical phenomenon or a long-time fan, the show is a fun night for the whole family.


Don't Miss the Show

Performances
: The show runs until July 18. 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 $35 to $58 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers $10 discounts on tickets for kids ages 3-15.


Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

June 11, 2010

Jersey Boys


Long before we met the delinquents of Jersey Shore, there was "Jersey Boys," the musical that took Broadway by storm in 2005. It tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the group that wrote and sang dozens of hits that sold a million records, like "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Walk Like a Man."

The Broadway Across America show, currently on stage at the Murat Theatre, has it all. It's the story of an American Dream that came true for a few blue-collar boys. Four guys from Jersey created a brand new sound that allowed them to rocket up the charts in the 1960s. The boys' unexpected success was, as it always is, both a blessing and a curse.


(Joseph Leo Bwarie as Frankie Valli)

Joseph Leo Bwarie plays Frankie Valli, the talented lead singer. Bwarie's unbelievable range mimics Valli own unique pitches. We meet Valli when he's an innocent 16-year-old and watch his journey to stardom.

The three other leads, Nick, Tommy and Bob, each narrate a portion of the story and lend their voices to a dozen songs. Tommy, the troubled tough one, Nick, the funny man, and Bob, the talented songwriter all work well together. They are a convincing group, with salty language, teasing interactions and conflicts. They're brothers in all but blood. Their sense of loyalty to each other was born in the Jersey streets and stayed with them throughout their lives.


"Jersey Boys" creates the perfect blend of music and story. It highlights the struggle of the artists, while celebrating the songs they created. It's one of the best new musicals from Broadway in the past decade. Catch it while it's here!


Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Saturday, July 3 at the Murat Theatre so hurry to get tickets to the show. 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