“Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

With eight year old granddaughter Helena in tow, Mrs K and I took in a Saturday matinee performance of Civic Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical. Directed and choreographed by Anne Beck (a fellow Buffalonian, I might add) and musically directed by Brent E. Marty, the Disney favorite is adapted from the books by P.J. Travers and the popular film from over fifty years ago (1964).

Civic’s edition lands onstage at The Tarkington with remarkable energy and polish. Featuring an impressive trio of high end dance routines (Jolly Holiday, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Step in Time), with a cast full of extraordinary vocal talents, the story unfolds on David Robertson’s splendid set designs. Lighting designed by Ryan Koharchik and vivid costuming by Adrienne Conces augment the production, as does Mr. Marty’s orchestra.

Devan Mathias in the title role in Civic Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical”.

Devan Mathias is perfect as the Practically Perfect Poppins. Though this is a return to the role by Ms. Mathias, she brings a freshness to each of her scenes. Her lovely voice enhances the familiar songs and she gives her dance turns an arresting quality. At her side, the two Banks children, Jane and Michael, are given awesome presence by sixth graders Sydney Pinchouck and Ben Kistner, respectively. Both give outstanding performances of their songs, dances, and characterizations. 

Jeremy Shivers-Brimm (center) leads the cast in the rousing Step in Time number in Civic Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical”.

Also worth noting are: Jeremy Shivers-Brimm, who returns to the Civic stage as Bert and gives a lively rendition of the role; Susan Smith – sufficiently brutal as the terrorizing nanny, Miss Andrew; Civic regulars J. Stuart Mill and Mikayla Koharchik – solid as Mr. and Mrs. Banks; and Sawyer Harvey, eye-catching as a park statue and lead dancer in many of the production numbers. (Allow me to reminisce here: I have not seen Mr. Harvey onstage since we played together in Oliver at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in 2006 – he was Oliver and I was his grandfather, Mr. Brownlow).

The large 30 member cast lights up the stage repeatedly – highlights include the aforementioned Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, which features a mind boggling combination of hand, arm, and body movements, and an highly energetic offering of the delightful Step in Time. Also, several high-flying cast members thrillingly soar through the air across the stage at times!

from left: Sawyer Harvey (Statue) and Alex Smith (statue Neleus) join Devan Mathias (Mary Poppins) in the Jolly Holiday number in Civic Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical”.

It all adds up to great family entertainment. The many children in the audience, including our Helena, watched with rapt attention. I’m so glad we brought her!

If I were to nit-pick, I would bring up the occasional sound balance problems. On occasion, we have a bit of trouble hearing all the lyrics combining with the music. Also, it seems some actors are just better at enunciating than others are, and that can leave some holes to fill. But, in no way are these matters deal-breakers in the total enjoyment of the show – merely nuisances.    

from left: Sydney Pinchouck (Jane Banks), Alex Smith (Neleus) and Ben Kistner (Michael Banks) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical”.

Bottomline: Director/choreographer Beck has again put together a thoroughly impressive looking musical. Her skills at dance production are unquestionable. This is a show the entire family can enjoy together for the holidays

Mary Poppins – the Broadway Musical continues at the Booth Tarkington Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through December 29th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing
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DK’s “Home for the Holidays” at IRT UpperStage

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last night, Mrs. K and I wended our way into downtown Indianapolis for an annual event we always look forward to – Dance Kaleidoscope’s Holiday Program at IRT. We were not disappointed. The evening’s entertainment, entitled Home for the Holidays, is a captivating mixture of the familiar and the new – new to us, at least.

The first act consists of the “new” piece, which is actually from 2003 – choreographer David Hochoy’s celebration of the story of Hanukkah – Let There be Light. This program piece is a dramatic and graceful telling of the plight of the ancient Jews who when forced to bow to the statue of their Syrian oppressor Antiochus – refused, rebelled, and after a three year war, prevailed. Their temple destroyed, they worked together to rebuild it and rededicate it to God. A flame that was a symbol of God’s presence only had a single day’s fuel – but through the miracle that is celebrated today as Hanukkah, the lamp stayed lit for 8 full days. 

DK’s “Let There Be Light”, with featured dancers Timothy June and Manuel Valdes (center)

DK ‘s excellent dancers tell the story with vivid and emotional portrayals of the resilient community, their plight, their resistant aggression, their anguish, and the final celebration of the miraculous light. The troupe presented themselves, in my mind, as not merely great dancers but attuned performers, telling the story clearly, with grace and passion.

From Jamaica, “All I Want For Christmas”, featuring Marie Kuhns, Jillian Godwin, Manuel Valdes, and Cody Miley

After an interesting intermission, which featured Mr. Hochoy taking questions from the gathering, we moved into a more festive mood with the annual delight – World Christmas Kaleidoscope. This collection of dances to holiday songs from around the world features brilliant solos, evocative duets, and many light-hearted ensemble pieces. All the selections are wonderfully done, but my favorites include: the troupe’s bouncy rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus”, Emily Dyson’s recreation of her splendidly artistic Norwegian piece, “Kling no Klokka (Now The Bells Are Ringing)”, the very spiritual Spanish number “Nadal de Luintra (Christmas in Luintra)”, which tells the story of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging – beautifully rendered by Aleksa Lukasiewicz and Timothy June, and the truly joyful Hawaiian dance, “Mele Kalikimaka”, offered by the entire company.

From Benin – “O Holy Night” featuring Paige Robinson, Aleksa Lukasiewicz, and Stuart Coleman

The performers are expertly costumed by Cheryl Sparks for Let There Be Light with additional costuming by Barry Doss and Lydia Tanji for World Christmas Kaleidoscope, and the excellent lighting design is the work of Laura E. Glover. 

Bottomline: Home for the Holidays should be on your Christmas list of entertainments this season. It is a beautiful presentation to enjoy with every member of your family – especially the youngsters, who always seem awestruck by watching these awesome performers.

Luckily the show continues through this weekend and the next, with final performances on December 16th. Go to https://dancekal.org/features/concerts/home-for-the-holidays-dec-6-16 to find performance schedules and to reserve tickets or call the IRT Ticket Office at 317.635.5252.

Just a word about traveling by car to the theatre: if you are coming from the north side of Indy and generally park in the Embassy Suites parking ramp, be aware that Capitol St. is currently reduced to 2 lanes in the downtown area, causing some delays as you approach. You might wish to approach from another direction – perhaps south on Pennsylvania, then turn west on Washington and find parking in the mall ramp or elsewhere. The theatre does have valet parking available at its front door – for a fee. You’re welcome!

  • – Photos by Crowe’s Eye Photography

“In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should Be Shot)” at Mud Creek Players

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Many of us have relatives we see over the holidays who are strange, or embarrassingly odd, or addled in some way. Make that “most of us”….okay, perhaps “all of us”. Let’s face it, the members of our extended families can be so surprisingly different from our norm that seeing them only once a year even can be too much. (And they likely feel the same about seeing us!) This gap of familial acceptance is one of the main plot factors in Steve Franco’s zany comedy – In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (That Should Be Shot) currently running at Mud Creek Players.

Kelly Keller directs a large cast of 15 actors and actresses who portray what are some very familiar types for a Christmas Eve get-together: the non-stop talker, the too-close stander, the nostalgia bound old-timer, the red-neck brother-in-law, the embarrassed by her family niece, the wise-cracking teen aged daughter, and the befuddled dad. Add in a snooty, over-bearing neighbor, a blue-haired goth neighbor boy (who has eyes for the daughter), his trying to be helpful little sister, and their “what are you taking so long for” mom, and you already have quite a menagerie of folks in one house who cannot possibly get along well to enliven the proceedings. But playwright Franco stirs in two amateur crooks looking for a place to hide from the cops, and the story really finds some footing and takes off. The crooks are inept, of course – one a nervous, easily put-upon gun-waver; the other a rather dim-witted but good-hearted soul. 

from left: Brock Francis and Connor Phelan play the two crooks, Tony and Vinny,  in MCP’s production of “In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (That Should Be Shot)”.

The cast does very good work playing all these characters off each other. Highlights include Kerry Mitchell and Robert C. Boston Jr. as the elderly Aunt Rose and Uncle Leo, who have some of the best lines and comebacks as they do battle with each other over every little thing.  Brock Francis and Connor Phelan play the two neophyte crooks, Tony and Vinny, in a very amusing way. Tony’s frustration and Vinny’s dim-wittedness are two of the best comic aspects of the show. Jennifer Poynter gets high marks for her portrayal of  Bunny, especially when re-telling the story of how she and husband Bud (played with aplomb by Tom Riddle) met and got together. 

The entire cast strives to form a well-oiled ensemble, and as the situation unspools, we get to experience a nice, solid assemblage onstage. It is notable to me that this group, the Mud Creek Players, is especially family-like in their theatre endeavors. MCP, and one other company, the Hamilton County Theatre Guild over at the Belfry in Noblesville, both seem to embody a great supportive nature that one doesn’t always find in community theatre. It adds so much to the feeling in the shows and I applaud it.

from left: Jennifer Poynter plays Bunny, Tom Riddle plays Bud, and Veronique Duprey plays Mrs. Draper in MCP’s production of “In-Laws, Outlaws and Other People (That Should Be Shot)”.

On the technical side, the production is fortunate to have set designer Mike Mellot’s excellently appointed stage set to work on, and the costumes by Monya Wolf fill the bill nicely. 

The MCP theatre was absolutely packed with opening night patrons, and I understand it is sold out again tonight (12/1), although a few walk-in seats may be available, I am told. If you wish to see Mud Creek’s quirky Christmas offering, you’d best get to their web page at http://www.mudcreekplayers.org/inlawsoutlaws and find yourself some seats.

Merry Christmas to you!

  • – Photos by Colman Love

Carmel Theatre Company & Approxima Production’s “Circumstantial Holidays”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Oh, what fun it is to watch a new play filled with friends!

Carmel Theatre Company and Approxima Productions have joined forces to present local actress/playwright Christine Kruze’s Circumstantial Holidays at The CAT in downtown Carmel. Mrs K and I were in attendance for the world premiere/opening night, and the four character show is indeed cast with familiar faces.

Circumstantial Holidays is a straight comedy, linear in design, with a whole lot of things going on in it. Its plot is multi-layered, to say the least. The action all takes place at a New Years Eve party. We first meet Erin (Carrie Ann Schlatter), a recent divorcée who finds herself in an uncomfortable entanglement with her date, Alex (Joshua C. Ramsey). He seems to have concluded that she is “the one”, and introduces her to all his friends as such. Erin has no similar feelings for the man or their future. In fact – she is not looking for a future with anyone, having just figured out how to get along on her own. Enter Justin (Clay Mabbitt), a seemingly low-rent guy in an ugly shirt. He overhears Erin talking about her problem and seems to be sympathetic about what a mess she is in, offering helpful and clever ideas on how to survive it. However, Justin is in his own situation, having promised to portray a gay friend’s lover at the party so that the friend, Troy (Matt Anderson) can cause a jealous reaction in his ex-boyfriend. The plotline is a complicated tangle, but the players do a fine job keeping things straight.

from left: Carrie Ann Schlatter as Erin and Clay Mabbitt as Justin in a scene from “Circumstantial Holidays”

Ms. Schlatter offers an honest portrayal of the put-upon Erin, never losing sight of her character’s predicament, and underplaying her angst, which works well. Mr. Ramsey has the puffed up “I’m a catch” Alex in his back pocket, an extension of a character I have seen him play before, but it is a genuinely perfect fit here. Mr. Mabbitt is a quiet understated Justin, funny and likable, mostly resigned to his agreement to play against his true nature to help his friend. His denouement with Erin comes as no surprise, really. Commendably, Mr. Anderson sheds all stereotyping is his role as the gay Troy – who comes off with the throes of jealousy and the need to outdo his ex’s current love interest as his main catalysts.

from left: Matt Anderson as Troy and Joshua C. Ramsey as Alex in a scene from “Circumstantial Holidays”

The ensemble, such as it is (there is only one scene when all 4 actors share the stage), works well together, and as the majority of scenes are twosomes, we get to see a nice variety of combinations of characters – all of which hold together nicely. The pace and tempo are set into place by Ms. Kruze, who directs the show – the ebbs and flows all making good sense. There is an overall natural feel emanating from this group, whom I know have had plenty of experiences onstage together. 

As for the script itself, I enjoy how it shows four very diverse approaches to relationships – each character having their own distinct beliefs and styles for getting what they seek. I also like that Ms. Kruze has offered a plausible, yet unusual, set of circumstances to examine those differing beliefs. The play involves at least 5 different romantic couplings, which makes for an interesting 90 minutes. On the flip side, I question the quick and comfortable chumminess that Erin and Justin find at the top of the show. It rings false somehow and foreshadows some of what happens later with too much clarity. But that is my one small negative critique. The play is entertaining and smart, modern, and reflective of what many of us have been through in our lives.

Bottomline: It’s always great to see several friends whose work I admire playing on stage together and Circumstantial Holidays provides a wonderful vehicle for their assembled talents. Ms. Kruze should be proud of what she has accomplished here. And we look forward to seeing her other endeavors.

Circumstantial Holidays is offered at The CAT through Dec. 8th. Information about tickets can be found at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3584886.

“A Christmas Carol” at IRT

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reviewed by Dave Bolander

Indiana Repertory Theatre celebrates its 28th telling of the beloved classic Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by Tom Haas, with a production directed by Benjamin Hanna. Mr. Hanna also serves as IRT’s Associate Artistic Director, and for this endeavor, leads a wonderful cast and crew.

Most of us are familiar with the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens described Ebenezer as “a cold hearted, tight fisted, selfish man who despises Christmas and all things that incite happiness”.  That is the Scrooge that we meet at the beginning of the story as told by an ensemble of other-worldly spirits and human characters from his life. It’s a tale of brokenness and self-imposed isolation, but it is also a tale of hope, love, gratitude, forgiveness, and redemption.

Ryan Artzberger returns for his ninth season as the money-pinching, unpleasant Ebenezer Scrooge. Artzberger’s Scrooge is younger than I am used to seeing, but it works. His youthfulness helps to make him more accessible and it seems easier for us to identify with this younger Scrooge – to be able to see the Scrooge in us. An older scrooge may seem distant, and too dissimilar.  Artzberger gives him a relateable quality and wry sense of humor that complements the darker side of the character.

from left: Rob Johansen (Cratchit), Ryan Artzberger (Scrooge) and Mark Goetzinger (Portly Gentleman) in a scene from IRT’s 2018 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

In this year’s rendering of Haas’s adaption, the element of narration weaves itself intricately in and out of the dialogue from the beginning of the play all the way through to the end. It’s an interesting device, moving quickly from dialogue to narration and then shifting back to dialogue again. When done well, it gives the feeling of a story being told – revealing a character’s inner thoughts in a given moment. It also helps to draw the audience into the ongoing conversation. In a sense it is if we are there in the scene as one of the characters. However, there are moments, when the narrative voice appears, that feel a bit too presentational and disconnected. It doesn’t seem to fit or flow naturally out of the ongoing conversation. At times it tends to feel a bit choppy and disembodied. In these moments, I want to feel as if the actor was talking “to me” and not “at me”. I want to feel as if the conversation is still flowing naturally and that it is just opening up so that I am being included. I think the actors handle this challenge with varying levels of success.

Rob Johansen (Bob Cratchit, Postboy, Topper) does a wonderful job handling these quick transitions between dialogue and narration, particularly in his scenes with the Cratchit family. His skill and easy manner draws the audience in as if he is speaking to another member of his family. He is able to do this without losing his connection with the other actors onstage. Mr. Johansen’s Cratchit is full of warmth, love, and hope. 

All of the members of the Cratchit family really capture the feeling of gratitude, love and hope. Jennifer Johansen (Mrs. Cratchit) is a nice complement to her real-life husband Rob Johansen (Bob Cratchit). Mehry Eslaminia shows some nice skill in her portrayal of the eldest daughter, Martha Cratchit. The other Cratchit children are played by two teams of student actors: The team on stage for this particular evening included Dalyn Stewart (Peter Cratchit), Jordan Pecar (Belinda Cratchit), London Rayner (Henrietta Cratchit), Camil McGhee (Betsy Cratchit), and Katherine Boice as Tiny Tim. There is a second team of student actors who alternate performances. They include Grayson Molin (Peter Cratchit), Alyssa C. Whisler (Belinda Cratchit), Claire Kauffman (Henrietta Cratchit), Kynden Luster (Betsy Cratchit), and Holland Barnes (Tiny Tim).

from left: Milicent Wright as Christmas Present; Charles Goad as Marley’s Ghost

One element I really enjoyed about the production is that most of the actors play multiple characters. It is an impressive display of skill and flexibility by the whole ensemble. Some notable performances include Charles Goad, who hauntingly plays Marley’s Ghost, the delightful Mr. Fezziwig and the scruple-less Undertaker. Reggie D. White, who plays Fred the School Master, and Christmas Present, also displays adept skill and ability as he switches between roles. Mark Goetzinger makes the most of his roles, moving effortlessly from a grandfatherly Portly Gentleman to a rascally Old Joe. Milicent Wright is perhaps the highlight of these multiple character performers. Her Mrs. Fezziwig is bubbly and contagious; as Christmas Present, she is jovial, empathetic and powerfully present; and as the Charwoman, she is just deliciously devious.

Stephenie Soohyun Park (Christmas Past, Roses Sister, Laundress) is delightful and energetic in the role of Christmas Past. The audience connects with her quirky and fun filled spirit.  Aaron Kirby (Young Scrooge, Nutley, Broker) and Ashley Dillard (Felicity, Belle) have some lovely moments as Young Scrooge and Belle. Carlos Medina Maldonado (Waiter, Young Marley, Belle’s Husband, Broker, Poulterer’s Man, et al.) has his work cut out for him as he moves through at least five different named characters.

The cast of IRT’s 2018 production of “A Christmas Carol”

Hats off to the design team as well. Sets, Costumes, Lighting, Sound, Vocals, Choreography, all come together to create a simple but magical experience.

If you have not made IRT’s production of A Christmas Carol part of your holiday celebration, here is your second chance.  Don’t miss out on the magic. Start something new. Invite your friends and family. This delightful production hits all the right notes. A Christmas Carol continues at IRT through December 26 and tickets can reserved by calling the IRT box office at 317.635.5252.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing

“Elf, the Musical” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Everyone who has seen the 2003 Will Ferrell film – Elf, is familiar with the story of Buddy Hobbs who, as an orphan baby, crept into Santa’s toy sack one Christmas Eve, only to be brought back home by the jolly one to become part of the colony of elves at the North Pole, eventually growing to be the largest of that crew. Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s holiday offering – Elf, the Musical takes that story and resets it as a joyfully rousing tale with a wealth of songs, lively dances and broadly played characterizations.

Having moved away from its traditional Christmas revue after 25 festive editions, B&B’s production of this well-known holiday fare could not have been a better choice. The talented cast, festooned in Jill Kelly Howe’s amazingly colorful costumes, on the modern-styled set by Michael Layton, is directed by Douglas E. Stark, who has a turn onstage himself as (whisper) Old St. Nick. The sparkling musical score played by B&B’s orchestra is led by Kristy Templet, with choreography by B&B regular Ron Morgan. 

from left: Buddy (Don Bob Higgins) and Jovie (Emily Grace Tucker) in a scene from B&B’s production of “Elf, the Musical”

Dan Bob Higgins takes the role of Buddy, and with a noteworthy flourish of innocence and naivete, propels his giant elf in a lively and energetic performance filled with joy and fun. Blessed with a remarkable vocal talent coupled with an easy dancing style, Higgins is perfect in the role, so much so that it is a bit difficult to envision his last B&B appearance as Bernardo in the summer of 2017’s West Side Story.  Playing his romantic interest – Jovie, is Emily Grace Tucker. She displays her own impressive set of vocal and dance talents and is an ideally jaded foil for Buddy’s wide-eyed nature. 

from left: Buddy (Dan Bob Higgins), Michael Hobbs (Aiden Shurr), Emily Hobbs (Heather Patterson King) and Walter Hobbs (Mark Epperson) in a scene from B&B’s production of “Elf, the Musical”

Three notable featured roles are issued by Mark Epperson as Buddy’s father
Walter Hobbs, Heather Patterson King as step-mother Emily, and Aiden Shurr as brother Michael. All three give adroit performances with 5th grader Shurr showing a stage maturity that impresses. A large ensemble fills the essential minor roles with unfailing skillfulness. Standouts include Kenney M. Green as a feisty department store manager, Jonathan Fluck as the bah-humbug boss Mr. Greenway, and Brad Mutter and Peter Scharbrough as Walter Hobbs’ top assistants – Chadwick and Matthews. Two very young ladies, Emery Jane Allen, and Sylvie Templet, are both bright spots in the ensemble’s proceedings. 

Buddy and the ensemble in a scene from B&B’s production of “Elf, the Musical”

Bottomline: Some may miss the traditional B&B Christmas, and that is understandable. But I applaud the theatre’s choice to change the holiday offering to a more timely show. Elf, the Musical is a great choice – colorfully festive, spirited, and with just enough Christmas magic to bring a measure of wonder to children’s imaginations – the show is a must-see for the season. And bring an appetite, as Chef Odell Ward has done wonders in his kitchen.

Elf, the Musical continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through December 31st. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at  317-872-9664. 

Finally – I’d like to express my wish for a very happy holiday season to all my readers and especially to my inestimable staff of cohorts: Larry, Adam, Mark, Vickie, and our most recent addition – Dave.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

“It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio play” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Most of us are familiar with the story of George Bailey.  Its source, the 1946 film version of It’s a Wonderful Life, is considered by many to be one of the best movies of all time – and it has become an endearing part of every Christmas season. The tale of George’s repeatedly interrupted plans, his burning need to leave his hometown, his resolve in taking over his father’s building and loan business, his final crippling despair, and his recovery (with the help of a wingless guardian angel) is well known and thoughtfully remembered.

In spite of this familiarity, it is a fine pleasure to see ATI’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play and be reminded of the beautiful lessons that the story gives us. As director Suzanne Fleenor writes in her program notes: “We are all George Bailey”. And as she has rendered the play onstage, we are given an extremely well-cast, often funny, often touching, theatrically vivid experience.

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from left: Kevin Casey (in booth), Annabelle Pfeiffer, Judy Fitzgerald, Don Ferrell, Sherman Burdette, Adam O. Crowe, Luca Arive and Cynthia Collins in a scene from ATI’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play”.

Because the show, written by Joe Landry, is offered in the context of a radio program, most of the actors involved play a variety of parts. Cynthia Collins, Don Farrell, and Adam O. Crowe cover a majority of the Bedford Falls townspeople, with Ms. Collins featured as town floozy Violet Bick as well as George’s mother. Mr. Farrell runs a gamut of featured characters as George’s father, his brother Harry, and his uncle Billy – but his most touching role is as George’s guardian angel Clarence. Mr. Crowe is a highlight in his roles as the mean and controlling Henry Potter, and as Clarence’s superior angel. All three show remarkable range as they devise voice and body portrayals for a myriad of the small town populace. A quartet of young actors and actresses take the roles of George’s children plus some of the main characters in their youth – and all – Luca Arive, Sadie Cohen, Lincoln Everitt, and Annabelle Pfeiffer – do a fine job.

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Judy Fitzgerald as Mary Bailey and Paul Tavianini as George Bailey in a scene from ATI’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play”.

Judy Fitzgerald is just wonderful in the guise of Mary Hatch, who becomes Mary Bailey. There is true sweetness and strength in her portrait of Mrs. George Bailey and a touch of sadness is evident at times as well. Paul Tavianini offers up a complete George Bailey, with all the unsureness, the bravado in his youth, the resolve and kindness in his business practices, the turmoil of his troubles and the revision of his outlook about his life. Tavianini makes perfect choices for his character’s changeable frame of mind, his dutiful countenance and his down-to-earth nature. It is a memorable performance.

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Sherman Burdette as Art Foley in a scene from ATI’s production of “It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play”.

Last, but hardly least, is the work done by Indianapolis television personality, Sherman Burdette, who handles the sound effects necessary for the radio program. Unfailing in his task, he is the busiest man onstage and he deserves a lot of credit for a difficult job well done.

Bottomline: All the aspects of a truly enjoyable show come together here. Ms. Fleenor’s staging inventions, coupled with the spot-on portrayals by her superior cast, on P. Bernard Killian’s decorative holiday set design, turn what could be a staid radio program format into a lively theatrical offering. It is a gift, and I highly recommend it as a part of your holiday entertainments.

It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play continues at ATI’s Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through December 23rd. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.atistage.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

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