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


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