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
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


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


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

: 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.

: 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