March 28, 2011

The Gospel According to James

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is currently hosting the world premier of The Gospel According the James. The powerful show tells the story of the horrific lynching that happened in Marion, Ind. in the 1930s. Two individuals who were involved in the event, Mary and James, reconnect after 50 years and find that their memories differ in some drastic ways. The line between fiction and truth blurs with time and perspective and that is never clearer than when you’re comparing your memories with another person.

Playwright Charles Smith’s dialogue sparks with life in every line. One of the best aspects of the show is the dual nature of each character. There is no clear hero and villain in the traditional sense. Instead each person feels real, with conflicting desires and selfish decisions which cause them to act the way they do.

The production, artfully directed by Chuck Smith, is perfectly cast. Each of the talented actors, many of whom hail from Chicago and are new to the IRT, bring life and empathy to their roles. Tony-nominee Andre De Shields’ performance as James, the only survivor of the lynching, is especially moving. James become the bearer of all memories and mementos of the event and finds his life shaped by the continual telling of the story.

The haunting set combines a mortuary in the 1980s and a forest in the 1930s. The simplicity and beauty of this design offers a smooth flow between the memories and their tellers. Instead of being distracted by rotating sets or backdrop changes, the show never falters, continually peeling away layers of veneer that cover the truth.

There is some adult language and obviously the themes are serious, but everything is relevant and necessary to the story being told. People often go to the theatre purely to be entertained and distracted from their everyday lives, but this is one show that shouldn’t be missed. I’d implore you to make time to see it, because it is an essential piece of Hoosier history. As the play reminds us, it doesn’t help anyone to ignore the past, instead, we need to learn from our ancestors mistakes and never let anything like this happen again.

For more information about the actual lynching visit here.

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. "The Gospel According to James" runs until Sunday, April 10 on IRT's Main Stage. Times for performances can be found at or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at

Photos Courtesy of the Indiana Repertory Theatre

March 23, 2011


Grease seems like it was made for the stage. The original movie had big dance numbers, bright costumes and melodramatic love stories and if that’s not Broadway fodder I don’t know what is. The show is on stage, presented by Broadway Across America, at Clowes Memorial Hall.

Danny, a bad boy from the T-Birds gang, falls for the innocent Sandy. The T-Birds female counterparts, the sassy Pink Ladies, have a hard time accepting Sandy because of her sweet nature. If you’ve seen the movie, you certainly know what to expect; horny teenagers trying to find the balance between love, sex and peer acceptance while singing great 1950s style songs.

Old favorites, like “Greased Lightning” and “We Go Together” transition perfectly from the silver screen. There are also a few new numbers added to the mix, all in that same ’50 Top 40 style. “Beauty School Drop Out” actually seems better suited for the stage production than the movie. In the movie it’s an odd deviation from the main story, while in this show, it’s a sweet and amusing number with good

During the school dance taffeta flies through the air as the students swirl and hand jive in their bright formal wear. Other scenes have Rydell high students crooning at the drive-in or a slumber party. In Tuesday’s performance, Dominic Fortuna took on the role of Vince Fontaine and pulled double duty as an opening act. His friendly banter with the audience and energetic singing got everyone into the mood for the show.

Bottom line, if you grew up loving the movie, you’re sure to enjoy this. Though the characters may not have the same relatable charisma as the film, it’s an entertaining show that will remind you of the songs you used to sing-along to.

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Sunday, March 27 at Clowes Memorial Hall 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 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.

As next month’s Rock of Ages brings Broadway Across America’s season to a close, audience members can look forward to next season’s options. BAA announced its 2011-2012 season which includes familiar favorites and a new title fresh from Broadway.

Disney’s Beauty And The Beast - October 11-16, 2011 - Clowes Memorial Hall

The romantic Broadway musical for all generations, Disney’s Beauty And The Beast, the smash hit Broadway musical, is coming to Indianapolis! Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, this eye-popping spectacle has won the hearts of over 35 million people worldwide. This classic musical love story is filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song.

Million Dollar Quartet - December 13-18, 2011 - Murat Theatre at Old National Centre

Million Dollar Quartet is the smash hit Broadway musical, inspired by the true story of the famed recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians were gathered together by Sam Phillips, the “Father of Rock ’n’ Roll” at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be
one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. The production brings that legendary night to life with an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations featuring timeless hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “That’s All Right,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Hound Dog” and more.

Fiddler On The Roof - March 6-11, 2012 - Murat Theatre at Old National Center

The Tony Award® winning musical that has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its universal appeal, embarks on its North American Tour. Filled with a rousing, heartwarming score, which includes “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” the show is a timeless classic. No other musical has so magically woven music, dance, poignancy and laughter into such an electrifying and unforgettable experience. Relive a glorious tradition of the musical theatre with Fiddler On The Roof.

Les Miserables - April 10-15, 2012 - Clowes Memorial Hall

Cameron Mackintosh presents a brand new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Schönberg’s legendary musical, Les Miserables, with glorious new staging and dazzlingly reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. This new production has been acclaimed by critics, fans and new audiences and is breaking box office records wherever it goes. Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Miserables is an epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit. The musical includes the classic songs “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Stars,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” “Master Of The House” and many more.

Photos Courtesy of JOAN MARCUS, © 2010

March 19, 2011


Cabaret has always been one of my favorite musicals. The first half of the show is racy and fun, but in act two the plot takes a darker turn. Woven into the mix of fishnet stockings and cheeky lyrics is a serious tale of prejudice and ignorance. Set in Berlin in the 1930s, the heart of the musical lies in the Nazi uprising and the danger that meant for Jews in the country.

Cliff, a poor American writer, travels to Berlin to write a novel. He finds a decadent world on the brink of disaster. After a trip to the infamous Kit Kat Klub, he meet a British singer, Sally Bowles, and his life becomes much more complicated. All Sally wants is to live life to the fullest and have fun, but her refusal to acknowledge the dire situation caused by the changing political climate in Germany leaves Cliff baffled.

After seeing multiple productions of this show over the years I’ve come to realize that its success always hangs on the performance of the emcee. The androgynous character, originated by Joel Grey on Broadway, is intrinsic to the story. He is both ringleader and outside observer, commenting on the situation without getting involved. To really do it right actors must completely embrace the role, throwing caution to the wind and becoming the mischievous imp with fevor. Jeremy Allen Brimm plays the Kit Kat Klub’s Emcee and he does it beautifully!

The romance between a self-sufficient landlady, Fraulein Schneider, played by Vickie Cornelius Phipps, and a Jewish fruit seller, Herr Schultz (Mark Fishback), add a lovely bittersweet quality to the show. Less dramatic than Sally and Cliff’s romance, the two find their unexpected middle-aged romance will inevitably change the lives they’ve settled into and their forced to decide if love is worth it. The music and lyrics are by John Kander and Fred Ebb respectively and cover a wide range of categories. There’s a national anthem, saucy club numbers and gentle love songs like “It Couldn’t Please Me More.” While this show isn’t a good fit for the whole family, it is a wonderful choice for adults.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show closes March 26. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Booth Tarkington 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

The Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre will begin its 2011/2012 season with a move to the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. The season's shows include:

The Drowsy Chaperone
(Sept. 9-24)

The Drowsy Chaperone, an homage to the American Jazz Age musical and its restorative effects, begins when the narrator, a die-hard musical fan, seeks to cure his melancholy by listening to a recording of his favorite 1920s musical, which bursts to life in his living room. This whimsical and captivating romp won five Tony® Awards, including Best Book and Score.

(Oct. 28-Nov. 12)

Peter Shaffer’s award-winning Amadeus combines fiction and history to explore the dramatic rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, the late eighteenth century court composer for the Emperor of Austria, who escorts the audience through his recollection of the events leading to Mozart’s death. A Tony® Award winner for Best Play, the story is a dramatic and sometimes humorous look at the struggle between mediocrity and genius.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka
(Dec. 16-Jan. 7)

Willy Wonka and his band of singing Oompa Loompas lead Charlie Bucket and his quirky cohorts on a tantalizing tour of the mysterious candy-maker’s fantastical factory. This holiday treat features many memorable songs including “The Candy Man,” “I Want It Now!” and “Pure Imagination.”

Lend Me A Tenor
(Feb. 10-25)

In Ken Ludwig’s zany comedy, the Cleveland Grand Opera Company has secured the world-famous tenor “Il Stupendo” Tito Morelli, in his greatest role, Otello, for their 1934 gala season-opener. Unfortunately, due to well-intended but misguided meddling, “Il Stupendo” is given an overdose of tranquilizers, rendering him unable to perform. This zany farce is full of mistaken identities, romantic entanglements, and fast-paced hilarity.

Guys and Dolls
(Apr. 27-May 12)

In a desperate attempt to garner support for his floating craps game, Nathan Detroit challenges Sky Masterson to lure a local Salvation Army girl, Sarah Brown, to Cuba for an award of one thousand dollars. Sky ends up falling in love with Sarah and tries to reform his risky ways, but must make one last wager to prove his love. Full of hilarious characters, thrilling dance numbers and timeless tunes including “Luck Be a Lady.”

Subscriptions for Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s 2011-12 season at the Center for the Performing Arts are on sale now and can be purchased by calling Civic’s Box Office at 317.923.4597 or visiting

Photo Courtesy of the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre.

March 14, 2011

Les Misérables

(The cast of Les Mis performing One Day More)

Les Miserables has long been a favorite of theatre-goers and this 25th anniversary production is a beautiful reminder of why. There’s a reason that numbers like “I Dreamed A Dream” and “One Day More” have become beloved Broadway standards. The musical’s unique operatic feel speaks to audiences of all ages.

Jean Valjean, the show’s main character, provides a story of hope and redemption. After spending 19 years in jail for committing a crime of desperation, Valjean is released. He struggles to readjust to society and finds himself a recipient of prejudice everywhere he goes. One man gives him acceptance when he needs it the most and because of that single act Valjean’s life is changed forever.

(Valjean and Javert)

From a rollicking tavern to a barricade on the front lines of the revolution to a haunting trek through the sewers of Paris, the story weaves together the lives of Valjean, the unfortunate Fantine and the righteous police officer Javert. Each characters gives us a distinct look at the different paths people take in life.

Les Miserables presents a complicated tapestry of characters, each representing a different element in society. The selfish, conniving Thenardier’s are wonderfully villainous, while Cosette is the picture of innocence. There are those who fight for what’s right, those who bemoan their fate; others who needlessly persecute the less fortunate and still others who chose forgiveness when revenge would be easier. My favorite character has always been the tragic Eponine, a tough, self-sufficient girl who hides her love and allows her heart to break. Her song, “On My Own,” sung by Chasten Harmon, captures pain and devotion in equal measures.


The original music and lyrics, by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer, give voice to Victor Hugo’s powerful tale. The elaborate new set design, created by Matt Kinley, was inspired by Hugo’s own paintings. These elements combine, along with performances by talented actors, to create a poignant musical worth seeing again and again.

Louisville is a short 2 hour drive down I-65, yet somehow it’s a city I rarely visit. I saw this particular show, presented by Broadway Across America’s (BAA), at The Kentucky Center in Louisville and was impressed by both the beautiful theatre and the city. Check out BAA's future shows there, including the upcoming Shrek the Musical on stage at the Kentucky Center from June 7 – 12.

Les Miserables will be in Indianapolis from April 10-15, 2012 as part of BAA’s new season. To see the rest of the new season, visit their website.

Photos Courtesy of Broadway Across America