“The Tempest” at Nobleville’s Federal Hill Commons

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

The Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission (NCAC) presents its 26th annual edition of Shakespeare in the Park with a vivid presentation of The Tempest. For the second year running, the event is offered on the wonderful stage located in Federal Hill Commons.

Director Mark Tumey has organized a truly striking production, with a superb cast, full lighting effects and a thoughtfully edited version of Shakespeare’s final play. Tumey’s ability to clearly tell the complicated story through his charges is noteworthy here.

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The cleverly devised ship used for the storm scene which opens NCAC’s “The Tempest”

The play begins with a remarkable depiction of the storm – the eponymous tempest – which sets Alonso, King of Milan, and his companions onto the wizardly Prospero’s island. This is the island where Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, had been cast away, along with his daughter Miranda.  He was overthrown and exiled by his treacherous brother, Antonio, who claimed the dukedom, and who is presently part of the King’s entourage. Joining the party are the King’s adviser – Gonzalo, the King’s son – Ferdinand, and Sebastian – Alonso’s false-hearted brother. Also aboard are Stephano, a butler, and Trinculo, a jester – both of whom are fond of strong drink. Prospero employs a sprite named Ariel, to carry out his plan to sort out who is good and who is evil, and to rectify his undoing by his brother. Meanwhile, a witch’s disfigured offspring, Caliban, serves the wizard on the island, albeit with objections, and plots Prospero’s demise.

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Dave Bolander as Propero and Emily Worrell as Ariel in a scene from NCAC’s production of ‘The Tempest”

Dave Bolander leads an awesome cast as Prospero. His marvelous interpretation of the wizard is one of the best I can remember seeing – charging his role with emotional nuance that many players miss in the part. Bolander’s range of stage skills is impressive, especially with regard to Prospero’s many traits, and he creates the magician as a benevolent master of dark arts. His daughter, Miranda, is portrayed by Grace Freese. Ms. Freese does a notable job, and turns in some sweetly comic moments in her role – especially as she first encounters a young man, the King’s son Ferdinand, who is played with an apt conciseness by Chris Bell.

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Prospero’s daughter, Miranda (Grace Freese) and Alonso’s son Ferdinand (Chris Bell) discover each other in a scene from NCAC’s production of ‘The Tempest”

Mr. Tumey was lucky to find the likes of Emily Worrell to take the role of Ariel. She not only was a very suitable sprite, she has a lovely voice – a big requirement in what is Shakespeare’s most musical play.  The monster Caliban is expansively evil as played by Daniel Clymer, who does a fine comic turn when coupled with the drunken duo, Stephano and Trinculo. Eric Dixon plays the former in a wonderfully rounded stage debut, while Jaime Johnson gives the audience his highly-comic vision as jester Trinculo.

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(from left) Eric Dixon as Stephano, Daniel Clymer as Caliban, and Jaime Johnson as Trinculo in a scene from NCAC’s production of ‘The Tempest”

Benjamin Elliott handles the tricky Antonio role with a polished villainous effort, and his partner in crime, Sebastian, is offered by Jakob Winter, who makes his Noblesville Shakespeare debut with an adroit rendition of odiousness. Brian McCarley and Richard Steinberg round out the main cast with their solid portrayals of Alonso and Gonzalo, respectively.

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(from left) Propero’s brother, Antonio (Benjamin Elliott), and Alonso’s brother, Sebastian plot some evil in a scene from NCAC’s production of ‘The Tempest”

Completing the supporting cast, the spritely trio of Shannon Clancy, Mackenkie Gonzalez, and Lucinda Ryan flit about nicely as Ariel’s cohorts, and Guy Grubbs does a fine job as the ship’s Boatswain.

Technical touches by Adrienne Manyard and Monya Wolf (makeup), Norma Floyd (costumes – and especially Caliban’s and the fearsome vision in red!), Geoff Lynch (sound design), Michael Totty and Rob Boland (lighting design), Rob and David Heighway (set design), and David Heighway (props) all added the finishing sheen to the proceedings. And I shall not forget Brenna Whitaker (musical director) for her work with the singers and all the music.

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(from left) Lucinda Ryan, Shannon Clancy, and Mackenzie Gonzalez portray Sprites in a scene from NCAC’s production of ‘The Tempest”

Bottomline: Director Tumey has once again taken all the right steps to make this Shakespeare production of The Tempest a wonderful place to be on these great mid-summer nights.

If you plan on seeing this production, it is free and it is scheduled to be done again tonight (7/28) and Thursday-Saturday evenings next week at around 8:30pm at Federal Hill Commons, on Hwy 32, north of Riverview Hospital. Bring blankets, chairs, snacks, drinks of your choice (wine seemed to be a favorite) and dress for the evening’s possibilities. You may also go to http://www.noblesvillearts.org/shakespeare-in-the-park.html for more information.

  • – Photos by Susan Shaffer
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Summer Stock Stage’s “The Secret Garden” at Park Tudor

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last night Mrs K and I ventured once again to Park Tudor School’s Ayres Auditorium for the preview night of Summer Stock Stage’s second show of the summer, The Secret Garden. Having seen and been much impressed by their first offering this season, Urinetown – we looked forward to attending this show. And we were not disappointed.

I must say, SSS producer/director Emily Ristine Holloway is masterful at what she does. Gathering many of the most talented area school-aged actors, singers, and dancers, and then coaxing the most superb performances out of her charges is a remarkable feat. The proof is in the production, and The Secret Garden is yet another great example of her prowess.

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Amelia Wray as Mary Lennox, and Cynthia Kauffman as her chambermaid, Martha, in a scene from Summer Stock Stage’s production of “The Secret Garden”.

The Secret Garden is the story (set in 1906) of a young girl, Mary Lennox, who after losing both her parents to cholera in India, is sent along to live at the estate of her Uncle Archibald in England. He is beset by melancholy and disturbing dreams, caused by the death of his dear wife, Lily – who happens to haunt the estate, in a friendly way. In fact, ghosts appear everywhere in the rambling home, and Mary is touched by their presence. In his dismay, Archibald has hidden away his son, Colin, and locked off his wife’s once beautiful garden. Mary discovers the boy and the magic of the garden, while facing off Archibald’s opportunist brother, and making friendly alliances with most of the household staff.

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Sally Root as Lily, and Weston LeCrone as Archibald Craven, in a scene from Summer Stock Stage’s production of “The Secret Garden”.

Amelia Wray takes the role of Mary Lennox and her star qualities sparkle in her depiction. Blessed with a full voice and a clear understanding of the acting craft, Ms. Wray seems to effortlessly handle the many levels of her character with aplomb. Weston LeCrone plays her Uncle Archibald in a marvelous portrayal, filled with emotion and a plethora of dynamic song performances. He is joined by Sally Root in the role of his deceased love, Lily. She, too, shows immense talents in her vocal and acting skills, providing some of the show’s loveliest moments. This threesome gives a powerful example of what I meant when I wrote that Ms. Holloway is a masterful director. All are very near professional quality in their skills and presentations, and all seem to have the confidence it takes to move forward in theatre endeavors.

There are many other highly-skilled cast members, to be sure. Davon Graham is impressive in his role as Archibald’s brother Neville. He partners grandly in the “Quartet” number with Archibald, Lily and Sydney Meyers as Mary’s mother Rose. Earlier, his and LeCrone’s duet “Lily’s Eyes” is a soaring rendition which stops the show. Cynthia Kauffman shows wonderful vocal and acting skills as the chambermaid, Martha; Keith Smith Jr. is exciting to watch and listen to as Martha’s magical brother, Dickon; and 5th grader Robert Hueni does a terrific job in his Summer Stock Stage debut as the hidden away son, Colin. Indeed, the entire cast of about 50 is to be congratulated on all the hard work they did which built their show into a very crowd-pleasing entertainment.

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Keith Smith Jr. as Dickon and Amelia Wray as Mary Lennox, in a scene from Summer Stock Stage’s production of “The Secret Garden”.

Music director Jeanne Bowling deserves much credit for her work here with cast and orchestra members. So does the choreography team of Brandon Comer and Cherri Jaffee, for their array of dances and staging. Aaron Wardwell provides beautiful period costuming, and set designs by Kristopher Steege work very well. Kyle Ragsdale again affords his visual art talents on the set, while Michael Moffatt’s lighting design enhances all other work.

Bottomline: Amazing voices and great direction make this a summer treasure for theatre-goers. The talents of the SSS participants are stunning and the show is a true accomplishment.

Only four chances remain to see this lovely staging of a very special show. It will only run until Sunday July 29th. Go to http://www.summerstockstage.com for all the info you need to catch these very talented young performers.

  • – Photos by Michael Camp

 

 

“Million Dollar Quartet” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef and Boards blows the roof off with their new production of Million Dollar Quartet, directed with a flair by Jeff Stockberger, and starring a talented group of performers, many of whom have histories of appearances in other renderings of the show.

This celebration of that miracle evening in December 1956 when Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis all gathered at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis comes alive as the B&B players knock song after song out of the park – rockin’, harmonizing and setting down authentic sounds of the era.

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From left: Jerry Lee Lewis (Brian Michael Henry), Carl Perkins (Christopher Wren), Elvis Presley (Edward La Cardo), and Johnny Cash (Justin Figueroa) perform in Beef & Boards’ production of “Million Dollar Quartet”.

The gifted quartet, which includes Christopher Wren (Perkins), Justin Figueroa (Cash), Edward LaCardo (Elvis) and Brian Michael Henry (Jerry Lee) perform the classic songbook of the show with punch and pizzazz! Add in local favorites Jill Kelly Howe, sizzling in her saucy performance of “Fever” and as Presley’s girlfriend – Dyanne, and Eddie Curry, a big presence as Sun Studios founder, Sam Phillips, plus the lively work of bassist David Perry as Jake Perkins and master percussionist Nathan Shew as Fluke. The complete ensemble has what it takes to send great vibes and fond memories out to the audience – a foot-tapping reminder of that time long ago when music took that fateful right turn into rock n’ roll.

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Eddie Curry (left) as Sam Phillips, and Jill Kelly Howe as Dyanne, in Beef and Boards’ production of “Million Dollar Quartet”.

Million Dollar Quartet continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through August 26th. 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

“Katy Gentry – Judy Garland Live” at the CAT

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reviewed by Adam Crowe

This post-Holiday weekend’s adventure was to make my first visit to The Cat in Carmel. Located in the Design District, The Cat serves as a space for multiple arts groups in Hamilton County (and beyond).This weekend The Cat is home to The Magic Thread Cabaret and their production Katy Gentry – Judy Garland Live. It is NOT to be missed.

Regular readers may recognize Miss Gentry as the winner of the 2017 ASOTA MITTY Award for Best Actress in a Lead Role when she played Judy Garland in Beyond the Rainbow at Actor’s Theatre of Indiana. Here, in a relaxed cabaret setting, Gentry neither mimics nor impersonates Garland. Instead, between stories of her own life and her feelings of connection to Judy Garland, Ms. Gentry employs many of the late star’s vocal mannerisms and phrasing in singing some of Garland’s beloved classics. As she said in a recent edition of the Carmel Current: “I will be dressed as Katy and talking like Katy, but when we feature the songs, Judy will arrive. It’s a performance that allows me to share some of my connections with Judy. Then, I go into her (persona) and bring her spirit out in the songs.”

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And bring it she does! From “The Boy Next Door” all the way through “Over the Rainbow”, Ms. Gentry covers a remarkable variety of Garland classics in a way that, while reminiscent of the legend, also allows Gentry’s own star power to shine through. Accompanied by Magic Thread’s Artistic Director Dustin Klein on keyboards, Christian Starnes on bass, and Greg Wolff on percussion, this show provides a delightful evening of song as well as touching stories of life and art intersecting. The opening night crowd certainly agreed with me, offering the performers a well-deserved standing ovation.

Katy Gentry – Judy Garland Live runs THIS WEEKEND ONLY. Seating at The Cat is a bit limited, so I encourage you to get your tickets without delay. The Cat Theatre is located at 254 Veterans Way in Carmel. Tickets may be purchased by visiting the website http://www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

As always, I send my gratitude to Ken for another chance to catch some of Central Indiana’s finest stage talent. This weekend, I also offer gratitude to Magic Thread Cabaret, Klein and Alvarez Productions, and Ms. Katy Gentry – for providing a captivating evening of cabaret!

  • – photos provided by Magic Thread Cabaret

“INDECENT” at Phoenix Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Mrs K and I made our first visit to Phoenix Theatre’s stylish new venue on Illinois St. for INDECENT, Paula Vogel’s fine examination of the events surrounding the early 20th century play God of Vengeance. Written by Sholem Asch in 1906 for the Yiddish Theatre, God of Vengeance caused a great stir in the American theatre when it was produced on Broadway, as it contained lesbian characters and a lesbian kiss. The reaction to this kissing scene included arrest for the actors and producers for having presented such “indecent” material on the stage.

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Nick Jenkins (front) takes the role of Lemml in this scene from Phoenix Theatre’s production of “INDECENT”.

Ms. Vogel’s play recounts many steps in the Asch play’s creation and production, with scenes from “Warsaw, 1906 to Bridgeport, Connecticut 1950s and everywhere in between.” Her presentation style for the play is unique and effective. Set on a bare bones but highly functional scenic design (by Phil Male), the scenes tumble out in a continuous roll, aided by a myriad of costume pieces (the work of Brittany Kulger), colorful sectional lighting (by Jeffrey Martin) and narrative text projections (Ben Dobler) which alert the audience to everything from what language is being spoken, to locations, to lyrics of songs that are being sung. The smooth action balances the deep conflicts in the scenes, which show the playwright Asch’s journey with his work from first rejections, through international successes, and on to the Broadway debut – where his originally beautiful and sensitive writings were modified into a coarser depiction of a stark and selfish underworld for this most commercial of stages.

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Playwright Sholem Asch and his wife are portrayed by John Goodson and Courtney Spivak in this scene from Phoenix Theatre’s production of “INDECENT”.

Director Martha Jacobs sets her very talented cast on a course that enables them to give their audience an emotionally honest, richly honed rendering of this evocative account. Veteran Phoenix actors Mark Goetzinger, Jolene Moffatt, John Goodson, and Bill Simmons are joined by Phoenix debuters Abby Lee, Courtney Spivak and Nick Jenkins to form a sensational ensemble. This skilled group flawlessly tells its story with an amazing range of characterizations which are a marvel to experience.

The several songs which are an important part of the action of the play are credited to Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva.

Bottomline: This is a fantastic offering by the new Phoenix. All aspects of theatre are set down in a beautiful and creative manner, especially the performances of this choice group of actors and actresses. And we learn of a mostly forgotten chapter in American and Yiddish theatre history, which applies currently to our own social evolution.

Paula Vogel’s INDECENT only continues through this weekend, closing with a Sunday matinee on June 8th. For information and reservations go to http://www.phoenixtheatre.org or call the box office at 317.635.7529.

  • – Uncredited photos are from Phoenix Theatre’s FB page.

Summer Stock Stage’s “Urinetown” at Park Tudor

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Urinetown is one of those musicals which I have heard a lot about, but never have seen. Summer Stock Stage’s young performers’ production of the show was a great intro to this quirky, wildly original show. Set in a town suffering a 20 year drought, with water in such short supply that normal bathroom functions are regulated by the government and a huge conglomerate (cleverly named Urine Good Company – UGC), this is a story of a rebellion by the people after the fees to use the company owned facilities are increased. Led by Bobby Strong, the seditious mob breaks through the pay lines for free usage, and causes trouble for the head of UGC, Caldwell B. Cladwell. Meanwhile, Cladwell’s daughter Hope returns from college in time to fall for Bobby (possibly the only musical cliché in the story) right after she begins working for her father. The rebellion sweeps Bobby and Hope into a whirlwind of events that end with a very un-musical-comedy like thud of reality (as one character says in dismay – “What kinda musical IS this?”). It all adds up to be delightfully fresh and excellently produced by the SSS company.

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Chase Infiniti and Cameron Brown (center) in a scene from Summer Stock Stages’ production of “Urinetown”

The cast for this show is absolutely loaded with talented 13-19 year old performers from schools all over central Indiana. From leading roles to featured roles to ensembles, these gifted young artists have all thrown themselves into singing, dancing and acting performances that are both impressive and satisfying. Co-directors Emily Ristine Holloway and Charles Goad, along with musical director Michael Berg Raunick, and choreographers Brandon Comer, Mariel Greenlee and Lily Wessel have the magic formulas needed to lead the 42 member cast in the right direction and attain the professional quality stage-work that was presented to an avidly appreciative audience.

Cameron Brown is extraordinary in his turn as Bobby Strong, and Chase Infiniti simply shines as Hope Caldwell. Both are gifted with fine vocal talents and dancing ability and they play opposite each other like old pros. They are exciting to watch.

Other standouts: Jack Ducat takes magnate Caldwell B. Cladwell to despicable levels with skill, Natalie Shilling is cute and very funny as Little Sally, and Nicholas Dunlap-Loomis is perfectly engaging as the show’s narrator, Officer Lockstock. Chinyelu Mwaafrika is powerful in his “Snuff That Girl” number, and Eva Scherrer shows off her excellent singing talents in a number of scenes as Penelope Pennywise. Michael Krauter makes the hilarious most of his Old Man Strong role. And a “nice to see you onstage again” shout-out to my 2013 B&B Sound of Music cast-mate, Madison Moll, who also does excellent work in her role.

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Natalie Schilling  as Little Sally (center) in a scene from Summer Stock Stages’ production of “Urinetown”

Even with the fine assemblage of key performers working at such a very high level, I really cannot say enough about the ensemble players. There are 2 ensembles – the Rebel Ensemble and the Cladwell Ensemble and both provide some absolute knockout displays of dance and song. The choreographers did not coddle these youngsters; they had to learn some awesome combinations. Then they had to add in some tricky harmonizing for their vocals. They pulled off every challenge they were given with verve, and were a huge part of my enjoyment of the show. Kudos to all these great and talented ensemble kids.

The set design by Kristopher Steege (with artwork by Kyle Ragsdale) and costumes by Jeanne Bowling and Aaron Wardwell completed the wonderful visual aspects of the show.

Bottomline: You won’t find a better example of talented teens, under the direction of remarkable professionals, presenting a totally enjoyable version of a genuinely original show. Don’t miss ’em!

Only two more chances are available to see this energized staging of a truly unique show. Go to http://www.summerstockstage.com for all the info you need to catch these very talented performers.

 

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” at The Belfry Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last night, Mrs K. and I made a trafficked trek north to Hamilton County Theatre Guild’s Belfry Theatre to see a final week offering of Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical family-based play, Brighton Beach Memoirs. I am so very glad we did.

Director James Williams, with the benefit of a versatile and well-suited cast, has put together a tender, yet funny production of one of Mr. Simon’s most poignant and sentimental memory plays. Coupled with an excellent set by Jay Ganz, the great costumes by Norma Floyd, and sound by Dennis Forkel and Debbie Coon, the presentation’s production values are noteworthy.

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(from left) Jackson Lindner as Eugene Jerome, Missy Rump as his mother Kate and Barb Percy Weaver as his Aunt Blanche, in a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

Cathedral High sophomore Jackson Lindner plays the part of Eugene Jerome and absolutely owns the role. He finds all the many levels of his character – a put-upon, blamed for everything, puberty laden, baseball crazy, girl discovering youth – who writes down everything he observes as his family goes through an especially rough period of multiple crises. Lindner’s performance is loaded with energy and emotion, just what is needed as this Simon central character.

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(from left) Jake Hobbs as Stanley Jerome, Russell Lee Watson as his father Jack, and Kimberly Droz as his cousin Laurie Morton in a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

He is joined onstage by a roster of actors and actresses well up to the task. Steve Jerk wanders the stage as the Older Eugene Jerome, providing narratives and explanations with humorous effect. Jake Hobbs is well-cast as Eugene’s older brother Stanley. Hobbs makes his turns on stage count with good understanding of the young man’s tests and turmoils as he discovers adult responsibilities. Missy Rump is perfect as the boys’ mother Kate – the queen of worriers, and Russell Lee Watson is solid and wise as their father, Jack.

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(from left) Sabrina Duprey as Nora Morton and Kimberly Droz as her sister Laurie in a scene from The Belfry Theatre’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.

The Jeromes share their crowded home with Kate’s widowed sister Blanche Morton and her daughters, Nora and Laurie. Barb Percy Weaver continues her run of impressive performances, as Blanche. Ms. Weaver’s characterization is moving and worthy of empathy as she tries to manage a life she was never prepared for. Sixteen year old daughter Nora struggles with conflicts of what she wants to do with her life versus what everyone else thinks will be best to do, and Sabrina Duprey, makes clear the girl’s emotions and desires with a striking turn, while Kimberly Droz does some fine work as the sickly Laurie. We hope to see both these talented young actresses frequently as they grow into more roles on stage.

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The cast of “Brighton Beach Memoirs, including Steve Jerk (Older Eugene Jerome, standing)

The play is long, nearly 3 hours with the intermission, but it is a deep and rich story with multiple story-lines that all are rectified by the end. With such an accomplished cast, the time element was not a distraction to our enjoyment. I should note there are some “colorful” and cringe-worthy discussions of matters of puberty that perhaps you would rather not have your younger theatre fans be a party to. Funny stuff, to be sure, but…just sayin’…

Bottomline: Unfortunately, my busy schedule kept me from seeing this show earlier in its run. I wish there were more time to invite you to see this extremely well-done show. I recommend that if you can, make plans to attend one of the two final presentations – tonight Saturday night at 8 pm or Sunday afternoon at 2 pm. This is worthwhile entertainment!

Brighton Beach Memoirs continues at The Belfry for two more performances – scheduled for June 16 & 17. The Saturday show is at 8 pm, while Sunday matinees begin at 2 pm. You can find out more about the show and reservations by linking here or by calling 317.773.1085.

  • – Photos by Betsy Reason

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