“Shrek – The Musical” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre continues its 2017 season with a very ambitious production of Shrek – The Musical. Based on the 2001 DreamWorks film, “Shrek”, the show is directed and choreographed by Ron Morgan, with musical director Terry Woods conducting the lively score. Book and lyrics are by Pulitzer-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and music is by Jeanine Tesori.

As I say, the show is an ambitious endeavor, especially relating to costuming (provided with many flourishes by Travis Grant and MSMT Costumes), makeup design (accomplished here by the incomparable Daniel Klingler) and wig design (rendered by Kurt Alger). Michael Layton provides the swamp, forest, and castle scenic design, and Ryan Koharchik handles the lighting.

Donkey urges Shrek to Make A Move

From left: Emily Grace Tucker (Fiona), Julius Thomas II (Donkey) and Peter Scharbrough (Shrek) in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek – The Musical”.

Most of the characters from the film come alive onstage, led by Peter Scharbrough as the stoically grumpy ogre, Shrek. Scharbrough overcomes the necessary encumbrance of his extreme makeup to give a fully realized performance. His strong voice is well-suited for the part, and he comes through with a truly fine rendition of Shrek’s various emotions in his quest to save a princess in order to save his swamp. On the way, he meets Donkey, played with an original flair by Julius Thomas III. Thomas manages to incorporate all the silly fun of the movie’s character while never copying the Eddie Murphy depiction. His animated dynamism resulted in many of the laughs the show generated for a younger than normal audience.

Princess Fiona, whose release is the object of Shrek’s travels, gets three portraits in the story-telling. We meet Young Fiona and Teen Fiona – done in brief but skilled portrayals by Emery Allen and Reagan Minnette, and Fiona (the impatiently-waiting-in-a-tower-for-her-prince maiden) in a spirited offering by Emily Grace Tucker. Ms. Tucker finds just the right measure of spunkiness for the princess, topped off by her sensational vocal talents.

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John Vessels (as Lord Farquaad, center) and members of the ensemble in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek”.

John Vessels is dastardly and comical as the height-disadvantaged Lord Farquaad. Vessels’ penchant for physical comedy is somewhat stymied by his visually humorous but physically demanding short-guy costume, which seems to put him at a disadvantage at times. His energetic performance is just what is needed though, and he comes through it all in fine stead.

Donkey meets Dragon

From left: Julius Thomas III as Donkey faces Dragon, voiced by Kelly Teal Goyette, in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek – The Musical”.

Kelly Teal Goyette plays a number of roles but is most notable as the voice of Dragon – a huge three-man puppet that dominates the stage during its scenes. Cody Knable ably takes front and center as Pinocchio, complete with a tricky wooden nose. And Sean Seager is a standout as a cross-dressed Big Bad Wolf. At times, there is a stage full of fairy tale characters, well-played by the ensemble of actors and dancers, and by the corps of young school-aged players. A total of 20 performers are needed to tell this story and they are all graced with talented voices and feet.

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Fairy tale characters in a scene from Beef & Boards’ production of “Shrek – The Musical”.

Bottomline: This may have been a tough show to mount, but with rare exception B&B has given us a superb event for kids and family. Some great features for young audience members are that the story is so familiar, and that all the characters come to life with such vivid panache.

Shrek – The Musical continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through July 2nd. 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

“My Fair Lady” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

When the production of Lerner and Lowe’s new musical My Fair Lady opened on Broadway in 1956, it starred Rex Harrison in the role of speech professor Henry Higgins, and Julie Andrews as flower girl Eliza Doolittle. These stage depictions of George Bernard Shaw’s creations from Pygmalion, along with Harrison’s and Audrey Hepburn’s turns in the roles in the 1964 film version, have long been the benchmarks against which others are measured. If you saw either the original play or the film, you likely reveled in Harrison’s style as Higgins, with his articulated way of delivering lyrics and his conveyance of Shaw’s bluntly selfish character. And both Ms. Andrews’ or Ms. Hepburn’s sweetly vulnerable Eliza no doubt won your heart as the girl changed through her and Higgins’ efforts. They are the standards, tried and true.

One of the things I like most about theatre is the opportunity directors, actors and actresses have to bring their own fresh ideas about characterization and performance to their work. Beef and Boards’ current production of My Fair Lady, directed by Eddie Curry and choreographed by Ron Morgan, gives us freshness in high level performances. Kimberly Doreen Burns stars with B&B favorite David Schmittou in the two iconic roles and both bring their very own approaches to their offerings. Ms. Burns is a feisty and fiery Eliza, never backing down and seldom bruised by the treatment of her mentor. Her powerful singing style only augments this choice and she is a top-notch performer. Schmittou’s Higgins is stylish, to be sure, but far more melodic in his delivery than Harrison and perhaps, at times, more assailable than his charge. He puts his own well-formed set of skills to work and produces an adroit counterpart to Ms. Burns. As a result, the frequent scenes between the two main characters prove brightly captivating.

Higgins teaches Eliza with marbles in her mouth

As part of her lessons to speak proper English, Professor Henry Higgins (David Schmittou), right, put marbles in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), left, and tells her to speak a line from her book in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady”.

Mark Goetzinger adds much to the action with his sturdy Colonel Pickering. Kinder and gentler than Higgins, he is as most of us would have acted had we been there. Director Curry adds the role of dustman Alfred P. Doolittle to his workload, and pulls off his usual energetic rendering, full of lively movement and excellent comic timing. Also noteworthy is Vickie Cornelius Phipps who, as Higgin’s aristocratic mother, makes the absolute most of her dozen or so lines with an aptly droll delivery.

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Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), center, sings “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady”.

A huge aspect of this show is it’s need for a large assortment of beautiful costuming and Jimm Halliday steps in to do impressive work with his designs and construction. The set by Michael Layton, especially the Higgins study where much of the action takes place, is polished and innovative. Finally, Kristy Templet flawlessly leads the B&B orchestra through the famous and familiar score.

Chef Odell Ward’s buffet offerings are highlighted by a delicious baked chicken recipe and a simple but tasty tilapia, along with the usual assortment of veggies as well as fettuccini alfredo. And great table service abounds as the B&B wait staff is thorough and attentive.

Bottomline: Top level performances by the leading characters as well as by the supporting players make this a superb presentation of a show not seen on the Beef and Boards stage for 20 years. And it is truly suitable for all ages.

My Fair Lady continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through May 14th. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef and Boards’ production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues their 2017 season. This often produced musical (or perhaps it’s an operetta) gets a first class rendering under the direction/choreography of former Joseph tour cast member and B&B regular, Doug King. Kristy Templet is musical director.

This show is one of the most popular Rice/Webber musicals; tens of thousands of school, community and professional productions have been done all over the world. The show’s universal message, energetic music, and family-friendly story make it a favorite for many theatre-goers. Several things set the show apart from many other popular shows. First of all, there is no romantic theme in the show – no boy meets, boy loses, boy gets back girl type storyline. Secondly, the songs are written in a myriad of styles. There is a French ballad, a western tune, a calypso, the famous rock n roll Elvis number, a boppy 60’s piece and even some jazz. Ms. Templet’s accomplished 5 piece orchestra is more than up for the task.

Of course, this is the well-known story of Joseph and his father Jacob from the book of Genesis, in which Jacob favors Joseph over all his other 11 sons by giving him a special coat of many colors. This results in the brothers’ angry reaction of selling Joseph off into slavery. Joseph’s sufferings, and his eventual rise to power (due to his innate ability to interpret dreams) play out in the stage version.

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Tim Wessel stars as Joseph and Andrea Fleming as the Narrator in Beef and Boards’ production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Director King is blessed to have a really remarkable cast to work with. Tim Wessel plays his self-described “dream role” as Joseph with a dynamic stage presence and exceptional vocal artistry. He is an excellent Joseph in every way! Sharing the spotlight with Wessel is an equally dynamic performer, Andrea Fleming. Ms. Fleming, who takes the role of the Narrator, packs a lot of vocal power in her diminutive frame. Douglas E. Stark, longtime Executive Director of B&B, is featured as Joseph’s father Jacob, and Ryan Neal Green makes his B&B debut as the Elvis-styled Pharaoh in one of the most popular numbers in the show.

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Joseph (Tim Wessel) surrounded by his brothers in Beef and Boards’ production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

As good as the leads are in this production, and they are exceptional, this is as much an ensemble piece as a vehicle for main characters. The troupe of eleven “brothers” and a smaller band of “wives” are instrumental in a majority of scenes, and are joined the 8 member children’s choir, who also enliven the proceedings.

The changing scenes of the story require actors to play many roles, which leads me to my praise for the astonishing work of B&B costumer Jill Kelly Howe, who may have outdone her Mitty winning turn in the B&B Christmas show with the plethora of incredibly beautiful and appropriate costumes she and her small staff of seamstresses have gathered together. What an amazing job she has done here! I’ll also add praise for Michael Layton’s scenic design (which includes a nifty tri-faced pyramid on the stage revolve) and Ryan Koharchik’s impressive lighting. Sound design by Daniel Hesselbrock completes the tech aspects of the show.

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Pharaoh (Ryan Neal Green) rocks the house in Beef and Boards’ production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

The main feature that cannot be denied in all the work done by the performers in this now classic piece of theatre has to be the endless energy injected into almost all of the 19 or so musical offerings. This is an in-shape group of entertainers, who seem to never stop. The program ends with the unique Megamix segment, which left me wondering just how the group could keep going. It truly is an amazing display of lively and fun stage action.

Bottom-line: Though it’s quite possible you have seen this show somewhere before, don’t miss these talented and inspiring performances. And, of course, as always Chef Odell has supplied good eats (try the Chicken Kiev – my favorite this time!) and the B&B staff cannot be beat for their hospitality.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through March 26th. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

 

“Shear Madness” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre opens its 44th season with Shear Madness, the cleverly interactive mystery/comedy based on a script by Paul Pörtner, and created by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan. The award-winning play has a remarkable durability. For example, its current run at Boston’s Charles Theatre began in January 1980 – which was during the final year of the presidency of Jimmy Carter! The show’s current run at the Kennedy Center in D.C. started in August of 1987! I believe one of the keys to its continued success, aside from it’s originality, might be that the script is frequently updated with current events and references. B&B’s production contained many referrals to local Indy issues and notables to the extent that there is a mention of yours truly and the blog you are currently reading, which was a pleasant surprise.

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From left: Nathan Robbins, Suzanne Stark, Jeff Stockberger, Daniel Klingler, Michael Shelton and Jenny Reber star in Beef & Boards’ production of “Shear Madness”.

Directed by Eddie Curry, the proceedings take place in Michael Layton’s finely appointed salon set design. The six person cast of characters, include flamboyant salon owner, Tony Whitcomb, played to the hilt by Daniel Klingler; his peppy co-worker Barbara DeMarco, offered with ardor by Jenny Reber; a mysterious salon client – Eddie Lawrence, given a pointed portrayal by Michael Shelton; the wealthy regular customer Mrs. Eleanor Shubert, delightfully snooty as done by Suzanne Stark; and the undercover team of Mikey Thomas and Nick O’Brien,  portrayed by Nathan Robbins and Jeff Stockberger.

The story itself is a rather simple one concerning an aggravating elderly upstairs neighbor who has connections to each of the salon clients and employees. She is murdered and the audience is charged with figuring out which of the six characters is the culprit. A bevy of activity lays out multiple clues, with plenty of red herrings included in the offerings. In a unique arrangement, the entire middle of the show is done with house lights up and direct interaction between crowd members and the cast. Questions are asked and answered, and once it is decided which of the suspects is thought to have done the deed, the play continues to its revealing conclusion and the audience sees if they were correct.

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Tony (Daniel Klingler) explains to Mrs. Shubert (Suzanne Stark), seated, about the problems he’s had with the old lady who lives upstairs while Barbara (Jenny Reber), at right, listens in Beef & Boards’ “Shear Madness”.

The performance I attended was fortunate to have a very engaged and intelligent congregation. They had paid great attention to the many factors each character brought to the story and had plenty of good questions. I do have a feeling that the variety of audiences greatly influences the measure of the play’s fulfillment, but this is a very skilled cast, so I assume they can direct the show toward the most satisfying results.

The script itself, as well as being made contemporary with current and local references, is a quick fire, pun-filled effort, loaded with word-play jokes and one-line rim-shotters. Director Curry has allowed the cast to have a fast and loose feel and the players were not averse to improvisations and perhaps some inside jokes, much to the delight of the packed house crowd. Indeed, the ensemble work was a highlight of the show.

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Nick O’Brien (Jeff Stockberger), right, watches as Tony Whitcomb (Daniel Klingler) fills his hand with shaving cream as he prepares to give Nick a shave in Beef & Boards’ “Shear Madness”.

Bottom-line: This show is certainly a worthwhile entertainment, especially for a group who loves mysteries and loves to laugh. Although I was told this is PG-13 rated, the text slid over to perhaps a PG-18 at times. But there were plenty of good laughs and chuckles and the “current” references were fun to note. As always, the play is preceded by a lot of good food and excellent service from the B&B staff.

Shear Madness continues through January 29th. 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 B&B website at http://www.beefandboards.com.

*- Photos by Julie Curry

 

A Beef & Boards Christmas – 2016

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Mrs. K and I were joined by our daughter Angela and granddaughter Hanna for a Sunday matinee of the 24th annual A Beef & Boards Christmas. This was the third year running that the Mrs. and I have had this pleasure, and as I sit down to write this review I ask myself – “How does one re-review a show that is, for the most part, a repeat of previous years?”

The first year we saw it, in 2014, I mentioned how I would have to wear out my thesaurus to describe the delights I saw. And last year, I wrote about the revisited pleasures we look forward to each holiday season. Now, after this year’s edition, I am at a bit of a loss for words.

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Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard (center) dance a Christmas Waltz in “A Beef a Boards Christmas”

Granted, the show isn’t EXACTLY the same as those previous years. Our hosts are once again the talented duo of Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard – by the way, this will sadly be Ms. Wims’ final appearance in the revue. Three members of the tuneful Christmas Quartet return: Betsy Norton, Cara Statham Serber and Peter Scharbrough are joined by erstwhile B&B performer Kyle Durbin, making his first appearance at the theatre in 8 years. Also, Josh Stark is back again as a funny, holly, jolly St. Nick. And Kendra Lynn Lucas once again wows the entire audience with her spectacular voice and her powerful rendition of “O Holy Night”. Many members of the B&B dance troupe are back, tirelessly performing a nearly unbelievable number of routines, in a seemingly endless array of Jill Kelly Howe’s colorful costuming. Additionally, the eight member B&B Orchestra is back in full force, skillfully led by Kristy Templet.

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The Christmas Quartet: (from left) Peter Scharbrough, Betsy Norton, Cara Statham Serber, and Kyle Durbin in “A Beef a Boards Christmas”

And the entire show is again top-notch – a wonderful mixture of bouncy and familiar holiday songs folded in with a satisfying sampling of traditional, sentimental and even emotional favorites. For me, the highlight is always a series of songs that begins with a heart-rending “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – this year sung to perfection by Mr. Durbin – followed by a touching military tribute and segued by the orchestra’s rendition of “Carol of the Bells” into Ms. Serber’s amazing “Do You Hear What I Hear?”. This is followed by Ms. Lucas singing her show-stopping “O Holy Night”. It gets me every time! And I guess that’s the point.

Christmas is tradition, and revisiting familiar experiences – and sharing them, as we did this year with our daughter and granddaughter. To me it is very much like having a favorite Christmas album that you enjoy hearing again and again. With each listening, you are reminded of past holidays and all their meaningful emotions. And since Christmas comes only once a year – it really never does get old.

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Kendra Lynn Lucas (center) performs “O Holy Night” in “A Beef & Boards Christmas”

Bottom line: B&B’s traditional Christmas show is once again a pleasure to behold. You may have seen it before – but that is actually an advantage. And if you have never seen it – you are in for an immense treat – enjoy!

A Beef and Boards Christmas continues through December 23rd. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve 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

“Into the Woods” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Fairy tales meet realities as Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre continues its 2016 season with Into the Woods – a musical featuring the intricate song and lyric patterns of Stephen Sondheim and a multi-faceted book by James Lapine. Based on stories by the Brothers Grimm and by Charles Perrault, the show takes some of the most familiar children’s fables from the 17th and 18th centuries and after showing entertaining accounts of them in the first act – goes on to reveal the more consequential results of all those “happily-ever-afters”.

Director Jeff Stockberger and choreographer Ron Morgan skillfully keep the action flowing using an all-star cast. Sarah Hund returns to B&B to portray the Witch. Ms. Hund’s impressive endowment of talents is on full display as she nails her character’s ambivalences and power in both her actions and her songs. Don Farrell, whom we most often see at ATI, plays the Baker with an energetic panache. His performance is full of hopefulness and despair as his character tries to balance his needs with his truths. Meaghan Sands is perfect as the Baker’s Wife. She provides the right blend of anxiety with and trust in her husband. Gifted as she is with superior vocal talents, we hope to see Ms. Sands on the B&B stage again very soon.

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L-R: e Baker’s Wife (Meaghan Sands) and the Baker (Don Farrell) are confronted by the Witch (Sarah Hund) in B&B’s “Into the Woods”

Jaddy Ciucci is a joy to watch as the sassy Little Red Ridinghood. Ms. Ciucci nearly steals the show in her early scenes as her bouncy, physical portrayal and sharp delivery add a  comic aspect to the familiar miss. Danny Kingston animates a cheerful, clueless Jack, and paired with his mother, boisterously played here by Suzanne Stark, we are provided with yet another side of yet another familiar tale.

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Little Red Ridinghood (Jaddy Ciucci) meets up with the Wolf (Timothy Ford) in B&Bs “Into the Woods”

Amanda Downey brings us a lovely and gentle Cinderella, Gabrielle Harker is a Rapunzel in crisis, Timothy Ford and Mickey Rafalski blend their marvelous voices as the grandiloquent Princes – for Cinderella and Rapunzel, respectively. And Grace Sell joins Christine Zavakos and Lauren Morgan in playing Cinderella’s dysfunctional step-mother and sisters. A.J. Morrison is the unsteady Steward, while James Anthony completes the cast in the dual role of Narrator and Mysterious Man.

The entire ensemble works together to present both the recognizable and the meaningful spun-off stories. Great voices and terrific acting meld into a production that leaves you with a rather large WOW factor.

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Cinderella (Amanda Downey) is surrounded by her step-sisters Florinda (Christine Zavakos) and Lucinda (Lauren Morgan) and step-mother (Grace Sell) as they leave for the King’s festival without her in B&B’s “Into the Woods”

The simple principle setting of the woods designed by Michael Layton matched up with a complex lighting design by Ryan Koharchik, immensely aids the storytelling. Jill Kelly Howe’s colorful costume designs illuminate the stage and Daniel Klingler’s makeup work adds a solid final touch.

I particularly want to give high marks to the B&B orchestra – a band of five led by Terry Woods. Sondheim is some of the most difficult music to produce and this group of fine musicians never missed a note or beat in their complex accompaniments. The additional scoring necessary to play most of the orchestra sounds on two electric pianos was especially well done, I thought.

Bottom-line: I was wowed – and I think you will be, too. Though I was not familiar with this Sondheim piece, I would have to say that B&B’s presentation of the show makes it one of my new favorites.

Into the Woods continues through November 20th. 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 B&B website at http://www.beefandboards.com.

* – Photos by Julie Curry