Monday, November 29

Beef and Boards: A Beef and Boards Christmas 2010

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.

Christine Mild
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.

Christopher Dickerson
This critic is uncertain as to the reason behind the decision to bring, once more, from New York City, the man with the smooth-as-cognac voice and then use him only for quartets, a duo and a semi-solo with a chorus. As the bass-voiced opera singer who stopped last year’s show with his rendition of Oh Holy Night, surely it would only enhance the show to have an extra solo from Dickerson. Certainly the fact that he was granted the most applause, thunderous both last and this year, would indicate the audience’s desire for more.

John Vessels
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. 

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.

Monday, November 22

Midwest Memories: Christmas

Memories of Christmases from long ago gently nudge me around the holidays; as unforgettable as the frosted windows of my childhood home. Wrapped up to imitate that kid from the old Bob Gregory commercial, my siblings and I would celebrate the school break by building snow forts, sipping hot chocolate (made with milk) and decorating the tree.

One year there were fewer decorations than other years.

Right around the age of 8 was when I decided to eat the popcorn balls my mother had carefully hung on the tree wrapped in jewel-toned reds, golds, blues, greens and purples…..32 of them, to be exact…at one setting.

Besides the lack of humor my mother found in my escapade, my stomach hurt for days afterward. It was worth every twinge. I would have eaten the other 24, but she had, in my young opinion, ruined those by putting gumdrops in them. A traditionalist, even as a child.

Pint-sized trouble
One tradition has been passed down to our own children. The Tootsie Roll bank full of the midget-size candies placed faithfully in the hung stockings.

I was about 10 years old the year I decided to eat all of those little guys...still in their wrappers. My mother, what a trooper. She stayed up all night with me.

A majority of the pre-holiday activity occurred in the kitchen. Fudge had to be cut, cookies were decorated and Rice Krispy treats had to be made and hidden from me because I would, well, you know…eat them all and get another bellyache.

She hid them well, my mother; I only found them once (beneath her bed) and she caught me while I was still devouring the first tin’s worth. I can still feel her hands around my ankles pulling me out from under there. I swear that woman had eyes in the back of her head and could sneak up on me without a sound.

While Mom was trying to keep me out of the goodies, Dad was busy making his clamored-for puffs of candy, divinity, coloring the fluffy sweets pink and green. Friends and family waited anxiously for their annual batch.

Other edibles included stringed popcorn, sometimes with cranberries if the price was low that year, and ribbon candy, my mother’s favorite. All year long I would save my pennies to buy it, knowing she enjoyed the beautiful cascading colors of the rippled candy as much as the flavors.

My parents have both passed on, my father with the secret to his divinity and my mother still, I am certain, keeping an eye on my mischief-making ways. Nowadays, I keep my mischievousness to a minimum. Unless nobody else is looking, that is.

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 @GottaGo and Facebook.

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.

Monday, November 8

Thanksgiving: Sugar Cream Pie and Jewish Mom's Cake

Thanksgiving means counting one’s blessings, family and food. Food in the form of traditional family favorites and new recipes found while searching for something different than the traditional family favorites. These, in fact, often become more family favorites.

Jewish Mom's Apple Cake with Butter Rum Sauce
Cookbooks, numerous calls to friends and surfing the web brought two choices, a suggestion by a friend and a staple of Indiana.

Jewish Mom’s apple cake is an old-world style cake with layers of stiff batter and sliced apples. After finding several variations, I chose the one which required a Bundt cake pan. With a trip to the orchard, I was set with McIntosh apples, I also stopped and bought some cinnamon and a bottle of rum.

Rum? Yes, rum.

After eyeballing all the recipes, one thing stood out in common. None suggested a glaze, icing or frosting. No drizzling, sprinkling or spreading of a topping was even suggested. Although I respect the traditions of baked goods of the Jewish culture, we in the Midwest, as a rule, like our food covered. Sorry, but it’s true. We want our potatoes, meatloaf and desserts topped with something – anything.

With that in mind, I remembered a bread pudding a couple of years back I had enjoyed, most notably, because of its butter rum sauce. After peeling, slicing and layering the apples and batter, I baked the cake for an hour and ten minutes. The butter rum sauce, infused with cinnamon, complements the cake nicely.

The other dessert choice is sugar cream pie. Although I have, naturally, heard of the item (I am from Indiana) I had never tasted or baked one. I found more than a recipe; I found its history, or lack of history would be more appropriate.

The pie’s origins are hazy at best. Showing up in cookbooks as early as 1816 (the year of our statehood) clears the Amish as instigators. Quakers and Shakers are also noted as possible creators.

However, one thing stands firm. To be considered a true sugar cream pie, whether it is stirred by spoon on the stove top or by finger in an unbaked or baked shell, it must not contain eggs. Basic staple ingredients make up this dessert. Fresh eggs were rare in the old days and so this pie is made with sugar, butter and cream.

We will see in a couple of weeks if these new recipes will become family favorites. I bet that one will and the other, well...we'll see. Perhaps next year I will find a recipe for Italian wedding cake or rum-soaked fruit cake since I now have a bottle of rum which needs to be used.

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.

Photo credit: Izzy Evans

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.

Monday, November 1

IRT: Holes

 Indiana Repertory Theatre also opened its 39th season this week with Holes by Louis Sachar. The story follows a boy breaking through familial boundaries and predisposed characteristics.

With a sparse set of numerous holes, the characters intermingle with family members of years past, and each other in modern time, at a rehabilitation work camp for boys.

Stepping into the Gotta Go spotlight is my new Destination Actor…Actress, Constance Macy.

You’ll remember when Becky’s New Car raced across the IRT stage, I was so impressed that a second visit was in order. Macy portrayed lead character Becky Foster adorably. She continues sharing her talents in Holes in an opposing personality as Warden, the tough and conniving head of the boys’ camp.

A stand-out performance was turned in by Mauricio Suarez as camper Zero, last seen at IRT in A Christmas Carol. Born in Columbia, Suarez moved to Florida with his family, performing in two television soap operas, a movie and commercials. Moving to Indiana three years ago gave Suarez the chance for live theater. This critic has a feeling we will see more of this young talent.

Bottom Line: IRT's Holes is a great opportunity for introducing live theater to children.

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.

Photo credit: Submitted by IRT
For m ore details, visit irtlive.org.

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.