Monday, August 23

The Cabaret: Christine Pedi

If you conjure up an image of a New York penthouse apartment, complete with a polished piano, chandelier and several dozen friends invited over for cocktails and frivolity, then you have just imagined the setting for Christine Pedi's Great Dames at The Cabaret at The Columbia Club.
Fooled into expecting a singer to imitate several divas from Broadway fame, the audience was clearly snookered.
We were tricked into believing we were there to see a regular singer, imitating other, better singers. Not even close.
False advertising, you could call it, actually. Should those in attendance request a refund of money spent?
Absolutely not.
In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if several offered to pay twice the ticket price for the sheer enjoyment of the high-quality show.
This lady is more than just a regular singer.
She's a kitten with claws, a polished performer and a diva in her own right. The show wasn't just an offering of a singer imitating others. It was two shows in one: comedy act and musical concert.
Only a truly powerful and gifted singer could make her way through the list of tunes Pedi breezed through. Spoonful of Sugar, Funny Girl, Trolley Song, When You're Good to Mama, Nothing like a Dame and Lady is a Tramp are a few of the choice numbers.
Looking as comfortable as if lounging in her own skyscraper dwelling, the comedienne and impressionist delighted the crowd with her version of several divas from throughout time.
The elegant surroundings could not curb the feisty nature of the New Yorker. Vamping it up with her rendition of Barbra Streisand, Liza Minelli, Julie Andrews and Judy Garland, the songstress played with the audience like a kitten with a ball of string. Tossing us this way and that, we rolled through many years worth of music on Broadway.
When not wowing crowds with her musical and comedic abilities, Pedi hosts Broadway Breakfast Daily on Sirius/XM radio. Along with her pianist, arranger, and sometimes backup singer, Matthew Ward, Pedi circles the globe performing in North America, Asia, Europe and Australia.
Bottom Line: Christine Pedi spreads her own delicious brand of sass and brass without reservation; after all, this lady is not just a tramp, she's also a diva.
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93.1 WIBC and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and at gottago.us. Comments can be sent to elizabeth@gottago.us.
Gotta Go is published in M magazine and 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.
Photo credit: Mark A. Lee www.GreatExposures.net
For schedule, ticket and details, visit thecabaret.org
For information about the performer, visit christinepedi.com

A Day at the Indiana State Fair including Jeff Dunham

A day at the Indiana State Fair, for some, is an annual event. I had not been in about 20 years. I know; I was long overdue. Being asked to judge the Backyard BBQ Cook-off, sponsored by Shoup's, and review Jeff Dunham's performance for the same day seemed like a higher power giving a little push.

So I went.

Alongside of me, judging four hours worth of pork hog burgers, ribs and loin, shrimp and vegetables were Reid Duffy (Duffy's Diner) and Chef Thomas England, who is also a sommelier. I was in good company.

After eating for four straight hours, there was only one thing I wanted to do...that's right, hit the strip for fair food. Hey, it'd been awhile. First, I got a couple of old standbys, the elephant ear and the pineapple whip ice cream, and then headed over for deep-fried butter.

Yes, it really was butter; frozen, dipped in funnel cake batter, dropped in hot oil and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. It tasted exactly like french toast without syrup.

Amelia Rettig, a third-grader at New Britton Elementary, dug in and enjoyed it, also. (see left photo)

Taking to the grandstand stage was Jeff Dunham, master ventriloquist and comedian. With millions of Youtube hits, DVD sales and sell-out performances around the world, Dunham continues to delight audiences with his "friends," Walter, Peanut, Jose Jalepeno, Bubba and Achmed.

Achmed, the terrifying terrorist, has scored the most popular spot with fans, usurping grump Walter for the title.

Guitar Guy provided opening entertainment for Dunham and company, and re-appeared to help during the show.

Walter garnered the most laughs when a live train happened along, right in the middle of his routine. Twice.

I am a fan of Dunham but was more than a little surprised when the characters dotted the performance heavily with sexual innuendos and outright vulgarities. Keep that in mind if you are considering taking the kids.

Overall, the day was great with memories of my childhood days of 4-H projects due to the fair, junk food and the midway.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93.1 WIBC and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and at gottago.us. Comments can be sent to elizabeth@gottago.us.

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

Photo credits:
Mark Lee www.GreatExposures.net
PLR photography

Sunday, August 15

Restaurant Review: Papa Roux

There's just something about Indy's east side.
It's as if they refuse to adhere to the rules of chain restaurants and retail shops. They keep plopping Mom and Pop stores and eateries all over the neighborhood and then have the audacity to not care if the rest of the metro area population likes it or not.
For those of you who have not made it to that side of Indianapolis ... it's not your luxurious, with-a-view community comparable to the far north and south sides. It's what used to be referred to as a blue-collar neighborhood.
No frills.
No nonsense.
However, you'll find that non-chains are, well, hit and miss, actually. I won't say they are better than chains, neither will I vow all chains are spectacular choices for service or food.
It's much like everything else in life; good, bad, and that unforgivable level---  mediocrity.
You'll remember I encouraged, practically begged, you to check out Oishi Sushi at 10th and Shadeland Avenue last year. A diamond interior shelled by a rough exterior, I called it.
Papa Roux is not a serene interior with a plain exterior. Nope. What you see on the outside is exactly what you're going to get on the inside. Located at 10th and Post (look close or you'll miss it) this joint is having none of your fanciful ways.
You want Cajun food? Have a seat.
You want linen and crystal? Move along.
Kings, carpenters, and restaurant critics all get the same treatment. Want to be placed on a pedestal? Hit the road Jack. These folks treat their customers all the same, as it should be. Loyal customers stop in frequently for a dose of the say-it-like-it-is personality of Papa Roux and his staff. Not rude, or even impolite, just down-to-earth, and busy, very busy; this is always a good sign.
 I met up with a buddy of mine, Dick Davis (Burger Meister, I call him), who writes a blog (smallerindiana.com/group/burgerquest) about, you guessed it, burgers. He's foregone burgers and eaten at Papa's several times and was dismayed when I mentioned that I "have been meaning to get over there" but hadn't made it yet. I wanted to take a chance on finding a great muffelatta and check out that wall I keep hearing about.
Deciding if one Cajun or Creole eatery is more authentic is as futile as determining which restaurant's fried chicken is more Midwest-authentic. There are many cooks and styles in every locale. It's more about capturing the essence of the region.
Let’s get to the food.
The red beans and rice were, quite frankly, the tastiest I have ever eaten, anywhere, including in the French Quarter, with a balanced seasoning and spice combination. The French bread pudding was softly textured with a creamy, cinnamon flavor. Some other sides offered were etouffee and cornbread.
Po Boy sandwiches are the house specialty, with the pulled pork taking top vote over my coveted muffaletta. Po Boys are served topped with cole slaw. All sandwiches are also served with unlimited sides.
Unlimited...
I suggest getting a full-sized sandwich, eating half there with the unlimited sides, and take the other half home.
Bottom Line: All in all, Papa Roux is worth twice the drive, for the food, the value and for the atmosphere. Remember to put your name on the wall.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93.1 WIBC and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@gottago) and at GottaGo.us. Comments can be sent to elizabeth@gottago.us.
Gotta Go is published in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter, Fortville-McCordsville Reporter, and Indiana Weekender
Photo credit: E J Musgrave

Sunday, August 8

Flipped

Hollywood royalty visited Indy for Rob Reiner’s newest flick, Flipped which opens August 27. I got a chance for some up-close, red-carpet moments and caught the prescreening of the Heartland Truly Moving Pictures award-winning movie.
Reiner, director of numerous mega-hits including A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally and The Bucket List, was kind enough to answer all questions and even pose for photos.
Also walking the red carpet was Chicago-resident John Mahoney who portrayed Bryce's grandfather, Chet Duncan. Receiving a bigger reception than any of the guests, save Reiner, Mahoney, best known as the father on sit-com Frazier, reported that he “loves Indianapolis.” Rather than fly in for the event, he stated, “It’s so close, I just drove on down.”
When not on television or the silver screen, Mahoney continues to regularly perform on stage at Steppenwolf Theatre. Originally from England, the popular actor moved to the United States, becoming a citizen and serving in the Army.
Also walking the red carpet were Anthony Edwards (E.R.), Penelope Anne Miller (Carlito’s Way) and Madeline Carroll (Swing Vote, Santa Claus 3: The Escape Clause).
A veteran at a young age, Carroll’s vitality and youthfulness is balanced by her professionalism; so rarely seen in a child actor. Dressed in fuchsia, Carroll joined Reiner and company as they all joked and traded stories, while answering questions from the audience.
Flipped relays the worst part of the preteen and teen years of middle school: love. Whichever term you care to use, first love, puppy love, crush, it is the one which remains with us throughout our lives. Other loves may be more fun, more hurtful or longer lasting, but nothing tops that first realization that the opposite sex is on earth for more than swapping cooties.
When young Juli Baker’s new neighbors move in, she, played by Carroll, immediately flips head-over-heels in love with their son, Bryce, portrayed by Callan McAuliffe. He immediately runs the opposite direction, at top speed. The chase continues through elementary school and into middle school.
Told from both perspectives throughout the chase, the two grow into the realization that the other isn’t what they originally assumed. The families are radically different and the children attempt to become who they would like to be, while learning to deal with crushes, rejection, peer pressure and first kisses.
Acting as the glue to mend the families, and children, Duncan (Mahoney) shares insight, wisdom and acceptance with young Julie.
Although Reiner compared this film to his Stand By Me hit (River Phoenix, Corey Feldman), I found it akin to other well-known favorites. If you were a fan of television’s The Wonder Years and the film My Girl, you are in for a special treat.
Bottom Line: Take your grandparents, parents and children; this one is a classic. Wrapped in a favorite childhood blanket of nostalgia, Flipped is the type of film you’ll flip over.
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93.1 WIBC and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and at gottago.us. Comments can be sent to elizabeth@gottago.us
Gotta Go is published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter, Fortville-McCordsville Reporter, Indiana Weekender
Photo credit: Mark A. Lee, www.greatexposures.net
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Thursday, August 5

Beef and Boards: Church Basement Ladies

Church Basement Ladies, based on the writings of Janet Letness Martin and Suzann Nelson, is currently playing to sold-out audiences at Beef and Boards, 9301 N. Michigan Road. The setting is a familiar one to most of us: a church basement. The cast of five represents two elderly women, one middle-aged woman, her daughter and the pastor of a Lutheran church. The story begins in 1964, in a small town in Minnesota.

The plot is as old as time, the changing of the guard from one generation to the next. No one probably takes it harder than a woman whose identity is as strongly defined as that of a church basement lady.

Toiling through decades of potlucks, weddings, funerals and holidays, these women, under-appreciated and overworked, become territorial when younger generations want to change things up a bit. Add in the leader of the church with a new wife, one who clearly does not fit in, and the comedy of real life ensues.

The audience was kept entertained by the culture, food and language of our friends from the north, along with the antics of Mavis Gilmerson, portrayed by Karen Pappas who was last seen in High School Musical. With the heaviest Minnesotan accent among the cast, Pappas’ physical comedic abilities kept the performance flowing and the audience laughing.

Playing off Gilmerson’s zaniness were overly judgmental Mrs. Snustad (Licia Watson), mediator Karin Engelson (Katherine Proctor) and rebel college student Signe Engelson (Lisa Bark).

Caught between the upstairs congregation and the downstairs matriarchs was Pastor Gunderson, portrayed by Eddie Curry.

If it sounds a little like a northern version of Steel Magnolias, you’re almost correct. There are no frills, however, in the lower floor of the barely-making-it church with a need for a new furnace, a new maintenance hero and with meals to make on a shoestring budget. However, laughter still proves to be the best medicine.

Teachings of Norwegian foods, lutefisk, dried cod, rommegrot, a pudding, and krumkake, a cookie, are blended with common Minnesota sayings. Life lessons of humility, strength, courage and friendship are learned through laughter, fighting and cooking.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer and theater critic. Catch her as Indy’s Arts & Entertainment Adviser on 93.1 WIBC and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and at gottago.us. Comments can be sent to elizabeth@gottago.us

This column was originally published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter, Fortville-McCordsville Reporter

Photo credit: juliecurryphotography.com
Visit online at beefandboards.com

Wednesday, August 4

The Cabaret at The Columbia Club: Deb Mullins

Singing the Blues this week was Indianapolis native Deb Mullins for Bebop, Boogie and Blues at The Cabaret at The Columbia Club, 121 Monument Circle.

Mullins’ connection with the audience is enhanced by her ability to create a balance of upbeat bebop and boogie tunes with the slowed-down blues. Creating an intimate mood, the local songstress brought the audience to its feet more than once in admiration of her powerful vocals.

Talented accompanists included Troye Kinnett, Steve Dokken, Steve Hanna and Sandy Williams, each with an outstanding individual career.

Bottom Line: Whether drawing you close with the vulnerable Good Morning, Heartache, or belting out powerful ballads, such as Feels Like Home, Mullins brings everyone along for an emotional ride.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel and leisure writer, and theater critic. Follow her on Facebook and catch her on 93 WIBC's Saturday Morning News Show as Indy's Arts & Entertainment. Send comments to elizabeth@gottago.us.

*Photo Credits: Mark A. Lee greatexposures.net

This column was originally published in the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, West Side Community News, New Palestine Reporter, West Indianapolis Community News, Pendleton Times Reporter, Fortville-McCordsville Reporter