|Santa, Anna and Sydney Miller|
Change, not always welcome, can be a good thing. Case in point: Beef and Boards' A Beef and Boards Christmas. As if waking from a slumber, the north side dinner theater revamped, re-choreographed and re-energized its show, serving this holiday dish as a variety show-style production (think Dean Martin, Bob Hope, et al.) complete with a guffaw-a-minute emcee (Eddie Curry) and a flying reindeer. Not to worry, there's only one airborne creature.
|Bair, Mild, Vessels and Dickerson|
Principal singers include destination actor John Vessels (Smoke on the Mountain), Christine Mild (Always...Patsy Cline), Christopher Dickerson (BBC '09) and newcomer Traci Bair. Popular dance duo Kenny Shepard and Deb Wims return to waltz and tap their way across the stage.
|Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard|
Most noticeable this year is the lightheartedness of the performers. Curry (Church Basement Ladies) keeps the show racing along with the corniest of jokes told in the most endearing way.
Shepard and Wims absolutely flourish this year, singing and dancing as if they have not a care in the world and drank a gallon of energizing Noni juice for breakfast. A joy to watch, this is truly the best exhibition by the couple witnessed by this critic.
The exchange of Santa is a great asset as Mark Fishback provides the innocence necessary for the jolly old elf. He further endears himself by interacting with the audience moving from table to table announcing who made the naughty or nice list.
Vivacious Mild once more proves her ability particularly during Santa Tonight with Fishback and her solo Christmas Is.
Keeping with the variety show style, Terry Woods and the B&B Orchestra enhance the show by performing live on stage throughout the evening.
Although this is clearly the best overall Christmas show I have seen at B&B, there remain some missed opportunities.
Two to be exact: Vessels and Dickerson.
Vessels’ powerful vocals and ability to draw laughter from the audience with every entrance should be enough to grant him more solo stage time, also. Perhaps the decision-makers could sit in my seat and view the audience's reaction when either of these two performs. Whether or not it is understood is not relevant, it just is. We get it and that is all that matters.
I realize it is a variety show and do not mean to imply others are unworthy of their stage time at all, merely to point out an increase of certain performers can enhance the production that much more.
Bottom Line: A Beef and Boards Christmas is a must-see for fans of old-fashioned variety shows, holiday tunes and dancing characters.
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC and follow her on Twitter @ejmusgrave1 and Facebook.