Wednesday, May 26

Travel: This is Owensboro?

When invited to travel and write about a city or town, research is the first place I start. Just for preventative measures; to avoid ending up in a Stephen King-style town.

When Karen Miller, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Owensboro, KY contacted me regarding a weekend visit for last November, I got busy. While researching, I quickly realized that this small town was not what I expected. For one thing, it's not small; Kentucky's Festival City has a population of more than 100,000 in the metropolitan area. I thought to myself, "This is Owensboro?"

No zombies or children in the cornfields turned up in my research, so I turned my trusty car southward on I-65 toward Louisville and took a right just before the bridge. Located three and one half hours south of Indianapolis, Owensboro nestles along the banks of the Ohio River in the Bluegrass, Blues & Barbecue region. It's not splashy or glitzy, just...quietly comfortable with itself.

The Fairfield Inn, where I lodged for the weekend, offers an indoor pool, workout room and a breakfast worthy of the soccer team visiting that weekend. The river city is ranked as Kentucky’s No. 1 Sports City by Sports Illustrated.

The Miller House Restaurant, in the historic downtown area, is one of those picturesque places you drive by and say, "I wish I lived there." Charming, with a front veranda wrapping around the home-turned-restaurant, it was aglow with welcoming lights. Recently renovated and re-opened, the proprietors are happy to accommodate tours and receptions.

The Southern Sampler appetizer includes, fried grit sticks, cheese torte, sweet potato chips, zesty cheese straws and fried green tomatoes, giving a delicious sense of the south. The grilled sirloin was tender, juicy and topped with, what else, bourbon butter.

Arriving at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, the annual Holidaze event was in full swing, featuring more than 100 regional artists. The festival also showcases the Holiday Forest, a dazzling display of decorated holiday trees. The quality of fine art and regional artist talent led me to another, "This is Owensboro?" moment.

Offered the chance to eat fudge for breakfast and a tour of a vineyard the next morning, I knew it was going to be another great day. Browns Valley Vineyard is a small family-owned operation on the outskirts of town offering table and wine grapes for commercial and home winemakers.

Trunnell's Farm Market, just up the road, was opened for our chocolate morning meal, as promised. Tasting two (or twelve) flavors, I, naturally, picked Kentucky Bourbon chocolate fudge, and ordered a half pound to go. I also took home pumpkin, and another half pound of the chocolate, in case I ran out.

Originating from a plan devised by the Master Gardeners Association, Western Kentucky Botanical Garden is a collection of specialty gardens, including Japanese, herb, rose and many more.

Children have their own garden, complete with a yellow brick walkway and a Playhouse in the Garden, a child-size structure complete with a kitchen for birthday parties.

Crowne Gifts’ can be considered nothing short of an adult's toy land. Whether browsing or buying, an array of eclectic and unusual items, such as bejeweled boxes, painted glassware and wine wafers, will bring squeals of delight as you find treasures tucked into every corner.

Crème Coffee House, located conveniently next door, whips up a worth-every-calorie, heavenly concoction called frozen hot chocolate. I found myself thinking, again, "This is Owensboro?"

Next stop was Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, because in Owensboro, when they say barbecue, they mean mutton. Yes, mutton. Aged lamb, slow-cooked over hickory to tenderness and lovingly treated with the secret sauce. This entree has earned the eatery numerous titles and praises in books, magazines and newspapers throughout the country. Not only did the meat exceed expectations, I had the added pleasure of tasting burgoo, a regional hearty stew of chef’s choice of various meats, vegetables and spices.

Host to visitors from around the world, the International Bluegrass Music Museum dedicates an entire room to the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Other exhibits include The Timeline of Bluegrass Music, a 1940’s café replica, complete with a jukebox, and several showcases of instruments and costumes. After touring the museum, Ronnie Reno, pillar of the Bluegrass genre, shared a table with me and told tales of performing with Monroe, Merle Haggard and others. Playing the mandolin after dinner, Reno proved he is still a master.

Owensboro Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of Madama Butterfly, portrayed by the exceptional talent of Jee Hyun Lim, was Riverpark Center’s annual Holbrook Concert. The 1479-seat venue overlooks the Ohio River and presents nearly 800 events annually.

The next morning found me at Hal’s Windy Hollow restaurant and museum, open only for Sunday brunch buffet. Owner Hal Miller opens his museum, eatery and heart to family, friends and visitors alike. I was fortunate to be given a private tour by Miller whose has a zest for life and a gentle way of sharing his memories, both fun and tragic. With one hand he indicates a signed Tex Ritter poster or a Roy Rogers’ lunch box, with the other he points out a Nazi flag, captured by his brother while they stormed Normandy Beach, all the while adding commentary creating a surreal quality, as if we were walking through a movie set of his life.

With hundreds of items in his collection of movie and WWII memorabilia, he recalls watching the government-issued artist sketching history as it happened, tells of the western movies filmed in the area. Two fires over the years meant losing irreplaceable pieces, but Miller doesn’t lose spirit. He is surrounded by loved ones and makes new friends weekly at the popular restaurant.

Just minutes from Owensboro, spread across 157 scenic acres, is the upscale campground Diamond Lake Resort. Offering traditional fishing, camping, cottages and motel rooms for the less-brave camper, this outdoor haven also offers special events. Chili and BBQ cook offs, luaus, sock hops and the Street Legends car show keep families vying for RV and camper sites all season long.

Looking for entertainment? Musical acts perform in the resort's renovated 749-seat theater. Paint ball, a swimming pool and restaurants keep boredom and hunger at bay. If you’re a go-kart enthusiast, three tracks should satisfy your need for speed. If not, enter to win the professional gran prix, held at the resort annually. I test drove the go-karts and guarantee fun can be found going in circles; just avoid any drivers going the wrong way.

Getting into the driver’s seat of my own vehicle and heading home, I thought about Bluegrass, camping, opera, barbecue, fine arts, and symphony all wrapped up in a slow, southern smile...

So...THIS is Owensboro.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, theater critic, and travel writer. You can now follow her on Facebook, and Twitter @ejmusgrave1, and catch her on 93 WIBC's Saturday Morning News Show as Indy's Arts & Entertainment adviser, giving advice on things to do in the Indy area, including restaurants, spas, festivals, events, theater and films. Send all comments to elizabeth@gottago.us.

Gotta Go Guide: Check out these websites for current and upcoming events in Owensboro.
Visitowensboro.com
marriott.com/owbfi
riverparkcenter.org
theOSO.com
Windy Hollow Restaurant: 270-785-4088
diamondlakeresort.net
themillerhouserestaurant.com
omfa.museum
wkbg.org
bluegrass-museum.org
ronniereno.com
moonlite.com
bbbregion.org
Owensboromuseum.com
Crowne107.com
hauntsofowensboro.com
trunnellsfarmmarket.com
kinggambrinus.com

*Photo credits: Karen Miller-Owensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau; James and Peggy Ryan 19th Centruy Parlor, John Hampden Smith Decorative Arts Wing, Owensboro Museum of Fine Art; Brian Smith-Diamond Lake Resorts; Elizabeth J. Musgrave; Izzy Evans; TStorm
**Gotta Go appears in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, West Side Community News, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times-Reporter, Fortville-McCordsville Reporter, and New Palenstine Reporter

Monday, May 17

Footlite Musicals: Oliver

Now playing at Footlite Musicals’ Hedback Theatre, 1847 N. Alabama, is Oliver, based on the Dickens classic about a little orphan boy who asks for more gruel. Directed by Ellie Sellars, the community theater’s production was performed on a well-matched, stark stage created by set designer, Richard Ferguson-Wagstaffe.

Overall, the show was well received by the audience, with the most applause left for the children, especially The Artful Dodger, portrayed by Matt Conwell, and Oliver, played by Noah McCullough.

McCullough’s Where is Love was best in the children’s solos and the interactive Pick a Pocket or Two reigned in as best from a group.

Although there were numerous sounding issues throughout the performance, one performer had no problem overcoming the situation.

Bill Hale as Fagin, the leader of the pickpocket gang, delighted the audience with his portrayal of the chief thief whose heart softens as his unlawful career ends. Hale’s rendition of Reviewing the Situation, was the best adult vocal performance and the highlight of the evening.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, theater critic, and travel writer. You can now follow Elizabeth on facebook or Twitter and catch her as Indy's Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC's Saturday Morning News Show, giving a quick Gotta Go list of things to do in the Indy area, including restaurants, festivals, events, theater and films.


Send requests to Elizabeth@gottago.us.

--This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in the West Side Community News in Indianapolis, and the West Indianapolis Community News.

Sunday, May 16

Rookwood

Reviewing the self-titled CD by the Broad-Ripple-based group, Rookwood, proved rather difficult to do. Sharing the music with several age groups, I received only positive feedback from all, making it impossible to suggest it for just one particular demographic.

Making up the duo are Butler University graduates Krista and Casey Wilson. Rookwood, on a CD-promoting, national tour, returns to Indianapolis, Friday, May 21 for one performance at The Annex in Fishers.

Rookwood’s influence from Memphis-Blues, rock, gospel and jazz, coupled with the haunting vocals of lead singer Krista, creates a fusion of emotions as vivid as the colors of a kaleidoscope. Just when you believe you’ve seen all there is, it turns and twists into something entirely different.

Not shying away from the darker subjects of heartbreak, disappointment and compulsions, Look My Way offers the promise of hope through the strength of love. From the first track’s addictive Fool’s Goodbye, which deals with betrayal, to the last haunting selection of You Still Want Me, the group's view of reality creates a sense of knowing someone out there understands what you're going through.

Happy Ever After begs the listener to toss aside unrealistic childhood romantic fairy tales, whereas in track ten, they want to know if you’re Happy with your life. The spirit of soul-searching winds throughout the entire CD wrapped in a down-to-earth style, questioning faith, life and love.

Bottom Line: Heartbreaking, wistful, completely bare and laid-out are the emotions and inner-feelings of Rookwood’s self-titled CD. The smoky-bluesy soulful sound and lyrics are distinctive and not to be compared to any other group; no need to borrow a sound when you’ve created one all your own.

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 Facebook, Twitter and at gottago.us. Comments can and questions can be sent to elizabeth@gottago.us.

*Photos submitted by Rookwood

www.Rookwoodmusic.com

Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

Friday, May 14

Robin Hood


Oscar winner Russell Crowe teams up once again with director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) for this prequel version of the centuries-old fable of outlaw, Robin Hood. Knowing the talent of Crowe, I looked forward to this film.

With so much controversy surrounding the validity of the man known as Robin Hood, the adventures and English folklore have grown and evolved over the centuries. While historians argue amongst themselves as to whether there was such a man and what his true identity is, moviegoers never tire of each new version of the tale.

Although no one I know has spoken of the elephant in the room, this critic shall whisper the thought which occurred almost immediately upon realizing the direction of the film. If this epic film is staged as a prequel to the familiar movies based on the famed archer, why is a man 46 years old playing the character? Shouldn’t a younger man by a couple of decades be in that position? Cate Blanchett, at 41 years of age, is also unbelievable in that respect as Lady Marian.

All in all, considering all we moviegoers have been willing to forgive over the years, the age factor can be overlooked as well, I suppose. Especially when given the fact that this film is rather enjoyable and different than its predecessors. Gritty, gray in color and harsh, Hood stands up to the worth-watching yardstick. This is fortunate since the fact that it is set as prequel means that there will most likely be a sequel or two.

Given that Crowe is a destination actor, and Mark Strong is entrenching himself as the best villain since Alan Rickman (Die Hard) viewers will undoubtedly enjoy the action scenes, scenery and medieval castles. With mixed reviews from critics and the public, the movie will most likely do well at the box office, with opening weekend earnings reported at $32 million, twice that of chick-flick Letters to Juliet.

Bottom Line: Best viewed on the big screen, IMAX if possible, Robin Hood is not Crowe’s best work, but even his less-than-fabulous movies are worthy of the ticket price.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, theater critic, and travel writer. You can now follow Elizabeth on facebook or Twitter and catch her as Indy's Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC's Saturday Morning News Show, giving a quick Gotta Go list of things to do in the Indy area, including restaurants, festivals, events, theater and films.

For comments and questions e-mail her at Elizabeth@gottago.us.


--This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in the West Side Community News in Indianapolis, and the West Indianapolis Community News.

Sunday, May 9

Beef and Boards: Always...Patsy Cline

When a star passes away it matters to more than just friends and family; fans feel a loss also. You grow accustomed to hearing their voice, seeing their face on small and large screens and magazine covers. What happens when you are not just a fan, but also a friend?

Always...Patsy Cline answers that question. On stage now at Beef and Boards, Indianapolis, the based-on-a-true-story production is told from the viewpoint of a chance encounter between a loyal fan and the legendary country singer.

Born September 8, 1932 as Virginia Patterson Hensley, the down-to-earth personality of Cline is well-documented and is the basis for the friendship she builds with Louise Seger. The women become instant pals when Cline performs at a honky tonk club in Houston, Texas in 1961.

Directed by, and starring, Christine Mild as the Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, the backup band of talented musicians includes, Michael Clark, Jayson Elliott, Sarah Hund, Marc Imboden, Tim Kelly and Terry Woods.

Channeling the persona, looks and voice of "The Cline" as she was known to refer to herself, Mild brought the audience to its feet more than once. With more than two dozen songs throughout the show, it was a combination of a behind-the-scenes look at the friendship blended with stage reenactments of various shows on which she performed during her short career, including Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts and Grand Ole Opry.

Quite often a single song, or two, is singled out as the best of the performance. In Always...Patsy Cline, it can't be done. Walkin' After Midnight, She's Got You, I Fall to Pieces...the list goes on and on, including Cline's signature song Crazy. Mild performs each hit flawlessly, her bold, smoky voice conjuring the beloved singer's ghost.

Erin Parker portrays Louise Seger, the lovable country girl who was Cline's friend and biggest fan. Narrating the entire show, Seger scoops the audience up and plunks them down next to her at the kitchen table, or at the bar table next to some beer bottles, and opens up about her lovely friend who just happens to be world-renowned, but likes cooking bacon and eggs just like the rest of us country folk.

Sassy, loud, bossy and loyal, all the qualities one hopes for in a friend, Seger is heartbroken when she hears on the radio the news of Cline's death.

Prior to the plane crash which took her life at 30 years, Cline had had two separate car wrecks, the second almost claiming her life. The country-pop crossover crooner was noted by several people as predicting she would not live much longer. On March 5, 1963, while returning to Tennessee from performing a charity concert benefiting the widow and family of a deceased disc jockey, the plane carrying Cline, among others, crashed leaving no survivors.

The show is not told in a depressing tone, however. The spunky attitude which enabled Cline to become the highest paid female country star and chart-topper was demonstrated by Seger who keeps the audience laughing, clapping along and stomping their imaginary cowboy boots.

Bottom Line: If you are a fan of the Queen of Country, Always...Patsy Cline is a must-see; if you aren't, well...you will be after seeing this show.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, theater critic, and travel writer. You can now follow Elizabeth on facebook or Twitter and catch her Saturday mornings on 93 WIBC's Saturday Morning News Show, giving a quick Gotta Go list of things to do in the Indy area, including restaurants, events, theater and films. For comments and questions e-mail her at Elizabeth@gottago.us.

*Photos courtesy of Julie Curry Photography

This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in the West Side Community News in Indianapolis, and the West Indianapolis Community News.

Thursday, May 6

Broadway Across America: Legally Blonde The Musical

Broadway Across America's Legally Blonde The Musical was an audience favorite in Indy this week with the familiar storyline from the non-musical movie starring Reese Witherspoon of the same title.

With a few tweaks and editing this version is primarily the same, all the main points are left untouched. Elle Woods (Becky Gulsvig) sorority girl decides to attend Harvard Law School ("What...like it's hard?") to win back her beau Warner (Jeff McClean) who dumps her because he "needs a Jackie, and Elle, honey, you're a Marilyn." Ouch.

Natalie Joy Johnson portrays Paulette with all the gusto and enthusiasm required for Woods' East Coast friend, and all the balance required to jump and dance in four-inch heels. Her voice rang loud and clear and her version of the salon employee was a joy to watch.

D.B. Bonds turns in the top male vocals as Emmett Forrest, the man trying to win Elle's heart. Bonds' best moments were the tender scene and duet, Legally Blonde, with Gulsvig in Callahan's (Michael Rupert) office, including his proclamation of love. Above his obvious physical charms, Bonds delivers a believable character as a man who wants to become a lawyer to help people.

Turning in top female vocals is Megan Lewis as Warner's new Jackie-style girlfriend, Vivienne Kensington, which she demonstrated particularly well in Legally Blonde Remix.

What came through foremost were the supporting characters and ensemble casts. The Greek Chorus, UPS delivery man, sorority girls and courtroom members created an energy which brought the fun factor to a whole new level.

Bottom Line: Legally Blonde The Musical is a high energy, fun-packed good time perfect for a girls' night out; don't forget the pink champagne.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, theater critic, and travel writer. For comments and questions send an e-mail to her at Elizabeth@gottago.us or follow her on facebook.

*Photos by Joan Marcus

--This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in the West Side Community News in Indianapolis and the West Indianapolis Community News.

Wednesday, May 5

IRT: Around the World in 80 Days

Around the World in 80 Days opens at IRT, Indianapolis, this week capturing the imagination of the audience, sweeping them along for the Jules Vernes journey.

Mark Brown’s adaptation, set in 1862, applies a minimalist approach with the cast of five actors taking on dozens of roles, on a set of moving sections and little else. Rather than detracting from the storyline, the constant role-switching enhances the audience’s enjoyment, as if we were in a secret theatre watching a play being rehearsed before it hits the big time. However, this one has already made it big, with years’ worth of stages, movies, awards and adaptations.

When Phileas Fogg (Jeff Cummings) accepts a wager from his English chums to circumnavigate around the globe in 80 days, he takes along new French manservant, Passepartout (La Shawn Banks). Cummings gives Fogg the exact mathematical-minded attitude created in the original work.

Audience favorite Passepartout is played superbly by Banks in his IRT debut; the cheeky enthusiasm he brings to the role is enjoyed by the audience. The delight of the character is enhanced when paired with gruff Detective Fix (John Lister). The twosome's interactions give cause for several laugh-out-loud moments while Fix attempts to detain Fogg's journey.

Bottom Line: Around the World in 80 Days is a sweet journey full of adventure, misadventure and romance, perfect for the entire family.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, theater critic and travel writer. For comments and questions send an e-mail to her at Elizabeth@gottago.us or follow her on facebook.

--This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in West Side Community News and West Indianapolis Community News.

*Photos by Julie Curry Photography