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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!

Orchestra

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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