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Showing posts from 2011

Million Dollar Quartet

On December 4, 1956 four singers got together and made recording history. That night is the subject of the Broadway Across America musical Million Dollar Quartet, on stage now at the Murat Theatre. Set in the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis blend their distinct styles to create something unique. The result is a concert of famous oldies, including everything from gospel to rock and roll.

The cast is incredibly talented. Not only do the four members of the quartet nail the individual singing aspect of the performers they are portraying, they also play their instruments (guitars and piano) amazingly well. They shine on both the rowdy hits, like Party, and the quiet hymns, like Peace in the Valley. Along with rocking performances, the show provides a history lesson. I’d never heard of Carl Perkins and had no idea he wrote and performed Blue Suede Shoes, topping the pop/country/blues charts long before Elvis covered it.


Beef and Boards Christmas 2011

Beef & Boards has toned down the razzle dazzle in this year’s Christmas show. The quieter production is hugely improved by sweet Christmas carols and a heavy reliance on the talented Holidaires instead of flying reindeer or goofy elves. The quartet is made up of three Smoke on the Mountain veterans and Jillian Wallach, a new addition to B&B.

Jayson Elliott, Sarah Hund and John Vessels have proved their talent in a dozen shows over the past couple years and this performance is no exception. The production is at its best when it allows its performers to relax into roles they excel at. Vessels has a wonderful voice and a unique ability to pull off the silliest bits. He never fails to delight audiences.


Elliott and Hund, in addition to being able to sing, can each play multiple instruments. Their talent is showcased wonderfully as they playfully duel on banjoes, fiddles, guitars and harmonicas. Each of the singers held their own, but newcomer Wallach shone the brightest. She took th…

Mystery Cafe of Indianapolis: All Star Homer-cide

Raise your hand if you knew the nation’s longest running Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre was located in Indianapolis. I had no idea. The dinner theater performs everywhere from restaurants to audience members’ homes to company functions, but they can be seen regularly at the Milano Inn in Indianapolis.

The current production, All Star Homer-cide, tells the story of an All Star baseball game and the unexpected murder that throws the night into chaos. The show has four acts; each one is separated by a course of food, soup, salad and Italian entrée and dessert. The show changes each month, but the audience participation and dinner remain the same.


Jennifer Estes and Phillip Armstrong star as a variety of characters. The enthusiastic performers throw themselves into the show, taking on multiple roles, crazy costumes and more. Their cheesy jokes and playful banter keep the audience involved.

This would be the perfect night out for that friend or family member who loves to be a ham. Audience …

Amadeus

The Indianapolis Civic Theatre has officially moved into its new home in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. The theatre, previously located on Marian College’s campus, is now I n a beautiful new venue, complete with a free parking garage whose elevator drops you right in the lobby. The theatre itself has spacious seating and high ceilings.

The 2011/2012 season includes Amadeus, on stage now. The play won a Tony Award and was then adapted into a movie which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The story, a mix of fact and fiction, examines the themes of genius and mediocrity. Two composers in 18th century Austria vie for the emperors’ approval and public’s eye. The first is an upright Italian man named Antonio Salieri. The second is a child prodigy, now at the height of his creativity, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Mozart is as childish and crass as he is brilliant. His immaturity and cockiness grate on the nerves of many in the Austrian court, but no one more than fellow comp…

Julius Caesar

Et tu, Brute? The question that has echoed through the centuries since it was first uttered on a stage in Elizabethan England is as timely now as it ever was. The Indiana Repertory Theatre has continued its wonderful tradition of presenting shortened versions of some of Shakespeare’s finest works with its latest production of Julius Caesar. It’s a show that fits easily into the unease of the current
political climate.

The cast is rich with talent. The IRT has an arsenal of excellent actors and I’m sure that choosing a Caesar was a difficult task. Though the title character’s stage time is short, he must make the audience understand the jealousy that is brewing within the hearts of the men who were once his allies. For me, David Alan Anderson was the perfect choice. He has a relaxed jovial attitude, but with a single look he can command a room. This balance demonstrates how the public could love him and the politicians could fear him at the same time.

Another casting coup is Rob Johansen …

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life may not have been a box office smash when it was first released, but in the decades that followed, the film became an American classic. Families watch it together at Christmas, people can quote lines from it, there are even flower shops named Zuzu’s Petals in almost every state.

The reason the movie has become such a holiday staple is because the story is one that’s easy to connect with. Everyone has felt discouraged at some point and it’s easy to believe your life doesn’t matter. That struggle resonates with people and keeps them coming back, year after year. It’s hard to capture the onscreen magic created by the earnest Jimmy Stewart and his town of misfits, but the cast of Beef & Boards' current production brings the story to life.

Sean Patrick Hopkins plays George Bailey with all the sincerity and selflessness needed to make the audience root for him. Stockberger makes a great Uncle Billy and Eddie Curry is in his element as the simple angel Clarence.


Spring Awakening

The cast of Spring Awakening performed to an incredibly packed house a few days ago. The crowd sat in eager anticipation for the Tony-award winning show’s Indiana premier. Spring Awakening is based on a play written in 1892, which was turned into a Broadway musical in 2006 and gave a few of the Glee stars their big breaks.

Set in 1890s Germany, the plot deals with some delicate subject matter; adolescent sexual awakening, suicide, abortion, rape, incest and more. It’s no frothy Oklahoma. That being said, though it’s clearly not appropriate for kids, its melancholy ballads tell a powerful story that gives adults something to think about after the curtain call.


The production’s two leads, David Terry, who plays Melchior and Wendla, played by Carly Kincannon, are excellent. Young and earnest, their sweet romance is the beating heart of the story. Both actors have the pipes to carry the songs as well. They are particularly good in "Mama Who Bore Me" and "Left Behind."

The…

Going Solo: I Love to Eat and Lost

The Indiana Repertory Theatre's Going Solo Festival is back for the third year. The festival features three separate one-man shows and gives audiences a chance to compare an contrast some fascinating plays. Each one is 90 minutes with no intermission and highlights one of the IRT's regular performers.

The festival includes a world premier by playwright-in-residence James Still. The show, "I Love to Eat: Cooking with James Beard," introduces us to the host of America's first cooking show. The exuberant chef is played by Robert Neal. His passion for life is contagious and in only a few moments the audience is swept away as he bounces from one side of the stage to the other, guffawing as he goes. Each moment is filled with emotion; the brief flashes of anger or sadness are just as intense as the joy.


Beard is shown as a man who embraced every aspect of life, food music, friendship, language, etc. The portly cook is incredibly alive, bubbling over with his enthusiasm…

American Players Theatre 2011

(The Tempest)

The American Player Theatre, a place of extraordinary talent, is nestled in the Wisconsin hills. As always, this year's season contains some wonderful plays. The APT has an indoor and outdoor theatre, both of which provide intimate venues for performances.

The outdoor theatre is particularly unique. The versatile stage moulds easily to each production. It sprouts curved planks, rising towards the sky like wooden waves or sails for The Tempest. Then bronze doors and benches transform it into an Italian town for Taming of the Shrew and crab grass and barn rafters appear for Of Mice and Men.

One of the APT’s many strengths is its tradition of using a talented core of actors in multiple shows each season. It truly highlights the performers abilities when you can see them in such different roles in the same weekend. One great example of this was Susan Shunk's role as the timid Laura in The Glass Menagerie and then her turn as the strong-willed Miranda in The Tempest. Tra…

Dracula

The Indiana Repertory Theatre opened its 40th season with a fang… actually a few of them. The original vampire story is on stage now and gigantic pair of ominous wings set the stage for the perfect Halloween treat.
It would have been easy to make Dracula a caricature, with an overt-the-top accent and cheesy lines. Instead, Wade McCollum’s portrayal gives you chills. This isn't a child's version of Dracula, it’s the character as Bram Stoker originally imagined it; powerful, seductive and terrifying.

At first the show is playful as good friends Mina and Lucy discuss their suitors, but it takes a darker turn as we follow Mina’s fiancé John Harker into Transylvania. There he encounters the Count, who lives alone and friendless in his dark castle.

Playwright Steven Dietz’s adaptation has perfect pacing. He shuffles the order of events from the original text, which reveals the monster at just the right moments. Other scenes overlap to keep the action moving. He also uses Dracula spa…

Singin' in the Rain

As the season changes from summer to fall there’s only one place you can be sure to find rain right now. Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s current show, Singin’ in the Rain, has brought the storms to the stage. A crowd favorite, this classic musical contains well-known songs like “Make ‘Em Laugh,” “Lucky Star” and the title song.

One of my personal favorites, “Moses,” is a playful tap number which highlights the performers’ skills. Doug King, Timothy Ford and Kenny Shepard nail it, having fun, but never failing to stay in synch and hit their marks.


Sarah Hund has proven her comedic chops in a dozen roles at B&B, but her turn as Lina Lamont provides a whole new height. She masters the horrible grating voice and adds her own flare to the role.

King should also be applauded for his understated role as Cosmo Brown. Always the sidekick, Cosmo provides zingers under his breath, taps his heart out and knows how to take an expert fall with the best of them. King was the perfect choice …

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

This past weekend the Lawrenceburg Shakespeare Company North (LSCN) hosted a free event downtown. The production, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), is a fun romp through all 37 of the Bard’s plays. It celebrates Shakespeare’s talent, while at the same time poking fun at the common themes in his work and the occasional ripped off plot. It takes the highlights from his shows and mashes them together into one whirlwind stream of action.

The 90 minute performance, sponsored by Yelp, was held on the upper mezzanine level of the City Market. With a few rows of chairs and an enthusiastic cast of three, the show took off at a breakneck pace. They flew through scenes from Romeo and Juliet and before you knew it they were on to Othello. Bit and pieces of the original language is kept in tack with hilarious narration and pantomimes added along the way.


The simple set consisted of a large screen which allowed the actors to flit behind it to change wigs and grab props. The uniqu…

Church Basement Ladies 2

The Lutheran ladies are back with more songs and exclamations of "Uffda!" After last year's show "Church Basement Ladies" proved such a popular musical, Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre decided to offer audiences a second helping. The same cast has returned to bring their characters back to life.

Part SNL Church Basement Lady and part sweet Midwestern hometown tale, the plot follows four very different women through a few life changes in 1969 and 1970. One of the show's greatest strengths is the diverse group brought together on the stage. One woman is old, another young, a couple have been married for years, another is a newly wed, another widowed. In addition to the females, there is the pastor, who still trying to find his footing in the church as America moves into a new decade. Each character brings a unique perspective to the table.


The cast seem like it's having fun, which is crucial for the success of a show like this. The playful atmosphere they …

London Globe's Shakespeare: Coming to Indy

In 2010, four of the plays performed at the Globe theatre in London were filmed for the big screen. Now they’re being shown across the nation. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing two plays live at the Globe in London and both were amazing. I can’t wait to see these.

Shakespeare’s Globe London Cinema Series consists of four in-theater events:

-Monday, June 27th – The Merry Wives of Windsor
-Monday, August 1st – Henry IV Part 1
-Thursday, August 18th – Henry IV Part 2
-Thursday, September 15th – Henry VIII


The following Indiana theaters are participating in this event;

Galaxy 14 - INDIANAPOLIS IN 46256
Eastside 9 - LAFAYETTE IN 47905
Hamilton 16 with IMAX - NOBLESVILLE IN 46060
Metropolis 18 - PLAINFIELD IN 46168
Portage 16 with IMAX - PORTAGE IN 46368
Valparaiso Commons - VALPARAISO IN 46383

Photos from here.

Cinderella

Less than a month after the world tuned in to watch the British royal wedding, dubbed a "Cinderella story," Beef & Boards’ audiences can see the original Cinderella musical for themselves. This past weekend the theatre was filled with tiny princesses wearing crooked tiaras and bouncing in their seats with anticipation. Knowing their about to see a "real" princess is too exciting for words.

The set is designed with a rotating centerpiece that becomes first a courtyard, then castle and finally a simple country home. Glowing turrets complete the fairy tale atmosphere and set the magical mood.


The most interesting difference between this version of Cinderella and others is the casting of the step-sisters. Instead of women, two men are undertaking the roles. B&B’s regulars, Jeff Stockberger and Doug King, have been transformed into the hideous and hilarious step-sisters. At 6’ 5” (plus a huge wig) Stockberger towers over his fellow actors, while lots of extra pa…

Chicago

The Actors Theatre of Indiana has finally found a permanent home. Their latest production, Chicago, is on stage now at the Studio Theatre in the Carmel Center for the Performing Arts. The intimate setting is just right for the talented group and fans of their work will now know exactly where to find them.

Chicago starts, and ends, with a bang. The sexy show is set in the 1920s when booze and jazz were “corrupting” the youth in the big cities. Roxie Hart, a young married woman, kills her lover and finds herself first in jail and then in the newspapers as she plots to get herself a verdict of not guilty and a big vaudeville show. Velma Kelly is another singing murderess with high hopes and rough ways. The two women look out for # 1, as does their lawyer, Billy Flynn.

One of the best aspects of the show is the wonderful live band which provides the well-known jazz songs throughout the show. The choreography (by Michael Worcel) is also topnotch. There's not a dull moment as the tireless…

The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps is about a man accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The Hitchcock movie of the same name has a dark tone, but anyone expecting a moody mystery is in for a shock. The Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps is more Monty Python than suspenseful drama and delightfully so.

The whirlwind play features only four actors, but between them they take on the roles of a man on the run, police officers, a newsboy, underwear salesmen, a Scottish farmer and his wife, spies, a milkman, a performer, a dead body or two, and more! The show makes liberal use of simple props, which adds to the constant stream of laughter.


Getting the audience to enjoy slapstick comedy and cheeky jokes for two hours can be a difficult task, but the IRT maintains the hilarious high throughout the show.

Tom Aulino and the always excellent Rob Johansen deserve massive kudos for their nonstop performances. Both men pull on costume after costume, donning wigs and various hats, to portray the majority o…

Rock of Ages

The 1980s never claimed to be subtle and Rock of Ages is no exception. The show embraces every ‘80s cliché with relish, which is part of the fun. There’s lots of leather and lace, big hair and bad mullets, but there’s a lot of laughter too. Broadway Across America’s production of the show is currently on stage at Clowes Memorial Hall. The story focuses on a young woman who moves to L.A. to become and actress during that infamous decade. The story really isn’t the point though; it’s simply a vehicle for providing a concert of hits from the ‘80s.

This is NOT a family show. I stress this mainly because I saw multiple families leave before the intermission. This is clear from the opening seconds when you see a neon Live Nudes sign on stage and an announcer tells everyone not to text during the show because it makes them look like a d*bag. The production is also loud, like any good rock show should be. It’s a lot of fun for adults, but it’s not appropriate for kids.


The ‘80s really did put …