“South Pacific” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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When the 2015 season was announced about a year ago and I saw that South Pacific was on the list, I looked forward to the opening with great anticipation. This Rodgers and Hammerstein classic from 1949 has been a favorite of mine since I saw the film version in 1958, when I was 9 years old. My aunt owned the soundtrack LP and when I visited her I nearly always gave it a listen and did so frequently enough that I still know most of the words to the wonderful songs in the score.

The Seabees and nurses perform “Honey Bun” featuring Nellie Forbush (Deb Wims) and Luther Billis (Jeff Stockberger in Beef & Boards' production of

The Seabees and nurses perform “Honey Bun” featuring Nellie Forbush (Deb Wims) and Luther Billis (Jeff Stockberger) in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

Beef and Boards presents an entertaining version of the landmark show, but it is with this hardwired memory of the film version and my resultant love of the score that I make my comparisons and evaluations. I was exposed to South Pacific at such a formative time in my life, it has never left me, and indeed I can say it raised my interest in theatre to a higher level, just by the appreciation I felt for it.

Emile de Becque (Robert Wilde) with Nellie (Deb Wims) and his children Ngana (Anjali Rooney) and Jerome (Ian Gamble) in Beef & Boards' production of

Emile de Becque (Robert Wilde) with Nellie (Deb Wims) and his children Ngana (Anjali Rooney) and Jerome (Ian Gamble) in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

As always, B&B finds immensely talented performers for it’s shows, especially in the lead roles. Two first-time B&B performers, Robert Wilde  as Emile de Becque and Mickey Rafalski as Lt. Cable, are brilliant in their portrayals. Wilde brings a distinguished bass voiced quality to his handsome de Becque, especially in his rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” and Rafalski, who has a marvelous tenor voice one could listen to all evening (and who looked a LOT like Brad Pitt from my seat on the third tier) enchants us with a powerful “Younger Than Springtime”. B&B veteran Deb Wims repeats her role as Nellie Forbush – giving us a girlish, unsophisticated portrayal and winning us over with fine performances of Nellie’s catalogue of songs. Cynthia Thomas uses her strong voice to portray Bloody Mary as a no nonsense profiteer. While she provided a rather enjoyably unique version of “Happy Talk”, I felt we may have missed some of the mysterious possibilities in her offering of “Bali Ha’i”.

B&B favorite Jeff Stockberger fills the stage with his Luther Billis, the Bilkoesque sailor striving for fun and profit. Stockberger loads his character with dozens of schticks and expressions, capping it all off with an enlarged bit of physical comedy that stops the show.

Bloody Mary (Cynthia Thomas), center, laughs with the Seabees in Beef & Boards' production of South Pacific.

Bloody Mary (Cynthia Thomas), center, laughs with the Seabees in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

In smaller roles, Bob Payne and Adam Crowe as Captain Brackett and Commander Harbison, respectively, do admirable work. So too the supporting Seabees – Doug King, Aaron Choi, A.J. Morrison, Craig Underwood, Samuel McKanney, and nurses Sally Scharbrough, Amanda Lehman, Amy Owens, and Annalee Traeger. Ian Gamble and Anjali Rooney are sweet as the de Becque children. Arrianne Villareal provides a solid and lovely Liat.

Nellie (Deb Wims), center, sings “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” with the nurses in Beef & Boards' production of South Pacific

Nellie (Deb Wims), center, sings “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” with the nurses in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

Of course, we are all accustomed to the small stage aspect that B&B must deal with in presenting large format shows such as Les Miserables and South Pacific. As in the former, I thought an ingenious bit of design work by Michael Layton gave adequate space to all the settings in the present offering – de Becque’s mansion, the Captain’s office, as well as various beach areas and stages. Likewise, the costuming by Jill Kelly came through smartly with the correct blend of military blandness and colorful island flair. And the smallish band, led by Kristy Templet, provided the score with an apt adroitness.

Lt. Cable (Mickey Rafalski) sings “Younger Than Springtime” to Liat (Arianne Villareal) in Beef & Boards' production of

Lt. Cable (Mickey Rafalski) sings “Younger Than Springtime” to Liat (Arianne Villareal) in Beef & Boards’ production of “South Pacific”

Given all these impressive parts of the show, I fear I hold the musical too dear to have been totally satisfied by what I saw here. But, I realize it perhaps could not be presented differently. For example – I felt the action was a bit rushed throughout, with a quickened pace in most of the scenes. This resulted in my feeling that the main relationships, those between de Becque and Nellie, and between Lt. Cable and Liat, seemed lacking in fervor and emotion as time was not often given to portray anything but a quick warmth. This I am guessing is Liz Stark, the director, trying to make a very long musical shortened to a comfortable 2 hours and 15 minutes. She accomplished that, but at the cost, I feel, of a fullness to the romantic facets of the stories. That, to me, is what the production mainly lacked – the romance that is such a large part of the story arc and which provides the pay-offs at the end – for Liat’s sadness and for Nellie’s joy. I understand the tradeoff – but regret it has to be so.

Bottom line: Really fine performances, a very good selection on Chef Ward’s buffet and beautiful set design and costuming, are slightly undone by a pace that is often too rapid to allow things to develop in the storyline. An enjoyable evening, nonetheless, but my expectations from having loved the show since childhood go unmet.

South Pacific continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through October 4th. Show times and reservations can be obtained at http://www.beefandboards.com or by calling 317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

Memories I Can Hear and Share – Jesus Christ Superstar 1975

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Forty years ago, I was a 26 year old Navy veteran going to school on the GI Bill at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey CA. I had started my classes at MPC in 1974 and I was taking mostly theatre courses hoping to someday have a career in that field.  I had already been in a few “main stage” shows and had also done quite a bit of scene work in my classes. Also, I had just begun to get my feet wet directing scenes and short plays.

The MPC theatre department had a summer program during which they scheduled an extended run of a popular show. The year before, in the summer of ’74, the show had been Hair. It was actually a restaging of the production of Hair which had been our very successful spring show earlier that year. I had a small part, George, and I enjoyed working on an expanded schedule for the first time. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and we sold a bunch of tickets – 18 sellouts in the spring and an equal number in the summer, in a 350 seat theatre.

The word had gotten out that for the summer of ‘75 the department was planning something very special. We soon learned that we would be staging three different productions in repertory for the Monterey Theatre Festival. When the schedule was announced the shows were Charley’s Aunt, Gypsy and Jesus Christ Superstar. As you might imagine the excitement in our college theatre community was at a high point.

So, auditions were held, the roles were assigned and I was lucky enough to be cast as Sir Francis Chesney in Charley’s Aunt, Grandpa in Gypsy (I was also in charge of the scene change crew) and, after a rigorous audition process, Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. (It didn’t hurt that I had long hair past my shoulders and showed promise for hitting “the note” – A above high C in “Gethsemane”) That bit of luck was made all the more exciting when my very good friend Michael King got the role that he sought, Judas. The third important role of Mary Magdalene went to a young lady from the music department who had an amazing voice, Charmaigne Scott.

The summer played out well and it was a huge success. All three shows filled the seats – it seemed everyone wanted to see Superstar. Remember, the “rock opera” had begun as a concept album in 1970 and had hit Broadway in 1971. The film version was not until 1973. We were one of the first theatres on the west coast to produce it.

The experience of that summer was truly an amazing one for me. Working on three shows at once was grueling at times, but most of my memories are of great friends, great shows and great times.

After the shows closed, there was a call for the cast of Superstar to do a recording session. Two microphones on stage, the full orchestra in the pit and an ‘engineer’ in the booth was the best we could do back in 1975 and the entire show was recorded (with our very tired voices) onto a reel to reel ¼ inch tape. (All the songs were done in single takes – so there are some few vocal mishaps that are included.) I never knew how many of those tapes existed. As far as I can tell there was only one. Somehow, I am really not certain how, I wound up with that recording and I kept it with me through 40 years of marriages and moves. For the past 20 years it’s been laying in a box in the rafters in our garage.

So – with the 40th anniversary of the opening of our Superstar coming up on August 5th 2015, I pondered what to do with this personal artifact. It was such an outdated media format, I wasn’t sure if it would be of any use, or indeed if any quality of sound survived on it. On a whim, I started a conversation about it with a friend of mine, Dennis Forkel, here in Indianapolis. Dennis is an audio/video aficionado and collector. He has old 33 1/3 albums and the equipment to play them on, and that’s not the half of his collection of stuff.

So looking for advice, I told Dennis about my reel-to-reel dilemma and as luck would have it, he had the capabilities to transfer the sound from this old knocked-about tape to a digital format, CDs. (Unbelievably, we found that on the reverse side of the tape, there was a recording of our 1974 production of HAIR!!)

And so, with many thanks to Dennis, it has been accomplished. And now I am ready to share these vintage, college-age performances with my friends. Mostly the significance of these recordings lies in their age (they are a bit of an audio time capsule), and the memories they bring for those who were a part of this long ago summer show, and possibly some enjoyment for some of you who merely like the show.

I’ll not include all the cuts. I will try to select the best of them and hope that will suffice to give a good sampling of what we did 40 years ago in the summer of 1975.



JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

MUSIC by ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER 

LYRICS by TIM RICE

Directed by Morgan Stock – Musical Direction by Barney Hulse

Heaven on Their Minds: Here is Michael Carlton King as Judas (Note: Michael is a professional singer, performing in clubs and restaurants in the Atlanta GA area).

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/4ZknVwsVffQ

Strange Thing Mystifying: Michael as Judas and you will hear me as Jesus in this cut.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/VGW2LYupcqA

Everything’s Alright: Michael and I are joined by Charmaigne Scott as Mary Magdalene (Note: Charmaigne is a performer in the central California area)

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/rclH-bRcDow

This Jesus Must Die: Here we have Lawrence Martin singing the deep-voiced Caiaphas, and Bruce Roberts as Annas.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/ESrhbrwp2iI

Hosanna: Lawrence Martin and the JCS chorus join me on this rousing number.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/yHrenn2uoMk

Simon Zealotes: Here the late Steve Barnes sings the part of Simon along with the great JCS chorus – you should have seen Akemi Ito’s wild choreography! This is one I wish I had a video of so I could share it.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/_dXA4FeD7bs

Poor Jerusalem: One of my favorite songs from the show – soft, sweet and meaningful.

On YouTube: http://youtu.be/5vbryMGv8TM

Pilate’s Dream: We were so lucky to have Joel Fleischer in the role of Pontius Pilate.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/GnowL93Kkjk

I Don’t Know How to Love Him: Charmaigne Scott’s lovely rendition of this signature song somehow wasn’t available on the tape. I have no idea why that is so – but it is sad to miss what I thought was the best singing in the entire show.

So we move on to…

Damned For All Time/Blood Money: Martin, Roberts and King knock this one out of the park.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/68_-HAzaPVQ

The Last Supper: This number began the second act and featured a typically iconic visual arrangement borrowed from the Da Vinci masterpiece.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/C2WzdrKFjM4

Gethsemane: My big solo. I couldn’t make it to the A above high C with my ragged voice that day, but I think it still might be mostly okay…

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/N8G303dB0Ro

Michael C. King as Judas betrays with a kiss.

Michael C. King as Judas betrays with a kiss.

Pilate and Christ/King Herod’s Song: Joel Fleischer is amazing in the first portion of this piece as Pilate. And my good friend Don Porter, whom I have completely lost track of, takes the role of the flamboyant King Herod in the conclusion of the number.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/J7XIvLMLHmU

Don Porter as King Herod in a publicity photo with me as JCS.

Don Porter as King Herod in a publicity photo with me as JCS.

Could We Start Again Please: Charmaigne Scott’s beautiful voice is fully featured in this cut. Buzz Curry as Peter joins in.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/1vhJ2mUYWZU

Judas’ Death: Michael’s dramatic exit song, with Bruce Roberts and Lawrence Martin.

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/hzs0CL3pAkA

Superstar: Michael C. King and the three Soul Girls – Linda Sparks, Vicki White and Latanya Wilson rock it out

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/Xu5d8PqJb0I

John 19:41: This closing piece features our musical director Barney Hulse, still very active in the music world, as he leads the 30 piece orchestra which was so solid throughout the show’s run. I’ve also added show credits…

on YouTube: http://youtu.be/xdz4B_2V0Bo

Behind the scenes: June Carnegie fits me into my Jesus costume

Behind the scenes: June Carnegie fits me into my Jesus costume

ADDENDUM

I just found this in my files. The review from The Monterey Peninsula Herald – 8/6/75

“Jake’s Women” at Center Stage Community Theater

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Last night, Mrs. K and I made the 30 minute drive up to Lebanon IN for Center Stage’s opening night presentation of Neil Simon’s 1992 play, Jake’s Women. Not one of Simon’s more popular or regularly performed plays, Jake’s Women explores a crisis in the life of a writer (Jake), who must deal with some rather psychotic episodes in his self-controlled imagination: visions of important women in his life. Often suffering from writer’s block and in search of answers to his troubled life, he imagines scenes present and past with his wife Maggie, his daughter from his first marriage, Molly, his sister Karen, his analyst Edith, and his deceased 1st wife Julie. Using these imagined visits as an attempt to figure out why Jake and Maggie are on the verge of a breakup, Simon breaks new ground for his playwriting skills by exploring some very serious subject matter, although there are still many well constructed laughs to be enjoyed amidst the crazed and zany angst of his lead character.

The Center Stage production certainly does not disappoint. Under the carefully crafted direction of Jan Jamison, her talented cast members once again show just how amazingly good central Indiana community theatre can be. Young Julia Frisby and younger Bella Doss, share the role of Molly – portrayed at present age – 21, and past age – 12, respectively. Both give nicely rounded performances as Ms. Doss does a fine job delivering some typical Simonesque zingers while Ms. Frisby is especially effective in an emotional imagined reunion with her late mother. Pamela Kingsley is terrific as Jake’s analyst, Edith. Simon has loaded her dialogue with edgy comic lines, and Ms. Kingsley plays each opportunity to maximum effect. Sonja Distefano, as sister Karen, delivers a characterization that completely fills the bill. Nebbish, and lovingly intrusive and needy, Ms. Distefano adroitly shows how Jake’s psychosis may likely be a family trait. One of the few “real” and unimagined characters, Sheila – a woman that Jake has been seeing during a separation from his wife – is played to a ‘t’ by Tanya Haas. Ms. Haas handles the woman’s fears and comical misunderstandings with a frantic-faced flourish.

The two most important females in Jake’s life are his departed wife Julie and his present wife Maggie. Julie is done to perfection by one of my favorite young actresses, Addison Ahrendts. No matter what the role, Ms. Ahrendts seems to know how to show her character’s feelings with just the right expressions and movements. Here again, she brings that uncanny knack to bear when she appears in Jake’s memory pieces as a young girlfriend/wife and a wistful mother. Jake’s present wife Maggie comes to life through the talents of Tonya Fenimore, first as an unsure party guest in a memory when she and Jake first meet, and later as a mature and unhappy wife, who has had enough of Jake’s brand of mental misgivings and is unsure of their future together. Ms. Fenimore does a wonderful job with a difficult role which includes a very testing scene as she faces the truth about her needs and Jake’s shortcomings. Her Midwestern characterization is spot on, though it took me a short while to realize what she was doing with that aspect of her portrayal.

As good as the actresses are in their varied roles, this play belongs to Jake, played with complete abandon in a tour de force rendition by veteran actor, Laurence Adams. I have to say that very few actors in my circle could have accomplished what I saw Dr. Adams do with this character last night. Jake is complicated; a manic-depressive creature, controlling, angst-filled, living in his past, wanting to command his future, while lacking a basic trust for women. Adams soars through all these facets and more in a truly exceptional display of his thespian skills. I have seen Adams in many roles, and have directed him in one or two, but I believe he has hit a high mark with this depiction which features great comic turns, sorrowful enlightenments and near hysterical intrusions. It should not be missed.

Laurence Adams (Jake)  and his women - (clockwise from lower left) Bella Doss (Molly - 12), Sonya Distefano (Karen), Addison Ahrendts (Julie), Tonya Fenimore (Maggie), Tanya Haas (Sheila), Pamela Kingsley (Edith) and Julia Frisby (Molly - 21)

Laurence Adams (Jake) surrounded by his women – (clockwise from lower left) Bella Doss (Molly – 12), Sonya Distefano (Karen), Addison Ahrendts (Julie), Tonya Fenimore (Maggie), Tanya Haas (Sheila), Pamela Kingsley (Edith) and Julia Frisby (Molly – 21)

Bottomline: Rarely do I make such predictions but I must say, there will likely be more than a few Encore nominations and some award winners resulting from this production. It is simply a rare gem in our community theatre circle. Director Jamison and her crew at Center Stage should be proud of their accomplishment. It is an outstanding production of a rather difficult play.

Jake’s Women continues through August 9th,  Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm at Center Stage’s theatre in Lebanon. You may call 765.894.5587 for reservations and information. Their website is http://www.centerstagetheatre.org .

* – Photo from the Jake’s Women Facebook page

“Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre continues it’s 2015 season with Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming, a sequel production of the original Smoke on the Mountain, which was done here in 2013. Written by Connie Ray, as conceived by Alan Bailey with musical arrangements by Mike Carver, this edition again relates the story of the singing Sanders Family. This time it is 1945, the war is over and Rev.  Mervin Oglethorpe has married June Sanders. He has received a calling to lead a church in West Texas. So the family is gathering for one final sing at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in rural North Carolina.

The Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe (John Vessels) at top in center with his wife, June (Sarah Hund), sings with the Sanders Family (from left) Denise (Christina Rose Rahn), Dennis (Will Boyajian), Vera (Pam Pendleton), Stanley (Brian Gunter) and Burl (Bob Payne)

The Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe (John Vessels) at top in center with his wife, June (Sarah Hund), sings with the Sanders Family (from left) Denise (Christina Rose Rahn), Dennis (Will Boyajian), Vera (Pam Pendleton), Stanley (Brian Gunter) and Burl (Bob Payne)

Kristy Templet takes on the musical direction and Jeff Stockberger repeats as director, while several of his performers from the 2013 show have returned for this production. The inimitable John Vessels again plays the high-flying Reverend Oglethorpe. Vessels’ marvelous talent for both comedy and song leads the action as his excitable Oglethorpe deals with his great move into the unknown. Sarah Hund returns as June Sanders (now Oglethorpe), the non-singing member of the group. Ms. Hund, whose character is now 8 months pregnant, is wonderful as she goofily provides sign language for some of the songs the family performs and adds she own special quirky rhythm talents to many of the others. Pam Pendleton recreates her role as the matriarchal Vera Sanders. Ms. Pendleton’s diversity shows in her talent for vocals and for playing most every instrument on stage (and there are many) as well as showing precise comic timing in her acting chores. Happily, Brian Gunter also repeats his spot-on portrayal of Stanley Sanders, the wayward brother/uncle in the group. Gunter’s convincing and well-crafted portrayal has wowed me both times I have seen him onstage. He seems to walk right out of the 1940s as he conveys Stanley’s troubled path in life.

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Director Stockberger has maintained this high level of versatility and expertise with the addition of several new members to the cast. Stage veteran Bob Payne joins the group as Burl Sanders, the leader of the family singers. Payne also shows many instrumental and vocal skills and his strongly defined character brings a grounding presence to the proceedings – which sometimes teeter on mild mayhem. His twin children Denise and Dennis are played by B&B newcomers Christina Rose Rahn and Will Boyajian. Both handle their roles and the necessary musical skills with aplomb, and both have great voices. Ms. Rahn has fun with actions that concern her never seen offstage twin boys, while Boyajian is very engaging as he tells Dennis’ inspiring battlefield memories.

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When I reviewed this show’s partner production two years ago, I started out by defining the word versatility. It’s a term that can be used repeatedly to describe this cast’s work on stage. About 20 or so instruments are played, some by most everyone in the cast and the songs are uplifting and expertly done. The result is a rousing, feel-good, toe-tapping, hand-clapping and pleasantly stimulating good time. The standing ovation which this group received was a well-deserved display of the audience’s appreciation for having been so thoroughly entertained.

I can’t leave out Chef Odell Ward’s fine buffet offerings, nor the great B&B staff, as these are certainly a large part of the enjoyment of coming to Beef and Boards.

Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming continues through August 16th. You call find out all you need to know about dates, times and tickets by visiting the website at http://www.beefandboards.com or by calling 317-872-9664.

* – Photos by Julie Curry

“Peter Pan” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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I belong to the generation of Americans who were treated, as children, to a very extraordinary television event in 1955, ’56 and ’60 – Mary Martin in “Peter Pan”! For me, it was quite a memorable occasion – I loved the fantastic story, I believed I would very much like to fly, and I might say that I became a fledgling performer due to the show’s wonderful songs – “I Won’t Grow Up”, “I’m Flying'” and  “I Gotta Crow” – which I executed regularly for a time after the show had run. It left me with a great appreciation of the show, which I found was vividly renewed by attending B&B’s outstanding current production of Peter Pan.

Choreographer Ron Morgan and Director Eddie Curry have recreated all the fun and magic and memory of the original – and the result is a well-chosen selection for the “family show” offering in B&B’s 2015 season. The audience was filled with plenty of little new-believers – and the cast and technical crew provided plenty of inspired portrayals and effects to suit their fascination. (On Tinker Bell’s first appearance – as her greenly lit embodiment flitted about onstage – a sweet young voice exclaimed out loud – “WHAT is THAT?” – to everyone’s delight.)

Peter Pan (Phebe Taylor) teaches the Darling children (Kennedy Martin, Holland Barnes and Ethan Gold) that they can fly in B&B’s “Peter Pan”.


The role of Peter Pan is filled by B&B newcomer Phebe Taylor. She makes an excellent Pan – full of energy, strongly voiced, fittingly able to do all of Peter’s flying tricks and attitudes; Ms. Taylor always has just the right way about her to help us believe. The three Darling children, led by talented B&B regular Kennedy Martin as Wendy, all do first-rate work. Ethan Gold is solid as John Darling and first grader Holland Barnes does himself proud as little Michael. Suzanne Stark gives her lovely singing voice to us as their mother, Mrs. Darling.
Captain Hook (Jeff Stockberger) and his crew (Clockwise from bottom: Darrin Murrell, A.J. Morrison, Doug King, John Vessels and Michael Davis)

Captain Hook (Jeff Stockberger) and his crew (Clockwise from bottom: Darrin Murrell, A.J. Morrison, Doug King, John Vessels and Michael Davis)


Of course there are also Lost Boys, Pirates and Indians to contend with. Simon Barnes, Eric Best, Colin McCabe, William Main, Miles Morey, Abraham Rittenhouse, Danny Staton and Samuel McKanney cavort as the troupe of Pan’s motherless boys. As Pirates, Michael Davis, Doug King, John Vessels and A.J. Morrison drip with amusing evil – led by the rubber-faced Darrin Murrell as a lively Mr. Smee. Dancers Allyson Hankins, Danielle Carnagua, Alexandra Young and Amanda Lehman provide the Indian roles – skillfully led by the very talented Sally Scharbrough as Tiger Lily.  

The one and only Jeff Stockberger takes the role of Captain Hook, a part I believe he was born to play. Stockberger provides a maximized performance as the ridiculous, droll, ludicrous and whimsical sea-farer. He has us in his pocket from his first entrance, and seems to get better and funnier as the show progresses.

Tiger Lily (Sally Scharbrough), center, cautions her band of Indians to be quiet in B&B’s production of “Peter Pan”.


Musical Director Terry Woods leads his smartly compact B&B band through their paces, and costumes by Jill Kelly are colorful and appropriate. The action is played on Michael Layton’s fine set design, with lights by Ryan Koharchik that add to the magic. And Troy Trinkle’s aerial apparatus and technical instruction give us the thrill of seeing the players fly around the stage.

Peter Pan (Phebe Taylor), right, teaches the Lost Boys a “lesson” by declaring “I Won’t Grow Up” in B&B’s production of “Peter Pan”


Bottom line: Beef and Boards’ Peter Pan is pure fun. Though the show is certainly geared toward a young audience, there is plenty to please all family members and no one goes away with anything except a feeling of having been magically entertained.
Phebe Taylor as Peter Pan

Phebe Taylor as Peter Pan


Peter Pan continues through July 3rd. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve your tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 872-9664, or by going to the website at http://www.beefandboards.com.

* – Photos by Julie Curry

“Xanadu” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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Some of you might remember the movie Xanadu, which appeared in 1980 and was almost universally panned by critics as a flop. I saw it and recall it as being perhaps one of the worst musical films ever made. It certainly shortened the film career of star Olivia Newton-John and is credited with being an inspiration for the Golden Raspberry Awards (the “Razzies”) which annually commemorate “the worst that Hollywood has to offer”.

Luckily for us, this legacy of awfulness is not what ATI’s season closing production by the same name is all about, merely what it is based on. Xanadu the Broadway musical is, in fact, a send-up of that unremarkable film. Amazingly, the writing team of Douglas Carter Bean and Christopher Ashley were inspired to take another look at that failed effort and rework it in a spoofish vein. The resulting production opened on Broadway in 2007 and garnered more than a few Tony and Drama Desk nominations.

Jenny Reber and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl star  as Clio/Kira and Sonny Malone in ATI's "Xanadu"

Jenny Reber and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl star as Clio/Kira and Sonny Malone in ATI’s “Xanadu”

The altered story still concerns an uninspired artist, Sonny Malone – played here by the very talented Dominic Sheahan-Stahl – who is at the end of his creative wits and dismally contemplates his self-demise. Enter the Muse Clio, a daughter of Zeus, on an assignment from Mount Olympus to be Danny’s inspiration. This Muse, portrayed by lovely local actress Jenny Reber, decides to change her name from Clio to Kira, don leg-warmers and roller skates, and take on an Australian accent. The couple’s encounter, their plan to open an all arts encompassing roller disco nightclub, their ultimate love feelings and the conflicting story arc provided by two of Clio’s older Muse sisters, joyfully played by ATI co-founders Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald, make up the mostly thin plot-line which is saved by a generous sprinkling of production numbers and songs.

DeJuan Jackson, Betsy Norton, Sean Seager, Kellie Spill, Judy Fitzgerald and Jenny Reber appear as Muses and "sisters" in ATI's Xanadu

DeJuan Jackson, Betsy Norton, Sean Seager, Kellie Spill, Judy Fitzgerald and Jenny Reber appear as Muses and “sisters” in ATI’s “Xanadu”

Ably directed by Billy Kimmel, with choreography by Allison Bibicoff, the skilled cast includes Betsy Norton, Kellie Spill, Sean Seager and Dejuan Jackson as the remaining Muse sisters (yes, guys are sisters in the campy framework on this sometimes preposterous satire) and features Paul Nicely in a winning portrayal of Danny Maguire (and Zeus). They spin through a long list of mostly familiar songs. Some of us who lived through (and survived) the disco era are glad to hear again such tunes as “Magic”, “Evil Woman” and “Have You Never Been Mellow”, among others. Though the dancing is sometimes less than precise and “snapping”, I felt the songs were carried out very nicely by the strong voices – especially those of the two leads. Ms. Reber and Sheahan-Stahl are blessed with fantastic vocal talents and the entire ensemble creates some wonderful moments with harmonies and solos. Musical Director Brent Marty assuredly leads his 4 piece combo through the maze of music.

Jenny Reber, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, Allison Bibicoff, Betsy Norton, DeJuan Jackson, Paul Nicely, Sean Seager and Kellie Spill in a scene from ATI's "Xanadu"

Jenny Reber, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, Allison Bibicoff, Betsy Norton, DeJuan Jackson, Paul Nicely, Sean Seager and Kellie Spill in a scene from ATI’s “Xanadu”

Of special note is the amazing sound design by Jonathan Parke, whose technical adeptness sets up a variety of interesting vocal special effects and sound cues. Margaret Ozemet’s costumes sparkle and amuse, while Daniel Klinger’s array of hair designs and effects are original and noteworthy. R.B. Marie put together a dynamic light design that enhances the story and Bernie Killian offers a concise set design.

Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald cavort as Calliope and Melpomene in ATI's "Xanadu"

Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald cavort as Calliope and Melpomene in ATI’s “Xanadu”

The fact is, the whole idea behind Xanadu is to make fun of such productions – at one point, in the show’s climax, Zeus proclaims from the 1980’s: “Creativity shall remain stymied for decades. The theatre? They’ll just take some stinkeroo movie…throw it onstage and call it a show.” This should never be forgotten while watching this over-the-top depiction of the forgettable film. If you begin to think it is otherwise, you will not only lose the point, you will wonder what ATI was thinking when they listed this show in their season schedule!

ATI’s Xanadu continues through May 17th. You may find information about show dates and times by going to http://www.actorstheatreofindiana.org or by calling the box office at 317.843.3800.

* – PHOTOS BY ZACH ROSING
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I am pleased to inform you of the upcoming ATI 2015-2016 season which includes The Fantastics (Sept 11-27), The Andrews Brothers (Nov 6-22), Frog and Toad (Dec 11-27), Sweeney Todd (Jan 29-Feb 14), and Unnecessary Farce (April 29-May 15). Season subscriptions go on sale May 8. Call 317.843.3800.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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It seems I have a new favorite musical. After seeing Beef and Boards’ production of The Drowsy Chaperone, it cannot be any other way. The show is so unique, so inspired, that my first exposure to it left me searching for accurate words to describe it. But I will try.

To begin with, the show has a rather unusual history. It started in 1997 as a spoof of musicals devised for a bachelor party celebration for Bob Martin and Janet van de Graaf, two Canadian performers. The idea was then adjusted to be a Fringe Festival show in Toronto. Following the Fringe offering, it came to the attention of theatre producer David Mirvish, who put together an enlarged 1999 production for a Toronto theatre – which led to a more fully scaled version in 2001, with subsequent successes in Los Angeles in 2005 and Broadway in 2006. It won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book and also won a collection of Drama Desk awards.

David Schmittou plays Man in the Chair in Beef and Boards'

David Schmittou plays Man in the Chair in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The Beef and Boards presentation of the show, under brilliant direction and choreography by Ron Morgan, is top level. David Schmittou, recently seen here in Lend Me a Tenor and The Sound of Music, is absolutely perfect as Man in the Chair, our guide for a rather unique stage premise as he shares his infatuation for a recording of a 1920’s musical with us. Schmittou’s uncanny choices for his character’s nebbish and unsure persona are completely wonderful and entertaining. It all seems entirely “in the moment”, which only certifies Schmittou’s consummate stage talents.

Timothy Ford and Laura Douciere team up as soon to be married Bob Martin and Janet Van de Graaff in Beef and Boards'

Timothy Ford and Laura Douciere team up as soon-to-be-married Bob Martin and Janet Van de Graaff in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The “recorded” cast, who spring forth onstage once the record is played, is also very gifted. All have wonderfully strong vocal skills and all have taken well to the burlesque qualities of the script. Laura Douciere, in her B&B debut, takes on the main role as bride-to-be Janet Van de Graaff, who will give up her stage career to marry the dapper Robert Martin, played by Timothy Ford. Their wedding is set to occur at the home of Mrs. Tottendale, portrayed by B&B favorite Suzanne Stark with the aid of her employee, Underling – the always amusing John Vessels. Add in a nervous and threatened producer, Mr. Feldzieg (Douglas E. Stark), a hopeful showgirl, Kitty (Deb Wims), a rather over-blown gigolo named Aldolpho (Alan M-L Wager), the ever drowsy chaperone (B&B newcomer Victoria Weinberg), best-man-to-all George (Ian Frazier), two pastry loving gangsters (Samuel McKanney and Craig Underwood) and Aviatrix Trix (Kendra Lynn Lucas – of O’ Holy Night fame) and you have a rousing, hilarious story setting which pokes fun at it’s own genre – the show-stopping, shoe-tapping musical! There are absolutely no weak links in this incredible cast. The satirical songs and dance numbers are all top-notch, and the fun-filled story line is well executed with just the right touch of spoofishness and parody. And all of this is well supported by the smartly adept ensemble and by Kristy Templet’s amazing 5 piece orchestra. Bright, imaginative costumes by Kurt Alger, on the versatile set design by Michael Layton, complete the picture; and Chef Odell Ward’s fine buffet completes the evening.

Janet Van de Graaff tells how she does not want to Show Off any more in B&B's

Janet Van de Graaff (Laura Douciere) tells how she does not want to Show Off any more in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

Bottomline: I am so happy to have seen this much anticipated production – I was totally taken in by the very unique qualities of the book and by the highly talented cast. If you are unfamiliar with this show, be sure to give it a chance on your entertainment calendar. I think you will be very pleased that you did!

“Gangsters 1 & 2” (Samuel McKanney and Craig Underwood) display their talents for producer Mr. Feldzieg (Douglas E. Stark) in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

You may have to rush a bit to get on the reservation rolls. This production has a slightly limited time frame – B&B is presenting only 39 shows of The Drowsy Chaperone. The show only runs through May 10, so be sure to call the box office soon at 317-872-9664. You can visit B&B online at http://www.beefandboards.com for more information. Don’t miss this great show!

* – Photos by Julie Curry

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