December 30, 2013

Lend Me A Tenor

Slamming doors and mistaken identities, it must be time for Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s season opening show! For the past few years Beef & Boards has opened every season with a slapstick farce. This year’s selection is Lend Me A Tenor, a Ken Ludwig comedy. A famous tenor, Tito Merelli, is scheduled to sing in Cleveland when unexpected obstacles complicate things. His highly-anticipated performance puts pressure on everyone involved, including a young man named Max and his boss Saunders.
The set is a simple hotel suite with clean lines and countless doors. It works wonderfully for the whirlwind production, which has actors coming and going at break neck speeds. The costumes are also particularly fun. The characters are decked out in evening gowns and tuxes for the big night and the performers don purple tights.

Max, played by David Schmittou, is a bumbling good guy with Bryan Cranston’s looks and Clark Kent’s sweet charm. He finds that when the need arises he has the strength and talent to rise to the occasion, surprising everyone with his powerful voice. The rest of the cast consists of a string of caricatures: ambitious singer, star struck young woman, overbearing boss, jealous wife, etc. The end result is predictable but fun show, best suited for a night out with friends instead of the kids.
Up next at Beef & Boards is Cats, followed by other fan favorites. You can see a complete list of the 2014 season here.
Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The show runs until Feb. 2. 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 $38.50 to $63.50 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet.
Photos courtesy of Beef & Boards

December 19, 2013

Top Shows of 2013

Each years there are countless of great shows produced and there's no way to make it to all of them. Here are my top ten choices of shows I saw in 2013. Keep your eyes on these theatres in 2014 for more great shows!

1) Yellow Wallpaper at NoExit Performances

2) Next to Normal at the Phoenix Theatre

3) Hamlet at the American Players Theatre in Wisconsin

4) An Iliad at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

5) The Importance of Being Earnest performed by the EclecticPond Theatre Company

6) Les Misérables at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

7) Wicked at the Old National Center performed by Broadway Across America

8) Love, Loss, and What I Wore at the Phoenix Theatre

9) Underneath the Lintel performed by Patrick O'Brien at iNDYFRINGE

10) The Crucible at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Photos courtesy of the Phoenix, the American Players Theatre, Broadway Across America and the IRT

December 2, 2013

A Beef & Boards Christmas 2013

Beef & Boards is bursting at the seams with holiday cheer this month. Their annual Christmas show is back to help audiences celebrate the Christmas season. As always, it’s co-hosted by the ageless duo Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard. This is Shepard’s 20th year performing in the Christmas show.

The production is a flurry of high kicking chorus lines and kid-friendly numbers. Four main performers take on most of the numbers while Kelly Teal Goyette belts out a few solo songs. Unlike previous years, there aren’t any standout performances that carry the show. Instead there’s a steady stream of Christmas carols and holiday standbys.

The Beef & Boards Orchestra is excellent as always; highlighted center stage on the all-new set by Michael Layton. Dominic Sheahan-Stahl provides a fitting salute to the military with his rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

You’d be hard pressed to find a more enthusiastic Christmas show in town this year. From the Grinch to Frosty to Rudolph, families will recognize all their holiday favorites bustling around the stage.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Dec. 23. 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 $37 to $62 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers discounts; call the box office for more details.

Don’t forget to check out the other shows around town. The Indiana Repertory Theatre has A Christmas Carol, the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre has Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and the Phoenix Theatre has Angels We Have Heard While High.

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

November 15, 2013


There are some musicals that become stale with age. They don’t hold up after multiple viewings and the magic seems to disappear with time. I don’t think Wicked will ever be one of those shows. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the show feels just as fresh and exciting as it did the first time I saw it. The elaborate sets are captivating, the costumes are whimsical and you’ll be humming the score for days.

This fan-favorite tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West before she was so infamously titled. The emerald-hued Elphaba struggles to find her place in a world that seems set on rejecting her. Through the story she discovers that the power of friendship and standing up for what’s right is much more important than simply fitting in with the crowd.

The two leads are played by Hayley Podschun (Glinda) and Jennifer DiNoia (Elphaba), both are excellent. DiNoia nails each of her big numbers while still making Elphaba a sympathetic and relatable character. Podschun is perfect as Glinda. The part requires someone willing to have fun with the character, playing both ditzy and sweet, but they have to have the pipes to back it up. Podschun embraces the role, relishing each “toss toss” of her hair.

One of the delights of this show is seeing audience members who are seeing it for the first time react as the story progresses. There are gasps of realization and moments of thunderous applause that follow gorgeous numbers like “Defying Gravity.”

At this point in Indy there are those who haven’t seen Wicked and are dying to get tickets and there are those who can’t wait to see it again. Don’t miss your chance to see it while it’s here!

Don't Miss the Show

Wicked will be in town for two more weeks, but tickets are going fast. The show runs until Sunday, Dec. 1 at the Murat Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, the Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online at Ticket prices start at $50.

Broadway Across America is holding a lottery for every single "Wicked" performance. Individuals are welcome to put their names in a lottery drum two and a half hours before each show. Exactly two hours before the show begins officials will draw the winning names. Those individuals are permitted to buy up to two tickets for $25 each (cash only). The lottery will be held in the Murat Theatre lobby before each show and you must be present to win.

Photos Courtesy of Broadway Across America

November 5, 2013

The 1940's Radio Hour

Women sporting victory rolls in their hair and exclamations of “swell” and “cheese and crackers” let the audience know we’re no longer in the 21st century. In the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s current production, The 1940’s Radio Hour, we take a trip back in time to Dec. 21, 1942. The country was at war and each night families gathered together and tuned in to hear their favorite variety show on the radio.
The production gets off to a slow start. As the cast trickles in to prep for the live show audience members feel a bit like they’ve shown up too early for the performance. It’s a waiting game until the first number, but once the show kicks off we don’t slow down until the final bow.

The set is a live radio stage; complete with flashing applause signs to cue the audience. It also features a live 17-piece orchestra in stadium seating. They are the highlight of the show, performing each song beautifully led by their talented conductor Brent Marty. The commercials, sung by the cast, add another fun element to the show.

The cast’s drama plays out silently while they are live on the air. A simple dirty look or friendly smile conveys the characters’ background to the audience. The best numbers are those featuring the whole cast. They perform wonderfully together. Anthony Snitker gave a standout performance as B.J. Gibson. It’s a minor role but it gives him a chance to display his excellent voice.

The 1940’s Radio Hour is a family-friendly nostalgic show and there’s no intermission. Up next at the Civic is the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It’s a fan favorite that sells out fast!

Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The show runs until Saturday, Nov. 9. 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 3 Center Green, Carmel, IN 46032 at the Center for the Performing Arts.
Tickets: Ticket prices range from $36.50 to $46.50 and can be purchased by calling (317) 923-4597 or visiting
Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing

October 29, 2013

At Home at the Zoo

Awkward social situations, touchy marital talks, and discussions about uncomfortable issues, you’d expect nothing less from the playwright who wrote, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Acting Up Productions’ current show “At Home at the Zoo” is a unique play to say the least. Originally presented as a one act production called “The Zoo Story,” the playwright added another act to the beginning of the show decades later. The result is a strange blend, but a fascinating one. The first act (the newer of the two) introduces us to Peter and Ann, a content married couple who somehow end up discussing some delicate issues.

The couple, played by Allison Reddick and Joshua C. Ramsey, are convincing as a pair who have grown accustomed to their monotonous lives. They’ve established a comfortable life, but like most couples, they long for a bit of excitement. Ann begins to wonder if they wouldn’t benefit from a little disorder in their world.

The second and more well-known act follows Peter (Ramsey) as he goes to Central Park to spend the rest of the afternoon reading. While there he meets an odd man, Jerry, who strikes up a conversation. The added first act gives more depth to Peter’s character, but it’s Jerry who steals the show. Scott Russell’s whirlwind performance as Jerry is impossible to look away from. He is a volatile individual and as the situation escalates we find ourselves, like Peter, captivated by Jerry’s odd behavior and bizarre stories.

The show’s simple staging and deft direction by Scot Greenwell encourages the audience to focus on the dialogue. It makes you think about both the absurdity of the situation and its realistic nature. The first act is all about control and normalcy; Ann and Peter are infinitely relatable in their ordinariness. The second is about chaos and how it unavoidably creeps into peoples’ lives.

It’s also a study of loneliness, both of people who are alone in the world and of those in relationships that leave them feeling isolated. The play explores what that loneliness can make us do. Humans strive for connection and sometimes those connections aren’t positive ones.

*The play deals with some very adult themes and includes adult language.

*Acting Up offered a talk back after the show I attended to discuss the play with the cast and crew. I would highly recommend sticking around for that if it is offered.

Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The play runs until Nov. 10. on the Theatre on the Square mainstage, 627 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis. Shows begin at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 pm on Sundays.

Tickets: Tickets are $12 Reserved or $10 for Seniors/Students with ID and $15/$12 at the door.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 317-207-0171 or online at 

Photos Courtesy of Acting Up Productions 

October 21, 2013

An Iliad

A one-man show of The Iliad doesn’t sound too promising to most people. The epic story of the Trojan War simplified into a show with a single cast member sounds almost impossible. And yet the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s current Upperstage production blows audiences away.

An Iliad features Henry Woronicz in a tour-de-force performance. He is poet and player, warrior and widow all at the same time. He begins with the Greek language, naming cities and battles, but he quickly connects with the audience bringing the reality of war home to them. In modern day clothes he walks the littered alleyway in a big city reminiscing about the Greeks and Trojans. If the show was performed by a less talented actor it could easily have stalled-out, losing peoples’ attention in a sea of unfamiliar Greek words. Instead it’s mesmerizing in its complexity, maintaining a comedic edge despite the serious material.

The play is based on the Iliad, but it rises above being a retelling of the well-known story. Using Robert Fagles’ translation of Homer’s original work playwrights Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare create a completely new play. Their creation, beautifully directed by Fontaine Syer becomes more of a meditation of war. It has an accessible conversational tone. It’s Greek tragedy that would appeal to a Rick Riordan generation, making the words of the Greeks come alive for high school students.

The play never comes across as an anti-war piece; instead it focuses on the grief and destruction caused by war. War has not changed over the past few centuries; even though it’s a necessary evil it’s no less tragic. The story of war is a simple one; it’s universally applicable to any time or place. This play recognizes that, reminding us that though the Trojan War was centuries ago, so many wars dot the timeline between now and then, connecting each war and soldier throughout the ages.

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 Iliad" runs until Saturday, Nov. 16 on IRT's Upperstage. 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 Zach Rosing

October 8, 2013

Les Misérables

When it comes to musicals they don't get much bigger or more complex than Les Misérables. The sheer size of the cast, the number of costumes and complicated sets make this production a huge endeavor for any theater to undertake. Beef & Boards decided to tackle that challenge head on for the first time in their 40 years of business. The powerful show is on stage now until November 24th.
The epic story covers decades of time and a huge cast of characters. At its heart is Jean Valjean (played by Broadway vet Gregg Goodbrod) a convict who breaks parole and starts a new life. He learns the hard way that a person can only depend on the mercy and generosity of others if they hope to survive. Goodbrod really hits his stride in the second act, nailing songs like “Bring Him Home.”
Hot on his trail throughout the musical is Inspector Javert, a police officer who sees the world in black and white. Joe Tokarz plays Javert with such conviction it’s hard to look away. He’s a complex villain, a hero in the eyes of the law, but his world view leaves no room for mercy. Tokarz performs Javert’s famous number, Stars, so exquisitely that he has gone down in my book as one of my favorite performers to take on the role.   
The other absolute stand out for me was Stephanie Torns’ turn as the tragic Eponine. Torrns has performed as Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, so it’s no surprise that she can belt out a ballad, but she blew me away with her heartbreaking performance. Another highlight of the show is the live music provided by the theatre’s orchestra. Each actor’s performance is enhanced by the incredible musicians backing them up.

It’s impossible not to lose some of the majesty of the show by performing it on a smaller stage, but the production packs each minute with a huge amount of talent. The theatre found Broadway performers to take on the main roles and elevate the whole show. The costumes are beautifully done, from the convicts rags to wedding guests’ ball gowns to prostitutes’ revealing corsets. The most is made of the stage, using scaled down but versatile sets to switch from the revolutionaries’ barricade to the sewers of Paris in a matter of seconds.

It's a powerful story no matter what medium it's told through but the stage performance is particularly poignant. For anyone who has only seen the movie version I hope you’ll make it to Beef and Boards to see a live performance.

Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The show runs until Nov. 24. 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 $37.50 to $62.50 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet.
Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre 

October 1, 2013

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Last week if someone had asked me what Snow White, the Tony awards and Chekhov had in common I would have assumed it was the beginning of a bad joke. Instead, the answer is obviously the Phoenix Theatre’s season opener, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike. The title is a mouthful, but the play itself is a delight. The show won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play and audiences will have no trouble figuring out why. Witty dialogue, neurotic characters and a bit of absurdity thrown in for good measure make the show odd, but endearing.

Playwright Christopher Durang introduces us to a group of middle-aged siblings, two of whom still live in their childhood home after spending years caring for their now deceased parents. The third sibling, Masha, became a self-absorbed movie star. The play takes place over one weekend when Masha decides to visit her sedate siblings, Vanya and Sonia (their professor parents named them all after Chekhov characters). The whirlwind weekend includes a costume party, the presence of Masha’s dim-witted boy toy Spike and the sweet presence of their naïve neighbor.

Sonia and Vanya take center stage in the production. Sonia has grown accustom to the monotony of their life, but swings between depression and momentary elation depending on the moment. She regrets “doing nothing” with her life, but is convinced it’s too late to change that. Vanya seems more contented with their lot, but as the layers begin to peel away we see the angst bubbling beneath the polite sheen of the surface.

The cast of this show is particularly notable, reuniting Charles Goad (Vanya) and Diane Kondrat (Sonia) from last year’s production of The Lyons. Both performers have proven their talent for years on Indy stages and always provide wonderful performances. I don’t think I’ve ever had such an emotional reaction while listening to a one-sided phone call as I did during Kondrat’s performance in the second act. Also, it should be noted that the set is beautifully created by Bernie Killian.

Coincidently I happened to read Three Sisters shortly before seeing the show and loved watching the parallel themes unfold in a modern setting. It shares the Russian author’s focus on the lives of siblings living together under one roof and struggling with regret as their lives pass them by. Much like the Anton Chekhov plays it mimics, the show is about happiness. It touches on the question of reality vs. expectations and optimism vs. pessimism. It leaves us wondering if you can appreciate the small things in life more if you expect less. Are the joys of sleepy time tea or the appearance of a blue heron any greater or less than a successful career or finding love if you don’t expect those things in your life? Is it ever too late to pursue the life you truly want?

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 October 20 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 $18 to $28. The play has one intermission.

Photos courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre

September 23, 2013

The Crucible

When it comes to live theatre it’s always a treat to find productions of classic plays or see performances from talented actors or to be moved by the intense subject matter of a show. It’s rare to find a production that combines all of those elements, but the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s season opener The Crucible does just that. The play is perennial favorite, telling the story of the Salem witch trials while alluding to other moments of persecution in American history such as the 1950s Red Scare.

Set during 1692 at the height of the high-strung Puritan life style, the residents of Salem must decide if they will keep their heads down or if they will stand up for what’s right when the charge of witchcraft is shouted in the streets.  The stark set and lighting paint the actors in black and white while the plot shows us shades of gray.

This is a show that explores a terrifying situation. When society is turned upside down and the lives of so many are being held in the hands of a liar how can you fight back? It asks the impossible question: which is more valuable, your life or your honor?

Three performers making their debuts at the IRT were particular standouts in a large all-around excellent cast. Elizabeth Laidlaw plays the stoic Elizabeth Proctor with a quiet strength. Her moral clarity provides a compass for her husband in the direst of moments. Isabel Ellison is the polar opposite as Abigail Williams. She creates a role that is both terrifying and mesmerizing as she ruins peoples’ lives like it’s a game and refuses to be shaken form her course. Finally we have Dennis Grimes’ heartbreaking portrayal of Rev. Hale. He is a man confronted with an unimaginable moral dilemma. 

I recently read the following passage “Shakespeare’s plays, like all great works of art, are open to interpretation. That is the hallmark of art that has real value. If a work is static and never changes, then it can never tell us very much about how we change over our lifetimes, and how mankind changes over centuries.” I couldn’t help but think of that while seeing The Crucible. The play is set centuries in the past, but the atmosphere of fear and persecution is one that is present throughout history in different settings. It is a play that has remained relevant for decades because the mob mentality comes naturally to humans. It is art like this that allows us to hold a mirror up to society and see ourselves through its lens. Don’t miss the powerful production!

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 Crucible" runs until Sunday, October 13 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 Zach Rosing and quote courtesy of Ken Ludwig

September 3, 2013

Father of the Bride and 2014 Season Announcement

Father of the Bride won audiences’ hearts as a 1991 film remake starring Steve Martin. Now that same story is on stage at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. The simplified version play takes place entirely in the family’s living room, reminding us once again that a wedding really is a family affair. A father’s life is thrown into chaos when his daughter decides to have a “small” wedding.

Jeff Stockberger stars as the title character. He plays grumpy, but is ultimately wrapped around his daughter’s finger. As the bills come in and the guest list grows he becomes more flustered. Fathers everywhere can relate to the strain he’s under. Lisa Ermel returns to B&B as the sweet bride. She’s naïve about the simplicity of planning a wedding, but sincere in her feelings for her fiancé.

Those who frequent other Indianapolis theatres will be excited to see a familiar face. Ben Tebbe, a regular at the Phoenix Theatre, HART and the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre, makes his Beef & Boards debut as the intended groom. As always his earnestness charms the audience as well as his father-in-law.

Anyone who has gotten married or watched a family member get married knows that it is a universally stressful production. There’s beauty and joy, but they always seem to be paired with the tense strain of planning and paying for the event itself. The show is sweet and funny and a great family-friendly production. Also, this production worked in multiple references to the Indianapolis area, always a crowd-pleaser.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Sept. 29. 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.

TicketsTo purchase tickets call (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Prices range from $37.50 to $62.50 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet.

Beef and Boards has also announced its 2014 season:

Lend Me A Tenor (Dec. 28, 2013 – Feb. 2)
A world-famous singer is set to perform with the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, but all doesn’t go according to plan in this madcap comedy set during the 1930s. The general manager desperately tries to save the day, and the results are nothing short of hilarious! Winner of three Tony and two Drama Desk Awards, Lend Me A Tenor was written by Ken Ludwig and is on stage through Feb. 2.

Cats (Feb. 6 – March 30)
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats leaps onto the Beef & Boards stage from Feb. 6 through March 30. This seven-time Tony Award winning marvel celebrates the annual gathering of the Jellicle cats. Based on the universally popular poetry of T.S. Eliot and also marking its 25 anniversary in 2014, Cats remains the second-longest running Broadway musical in history. Music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by T.S. Eliot, Trevor Nunn and Richard Stilgoe.

Anything Goes (April 3 – May 11)
Anything Goes weighs anchor April 3  through May 11. Two unlikely pairs set off on a course to true love on the S.S. American in  this classic boy-meets-girl tale. But they’re going to need the help of a crew of singing sailors,  exotic disguises and good old-fashioned blackmail to reach their destination. Celebrating its anniversary in 2014, this musical comedy features music and lyrics by Cole Porter, book by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse, Timothy Crouse and John Weidman.

Mary Poppins (May 15 – June 29)
Flying in to Beef & Boards for the first time is that practically perfect nanny in Disney’s Mary Poppins, presented as the 2014 Family Show from May 15 through June 29. With a little magic and a lot of common sense, Mary Poppins is a nanny like the troubled Banks family has never seen before. Based on the books by P.L. Travers and the classic Walt Disney film, the production’s book is by Julian Fellowes with original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, and new songs, additional music and lyrics by George Styles and Anthony Drewe. Co-Created by Cameron Mackintosh.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement (July 5 – Aug. 17) Beef & Boards Debut
A new show with familiar faces brings audiences back to the basement for A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement, the latest offering in the hilarious and heartwarming Church Basement Ladies series. The year is 1960 and it means new high heels for confirmation, a food booth at the county fair and spontaneous driving lessons! On stage July 5 through Aug. 17, this musical comedy was inspired by the books “Growing Up Lutheran” and “Those Lutheran Ladies” by Janet Letness Martin and Suzann Nelson. Music and lyrics by Drew Jansen; book by Greta Grosch.

Oklahoma! (Aug. 21 – Oct. 5)
Beef & Boards celebrates one of the most famous musical theatre teams of all time as it presents the spirited Oklahoma! on stage from Aug. 21 through Oct. 5. The first collaboration of Rodgers & Hammerstein is set in Indian Territory at the turn of the century where farmers and cowboys collide and love doesn’t come easy for one particularly headstrong pair. Based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs, Oklahoma! originally opened on Broadway in 1943 and has spurred four revivals since. Music by Richard Rogers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.

Fiddler on the Roof (Oct. 9 – Nov. 23)
Marking its 50th anniversary in 2014 is Fiddler on the Roof, the musical that embraces tradition in a changing world. Even in the tight-knit Jewish community of Anatevka, social mores are changing and anti-Semitism is growing in Czarist Russia. A nine-time Tony Award winner, Fiddler on the Roof has touched audiences around the world for its humor, warmth and honesty. On stage Oct. 9 through Nov. 23 at Beef & Boards Book by Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

Also on stage are the annual A Beef & Boards Christmas 2014 (Nov. 28 – Dec. 23) and A Christmas Carol (Dec.6 – 22) and two children’s shows: How I Became A Pirate (Feb. 14 – March 15) and Sleeping Beauty (Oct. 17 – Nov. 15).

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

August 28, 2013

AMERICAN PLAYERS THEATRE: Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and More


This season the American Players Theatre is tackling one of Shakespeare’s most revered tragedies, Hamlet. This production includes the full text and clocks in at three and a half hours with one 20 minute intermission. And they’ve made every single minute count!

The show stars Matt Schwader as the tortured prince. He nails Hamlet’s infamous rise and fall of emotions and his delicate balance of sanity. He also manages to infuse just the right amount of humor and snark into Shakespeare’s lines. He is broken and grieving and yet he embraces his role of feigned madness to achieve his goal. It’s a powerful performance.

The intense drama deals with the issue of grief and love in equal parts. Hamlet is reeling from the death of his father when he finds out that his mother has married her former brother-in-law. Their marriage comes so quickly on the heels of the death that Hamlet resents both of them. Soon he learns his father was actually murdered by the usurping king, his own brother. To avenge his father’s death Hamlet abandons all that he loves, including the maid Ophelia, to pursue his revenge.

Jim DeVita plays the villainous king. He is confident, flouting his lust and passion in front of the court with his new bride. Their gaudy costumes provide a sharp contrast to Hamlet dour mourning clothes. Christina Panfilio plays Ophelia with a light playfulness in the earliest scenes, making her inevitable downfall all the more painful. We watch her heartbreak as she loses first her love and then her father in rapid succession.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s a production that’s not to be missed!  

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead 

Paired perfectly with the tragedy of Hamlet is Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (R&G.) The three act comedy mirrors Hamlet’s plot, but tells the story from his tragic friends’ point-of-view. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern stumble blindly into the dark plot without a clue about what’s truly unfolding.

The back-and-forth between the two men reminds me of Waiting for Godot with its confused meandering. The two main characters are always out of the loop, the action of Hamlet taking place just off stage. Hamlet and R&G were produced back-to-back with the entire cast of each remaining the same in both plays. The costumes changed drastically, taking on a farcical, exaggerated feel in R&G.

The show has the feel of a buddy comedy, the earliest version of “Dumb and Dumber.” Two loveable but naïve guys caught up in something they don’t understand. Rosencrantz (Ryan Imhoff) is an innocent simpleton, but he has moments of insight. Guildenstern (Steve Haggard) is the straight man, trying to keep them out of trouble.

BOTTOM LINE: Having the opportunity to see the two shows in one day was incredible. This show is rarely produced and seeing it in tandem with Hamlet is even harder to find. What a treat!

Two Gentlemen of Verona 

One of APT’s strengths is its willingness to produce Shakespeare’s lesser known work and his “problem” plays. Two Gentlemen of Verona often finds itself in that category. The play has an unlikeable lead and a troubling ending, but it’s a comedy. APT embraced these challenges and the result is a show that focuses on the impetuous nature of youth and the turmoil that can often come with rash decisions.

Two best friends fall in love with different women, Proteus with Julia and Valentine Silvia. After sweet words are said and rings exchanged the lovers are all separated. No sooner has Proteus left Julia’s side then he betrays her and decides he is in love with his best friend’s girl, Silvia. She wants nothing to do with him. Proteus’ inconsistent love and selfishness threaten to ruin everyone’s happiness as the plot unfolds.

The plot contains many of the devices Shakespeare later became famous for using. There is a girl pretending to be a boy in order to get close to a man she loves, there's an escape to the forest to flee an angry father, etc. Each of these elements is used more successfully in some of the Bard's later work, but the seeds of those ideas were first seen here. 

All three of the servants stole the show; Will Mobley as Valentine’s man Speed, Kelsey Brennan as Julia’s sassy maid and Steve Haggard as Launce with his wonderful dog Crab. They made bawdy jokes and played to the crowd at all the right moments.

BOTTOM LINE: The core story may be tragic, but a great supporting cast makes this seldom produced play an entertaining one.

Antony and Cleopatra 

One of the most infamous romantic pairings in history, the story of Antony and Cleopatra was used by Shakespeare to create this tragedy. Rome is in turmoil as different powers vie for the throne, but all the while Antony is off in Egypt embroiled in a new romance with Cleopatra.

This production strips away pieces of the play to focus on the love story with the political upheaval in Rome acting as the background. The minimalist style works well to tell the story, using only seven cast members and a simple set the emphasis is firmly on the title couple. The choice to use modern clothing, like tuxes and khaki pants and other present day elements, like the sound of helicopters, is distracting at times.

Tracy Michelle Arnold is excellent as the untamed Egyptian Queen. Her smoky voice is at times that of a petulant child and at others the sultry purr of a contented lover. Jim DeVita is Antony, both powerful in war and weak in love. The two radiant heat in their scenes, whether it’s romantic love or furious anger. The play is well-suited for the indoor Touchstone Theatre, which offers a more intimate setting.

BOTTOM LINE: Lovers quarrel and nothing ends well. It’s classic Shakespeare with an excellent cast, but the modern clothing and other elements were a bit distracting.

The American Players Theatre is open until October 20 for its regular season. It will host a special show, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, opening November 1 in its indoor Touchstone Theatre. 

The theater's outdoor seats are comfortable, but definitely bring a jacket, rain parka, blanket, bug spray or sun block 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 also picnic tables for those who bring lunch or dinner for before a show. 

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! There are attractions for the entire family in addition to the APT, including the Wisconsin Dells water parks, House on the Rock, Taliesin and a golf resort. 

Photos Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.