Tuesday, December 28

My Favorite Things 2010

As the yule log burns to a smoldering ember, I ponder all I have tasted, seen and experienced this past year. Here is a list of my favorite things from 2010. They are listed in no particular order and are linked to the original review. A little walk down memory lane...
  1. Broadway Across America-Jersey Boys: This high-energy tale of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons sweeps over you and you leave singing, ready to see it again.
  2. Beef and Boards-A Beef and Boards Christmas: The re-invented, jazzed-up variety show hits all the right notes making it high on my list.
  3. Papa Roux: Everyone needs a down-to-earth, good grub joint and this is it for me. Papa's proves that Po Boys can be served at reasonable prices without losing quality.
  4. Morty's Comedy Joint: Bringing headliners, good food and a warm atmosphere to Indy's comedy scene, Morty's seems intent on providing a high-quality show, service and menu.
  5. Hoosier Park & Racing Casino: I have been to a few casinos and horse tracks now and I stand by my opinion that this one is just plain FUN!
  6. IRT-Becky's New Car: Stephen Dietz's play, starring Constance Macy and Nicholas Hormann is well executed and hilarious. I enjoyed it so much I went back again on my personal time.
  7. The Cabaret-Amanda McBroom: Set in the elegant venue overlooking Indy's Circle known as The Cabaret, McBroom's depth of emotion and lifetime of experiences, softened with her effervescence, make her performance one for the scrapbook.
  8. WIBC-Joe Ulery and Oscar Champagne Brunch: Joe invited me to be the entertainment adviser on his Saturday Morning News Show and we have so much fun with it. Popping the cork on-air with Amber and chatting about movies for the pre-Oscar brunch was also a highlight.
  9. Owensboro: How do I put a whole town on the list? Easily. Bluegrass, botanical gardens, go-karts, performing and fine arts, burgoo, frozen hot chocolate, fudge and great shopping.
  10. Richmond-Lantz House Inn and J&J Winery:  The positive outlook of Marica Hoyt, owner of the beautiful, historic B&B is contagious and her lemon-ricotta pancakes are addicting. Up the road, J&J manages to be cozy, festive and romantic all at the same time. The winery overlooks a scenic body of water, while the charming owners serve the best damn cheese and fruit plate.
  11. Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra-Yuletide Celebration: Sandi Patty made this colorful variety-style show a must for anyone needing a holiday boost.
  12. Devour Downtown: Local eateries reducing prices to showcase their food is a great idea which I enjoyed reviewing and tasting. I look forward to this year's menus.

The list ended with 12 by coincidence or fate, however you like to believe. It was difficult to narrow it down from my approximately 150 experiences this year. I hope some of your favorites are on here also. I look forward to 2011 and all the adventures coming our way. Happy New Year!

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.

Thursday, December 23

Tron: Legacy

Tron Legacy is a whirlwind ride of special effects and a flash back to the eighties via music within an arcade which hides a secret lab take the viewer by storm. A nonstop action flick which whips by you, seemingly in moments.

Some may think it a shallow, topical movie and I say, “So what?” Not every movie needs to be a depressing drama riddled with needed social changes.

Sometimes…we just wanna have fun.
And fun is exactly what this movie promises and delivers. Jeff Bridges stars once again as Kevin Flynn the scientist sucked into cyberspace inside a video game called Tron. Leaving his son behind to wonder what happened, Flynn is unable to leave via the portal through which he came; it only works for a set amount of time and then you are out of luck. 
During his absence, Flynn's company is taken over by money-hungry folks who don't care about quality, truth or the other morals thought of highly by a few individuals like Flynn, his son Sam, played by Garrett Hedlund, and Alan Bradley.

Bradley, reprised by Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5) still believes Flynn is “out there somewhere.” He gets a message on his pager (yeah, he still uses one), tells Sam about it and gives him the keys to the closed-down arcade.

Sam plays a practical joke on the money grubbers, putting the program out for free which they were ready to make a killing with, on the open market. At 27, Sam is the majority shareholder and still dealing with Dad’s disappearance.

He is by nature an adrenalin junkie -- fast motorcycles, jumping off 25 story buildings -- you get the picture. What you don’t know is Hedlund is the new generation’s answer to the arrogant, handsome daredevil we adore on the big screen. Reminiscent of Harrison Ford in Star Wars and Tom Cruise  in Top Gun, Hedlund always has the cheeky answer and the good looks to back up the attitude.

Olivia Wilde, as friend to Flynn Quorra, plays the female love interest for Sam convincingly. I will leave all further details for your viewing.

With motorcycle chases, frontier-breaking technology and music from the '80s, Tron will please most of the movie-going crowd. As far as the critics disliking it, well, this is one critic who recommends you going and having fun with it.

Bottom Line: Tron: Legacy satisfies 100 percent as a fast-paced, 3-D way to introduce the next generation to The Grid. Welcome back to the '80s.

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: Disney.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.

Monday, December 20

Broadway Across America: Wicked

Defying Gravity
Wicked, Broadway Across America's mega show, is Defying Gravity through Jan.1 at Old National Centre, 402 New Jersey. The story, explaining the three witches of the Land of Oz and based on Gregory Maguire's bestseller, which is based on Frank L. Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is attractive to the non-theater crowd as well as the live-theater faithful.

When Elphaba (Vicki Noon), who later becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, arrives in the world with the skin tone of pea soup, her family, already dysfunctional, becomes outright broken. Younger sister Nessarose, (Michelle London), who turns into the Wicked Witch of the East, becomes Daddy's favorite after Mom dies during her birth.

The girls arrive at school (Elphaba is only allowed to attend to care for her wheelchair-bound sibling). A miscommunication results in the unpopular Green Girl being placed in the same dorm room with the head of the Beautiful People. Galinda (portrayed by understudy Rachel Potter), who grows into Glinda the Good Witch, makes her dislike of her roommate known.
The male version of Galinda is Fiyero (Chris Peluso) who comes to terms with the fact that he is more like Elphaba than Galinda. Eventually he has to choose between his heart and following the easy path of compliance.
Fiyero and Elphaba
The audience is taken on an emotional ride with Elphaba's dramatic Defying Gravity and Galinda's hysterically funny solo, Popular. The duo's What is this Feeling? lends voice to the girls' loathing for each other in a way that only the young can...with brutal honesty.

Transportation takes on an important role in this musical with one wicked witch on a scraggly, ugly broom, the other in a dowdy wheelchair, symbolizing each of their hard rides in life. The good witch floats delicately along, inside a beautifully adorned bubble, much as she does throughout her charmed life.

The phony Wizard of Oz traipses to and fro via a hot air balloon, perhaps insinuating he is full of hot air? The once-shallow Fiyero begins with an ornate carriage and ends with him simply walking, relying upon himself for transportation, just as he matures and comes to rely on himself in life rather than going along with the popular crowd.

Bottom Line: With flying witches, talking goats and an emerald-colored city, Wicked gives the aura of a movie set, allowing viewers to be drawn in, imagining themselves in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Review Photos by BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com

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.


WICKED continues at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre through January 1. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com/wicked and broadwayacrossamerica.com, at the Murat Box Office, Clowes Hall Box Office and Broadway Across America office, 342 Massachusetts Ave.,  and by phone at 800-982-2787.

Friday, December 17

ISO: Yuletide Celebration


Yuletide 2010
Sandi Patty may have an Oscar-worthy wardrobe. Changing an enviable amount of times during Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Duke Energy Yuletide Celebration, Patty proves to be as marvelous at hosting as she is as a quick-change artist. She joins Indianapolis’ darling and Pops conductor, Jack Everly, onstage for the 25th celebration of holiday cheer.

From spiritual to secular songs, along with good-natured teasing, the award-winning singer and company brought the audience to cheers. The patriotic tribute was especially given its due applause as so many have family and friends serving in the military.

Throughout the show host smoothly floats from one skit or song to the next including the sparkly magicians. A father-daughter team, Les Arnold and Dazzle, ham it up to keep the formality at bay while wowing the audience with spectacular slight-of-hand and disappearing acts. From the glittery outfits to the Lucille Ball antics, Dazzle and Dad pulled the favorite act award out of the hat.

The traditional tap-dancing Santas were as popular as ever. This year they were joined on the favorite list by the salute to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, a strong theme throughout Indy this season. Sisters, I Love a Piano, Snow and White Christmas were given their due.

The Shopper’s Lament skit brought the audience to tears laughing at the locally inspired jokes and lyrics, set to Tchaikovsky music. Patty set the mood with her Colts-colored hair and official Colts jersey adorned with sequins.

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
Website: IndianapolisSymphony.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.

Wednesday, December 15

Morty's Comedy Joint

Steve Hofstetter 
Most of us make New Year's resolutions. This year, Chris Bowers and Tony Deardorff resolved to re-open Morty's Comedy Joint, 3625 E. 96th St., just two months after previous owners threw in the towel. Once that goal had been met, the owners set their sights on being better than just another laugh factory. So they did what anyone would do; bring in a comedian or two as partners.

But not just any comedians.


International-touring headliner Steve Hofstetter is also CEO of Next Round Entertainment and known throughout the biz as a marketing magician. With him came funny man Marshall Chiles, owner of the Skull Club, a successful Atlanta comedy club.

Hofstetter invited me to drop in and put them to the test. So I did.

The friendly staff and cozy ambiance is apparent as soon as you enter the place, with the bar, complete with smiling bartender Chris Petsel, located in the lobby...very handy.
Chris Petsel, bartender
Emcee Todd McComas, was discovered through the popular Wednesday Open Mic night and handled his duties like a pro. Headlining was Hofstetter, who brought the crowd to laugh-out-loud level with his interaction with the audience enhancing an already appreciated routine. With all but six of the 250 seats filled, it is easy to see that the changes made to the venue are working, and quickly.

Since the talent varies weekly, I went with the intent to check out everything else, also. The extensive menu, not so normal for comedy clubs, made it easy to see these guys mean business with their declaration to take things up several notches.
Strawberry Shortcake
and Strawberry Daiquiri

Flirty cocktails such as the blue Wicked Waterfall and their signature Strawberry Shortcake provide fun in a liquid form.

The prime rib sandwich gets my vote as one of the best sandwiches I have had in awhile. My only suggestion would be to change out the bread for a heartier one which complements the quality of the steak better, perhaps a crusty Italian. The soft bread used could not hold up to the meat and actually was a weak link.

 Musgrave in the Green Room with
Bowers, Deardorff and Hofstetter.
It's no secret how important I believe customer service to be. The owners, wait staff, hostess, bartenders and even the performers themselves, seemed to have a vested interest in the comfort of the patrons.
Watching how the wait staff tended to each person was a nice change of pace from the lackluster service which has become so common lately. It is obvious throughout the venue that each one feels as a member of the team. 

Bottom Line: Given the speed with which the foursome have worked
thus far, and the quality being infused into their business, I predict Morty's Comedy Joint will become one of the country's destination comedy clubs for performers and fans alike.

Photo credit: TStorm; Izzy Evans
Info: 317-848-5500
mortyscomedy.com
stevehofstetter.com
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.

Wednesday, December 8

Spotlight PLayers: It's a Wonderful Life! A Live Radio Play

It's a Wonderful Life! A Radio Play
 As I've mentioned before, the offerings in Indy this holiday season seem to have more oomph and pizzazz. Each has impressed me with the extra spirit and effort to take it up a notch. This weekend I found a traditional Christmas story offered without flying creatures, choirs or sequins and, instead, shines in its simplicity.

Spotlight Players, a community theater 11 years strong, is located in Beech Grove, on the south side of Indy, appropriately enough on Main Street. It's a Wonderful Life, has been seen by us on stage and screen too many times to count. But have you heard it?

Dennis Forkel as Clarence the Angel
Audience members are sitting inside a 1940s radio station during a "live" radio broadcast of the Frank Capra story about George Bailey, portrayed by Jim Carrey look alike Josh Ramsey, a man who has lost sight of why he is important in the world and an angel named Clarence (Dennis Forkel) who helps Bailey in order to earn his wings.

Directed by Jim La Monte, the show moves along at a rapid pace as the radio station actors leap from their chairs to perform various characters from the storyline, many taking on (as would be necessary for a radio show) numerous roles.
Schlatter and Ramsey
While waiting, the radio actors knit, whisper to each other, sip coffee and read over their lines.Watching the radio performers as they come and go about their normal lives, standing at the mic or props table gives one a sense of nostalgia for the Golden Age of Radio.

Dozens of items line the table with an equal amount on the floor surrounding it. Tubs of water for the jumping-in-the-lake scene, oven grates for noisy entrances and water glasses for Martini's bar scene are just a few of the innovative ways to create the necessary sounds for the radio listeners.

Woody Rau
Although the cast is filled with numerous splendid actors, young and old, I must, as always narrow it down a little.

Stepping into the Gotta Go spotlight this week are Woody Rau, Sarah Latimer and Patrick Becker with the advice to take special notice of young Grace Long portraying ZuZu with the ability of a veteran stage performer.

Rau shines brightest while portraying both characters during the rapid-paced conversation between incompetent Uncle Billy and mean, money-grubbing banker Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore in the 1946 film version. He switches personalities and mannerisms as quickly as Sally Fields in Sybil(1976).

Patrick Becker and Tim Latimer
Latimer portrays coquettish Violet who "likes all the boys," Mama Bailey and others, switching from young girl to senior citizen without effort.

Becker not only is one of two people handling sound effects, props and slamming doors as needed, he also portrays three characters and chimes in for crowd scenes. His portrayal of alternate-reality Nick is a delight to watch and hear.

I say 'hear' because I recommend closing your eyes during the show at least once to better understand what a family in the 1940s heard while gathered around the golden glow of the radio dial, enraptured with the story unfolding over the airwaves.
Bottom Line: It's a Wonderful Life! A Live Radio Play by Spotlight Players is a delightful version of a traditional Christmas show deserving to be your newest tradition beginning this year.

Photo credits: Spotlight Players; Photo credits: Izzy Evans Website: Spotlight-Players.org

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, December 6

The Cabaret: The Leisure Kings

The Leisure Kings at The Cabaret Club
Never let it be said that Michael Wiltrout and Sean Baker are not honest. They promise to try to offend everyone and put forth their best effort to that end. The Leisure Kings, lounge singing misfits in retro tuxes, came to The Cabaret at The Columbia Club bearing gifts...gag gifts, that is. The duo, who brought along a 13-piece orchestra for impression, delves into the weird during their Holiday Extravaganza and takes you along for the sleigh ride.

Breaking from their snooze job at a downtown hotel lounge, the two began to amuse themselves in a way which will keep them on Santa's naughty list for the remainder of their lives. Delicious and twisted are the arrangements which combine lyrics about Kwanzaa or Hanukkah set to the tune of oh, say, a heavy metal tune or the Love Boat theme song. The lovable, cheesy lounge performers, and their accomplished big band ensemble, entertain and insult pretty much everyone and every religion, including atheists with lyrics set to The Brady Bunch theme song.

Naughty boys Wiltrout and Baker
While listening to the brilliant (albeit offensive) lyrics and oddly paired tunes, you can't help but wonder, "Who thinks like this?" and "What could they possibly do next?"

About that time you notice Wiltrout sucking from a helium tank for help with high notes and slip into an "Oh My God" mindset. When they couple the jolly old elf with Michael McDonald, you finally give in to their dark side and leave reality behind.

The program was overshadowed, however, by the increasingly poor service at The Columbia Club. Judging from comments overheard being made by other patrons, this is not an isolated situation. As one of my favorite places in town, it makes me cringe to report this, but I have always been candid with you and it has come to the point of something needing to be fixed immediately to save the integrity of The Cabaret and The Columbia Club itself.

When eating in a fast food or greasy spoon restaurant, it’s not surprising to encounter under-qualified, rude or missing-in-action wait staff. When sitting in the Crystal Terrace, which overlooks the Circle, in one of the city’s most prestigious members-only clubs, it is absolutely disappointing and unacceptable.

And bad business, actually. If servers don’t check back, we can’t order more food and drinks, thereby increasing our check amount, thus affecting the bottom line. In the economic downturn, one would think customer service to be the least expensive way to retain old, and attract new, business.

Handled by the club itself, The Cabaret is suffering the consequences of a service management which is, perhaps, unaware of the all-too-obvious issues. Unfortunately, potential club members are being turned off to the otherwise charming establishment.

I’m sad to say it has gone from a mere annoyance to an outright irritant and is closing in quickly on a being a deal breaker when deciding which places I recommend to my readers and listeners.

Am I at the point to say you shouldn't go? Let's just say I'd rather you check with me first and I will let you know if things have improved. Hopefully, it will be resolved quickly, as this is an otherwise marvelous venue.

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.

Wednesday, December 1

Ultimate Gift Guide 2010

It's time for the 3rd annual Gotta Go Ultimate Gift Guide. I take referrals, personal experiences and ideas I have come across during the year and wrap it up with a big bow of convenience for you. No traipsing through malls, fighting crowds and driving through snow.

This year's trend appears to be nonfood gifts. The choices include quirky, extravagant, educational and comforting.


What: Sock monkey slippers 
Who: Infants to great grandmothers with cold toes
Where: uncommongoods.com


What: Paul McCartney Really is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison DVD
Who: Fans of The Beatles, McCartney, Dylan and conspiracy theorists

Shannon Forsell's the nearness of you
Where: seeofsound.com

What: the nearness of you
Who: Any fan of Hoagy Carmichael, Shannon Forsell or good music
Where: shannonforsell.com

What: Think like a Genius: Wine Master
Who: Wine drinkers of all levels
Where: everydaygeniusinstitute.com

What: True Brew A Guide to Craft Beer by Rita T. Kohn
Who: Lovers of beer, breweries and Indiana history
Where: iupress.indiana.edu
True Brew by Rita T. Kohn

What: Twilight: Eclipse DVD
Who: Females 12-40 years old
Where: twilightthemovie.com

What: Trek Stars Go West
Who: Trekkies
Where: seeofsound.com

What: A Christmas Carol
Who: Fans of Jim Carrey and holiday movies
Where: Disney.com

What: Cafe Indiana by Joanne Raetz Stuttgen
Who: Off-the-beaten track foodies  
Warm Glow Candles
Where: wisc.edu/wisconsinpress

What: Cinnamon bun candle
Who: Anyone who enjoys Grandma’s baking

Where: warmglow.com

Mira by Jiena


What: Car wash gift basket
Who: Chrome buffs

Where: gourmetgiftbaskets.com

What: Mira by Jienat
Who: Adventurous music lovers 
Where: jienat.com

California Roadster golf car

 

What: Luxury custom golf cart
Who: Golfers with style

You are now armed with sure-to-be-remembered gifts for this holiday season. Remember that a gift related to the recipient’s interests and hobbies will be enjoyed and appreciated all year long. Now go forth and shop without fear.

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.