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 

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 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 or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252.

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at 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 For more information of to purchase tickets, visit their website.

Photo Courtesy of the Indianapolis Civic Theatre.

November 3, 2010


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
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