NCAC’s Shakespeare in the Park: “As You Like It”

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As I try to write about most of my theatre experiences whether as an attendee, a director, or an actor – I thought I would put down some thoughts about my experiences and perspectives concerning the show I am presently involved in: the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission’s 21st season of Shakespeare in the Park and it’s production of As You Like It.

Earlier this year, my friend Ryan Shelton asked me if I would be interested in being in the summer Shakespeare that he has been the director for the past few seasons. Ordinarily, I likely would have passed on the opportunity, but Ryan had just done me a huge favor by filling a role in a play I had directed – “The Dining Room”. He stepped up and took the role even though he was going to be quite busy during the time my play needed. (Side note: if you know Ryan, you know he is a person who doesn’t turn down many opportunities to be busy, or to be busier) Anyway, I felt good about giving a favor back to Ryan, so I said okay and took the role of Duke Senior.

Shakespeare’s plays are often done in different time frames and genres than he intended or could have ever imagined. Some purists might say that this is wrong, but I find that it adds a certain creative interest to the undertaking and so it was with this production. Ryan’s concept for the play was to set it in a depression era circus – so that my character, the banished Duke, is a ringmaster. My “brothers in exile” also take on circus traits: Jacques (Daniel Shock) being a sad clown, Ariens (Mark Tumey), a circus minstrel, and Hymen (Molly Grooms), a fortune-telling gypsy songstress. Add in a giant (Jeff Bick), a bearded lady (Brian McCarley), the circus cook (Curtis Bittle), and a harlequin dancer (Rowan Whitcomb), and you have a rather colorful group of forest dwellers. My character’s brother, Duke Frederick (Marcus Waye) is a hard-nosed circus boss with wrestler Charles (Tom Shelton) as one of his henchmen. Rosalind (Becca Wenning), my daughter, is a high wire artist, her cousin Celia (Kelly BeDell) is a tightrope walker and Touchstone (Ryan Shelton), their companion for their escape to the forest, is a clown of highest order. The remaining characters, including Orlando (John Whitaker) and his brother Oliver (Greg Dunn) along with their servant Adam (David Heighway), are farm dwellers of various social levels in the surrounding area. It all works out grandly in the undertaking and makes total sense in the story-telling. Added to that, original songs by local music man, David Hartman, are sprinkled throughout and add to the brilliance of the show. (As a matter of fact, when Ryan approached me about being in the show, the very first thing he said was “can you sing?”)

Jacques (Daniel Shock) and Touchstone (Ryan Shelton) from NCAC's "As You Like It"

Jacques (Daniel Shock) and Touchstone (Ryan Shelton) from NCAC’s “As You Like It”


Since Ryan was taking the part of Touchstone for himself, a part he says he has hoped to play for a good long time, he needed a person to take over the reins of directing the show. For this job, he contracted Christy Clinton, whom he has collaborated with many times before. Christy has done a wonderful job leading the 21 members of the cast through the preparations for this production. I have been in several shows where she took on the tasks of assistant director and/or stage manager, and I am happy I finally got to work with her as full director.

The long road to opening night was filled with the usual hard work of learning lines and memorizing blocking, developing characters and relationships. All this was done in various spaces, including the Noblesville Visitor Bureau’s rooms and the chiropractor’s offices of Dr. McCarley (our bearded lady). Much of it was done out-of-doors under the inquisitive eyes of passers-by.

As always – it is so good to work on a show with a lot of familiar folks, but meeting the new-to-me participants also is a fine pleasure. (It occurs to me as I continue to do theatre ventures in central Indiana, that I am lucky as a senior now (age 65) to be around so many wonderful and creative younger men and women. It adds to my life’s enjoyment to a great degree!) All this good work came to a head last night when we opened the show to a very appreciative audience on a comfortably cool evening. It couldn’t have gone much better!

Everything worked out so well. Ryan’s vision of a circus themed presentation was validated. The original songs were a great hit. And as those of you who do theatre know – nothing beats a good live performance that you are proud to be a part of.

If you have a chance, come out and see us some night. The play is being presented in Noblesville’s Seminary Park, located at the corner of 10th and Division. The remaining shows are July 26, 31 and August 1 & 2. There are a variety of circusy themed pre-shows at 7:30 pm and the play starts at 8:30 pm. The shows are free and you are invited to bring your folding chairs and blankets, something to snack on, and whatever beverages you wish. It really is a colorful, fun-filled show and I hope you have the opportunity to see it.

“On Golden Pond” at Epilogue Players

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Friday evening found Mrs K and I at the Epilogue Players’ theatre, by special invitation, for a production of Ernest Thompson’s wonderful play – On Golden Pond. The show is directed by The Belfry theatre’s frequent director, Elaine Wagner, in her Epilogue Players debut.

On Golden Pond is another of those plays that I have a rather large affinity for. First of all, it is an amazing script, being filled with the rare combination of good humor and a quiet sweetness. The centerpiece relationship between the elderly couple, Ethel and Norman Thayer, is brimming with love, understanding, divergence, patience, and even hopefulness. Secondly, I directed the play at Westfield’s Main Street Theatre in 1998 and have therefore studied it and hold more than a few preconceived notions about it.

The latter factor can often make it a bit difficult to watch another director’s interpretations of a play. As always, decisions are made about characters and action that may differ from someone else’s impressions. I really do try to sweep those things aside as best I can – but, there is no denying that they can color a person’s perception of what is onstage in front of them.

For example, Ms. Wagner announced at the curtain speech that the company had concentrated on the humor of the piece and so we should feel free to laugh. Frankly, her statement sent a bit of an “ah-oh” through my brain – the script I remembered was rife with humor and one really did not have to push on it very hard for it to be funny. But I held back my thoughts as the play began.

The set for this play was very well conceived, I thought – with the pre-show open curtain, we got to inspect it as we sat and it certainly was well-done, with a very rustic quality to it. Pre-show music from what seemed to be an environmental DVD nicely set the mood.

Steve Demuth and his wife, Serita Borgeas star as Norman and Ethel Thayer in Epilogue Players' "On Golden Pond"

Steve Demuth and his wife, Serita Borgeas star as Norman and Ethel Thayer in Epilogue Players’ “On Golden Pond”


As Norman, Steve Demuth is a very good choice. His stage experience shows as he presents Norman’s propensity for dark and/or intelligent humor. His early scene testing the phone, one-sided in the original script, becomes more comical with the addition of Susan Townsend as the Telephone Operator, presented off to the side (indeed, all the one-sided phone conversations in the script are presented with both participants being seen and heard – a revelation I enjoyed as we had a better chance to realize the humors and emotions there).
Susan Townsend creates the role of Telephone Operator in Epilogue Players' "On Golden Pond"

Susan Townsend creates the role of Telephone Operator in Epilogue Players’ “On Golden Pond”


When Ethel appears, we are treated to a very solid portrayal by Demuth’s real-life wife, Serita Borgeas – whom we last saw as Carrie Watts in a fine production of Trip to Bountiful. Ms. Borgeas has Ethel totally figured out and easily shows us her range of sweetness and exasperation at life with Norman with a truthful steady conveyance. My favorite moment is her just-right handling of poor Norman’s confusion about where the old town road is – as it has been lost in his memory. It is truly touching, as are several other sweet moments between the couple.
Kevin Shadle (top center), Jack Razumich and Kelli Conkin (middle left and center), and Cormac Doebbling (bottom center) all play supporting roles in "On Golden Pond"

Kevin Shadle (top center), Jack Razumich and Kelli Conkin (middle left and center), and Cormac Doebbling (bottom center) all play supporting roles in “On Golden Pond”


The next character to appear is the light-hearted and headed mailman Charlie Martin, played here with a certain fervor by Kevin Shadle. Then follows: Kelli Conkin, giddy as the Thayer’s daughter Chelsea, Cormac Doebbling in the role of the teenager Billy Ray, and Jack Razumich as Chelsea’s anxious suitor, “the dentist” – Bill Ray. This skillful supporting cast moves the story along nicely, without too many languishing moments, providing the necessary quirks and the humorous content without too many hard pushes against the script’s built-in tempos. (I should point out that young Mr. Doebbling is the third member of his remarkable stage family that I have seen onstage now – following his talented mother and sister, Caroline and Bronwyn; also it should be noted that Razumich and Ms. Conkin are reunited with Ms. Borgeas, having taken the other two major roles in Trip to Bountiful.)

All in all, it was a pleasing and entertaining evening at Epilogue. My fears about the cast “trying too hard” at the humor were mostly unfounded, and the delightfulness of the play came through quite nicely. This is only the second weekend of a three weekend run, so there is plenty of time to make an effort to visit with Ethel and Norman. Subsequent show dates are July 19, 20, 25, 26 and 27 – with Fri/Sat shows beginning at 7:30 pm and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Reservations are encouraged by calling 317-926-3139 or by emailing epilogue.players@yahoo.com .

* Photos are from the Epilogue Players Facebook page

The Church Basement Ladies in “A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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Summer is here and it’s time for light-hearted comedy. Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre responds with their latest edition of the Church Basement Ladies’ “saga” – A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement, written by Greta Grosch with music and lyrics by Drew Jansen. If you are familiar with the antics of these ladies from previous shows, you know what awaits you in this production. I have never been exposed to the genre and admittedly it took a little while to begin to get the feel for the style of the show – but by the middle, I was enjoying it a great deal.

Beverly (Hillary Smith, seated) learns about "Lutheran Love" from Karin, Mavis and Vivian (Carrie SaLoutos, Karen Pappas and Licia Watson)

Beverly (Hillary Smith, seated) learns about “Lutheran Love” from Karin, Mavis and Vivian (Carrie SaLoutos, Karen Pappas and Licia Watson)


As always, Beef and Boards has employed a very talented group of performers, most of whom are reprising roles from previous Church Lady adventures at B&B. These include Licia Watson, who combines physical comedy talents with her penchant for the facial “take” as the disapproving Vivian Snustad; Indianapolis native Karen Pappas, whose hilarious Mavis Gilmerson is a sort of stoic Lutheran everywoman; the talented Carmel native Hillary Smith as youthful Beverly Engelson – innocent, inquisitive and easily influenced; and the versatile Mr. Eddie Curry as Pastor E.L. Gunderson, whose nearly pants-less wedding is a highlight of the show. Carrie SaLoutos, comes off the show’s National Tour to join this production, and to continue her role as energetic and emotional mother and wife, Karin Engelson.
Mavis (Karen Pappas) proclaims that she was "Born to Farm" as Pastor Gunderson (Eddie Curry) watches

Mavis (Karen Pappas) proclaims that she was “Born to Farm” as Pastor Gunderson (Eddie Curry) watches


Other highlights, for me, included the beautiful duet by Karin and her daughter Beverly – “Growing Up, Letting Go” – as well as Mavin’s anthem-like “Born to Farm” and the entire company’s rousing “All Heaven Broke Loose” which I found myself humming all the way home.

The show is very much a blend of lively situational comedy episodes, peppered with songs and dancing. The main theme – being a Lutheran, and just what that means as a struggle to find balance in the unbalanced world – seems to be a familiar one. Made popular by Garrison Keillor with his Lake Wobegon reminisces, we also see this theme pop up for various different religions in such shows as Nunsense and Smoke on the Mountain. The “Church Ladies” series differs by highlighting everyday people – as opposed to the Nunsense series’ nuns – and by sticking with purely comedic situations – as opposed to the Smoke on the Mountain shows, which feature some pathos in it’s characters’ experiences. But it is interesting to note that all three of these very popular shows present a light jostling of our religious practices. And that is what makes this type of show so universally appealing, I think. We laugh at others, knowing that honestly we are no different.

Vivian Snustad (Licia Watson), left, tries to act appropriately as the ladies find themselves in  the basement of the Catholic church.

Vivian Snustad (Licia Watson), left, tries to act appropriately as the ladies find themselves in the basement of the Catholic church.


Visiting director Curt Wollan leads the cast through this edition’s high jinx and is ably assisted in his efforts by choreographer Wendy Short-Hays, musical director Debbie Myers and costumer Jill Kelly. The finishing touches are provided by Chef Odell Ward’s expansive buffet, this time featuring some delicious barbequed chicken.
The ladies frantically improvise a way to keep Pastor Gunderson’s shoes dry through the flooded area of the church to make it in time for his wedding

The ladies frantically improvise a way to keep Pastor Gunderson’s shoes dry through the flooded area of the church to make it in time for his wedding


Expect some great belly laughs from this latest B&B production. The combination of a wonderfully talented cast performing the clever songs and dialogue makes for a most entertaining afternoon or evening. And you can feel comfortable bringing the whole family to see it.

A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement continues through August 17. The easiest way to find out the entire schedule for remaining shows is to visit http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the B&B ticket office at 317-872-9664.

* – All photos provided by Beef and Boards, and Julie Curry

“To Kill A Mockingbird” at The Belfry

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Mrs K and I traveled north to Noblesville for a second weekend showing of To Kill a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee’s landmark novel of 1960, and adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel. Most of us have a familiarity with Ms. Lee’s book or with the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch, or both. The play, which debuted in 1990, is perhaps less familiar, but does a solid job in telling the classic tale of racial tension and injustice, loss of innocence and the rewards of integrity.

Frequent Belfry director Carla Crandall has brought together a large cast of 30 actors of all ages to present the play, many in the group making their debut performances on the Belfry stage. The story is told through the eyes of narrator Jean Louise Finch, who represents Ms. Lee – a role which is wonderfully handled by Tonya Fenimore. Leading the way in this storyline are three young thespians: Simon Lynch, who effectively plays Atticus’ son Jem; Joel Gaar, very winning in the role of Dill, a boyhood friend (modeled after Harper Lee’s imaginative childhood friend, Truman Capote); and Gloria Merrell, who does quite an admirable job with the important role of Scout – Ms. Lee’s own childhood persona.

Jack Hittle as Atticus Finch in The Belfry's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Jack Hittle as Atticus Finch in The Belfry’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”

The iconic role of Atticus Finch is taken by Jack Hittle, who supplies an evenly toned performance, while Eric Barker is ‘on the mark’ as Sheriff Heck Tate, and three neighbor ladies of various temperaments are well done by Jan Borcherding, Susan Townsend and Marianne Bergamo. David Burch is sufficiently repulsive as Bob Ewell, the loathsome man who accuses black townsman Tom Robinson of beating and molesting his daughter, Mayella Ewell. And the pivotal roles of Tom and Mayella are extremely well-done by Bobby Washington and Katelyn Maudlin. Both do fantastic work in their courtroom appearances.

William R. James deserves mention for his debut performances as Arthur “Boo” Ridley and as Boo’s brother, Nathan. Tina Humphrey is a pleasure to watch as the lively Finch housekeeper, Calpurnia. And James A. Brown does noteworthy work as community leader Reverend Sykes. A myriad of other fine performers fill the roles of townspeople and courtroom principals, including Daniel Shock as the unenviable prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer; and Thom Johnson as Judge Taylor.

Katelyn Maudlin as Mayella Ewell and Thom Johnson as Judge Taylor in The Belfry's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Katelyn Maudlin as Mayella Ewell and Thom Johnson as Judge Taylor in The Belfry’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”


The action is presented on two very different sets. The first and final sections of the play are presented on a cheery five-door neighborhood arrangement that looked great and worked very well. However, the difficult middle scene requires a cramped and skewed courtroom arrangement to allow everyone into seats and tables, which works less well but suffices. Costumes by Marilyn Dearman and Barb Martin are well researched and designed, and deserve applause.

Above all that is presented by this production is the universal message of the central themes of Ms. Lee’s story – that intolerance and prejudices are ugly and wrong, that courage is a significant weapon against such matters, and that childhood is a time of learning lessons that we hold the value of for the rest of our lives. Ms. Crandall’s endeavor is of great value for all these reasons and should not be missed.

To Kill a Mockingbird continues at The Belfry June 7,8,13,14 & 15. Reservations are recommended by calling the box office at (317) 773-1085 or by going to http://thebelfrytheatre.com/ and using their online ticket service.

* Photos are from online sources

First Folio’s “Romeo and Juliet” at Wayne Township Community Theatre

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Most all of us have seen some version of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. There have been the many film versions and the play is done quite often by summer Shakespeare companies – and why not? There is certainly some sort of obstinate enjoyment in the story of two teenaged, star-crossed lovers who sadly end their lives rather than live without their loves. Over the endless tellings of the tale, we find many versions that try to modernize or reconstitute the circumstances of the story – the setting, or the time period, or the characters themselves. Some are done successfully, as in the very ambitious West Side Story; many more are less successful, such as Leonard DiCaprio’s turn in the 1996 film version which, many feel, took things a bit too far.

Director Glenn Dobbs’ vision of the play, which is currently being presented at Wayne Township Community Theatre’s beautiful Ben Davis HS venue, is a tricky combination of the traditional and the reconstituted. Presented on a sparsely designed set, in beautiful traditional-looking costumes, using well-designed set pieces plus some surprising props, and employing a rather enjoyable bit of musical underpinning, the effort is a clearly told, emotionally charged, and visually pleasing production.

Dobbs’ carefully selected cast gives it’s all to the project, resulting in many fine performances – although there is a bit of unevenness at times, due mostly to an intermittent lack of diction and a curious technical choice. Although the actors are all miked with wireless devices, the preferred placement on their person seemed to be problematic. I noted that, in an effort to be unseen, the mikes and their trailing cords were placed along the crown of the actors’ heads. I believe this diminished the help that the mikes gave the difficult dialogue and resulted, sadly, in many lost passages of lines. I believe a more conventional placement of the mikes, at the actors’ cheekbones, might give a much better result. Likewise, the diction problem is fixable, but it is more of an individual responsibility on the part of each actor to energize their roles not only with emotion, but also with technique. The script demands a larger effort in this area. I am reminded of an old lesson taught to me long ago which is: the actor’s primary function is to communicate the story to the audience – the audience being the entire purpose of the undertaking. When the lines are lost – the actor fails this purpose.

Michelle Wafford as Juliet in First Folio Prodcutions' "Romeo and Juliet"

Michelle Wafford as Juliet in First Folio Prodcutions’ “Romeo and Juliet”

Given all that – there are some amazing performances. Michelle Wafford is a lovely Juliet, mastering both the sweetness and the myriad of emotions of her character. She is, at every turn, correct in her dramatic choices. Holly Hathaway gives an outstanding performance as the Nurse, weaving the many facets of this classic character into a glowing interpretation – she is spot on with all the technical issues as well, ultimately giving the most understandable performance. Likewise, Tim Fox does a wonderful job with the lively, fun-loving and cynical Mercutio. His turn is full of energy and spunk, and he fills the stage with his presence and performance. Daniel Clymer is a fantastic Friar Lawrence. He too has mastered the technique issues and gives a wholly understandable performance, lighting up the stage with the friar’s helpful and trustworthy nature.

Tristan Ross is appropriately large in his commanding nature and in his emotional losses as Lord Capulet. On both accounts he gives a wonderfully natural performance. John Mortell is intense as Tybalt. His seething hatred of Romeo is obvious and vivid. Carrie Reiberg plays a haughty Lady Capulet, complete with appropriate facial gestures. Added on musical aspects are provided by Al Hoffman and Rachael Whitlock. Their beautiful combined voices and Hoffman’s superior guitar talent fill in the beginnings of the acts and provide a sensitive mood to the final scene – a very well done innovation.

Anderson Parker as Romeo and Mike Varick as Benvolio in First Folio Productions' "Romeo and Juliet"

Anderson Parker as Romeo and Mike Varick as Benvolio in First Folio Productions’ “Romeo and Juliet”

Anderson Parker as Romeo is, I think, a work in progress on this opening night. Parker looks to have a good understanding of the young man, but only seems to allow his character to brush up against his larger emotions without letting him cross over into them. Granted, part of the problem on my end is the mike issue, with some diction energy issues thrown in – but another part is Parker’s not having found that path to Romeo’s intensities in his portrayal. The talent seems to be there, and I have no doubt Parker will uncover that path and accomplish much in this role.

The remaining cast does much good work – smaller roles are well-filled and well done. I think the overall production is a huge accomplishment and that Dr. Dobbs and his entire production staff are to be given a standing ovation for their effort and capability. This was not a pared down production. This was a nearly full-length rendering (yes, 3+ hours that went by fairly quickly due partly to the diligence in scene changes and scene intervals) of the Bard’s most produced tragedy – which is something few companies attempt. Congratulations to all on the achievement!

First Folio’s Romeo and Juliet continues May 31st at 7:30 pm, June 1st at 2:30 pm, June 5th & 6th at 7:30pm, and June 8th at 2:30 pm. There is NO SHOW SATURDAY 6/7. You can get more information by calling the WTCT box office at 317-988-7966 or by going to http://www.firstfolioproductions.org/First_Folio_Productions/Welcome.html .

* Photos from online sources

“Mary Poppins” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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Walt Disney’s 1964 film Mary Poppins, which is based on the eponymous series of stories by P.L. Travers, has gotten quite a resurgence of prominence in the past few months. Recently there was the wonderful Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson film, Saving Mr. Banks, about the making of the Disney adaptation and presently we have the Beef and Boards production of the 2004 Broadway version of the stories.

Personally, I can recall dozens of viewings of the VHS copy of the movie we owned when my children were small. It had become engrained in my memory – the songs, the characters – especially Julie Andrew’s Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke’s Bert, the experiences that Mary, Bert and the children, Jane and Michael Banks, shared. It was all so magical and, well, practically perfect in it’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ness.

But, B&B’s delightful family presentation is different. Not that it isn’t “practically perfect” – it is! But we are taken on a bit of an altered journey in the Broadway version. There is no Uncle Albert, (Ed Wynn laughing his way to the ceiling in one of my favorite scenes) nor are there any dancing penguins. Disney purists will miss those exclusions, but we do have new elements from the original stories: a dancing statue which thrills the children, a Talking Shop where a very long word is discovered, the appearance of Mr. Bank’s terrifying old nanny Miss Andrew, and giant sized toys who want to be played with more carefully. And, I must say – all the “new” parts give the show a very nice original feel versus my deep-seated memories.

Cara Statham Serber returns to B&B as Mary Poppins

Cara Statham Serber returns to B&B as Mary Poppins

Directed by Eddie Curry, who also stars as Mr. Banks, with co-direction and choreography by Ron Morgan, the remarkable cast is a mix of familiar and new faces; and the show is chock-full of treats. It’s a treat to see Cara Statham Serber’s return to the B&B stage – we all remember her as Maria in last season’s The Sound of Music. She certainly is the perfect choice for Mary Poppins and her abilities sparkle in “Practically Perfect” and “A Spoonful of Sugar”.
It is also a treat to see Suzanne Stark fill her two roles – Mrs. Corry, the Talking Shop owner, and the intimidating nanny Miss Andrew. You may remember Ms. Stark’s beautiful voice as Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. Here she uses that same power and proficiency to illuminate her Miss Andrew (“The Holy Terror”) and to be the cause for quite a startling scene with the children.

It is a special treat to enjoy the vocal and acting skills of Heather Patterson King, who takes the role of Mrs. Banks. This production puts Mrs. Banks in a much more introspective light than the movie’s suffragette character was in. Ms. King’s beautiful voice and deep understanding of her character’s plight makes for a standout portrayal. We hope to see a lot more of Ms. King on the B&B stage.
Poppins Banks couple

It is a delightful treat to see two such talented young performers as Kennedy Martin and Logan Sejas take the roles of the Banks children, Jane and Michael. Ms. Martin, who was also in The Sound of Music as one of the Von Trapps, has a natural affinity for the stage. As Jane, her voice is full and sweet, and she has an easy dance style that will serve her quite well in her stage future. Young Mr. Sejas makes his first appearance on the B&B boards and does a formidable job with the feisty Michael. He too has been blessed with a remarkably well-formed vocal talent and he missed not a beat in his acting assignments. I predict he will reappear at this venue in the near future.

From left - Kennedy Martin as Jane Banks, Kelly Teal Goyette as Mrs. Brill, Logan Sejas as Michael Banks, Doug King as Robertson Ay, and Suzanne Stark as Miss Andrew in B&B's "Mary Poppins"

From left – Kennedy Martin as Jane Banks, Kelly Teal Goyette as Mrs. Brill, Logan Sejas as Michael Banks, Doug King as Robertson Ay, and Suzanne Stark as Miss Andrew in B&B’s “Mary Poppins”


Buddy Reeder as Bert in B&B's "Mary Poppins"

Buddy Reeder as Bert in B&B’s “Mary Poppins”

It is a treat to enjoy the onstage performance of Tri-West’s Buddy Reeder, the man who choreographed the recent B&B production, Cats. His portrayal of Bert, the multi-jobbed friend of Mary Poppins, was refreshingly original (especially set against the iconic Dick Van Dyke version that lives in my memory). Reeder’s song and dance talents are of the highest caliber and his easy-going performance style is very appealing.

It is always a treat to watch Eddie Curry play yet another character. He truly is one of my favorite local actors. His long career at B&B has been filled with a plethora of funny, clownish and even outrageous people. Conversely, his Mr. Banks, as worked into a central role in this Poppins adaptation, is a serious, troubled man, having problems dealing with his career at the bank, his children’s effervescent natures, his less than happy wife, and the endless parade of nannies that are hired to look after Jane and Michael including one Mary Poppins. Curry brings to bear an extremely good understanding of this very cheerless character through his actions and his songs. Yet, he never misses a single chance to get a laugh. I must say, I always learn something about acting from watching Mr. Curry.

The dance ensemble is featured in “Jolly Holiday” with Cara Statham Serber as Mary Poppins and Buddy Reeder as Bert


One of the most remarkable things about B&B’s supporting casts is that from top to bottom they are all first-rate performers. Kelly Teal Goyette and Doug King, playing the Banks household servants, Mrs. Brill and Robertson Ay, make extremely good choices in their roles. Plus, King doubles as the lively statue, Neleus. Jeff Stockberger uses his sharp comic skills as Admiral Boom and the Bank Chairman. Chelsea Leis shines in her “Feed the Birds” number as the Bird Woman. And a sensational cadre of dancer/actors: Kari Baker, Peter Scharbrough, Sally Scharbrough, Lauren Morgan, Timmy Hays, Colin Lee, Blake Patrick Spellacy, Michael Davis, and Sean Zia provide smaller roles and ensemble dance duties with aplomb. Indeed one of the highlights of the night for me was the full cast’s “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, a wildly choreographed number that stopped the show.

Music director Terry Woods leads the full sounding music ensemble. With the benefit of B&B regular Kristy Templet at the second keyboard, the combo of trumpet, woodwinds and percussion provide a fine accounting of the score, That’s a treat, as is Jill Kelly’s typically fantastic costume array.

And last of all – the final treat to mention is the buffet by Chef Odell Ward, this time featuring some kid friendly choices along with the usual delicious features. As I always say – the Beef and Board staff has put together a remarkable evening of food, entertainment and service. You really couldn’t ask for more.

Mary Poppins continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through June 29th. My understanding is that tickets are selling quickly, so if you intend to see this incredible family entertainment, I suggest you waste no time in calling the B&B box office at 317-872-9664. If you’d like more info about the show dates and time, you can get that at the box office or go online at http://www.beefandboards.com .

* Photos by Julie Curry provided by Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

“Lost in Yonkers” at Carmel Community Players

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Lost in Yonkers is perhaps Neil Simon’s most serious play. While this 1991 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner certainly contains much of the funny banter we expect from this prolific American playwright, it also takes steps into the depth of the human condition – exploring how we all struggle to get down our paths, and how we need each other – especially in families – to make those paths more bearable.

In the hands of director Jim LaMonte and his excellently cast actors and actresses, Simon’s study in human frailties is given a lively rendition. Centered around two wonderfully portrayed young brothers, Jay and Arty – who due to circumstances in their father’s life must be left for a time with their harshly strict grandmother – the cast of characters includes an excitable child-like aunt, a small-time gangster uncle and an aunt with a breathing problem which is masterfully written to be very funny.

Jude Binkley and Christian Baltz turn in admirable performances as the two brothers. Young Binkley makes his Indiana debut, coming from what looks like a promising theatre background in central Ohio, while the younger Baltz makes his acting debut. Both handle their good sized roles with effectiveness, including quite a few scenes when just the two of them share the stage. The role of their father, Eddie, is carried out in strong fashion by Spotlight Theatre veteran, Jeremy Tuterow. Their mentally discounted Aunt Bella is done by Jean Childers Arnold in what I thought was an amazingly professional turn. Ms. Arnold fills her portrayal with adroit characteristics of body language and vocal levels, showing a complete understanding of Bella’s internal makeup. Her performance was a faultless achievement to watch and enjoy.

It was also a treat to see Joe Aiello on stage again – recreating the role of mobster bagman Uncle Louie which he did a number of years ago at The Belfry. Aiello brings just enough “shtick” to the part, never going over the edge into a cartoonish quality. His rapid-fire delivery is unmatched as he teases and tests his nephews or accommodates his limited sister Bella. Nan Macy returns to the boards as Grandma Kurnitz, the seemingly hard-hearted matriarch. Ms. Macy combines a hard crustiness with a harder life-philosophy in her handling of the perfectly accented, costumed and made-up old lady. She is a sublime choice for this role. Rounding out the cast in a winning comic depiction is Robin Cottrell, who makes the most of a small role as the wheezy-voiced Aunt Gert.

LaMonte’s direction is crisp and never allows a lag in the action. The scene-changes come off well over a nice music bed to keep the audience engaged, and the set is well designed and decorated. If I were to find any flaw in the production, it might be the seeming disallowance of any slowing of pace for many of the more tender moments, but that would be a slight stretch as, although I may have noticed the timing issues in those places, it is likely others did not. All in all, this is a wholly enjoyable theatre production and I recommend it.

Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers continues May 3,4,8,9,10 and 11 at CCP’s Carmel Community Playhouse in Clay Terrace. Information about the dates, times and ticket prices can be found at http://www.carmelplayers.org or by calling the CCP box office at (317) 815-9387.

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