“A Raisin in the Sun” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre continues their 2017-18 season with Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece, A Raisin in the Sun. The play opened to high praise on Broadway in 1959 and went on to win the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award for Best Play of the Year. The IRT production represents the fourth opportunity for Timothy Douglas to direct the iconic play.

The story concerns the Younger family, struggling in the depths of a segregated world, hoping and dreaming for better, happier lives. Every one of the adult family members has a dream that would lift them out of their circumstance – but the times seem to be against them, with civil rights mechanisms having barely started. The expectation of a life insurance windfall seems to complicate matters, but eventually leads to the possibility of a more promising future as the family takes hold of their fates. As the play shows us – idealism is part of life, and dreams are necessary.

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Dorcas Sowunmi (Ruth Younger) and Kim Staunton (Lena Younger) in IRT’s “A Raisin in the Sun”

Presented on Scenic Designer Tony Cisek’s highly detailed rendering of the Younger family’s Chicago tenement apartment, the show is offered by a first-rate team of actors lead by veteran actress Kim Staunton’s portrayal of the matriarchal Lena Younger. Ms. Stauton recreates the role from her LA appearance in the production directed by Phylicia Rashad. Her powerful portrayal on the IRT stage is full of nuance and meaning, showing us how a loving, strong, experienced woman handles the doubts and dreams of her fluid family.

Chiké Johnson takes the role of Lena’s fancifully ambitious son, Walter Lee Younger. Johnson gives an impressive performance, riding his character’s emotional roller coaster with an astute understanding of his turmoil as he makes flawed choices in hopes of securing a better life for his family. Dorcas Sowunmi carries the weight of Walter’s wife Ruth’s disappointments and hopefulness with aplomb, while Stori Ayers shines as his younger sister, Beneatha – full of new ideas and a far more hopeful outlook for the world.

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Lex Lumpkin (Travis Younger) and Chiké Johnson (Walter Lee Younger) in IRT’s “A Raisin in the Sun”

Elisha Lawson and Jordan Bellow handle well the roles of Beneatha’s boyfriends Joseph Asagai, and George Murchison, and D. Alexander is solid as the disappointed business partner, Bobo. Lex Lumpkin does a noteworthy job as Ruth’s young grandson Travis, and Paul Tavianini completes the cast as Karl Lindner.

Kara Harmon’s costumes and Peter Maradudin’s light design add greatly to the realism that director Douglas has overseen here.

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Elisha Lawson (Joseph Asagai) and Stori Ayers (Beneatha Younger) in IRT’s “A Raisin in the Sun”

Bottomline: This script provides an American classic story-line – with a look at a part of our troubled history that is not completely resolved. While the performance I saw seemed to get off track a bit emotionally in the second act, the compelling result of the experience as a whole cannot be denied. There were many moments of strength and truth. This is a moving and important piece of drama; the ideas Ms. Hansberry has laid out in her play are powerful reminders of what we have left to do.

A Raisin in the Sun will continue its run at Indiana Repertory Theatre through February 3rd. For specific information on dates, show times, and ticket orders, visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing

 

 

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“Greater Tuna” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

First of all, I want to wish ASOTA readers a very Happy New Year. I hope 2018 is full of blessings and opportunities for you all!

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre opens its 45th season with the zany comedy, Greater Tuna. Written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard, the 1981 play is a tribute to attitudes and foibles of small town life in rural America. Set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas – we are introduced to a series of rather broadly conceived characters with an array of problems and outlooks that are ripe for the stage talents of Eddie Curry and Jeff Stockberger (who also directs the show). These two familiar actors play all of the 20 or so eccentric citizens we meet during the proceedings.

Mssrs. Curry and Stockberger actually have a rather long history of performing together, going all the way back to their first venture together at a summer theatre production in Galveston, Texas in 1988. As many of us have previously seen in their frequent appearances together on the B&B stage, they have developed a natural feel for each other’s talents and the results are always a pleasure to watch.

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Arles Struvie (left) and Aunt Pearl Burras are just two of the nearly 20 zany characters from Tuna, Texas played by Jeff Stockberger and Eddie Curry in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s “Greater Tuna”.

Working through a very 1980’s toned script, the two gentlemen create characters that are at once identifiable – from the overwrought mother with the delinquent son and the disappointed cheerleader-wannabe daughter, to the wordy reverend, the self-righteous morality campaigner, and the kind-hearted animal shelter worker. All are broadly written and played, with a good measure of the fun being the way these two actors are costumed for their roles.

Some of the more specific points of the show, which in the 80’s bit hard on certain conventions, are not nearly as relevant today – some outlooks even feel a bit cruel by today’s standards. But, the outlandish characters are played with comedic relish and suitable pathos. The second act is a bit stronger than the first, mostly I think as act one spends a good deal of time in story setups, while act two sets the characters free.

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Bertha Bumiller (Eddie Curry), left, scolds her daughter Charlene (Jeff Stockberger) for sulking that she didn’t “make cheerleader” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s “Greater Tuna”.

A crew of four dressing assistants (Cindy Mollencupp, Bradley Keiper, Shaun McIlquham and Sandra Belles) keeps the action seamless, while Michael Layton’s simple set works well enough for the many locales. Costumes provided by Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre are indeed one of the pleasures of the show.

Bottomline: An entertaining evening of jokes and physical comedy make this a good start to the 45th B&B season. Curry and Stockberger always provide me with a lesson in stagecraft.

Greater Tuna continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through January 28th. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

2017 Most Impressive Theatre Awards – Part 2

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Mitty Awards 2017

So – in my previous post I listed my choices for Most Impressive Theatre Awards in the Community Theatre Division. Now, my choices for the Professional Theatre Division for 2017 (Please note that I define a Professional Theatre as one which is contracted with Actors Equity – plus this year I have added the professional dance company – Dance Kaleidoscope)

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design – Professional Theatre Division : The award this year goes to Ryan Koharchik for his design of the set for IRT’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Koharchik fills the immense OneAmerica Mainstage with a detailed rendering of the opulent Drayton family home including an “outdoor” patio. The 30 foot high walls give the illusion of soaring glass windows and a magnificent view of over San Francisco Bay.

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Ryan Koharchik’s magnificent set design for IRT’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Professional Theatre Division:  Cheryl Sparks designs costumes for nearly every dancer in every performance that Dance Kaleidoscope presents. Her designs meet the special requirements of having not only the look that fits the story the choreographer is trying to tell, it also meets form and functionality needs. In the 2 years of DK shows I have had the privilege to see, she has never missed in that task. However, her costume designs for the first act piece in DK’s December 2017 presentation of World of Christmas entitled Ceremony of Carols were especially impressive. In my review I wrote: “Ceremony of Carols…opens with an immediate impression of purity and light as the dancers arrive… wearing costumer Cheryl Sparks’ varietal immaculate white creations.”

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Professional Theatre Division: When I first saw Dalyn Stewart on the Studio 15 stage in December 2014 for a Carmel Theatre Company production of A Child’s Christmas in Wales” I was very impressed by the young mans stage presence and manner, noting his “surprisingly pleasing talent”. Indeed, he won the Mitty that year as “Most Impressive Newcomer – Community Theatre Division”. Jump ahead 3 years and here he is again, a newcomer in the professional theatre division for his work as the shipwrecked Phillip in IRT’s The Cay. Appearing on stage with seasoned actor David Alan Anderson in this two man story, young Stewart gave a notable performance. I wrote “Mr. Stewart is perfect as Phillip. His having to play a major portion of the role with a harsh disability is taken quite in stride. …I am always impressed with his pleasing command of a youthful theatrical presence, which he again offers in this portrayal. He has natural skills and we can only hope to see these develop over time.”

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: From Beef and Boards’ fine production of Ghost The Musical, I feel Renée Jackson deserves the nod in this category. As psychic medium Oda Mae Brown, “Ms. Jackson’s far-fetched (portrayal) is delightful, and exquisitely extreme, adding a comic touch to a most often poignant story.” We hope to see more of Ms. Jackson on Indianapolis stages.

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Supporting Role by an Actor in a Comedy – Professional Theatre Division: Beef and Boards’ led off the 2017 season with the beauty salon comedy, Shear Madness. Daniel Klingler’s over the top turn as flamboyant shop owner, Tony Whitcomb, was played to the absolute hilt, and provided many of the comic moments in a very comical play.

In the category – Most Impressive Performer in a Supporting Role by an Actress in a Comedy – Professional Theatre Division: From IRT’s Boeing, Boeing: Elizabeth Ledo hits the mark as a much put-upon housekeeper. “(Ms.) Ledo wins the audience’s hearts as…Berthe, savoring every last bit of her character’s grumbling nature.” Her fantastic comic timing and facial expressions made this a memorable performance.

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Greta Wohlrabe (Gretchen) and Elizabeth Ledo (Berthe) in IRT’s 2017 production of “Boeing Boeing”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role – Professional Theatre Division: Here begins the ‘unprecedented’ section of this year’s awards – Part 1: Three very impressive actresses vied for this award in my notes, and I simply could not decide on any to leave out. To me that just means that there was a lot of impressive performing out there this year. So, for the first time in 7 years of Mitty Awards – a three way tie – they are: Katy Gentry, for her performance as Garland in ATI’s Beyond the Rainbow; Annie Yokum, for her portrayal as Judy in the same production; and Karaline Feller, who played Jenny Steinberg – the sister of the bride in ATI’s It Shoulda Been You.

First Ms. Gentry, who was so like Judy Garland in her role, you had to know she studied the woman quite thoroughly. I wrote: “Ms. Gentry rolls through the Garland concert catalog not merely expertly sounding as Ms. Garland did – her rendering of the singer is enhanced with all the stage mannerisms and indeed even the “look” of the celebrated star. Ms. Gentry’s undeniable vocal talents are a significant piece of the portrayal, but her acting abilities carry us into the presence of Judy Garland.”

Ms. Yokum, as the younger Judy, “provides a struggling ‘Judy’, the post-Andy Hardy Garland in the story, (and) has her character’s voice and style mastered….Ms. Yokom’s performance is intense and evocative, imparting the often rougher side of her character’s career as a star. Her outstanding singing talent is on display in several numbers and again, the spot-on replication of Garland is uncanny.”

Karaline Feller provided a truly sympathy-inducing characterization as the often left behind sister of the bride. But it is not only her acting talents that are impressive. “Ms. Feller uses her beautiful, and powerful, vocal talents on a wide array of songs – comic, gritty, soulful and tender – and does so with impressive acuity.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: Unprecedented selection – Part 2. These awards are normally given as appreciations of performances I have witnessed from the seats. On this occasion however, the most impressive performance I saw in this category this year was by an actor with whom I shared the stage. Anyone who saw Don Farrell as Albin/Zaza in ATI’s amazing La Cage aux Folles would have to agree with me that his performance was in the stratosphere in terms of emotion, comedic form and singing/dancing skills. It was truly my pleasure to nightly watch the characterizations Farrell rendered and to see how hard he works at his craft to get those results. From the ASOTA review by Adam Crowe: “…the show belongs to Farrell’s Albin, and he is the star of this vehicle. Whether he is flirting with the club’s clientele as Zaza or blubbering as Albin, Farrell is simply perfection. To anyone who saw him play Sweeny Todd or the Baker in Into the Woods, this comes as no surprise. Farrell is a joy to watch.”

Michael Humphrey, Greg Grimes, Tim Hunt, Kenny Shepard and Don Farrell - photo credit - Zach Rosing

From left: Michael Humphrey, Greg Grimes, Tim Hunt, Kenny Shepard are La Cagelles with Don Farrell as Zaza (center) in ATI’s a Cage aux Folles”

In the category – Most Impressive Musical Performance – Professional Theatre Division: As I did last year, I must give this honor to a group of performers who came together in a production to, as an ensemble, create a most enjoyable, toe-tapping, emotion-choking set of songs and performances. From Beef and Boards’ Ring of Fire, which I described as a “biological revue” of the life of Johnny Cash,  the cast included B&B newcomers Melody Allegra Berger, Tim Drake, Allison Kelly, Jeremy Sevelovitz, Travis Smith and Zack Steele, plus B&B veterans Brian Gunter and Jill Kelly Howe. From the review: “The wonderfully organized production benefits from the unique cast which has been assembled for it, most of whom make their B&B debuts. The requirements to be in the cast must have been: 1) have recording contract quality vocal talent, 2) be able to play a multitude of stringed instruments, plus a few others, 3) have the exceptional ability to show that you are having so much fun onstage, that we all want you to never stop.”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Non-musical – Professional Theatre Division: Directed by Skip Greer, IRT’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was presented as a compelling and balanced look at the problems of race in America. While the play itself takes a tack of showing rather than telling what solutions might be possible, a further light touch in the combined portrayals made this production all the more appealing. “In what I think is one of the best sets of conflicts and circumstances in modern theatre, the full cast joins in force for a smooth and engaging depiction of this crisis situation…This is a superior group of actors, presenting a compelling and truly still significant conundrum. I cannot see how it could have been performed any better.”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Musical – Professional Theatre Division: Director Bill Jenkins and musical director Brent Marty (and choreographer Carol Worcel) share this award. ATI’s It Shoulda Been You was a bold choice to produce here in Central Indiana, and dare I say, the production faced a variety of responses for its portrayal of love in the 21st century. But as striking as the message of this show is, the direction of the actors and actresses, indeed the entire ‘tone’ of the show, was never anything but an exercise in doing a quality job on a well-written show. I applaud the venture and the undertaking. “Filled with amazing songs, a tremendously funny plot-line, and a jaw-dropping surprise twist, the show – which was tightly directed by Bill Jenkins and musical director Brent Marty, with choreography by Carol Worcel – again proclaims ATI’s penchant for incredible hits.”

In the category – Most Impressive Dramatic Production – Professional Theatre Division: Okay, I am going to use some critic’s license here. Although there were many songs in this production, it could be argued that ATI’s Beyond the Rainbow was very much a dramatic depiction of the life of Judy Garland. The songs were such a part of her life and they were presented as a part of that life, not as an expression of a character’s inner feelings or ideals. Therefore, for the purpose of this award at least, I am thinking of the show as a dramatic production. And it was a fine one. The depiction of the various  characters from the singer’s circle fell to an extremely talented trio of actors – Grace Sell, Dave Ruark, and Roger Ortman, who played Garland’s parents, husbands, bosses and cohorts. Add young Miss Anjali Rooney’s spirited turn as “Girl Judy”, along with the already noted contributions of Annie Yokom and Katy Gentry, and you have a completely wonderful cast of players who managed to present this highly compelling and entertaining story of the mega-star’s life, with impressive results.

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(From left) Annie Yokom, Katy Gentry and Anjali Rooney star as Judy, Garland and Girl Judy in ATI’s production of “Over the Rainbow”.

In the category – Most Impressive Musical Production – Professional Theatre Division: What was most impressive to me about Ring of Fire is that it had the feel of a touring show rather than one of Beef and Boards’ in-house productions. The talented cast of singers, who were also players and actors, too, came together for the usual 10 or so days of rehearsal which productions normally are built in at B&B, and managed to become a cohesive band of story-tellers by opening night. From the review: “In fact, their stage presence and easy delivery throughout may have you thinking that they have all been touring this show together for 10 months or more. But that is not the case – they have somehow acquired a remarkable cohesion, which makes the program ever more enjoyable.” Furthermore, one of the cast members, Jill Kelly Howe, who is usually employed as the theatre costumer, was asked to come in and replace one performer with 2 or 3 days of preparation. My friend Jill did amazingly well and was one of my favorites in the show!

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The entire cast blends their voices for “Come Angel Band” in B&B’s production of “Ring of Fire”.

So, that’s it for 2017. If you have read this far, I thank you. As always, I encourage you to continue to go out and see wonderful shows and performances in both professional and community theatres in the Greater Indianapolis area! We are so lucky to live in an area where the theatrical arts are highly valued and well performed.

 

 

 

 

2017 Most Impressive Theatre Awards – Part 1

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Mitty Awards 2017

It’s time for the Seventh Annual Mitty Awards!

For those of you not familiar with the Mittys, this is something I have been doing since 2011 to celebrate the Most Impressive Theatre that I have witnessed in the past calendar year. This year, I attended 34 shows, so while I certainly did not get to every show in the area, I have a fair amount of shows to choose winners from. I split the awards into two divisions: Community Theatre and Professional Theatre, my definition of professional theatre being those which work under an Actors Equity contract. This year I have included the professional dance company Dance Kaleidoscope in that division.

So, here goes. Part 1 deals with community theatre shows and performances:

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design for a small venue – Community Theatre Division: Calder the Musical, which had it’s world premiere as a full-length production in the versatile IndyFringe Theatre space, featured a very innovative set design for the small venue. The many settings for the story were presented as projections on a huge back screen. These backgrounds were “impressively illuminated by Laura Hildreth’s delightful illustrations as rendered in Ben Dobler’s impressive projections.” Hildreth and Dobler worked together to somehow produce backgrounds that had motion and included the sea, a circus, and an art studio, among others. It was very innovative and impressive.

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A scene in “Calder, the Musical” is illuminated by the talents of Laura Hildreth (Illustrator) and Ben Dobler (Projections).

In the category – Most Impressive Set Design for a large venue – Community Theatre Division: Ryan Koharchik wins here for his grand designs for the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre stage at the Carmel Performing Arts Center. Koharchik’s work in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat provided “great function and an undeniable “wow” factor.”

In the category – Most Impressive Costume Design – Community Theatre Division: Agape Performing Arts Center presented a youth theatre production of Les Miserables that featured a cast of 69 young actors and actress ranging in age from 4th graders to high school seniors. I do not have one name to give this award to, but I very much doubt that costuming the show was a one person undertaking and I believe the group of volunteers who accomplished covering all these kids, in a very authentic variety of costumes, did quite an impressive job, indeed!

In the category – Most Impressive Newcomer – Community Theatre Division: First time stage actor, Antoine Demmings, held his own and did an admirable job keeping even with his two more experienced cast-mates (sketch-savvy actresses Frankie Bolda and Kelsey VanVoorst) in the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) at The Studio Theatre in Carmel. Let’s hope we see more of this gentleman on stage in perhaps a more structured role.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Westfield Playhouse’s production of The Sunshine Boys features an outstanding portrayal by Scott Prill as Ben Silverman, nephew of one of the central characters in the Neil Simon play. From the review of the show: “Mr. Prill brings excellent energy and a sense of credibility to his portrayal of Silverman. The east coast accent he lightly employs seems accurate and even. His emotions, running from caring to mild frustration to exasperation and hopefulness are all fully on the mark.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: In First Folio Productions’ and Catalyst Repertory’s production of Richard III at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre, Carey Shea did a memorable job with the dual roles of Richard’s brother Clarence and his opponent Richmond. “Both are offered with confident, spot-on depictions” by this very accomplished Shakespearian actor.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: I was impressed very much by Joel Flynn in his role as town “trouble-maker” Tommy Djilas in the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s The Music Man.  Presented as a featured dancer in the ensemble, Flynn showed some very noteworthy skills.

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From left: Parrish Williams (as Leonard Ganz), Carrie Schlatter (Claire Ganz) and Clay Mabbit (Ken Gorman) in Civic’s “Rumors”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Carrie Schlatter, who took the role of Claire Ganz in the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre production of Rumors, has “comedy chops” that always make me laugh. Ms. Schlatter’s ability to deliver a punchline with deadpan alacrity is a skill worth honoring. In Rumors she led the way comically with her dry, down to earth portrayal of the elegant Ms. Ganz.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: Allison Clark Reddick gave a first class performance in First Folio Productions’ and Catalyst Repertory’s production of Richard III at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre. Ms. Reddick offered “a stirring performance as the widow of Richard’s brother – Queen Elizabeth. Her sorrow at the tragedies in her character’s life is immense yet varied enough to be compelling and genuine.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: In the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre production of Annie, Amanda Boldt, turned in a successfully full portrayal of Daddy Warbucks’ faithful secretary, Grace Farrell. Her display of singing, dancing and acting skills made us anxious to see her onstage again in her next production.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Comedy – Community Theatre Division: Ben Asaykwee provided a quality comic turn as a likeably villainous Maurice Garin in the Zack & Zach production of The Great Bike Race, revived at Theatre on the Square. The zany tale is full of physical and visual nonsense and Asaykwee made the most of his opportunities.

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Matt Anderson as Richard in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III”.

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Drama – Community Theatre Division: In what I would call the performance of the year in Indianapolis area community theatre, Matt Anderson is thoroughly masterful as Richard in the First Folio/Catalyst Repertory production of Richard III. From my review: “He truly becomes the fated scoundrel in what is a very physical and methodical portrayal. Anderson leaves no doubt that this is a damaged man, his extreme awkwardness only amplifying (Richard’s) focused desire to achieve the throne. Richard’s words drip with desire and hatefulness, and his body reveals the pain of his being. The supporting cast has a great advantage by being able to react to the seething performance Anderson renders.”

In the category – Most Impressive Actor in a Lead Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Without a doubt, Jacob Butler was a pleasant surprise in his Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre debut, as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His performance in the show was superb and impressive. From the review: “Butler plays Joseph with a simple and honest approach. He uses his high quality vocal skills to great advantage, yet never tips away from his straightforward performance choices.” His turn here was a centerpiece in a very wonderful show.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Frankie Bolda played winning rider Henri Cornet in the Zack & Zach production of The Great Bike Race at Theatre on the Square. Her cute, innocent, ‘forces of good’ persona was well played and fun to watch throughout.

In the category – Most Impressive Actress in a Lead Role in a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Mikayla Reed Koharchik brought an impressive turn in her role as Marion (the librarian) in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s The Music Man. “Ms. Koharchik offers a definitive version of the reluctant miss, using her beautiful and powerful vocal talents to maximum effect. Her Marion is gracefully aware of what is happening to her as (Harold) Hill first confronts her with his charms, then finds he cannot do without her.”

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Mikayla Reed Koharchik played Marion Paroo in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “The Music Man”

In the category – Most Impressive Choreography of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is so lucky to have the talented services of Anne Nicole Beck for her creative choreographic ideas. The impressive collection of dances that she imagined and taught for Civic’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat were endlessly fascinating.

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Glenn Dobbs has a fine reputation for his understanding of the bards works. His direction of First Folio/Catalyst Repertory’s Richard III proves it. He once again put together an amazing cast and led them through a process that resulted in one of the strongest set of performances this year in community theatre. From the review: “…everything that has been pieced together for the production emphatically meets the goal of conveying this complicated story to the minds of the audience in an understandable and potent way.”

In the category – Most Impressive Direction of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: With his work in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s Executive Artistic Director, Michael J. Lasley, took the reins for this oft produced favorite and made it seem like I had never seen it before with a dazzling display of technical aspects, wonderful performances and innovative ideas. “…under Mr. Lasley’s inventive guidance, this production…simply sparkles and shines, with great performances, imaginative staging, and immense production values regarding set, lighting, costumes, orchestration and choreography. Those technical aspects are an important feature in this edition.”

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Non Musical – Community Theatre Division: Without question, the First Folio/Catalyst Repertory production of Richard III was the most impressive piece of community theatre of the year. Given the performances by the well directed cast, especially this year’s Best Actor winner Matt Anderson, the show was a completely stunning event. I wish everyone could have seen it.

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Kevin Caraher (Lord Hastings), Matthew Socey (King Edward IV), and Allison Clark Reddick (Queen Elizabeth) in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III” .

In the category – Most Impressive Production of a Musical – Community Theatre Division: So many wonderful musicals to choose from…but I have to say the best of the best was The Music Man. This rousing production by the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre was memorable, exciting and deliciously romantic. Every aspect of top-notch theatre including the direction, the performers, the sets, the costumes and especially “the fine Broadway level orchestra, under the baton of Trevor Fanning” was of high quality and very impressive!  

Special categories allow for award areas I would not normally give awards in. This year I have two special categories:

In the category – Most Impressive Youth Production– Community Theatre Division: I was highly impressed by Agape Performing Arts Company’s first class production of the difficult Les Miserables. From my review: “You would be mistaken to assume that this was some charming little effort, with cute kids attempting adult roles. On the contrary, Director Dr. Kathy Phipps has managed to instill her young charges with a gravitas of dignity and emotion that runs through the presentation. Led by a bevy of top-notch turns by the lead actors and actresses, this offering ranks high on stage essentials such as focus, interpretation and integration. It can be said it is among the very best of shows I have seen from any youth theatre company.”

In the category – Most Impressive Original Production– Community Theatre Division: Local talents Tom Alvarez and Dustin Klein combined efforts to produce a wonderfully rich musical stage production entitled Calder, the Musical. Based on the life of sculptor and mobile originator Alexander Calder, the show was presented first as an IndyFringe show before being expanded into a full two act production which opened on January 27, 2017 at the IndyFringe Basille Theatre. The show featured an “original score…brim-full with emotional and spirited songs and compositions.” The music was written by Mr. Klein, while Mr. Alvarez handled the book and lyrics. This opening was a noteworthy event in the Indianapolis theatre year and I was especially impressed by the two gentlemen who worked so hard, not only to create the piece, but also to strive in the theatre loving community to get commitments toward it’s production.

That’s it for another year. Congratulations to all the winners! Once again, I certainly encourage my readers to continue to go out and see the outstanding memorable shows and performances in community theatres all around the Greater Indianapolis area! They have a lot to offer for a very reasonable ticket price.

Now, if you like you can read about the 2017 Mitty Awards in the Professional Theatre Division. Just click 2017 Most Impressive Theatre Awards – Part 2

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

In his program notes, Director Michael J. Lasley writes of his concerns that having produced and directed so many productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, (this is the ninth such iteration by Civic!) he would run out of things to say with the piece. On a parallel track, I have now seen the show 3 times at various venues in just the past year or so, and attended the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s rendition of it with some of the same concerns – what could yet another Joseph say to me? As Mr. Lasley further writes: so much rich material is set into the text and music, his fears (and subsequently, mine) were unfounded.

Indeed, under Mr. Lasley’s inventive guidance, this production of the very popular show simply sparkles and shines, with great performances, imaginative staging, and immense production values regarding set, lighting, costumes, orchestration and choreography. Those technical aspects are an important feature in this edition. Ryan Koharchik imagines and creates a scenic design with great function and an undeniable “wow” factor. Likewise, the costumes designed and coordinated by Adrienne Conces are an eyeful of color and spectacle. Brent Marty has outdone himself with his direction of the astonishing vocal and instrumental renditions set forth here. Finally, the intricate and ingenious choreography by Anne Nicole Beck truly takes that aspect of the show to new and higher levels.

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Logan Rivera (center) is featured as The Pharaoh, on one of Ryan Koharchik’s dynamic stage designs in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Naturally, a good deal of the production’s radiance comes from the remarkable performances by the talented cast. Dynamic turns by Jacob Butler as Joseph and Katie Stark as the Narrator anchor a splendid ensemble of players who fill the many roles with a very high degree of excellence. Butler plays Joseph with a simple and honest approach. He uses his high quality vocal skills to great advantage, yet never tips away from his straightforward performance choices. Ms. Stark has a pleasingly easy style in her delivery, as well. She handles the Narrator’s almost constant presence in a quite effortless seeming manner, whether she is called on to simply sing us the story or to perform an elaborate dance number. Also noteworthy are Jeff Angel’s fine handling of dual roles, Jacob and Potiphar, and Logan Rivera’s exciting performance as the Elvis themed Pharaoh.

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Jacob Butler as Joseph in his prized coat in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Whether the action calls for solos (Butler’s rendition of the lament “Close Every Door” is a show-stopper), ensemble vocals (exquiste blendings of voices abound throughout the show), or complex choreographic displays (Daniela Pretorius’ solo “Apache Dance” for “Those Canaan Days” is a special treat), this assemblage of skilled performers go above and beyond – they are all simply great. Every single musical number in this show is done with impressive originality and polish. Even the Children’s Choir, consisting of 16 young performers, receives extended duties in the production team’s inventive format, and each and every member does an outstanding job.

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Katie Stark takes the role of the Narrator in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Bottomline: This is a wonderful Joseph, especially for those of us who are very familiar with the show and could benefit from an original, fresh, and innovative production. Genuinely dazzling performances by every member of the ensemble, coupled with remarkable production values at every turn, make this a “must-see”.

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The cast performs Megamix in Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through January 7th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

Dance Kaleidoscope’s “A World of Christmas” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

One of the many, very special things about living in Central Indiana is the remarkable number of Christmas entertainments that are available in the month of December. Over the years, I have enjoyed many of the holiday revues, the Christmas Carols, the symphonic celebrations, and the cheerful holiday themed plays and programs that are offered here. They are wonderfully traditional fare and they form an enduring fabric of the season for us all. This year, I had the opportunity to savor a different sort of celebration – one consisting entirely of dance.

Dance Kaleidoscope’s festive offering, A World of Christmas, is currently lighting up the UpperStage at IRT with a jubilee of dance selections that are both delightful and sublime. Under the inventive hand of choreographer David Hochoy, the DK troupe stages two very differing pieces: Hochoy’s 1997 creation, Ceremony of Carols, and his evolving set of internationally inspired and themed works entitled World of Christmas Kaleidoscope.

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One of the many beautiful arrangements from David Hochoy’s “Ceremony of Carols”, part of  “A World of Christmas”.

The first, Ceremony of Carols, opens with an immediate impression of purity and light as the dancers arrive bearing gifts created by the Herron High School sculpture class, and wearing costumer Cheryl Sparks’ varietal immaculate white creations. Moody lighting by Laura E. Glover enhances the imagery. The dancers perform a series of mostly brief presentations set to music by Benjamin Britten which places the ensemble on a softened ethereal plain. The choreography is flowing and precise, very much a set of momentary still images connected by graceful repositionings. In total, the combined sets result in a serene and hopeful feeling.

The second half of the performance, World of Christmas Kaleidoscope, is much more bright and lively. The appealing selections begin with Mariel Greenlee’s playful rendition of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” celebrating Russian influences, continuing on through group dances of the USA’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” and a Hawaiian favorite, “Mele Kalikimaka”, plus solos by Stuart Coleman (a sharp “White Christmas”), and the Norwegian carol “Kling no Klokka” – a smoothly striking piece performed by Emily Dyson.  Through it all I noticed not a peep from the 3 year old in my neighboring seat, who was entirely transfixed by the wonderful dancers.

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Emily Dyson performs to “Kling no Klokka” (“Now the Bells are Ringing”) as part of “World of Christmas Kaleidoscope”.

The remaining renditions visit Spain, for an emotional duet depicting Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging; then it’s on to Jamaica, for the bouncy island beat of “All I Want for Christmas”; and Benin for a striking “O Holy Night”, one of my favorites. The set concludes with a return to the first act’s stylings for “Silent Night”.

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The Dance Kaleidoscope company performs “Mele Kalikimaka”, a part of “World of Christmas Kaleidoscope”.

This awesome holiday show confirms for me the following truths: I consider DK to be an artistic treasure that we are fortunate to have access to in Central Indiana. The dancers are all strong, precise and amazing performers, whether as a group or in duets and solos. The leadership provided by Mr. Hochoy cannot be overlooked – his vision as a choreographer is creative and unique, full of vitality and imagination. This celebration of Christmas is a gift to the city, and is hopefully a pleasant new addition to Indianapolis’ traditions.

A World of Christmas continues Thurs-Sun, Dec 7-10 on the IRT UpperStage. Ticket information and schedules can be found at http://www.dancekal.org or by calling 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Crowe’s Eye Photography

 

“A Beef & Boards Christmas” – 2017

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reviewed by Mark Kamish

Dorothy wanted to go over the rainbow, only to discover there is no place like home, and beauty sometimes lies in your own backyard. Sure, I’ve been many times to other Indy holiday favs like IPL’s “Yuletide Celebration” at the ISO and IRT’s A Christmas Carol. Unsure why, especially having lived on the north side now for six years, this is my first time experiencing A Beef & Boards Christmas.

It’s the show’s silver anniversary production this year, for goodness sake. Add to the significance of that milestone the fact that this Indianapolis holiday tradition will not return in 2018 (life is seasons, isn’t it?), I was so glad to have had the opportunity to finally enjoy seeing this heart-warming production with Patricia and Marina. Thanks so much to Patricia Rettig, B&B’s Director of Marketing & Media Relations, as well as to the entire theatre and production staff, for working so hard to ensure that we and the rest of Saturday’s full house had a lovely evening of food, drink and excellent holiday entertainment.

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Santa makes an appearance in “A Beef & Boards Christmas” – 2017.

Doug Stark, owner of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre (and an integral part of this year’s show, donning the red suit to personally extend his heartfelt holiday wishes as jolly old St. Nick himself), reflected by saying, “A Beef & Boards Christmas has been our own original Christmas greeting to our guests for 25 years. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our audiences for making the show part of their holiday tradition.”

And whether you are returning to make A Beef & Boards Christmas part of your family holiday tradition, or are experiencing it for the first time like I am, the cast and crew will not disappoint.

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Kenny Shepard hosts the 25th annual “A Beef & Boards Christmas”

Kenny Shepard, who is truly part of the fabric of this show (having performed in it since its second year in 1994 (when it was still called the Beef & Boards Christmas Spectacular) is once again the featured host.

Other faces familiar to Beef & Boards faithful take the stage as well. Principal singers Kyle Durbin, Betsy Norton and Peter Scharbrough all return from the 2016 production. They are joined by Marisa Rivera, who was just seen on stage as Anita in B&B’s production of West Side Story. These four perform the vocal yeoman’s work of this musical variety show beautifully. Norton’s “Tennessee Christmas,” Scharbrough’s “Santa’s Back” (with members of the gorgeous and talented dance ensemble), Rivera’s “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and Durbin’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (the latter two pieces with full Ensemble) were among my favorites.

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Renée Jackson performs in “A Beef & Boards Christmas” – 2017.

The featured singer this year is Renée Jackson, a Brooklyn-based actress (and Ball State B.F.A. Musical Theatre program alum), who just made her Beef & Boards debut in Ghost, The Musical (as Oda Mae Brown). Her vocal and physical command of the stage is moving. “O Holy Night,” performed with the entire Ensemble, is a showstopper. One often watches professional actors, singers and performers without a thought as to the struggles and hardships they have had to endure and overcome to be onstage. Ms. Jackson’s story certainly sounds to be one of those personal journeys marked with dark days and hurdles. Judging by her performance, she sure seems to have emerged on the other side with grace and radiance.

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The B&B Christmas Quartet: (from left) Peter Scharbrough, Marisa Rivera, Betsy Norton and Kyle Durbin.

The Ensemble of vibrant and talented singers and dancers include a pair of Carmel sisters (Kari and Maggie Baker), accomplished professional actors, half a score or more of returning B&B veterans and, well, that guy in the red suit and white beard, coming to you directly from the North Pole.

Supporting the show throughout is a fabulous orchestra, perfectly suited for this variety-show format. Thank you, Kristy Templet, Terry Woods, Dorothy McDonald, Rick Hajduk, John Huntoon, Brad Koser, Fred Withrow and Nathan Shaw. You guys and gals are amazing!

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The B&B Orchestra is back in full force, skillfully led by Kristy Templet (at left piano).

From familiar songs (some maybe not so familiar) to great choreography to cute sketches to dazzling costumes (and quick costume changes) to feel-good emotions, A Beef & Boards Christmas is, I now know for myself, another great Indianapolis holiday tradition. You owe it to yourself and your family to experience it one more time this season. ‘Cause you never know what you’ve got, ‘til it’s gone.

A Beef & Boards Christmas will continue its run of 36 total performances in the intimate atmosphere of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre through December 23 (and includes Chef Odell Ward’s holiday dinner buffet, fruit & salad bar, unlimited coffee, tea and lemonade – as well as adult beverages and gourmet desserts available for purchase). For more specific information on dates and show times, visit beefandboards.com.

Reservations may be made by calling the box office at (317) 872-9664 anytime between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays.

Merry Christmas!

#bbchristmas2017

  • Photos by Julie Curry

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