“Dial ‘M’ for Murder” at IRT

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Cast 10 November - Sept. 2001

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre ends its 2016-17 season with a production of Frederick Knott’s unique suspense thriller Dial ‘M’ for Murder on the OneAmerica Mainstage. Considered by many to be one of the finest and most original stories in the genre, “Dial ‘M'” is unusual in that we, as audience members, are privy to the murderer’s plans and motives. Instead of wondering who did it, we get to experience the planning, undertaking and results of the plot to kill, the question being – will they get away with it!

Much of the early section of the script is spent in rather dry British patter as the exposition is laid out. But, once the actual criminal steps are engaged in, the plot takes off with unexpected twists and turns.

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Matt Mueller as Tony Wendice, and Sarah Ruggles as his wife, Margot in IRT’s production of “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”.

James Still directs the action on Kate Sutton-Johnson’s exquisitely wrought apartment setting, with added textures from innovative lighting and sound designs by Michelle Habeck and Lindsay Jones, respectively. Tracy Dorman’s costumes were the finishing touch.

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The action for “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” at IRT takes place on Kate Sutton-Johnson’s magnificent set.

The main cast consists of Sarah Ruggles and Matt Mueller, both making their IRT debuts, as the targeted Margot Wendice, and as her scheming husband, Tony; Christopher Allen as Margot’s American “friend” Max Halliday; and IRT veteran, Robert Neal in the role of Chief Inspector Hubbard. Steve Wojtas plays the hired killer, Captain Lesgate, in his first IRT appearance. Their actions are kept rather low-key, albeit naturalistic, a bow to the easy-going style of upperclass Brits, no doubt. All the actors employ a very pleasant and legitimate accent for their roles.

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Steve Wojtas as Captain Lesgate, and Matt Mueller as Tony Wendice in IRT’s production of “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”.

Using some interesting technical choices, tension is often brought out by the excellent music selection, while visual representations of the many phone calls in the program are projected on upper areas of the set walls, as are depictions of time passage.

Overall, the well drilled cast presents us with a cozy thriller, much akin to reading a novel as the characters move about, not so much in a presentational manner, but as if indicated to do things by a line of prose. This makes the show seem rather slowed down at times, but one never loses the feeling of intrigue nor of danger. If intentional, it is an awesome choice by Mr. Still, the director.

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Robert Neal as Chief Inspector Hubbard, Christopher Allen as Max Halliday, and Sarah Ruggles as Margot Wendice in IRT’s production of “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”.

Dial ‘M’ for Murder continues on IRT’s OneAmerica Mainstage through May 21. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing
  • – Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

 

“Beyond the Rainbow” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

ATI finishes its 2016-17 season batting 1.000 as it closes with William Randall Beard’s Beyond the Rainbow, the song-filled tale of Judy Garland’s life as an entertainer and icon. Centering on the 1961 Carnegie Hall concert given by the then 38 year old singer/actress/star, the unique show structure displays both the concert experience and a running storyline of the triumphs and troubles of first Girl Judy, then of Judy, the rising star.

Director Don Farrell has created a masterwork of staging and performance with his cast of six, featuring a trio of terrific Judys aided by three particularly strong turns by his supporting actors.

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(From left) Annie Yokom, Katy Gentry and Anjali Rooney star as Judy, Garland and Girl Judy in ATI’s production of “Beyond the Rainbow”.

“Garland”, the concert performer in the piece, is presented in an astonishingly accurate depiction by Katy Gentry. Ms. Gentry rolls through the Garland concert catalogue not merely expertly sounding as Ms. Garland did – her rendering of the singer is enhanced with all the stage mannerisms and indeed even the “look” of the celebrated star. Ms. Gentry’s undeniable vocal talents are a significant piece of the portrayal, but her acting abilities carry us into the presence of Judy Garland.

Likewise, Annie Yokom, who provides a struggling “Judy”, the post-Andy Hardy Garland in the story, has her character’s voice and style mastered. Touching on the many conflicts and influential factors in Garland’s adult life, Ms. Yokom’s performance is intense and evocative, imparting the often rougher side of her character’s career as a star. Her outstanding singing talent is on display in several numbers and again, the spot-on replication of Garland is uncanny.

Garland’s earlier years are shown through Anjali Rooney’s spirited offering, “Girl Judy”. This young actress has an easy manner on stage and she handles her role with polished professionalism as well as a delightful singing voice.

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Seen with Annie Yokom (seated) as Judy, supporting cast members (from left) Roger Ortman, Grace Sell and Dave Ruark appear in a scene from ATI’s production of “Beyond the Rainbow”.

The supporting roles in this show demand a wide array of characters from each of Mr. Farrell’s charges. Grace Sell, Dave Ruark, and Roger Ortman fill the bill, providing a series of fully realized characters in Ms. Garland’s life. Ms. Sell is terrific as Judy’s pushy mother, Ethel, and brings a varied disposition to the powerful columnist, Hedda Hopper. Among Dave Ruark’s long list of characters is Garland’s supportive father – Frank Gumm, her first husband – director Vincente Minnelli, and a boyish Mickey Rooney, all done with an adroit touch. Roger Ortman shines in his diverse roles including the harsh MGM studio head, Louis Mayer and, in an absolutely explosive performance, Garland’s second husband – Sid Luft.

Musical support for this song-rich program is provided by Musical Director John Bronston at the piano – with Greg Gegogeine playing bass, Steve Stickler on multiple woodwinds and Greg Wolff handling percussion. This small group provides big music and is a vital part of the show. P. Bernard Killian’s smart and simple set design allows for seamless storytelling, while costumes by Stephen Hollenbeck and wigs/makeup by Daniel Klingler put finishing touches on the magic. Erin Meyer’s lighting adds dramatic effect.

Bottom line: The layers of combined songs and stories are crafted to play off each other, realizing the quote by Garland that “The story of my life is in my songs.” Indeed, this assembly of words and lyrics act as an emotional memoir of the legendary Miss Judy Garland. And ATI has yet another exciting and unique offering.

Beyond the Rainbow continues at ATI’s Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through May 14. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.atistage.org .

  • – Photo provided by ATI

“The Music Man” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Meredith Willson’s iconic Broadway musical, The Music Man, is the final installment in Tarkington Civic Theatre’s stellar 2016-17 season. Full of insightful direction and inventive choreography, both provided by Anne Nicole Beck, the show opened last night with a sparkle and a smash. Brent E. Marty provides the inspired musical direction.

Ms. Beck’s immense cast of 42 fills the stage with remarkable performances from top to bottom. Leading the way is Steve Kruze as slick, traveling salesman Professor Harold Hill. Kruze manages a difficult role with pellucidity, energizing the role which brought Robert Preston much fame. Though I feel Kruze lacked the full spark he brought to his earlier Civic appearance as Frederick Frankenstein in 2016’s Young Frankenstein, he nonetheless makes the most of his significant talents here, always focused on Hill’s divided attentions as he hoodwinks the townspeople and unexpectedly finds true love. Joining him as Marion (the librarian) is a lovely Mikayla Reed Koharchik. Ms. Koharchik offers a definitive version of the reluctant miss, using her beautiful (and powerful) vocal talents to maximum effect. Her Marion is gracefully aware of what is happening to her as Hill first confronts her with his charms, then finds he cannot do without her.

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Steve Kruze plays Professor Harold Hill in Tarkington Civic’s production of “The Music Man”

Adding texture to the show are distinctive performances by several supporting players including: Tom Beeler as a pleasingly frustrated Mayor Shinn; Robyne J. Ault as his over-the-top arts loving wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn; Krista Wright as Marion’s hopeful mother, Mrs. Paroo; and Joe Steiner as Hill’s vengeful rival, anvil salesman Charlie Cowell.

Joel Flynn takes the role of town “trouble-maker” Tommy Djilas, showing some impressive talents as a featured dancer; third-grader Jack Clark does himself (and the Clark family) proud as he sweetly plays young Winthrop Paroo, highlighted by his delightful rendition of “Gary Indiana”; and John Hall, Eric Turpen, David Brock and Darrin Gowan join forces as the combative school board members turned barber shop quartet, offering a selection of beautifully harmonized arrangements.

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Mikayla Reed Koharchik plays Marion Paroo in Tarkington Civic’s production of “The Music Man”

It would be difficult to list all the contributions of the other 30 performers, just know that they add lots of glow and shine to the impressive proceedings. Also noteworthy is the fine Broadway level orchestra, under the baton of Trevor Fanning, which richly accompanies the action onstage.

And what action! Favorite numbers from my perspective include: the lively “Seventy-Six Trombones” which displays the entire cast in a bright rendition; the wonderfully original and complex movement of “Marian the Librarian” featuring the two leads with a dozen or so young adult performers; and the all-stops-out, full-cast, dance-filled “Shipoopi”. The show is full of terrific and interesting staging ideas throughout.

Finally, kudos must go to the imaginative scenic and lighting designs by Ryan Koharchik  and the plethora of costumes designed by Andrienne Conces. Andrew Boyd added his skillful work with the period style wigs.

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The entire cast in a rousing rendition of “Seventy-Six Trombones” in Tarkington Civic’s production of “The Music Man”.

Bottom-line: Here is yet another thoroughly enjoyable show from the magnificent Tarkington Civic organization. The high quality of their productions this entire season has certainly been on a par with any of the professional companies in our theatre-rich area.

The Music Man continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through May 13th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

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This evening, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre announced the shows in the upcoming 2017-18 season – starting with Annie, which opens on October 12, 2017. This will be followed by Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Dec. 15), a non-musical Sense and Sensibility (Feb 2), Agatha Christies’ And Then There Were None in the Studio Theater (Mar 23), and finally Hairspray (Apr 27). Young artists productions of The Cat in the Hat, James and the Giant Peach and Guys and Dolls are also included. Season tickets are available now – call 317.843.3800 for information.

 

“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” at Mud Creek Players

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Steve Martin’s play Picasso at the Lapin Agile had it’s first full public performance on October 13, 1993 in Chicago at the Steppenwolf Theatre. To quote Mr. Martin, “the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science”. Martin does this in a truly unique and original way, presenting a chopped salad of interesting characters and ideas, imagining a meeting in 1904 of Picasso and Einstein. The plot never moves in one direction toward any gripping conclusion, but rather runs on a variety of courses, much like the “nimble rabbit” alluded to in the name of the bar it is set in.

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The cast of Mud Creek Players’ production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” on the set by Jay Ganz.

Mud Creek Players’ production of the piece is ably directed by Kelly Keller, in his directing debut, with assistance by Mason Odle. Keller does himself proud as all the facets of a solid production are put into place here, with strong character development, a rich understanding of their motives, and wonderful tempo, pacing and rhythms throughout.

The cast is full of new faces, new to me that is. Brad Root (Pablo Picasso) and Justin Lyon (Albert Einstein) present satisfying depictions, brimming with energy and life. Root’s Picasso is an impassioned man – a bit full of himself, but confident and very much alive in the moment. Lyon bears a strong resemblance to the young Einstein, and carries this through with a remarkably vulnerable characterization of the great scientist.

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Savannah Jay as Suzanne and Brad Root as Palo Picasso in Mud Creek Players’ “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”.

Collin Moore makes the most of barfly Gaston with a hilarious rendering of the man and his often absurd observations of life. Monya Wolf does memorable work in the featured role of Germaine, a waitress with strong points of view, and Eric Matters is deftly on the mark as her barkeep/partner, Freddy. Robert C. Boston, Jr. is perfectly cast as opportunist art dealer, Sagot, and Savanna Jay has some wonderful moments as Picasso’s young lover, Suzanne. Also noteworthy is Lexi Odle, who maximizes her brief time on stage with a humorous, well-timed, punch-lined exit.

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Justin Lyon as Albert Einstein in Mud Creek Players’ “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”

The play is performed on Jay Ganz’ authentic looking set, with adroit costuming by Tanya Keeler, and lights designed by Collin Moore.

Bottomline: As mentioned earlier, all the facets come together here for what is a thought-provoking, fast-moving and entertaining show. This was Mrs. K’s and my first visit to Mud Creek Players in many years and I hope that this type of production quality will have us returning soon.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile continues at Mud Creek Players through May 6. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.290.5343 or by logging onto http://www.mudcreekplayers.org

  • – Photos by Colman Love

Note: this play is rated PG-13 for adult language and situations.

“DK & Friends” presented at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last night Mrs. K and I had the privilege of attending the current offering from Dance Kaleidoscope which is being performed on IRT’s OneAmerica stage. Entitled DK and Friends, the evening was dedicated to coordinated efforts by the creative forces of DK, guest artists from Todd Rosenlieb Dance – which is based in Norfolk VA, and live performances by singer Doug Dilling and electric violinist Cathy Morris.

Heavy Like Waits

The Todd Rosenlieb Dance troupe performs “Heavy Like Waits” – choreographed by Todd Rosenlieb – Photo by Freddie Kelvin

The Rosenlieb group took the stage first, sharing three of their company’s creations. Todd Rosenlieb’s “Heavy Like Waits” is an innovatively costumed set of dances done to the trademark growl of an assortment of Tom Waits songs. “Voiced” which features choreography by former DK performer Ricardo Melendez (now a Rosenlieb associate), has an experimental feel to it – the Rosenlieb dancers have only human voice sounds to set their movements to. Finally, another Todd Rosenlieb conception called “Suite Sammy” honors the great Sammy Davis Jr. with an energetic piece choreographed for several of Davis’ standard hits. Of the three, the Sammy number is my favorite – hitting home with nostalgic feelings. However all the pieces were well performed – the Rosenlieb dancers being exceptionally skillful with their group’s choreographic stylings.

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Megan Butler, Caitlin Cooley, and Janelle Spruill perform “Voiced” – choreographed by Ricardo Melendez – Photo by Freddie Kelvin

Act Two featured the world premiere of a short-form work by DK artistic director David Hocchoy entitled “End of the World”, featuring dancers Stuart Coleman and Timothy June with musical support by singer Doug Dilling. The eponymous song is by composer/singer Matt Alber from his “Hide Nothing” album. Portrayed as a lament by a gay man to his lover, the work was emotive and tender.

End of the World

Singer Doug Dilling, with dancers Stuart Coleman and Timothy June performing David Hochoy’s “End of the World”- Photo by Freddie Kelvin

Following, there comes “Skin Walkers”, a 1999 Hochoy piece. The Celtic (or Scotch) music base is wonderfully augmented by Cathy Morris performing fantastic improv licks on her electric violin. The dance itself is an uber-high-energy program full of struts and leaps which brought the crowd to its feet at the finish. This piece definitively shows off the high skills of the DK troupe, with each of the 11 dancers having a turn to be center. It is an explosive ending to a very entertaining evening.

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The DK dancers perform David Hochoy’s “Skin Walkers” (1999) – Photo by Crowe’s Eye Photography

This DK concert only runs thru Sunday April 9th, so you will need to get your tickets rather quickly. You can get performance and ticket information by going to http://dancekal.org/features/concerts/dk-friends-april-6-9 or by calling the IRT Ticket Office at 317.635.5252.

“Les Misérables” (School Edition) offered by Agape Performing Arts Company

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

17554029_1278609212226718_2292847556785370800_nThursday evening saw Mrs. K and I attending opening night of the school edition of Les Misérables. The show was held at McGowan Hall on the old Northside of Indianapolis. A very large audience, mostly family members, saw a wonderful performance of this world famous musical brought forth by a platoon of 69 young actors and actress ranging in age from 4th graders to high school seniors. Add the 20 set-change/backstage crew members and you have 89 young people who work hard to make this show happen!

You would be mistaken to assume that this was some charming little effort, with cute kids attempting adult roles. On the contrary, Director Dr. Kathy Phipps has managed to instill her young charges with a gravitas of dignity and emotion that runs through the presentation.

Led by a bevy of top-notch turns by the lead actors and actresses, this offering ranks high on stage essentials such as focus, interpretation and integration. It can be said it is among the very best of shows I have seen from any youth theatre company.

Luan Arnold, a Herron HS senior, portrays Jean Valjean with a heroic persona furthered by his tremendous vocal talent. Arnold is on the mark throughout the immense role and delivers on all points. As Valjean’s adversary Javert, Eli Robinson, a senior from Center Grove HS, renders a strong voiced offering. Never overdone, his fine character choices present a man convinced that his is the right way, even to the end.

Other main roles are equally well-crafted. Samantha Koval leaves few dry eyes with her “I Dreamed a Dream” as Fantine. Katherine Sabens puts her clear, sweet voice to excellent use for Little Cosette’s “Castle on a Cloud”. Thomas Tutsie and Hannah Phipps enliven the proceedings as the dastardly Thenardiers. Alex Bast (Enjoiras), Christopher Golab (Grantaire) and Connor Cleary (Marius) are tenacious in their action as revolutionaries, joined by 4th grader Aaron Sickmeier, who is a feisty Gavroche. Olivia Renee Ortmann uses her remarkable voice talents as the forsaken Eponine. And operatically voiced Christina Canaday joins with Cleary’s Marius for some very fine romantic moments.

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Some of the fine supporting cast of “Les Miserables” in The Beggars scene.

The overall effect of the gigantic cast and the preponderance of talented voices and acting skills make for a truly outstanding evening of theatre entertainment. A few points were lost on some nagging technical concerns, which I am known to notice. Lighting issues and mike problems seemed to run throughout the performance and I certainly hope that these things can be brought under control – but the night belonged to the talented young performers who put on a notable display of theatre. I hope that some of these fledglings will keep theatre as a part of their lives, either professionally or as an avocation, at local venues or theatres afar.

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Luan Arnold (center) as Jean Valjean, rescues Marius in the Barricade scene in “Les Miserables”

One final impressive aspect of the show needs mention – the fine orchestra, led by David Turner, which provided an exceptional sounding background for the many songs. This is a difficult score and the 17 member group of musicians are to be congratulated on a superior job.

One major unfixable problem with this Les Misérables is that it only runs through a single weekend! Even as I write this on 4/7/17 – a Friday afternoon show is getting ready to launch at 1 pm and then only Friday and Saturday evening shows and a late afternoon Sunday program remain. You are urged to go to http://www.thelittleboxoffice.com/agape for ticket information. I encourage everyone to see this remarkable hit show.

  • – Photos from Director Kathy Phipps

 

“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

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