Monday, October 17

Theater Review: Beef and Boards: It's a Wonderful Life

Stockberger and Hopkins
"It's a Wonderful Life" opens Indianapolis' holiday season this week on stage at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. The classic Christmas tale of learning to appreciate and having faith in yourself and others is a favorite with audiences.

The "Gotta Go" spotlight shines strongest on three individuals. Destination Actors, Eddie Curry as Clarence-Angel Second Class, Jeff Stockberger as Pa Bailey and Uncle Billy, and Sean Patrick Hopkins as George Bailey. Curry and Stockberger both have a strong presence on stage and many actors fade when onstage with either.

Hopkins makes his debut on B&B's stage with a performance that, rather noticeably, varies based on which other actor is onstage. His performance actually seems to match theirs. The stronger and more confident the other actor, the stronger and more confident his own performance becomes. An unusual personality quirk to be certain.
Hopkins and DiLellio

Hopkins' time with Betsy DiLellio as Mary Hatch Bailey, seemed to be spent holding back, perhaps not wanting to upstage anyone? Perhaps he felt he should blend in with the others. When George unleashes his feelings for Mary, the audience gets a more true sense of his ability.

Subsequently, when Stockberger's Uncle Billy, the absent-minded and often drunk relative, loses a large sum of money, Hopkins' performance comes alive. It is difficult to share the stage with someone who is larger than you, both with stage presence and true physical size, but it seemed to light the fire needed in Hopkins. The intensity with which he rallies as he loses patience with Billy's ineptitude (portrayed dead-on by Stockberger) is a marvel to watch as Billy cowers in fear and shame.

Curry and Hopkins
Hopkins' portrayal as George in deep despair, anger and desperation while interacting with the strength of Curry's enchanting portrayal of Clarence is the other highlight of the show. The two battling it out verbally while fighting George's internal demons bring out the confidence in the younger actor. The pair pulled the audience into the moment of heated debate while retaining the necessary disbelief of the situation by George.

Bottom Line: Curry, Stockberger and Hopkins create the energy in Beef and Boards' It's a Wonderful Life.

For tickets, schedule and performances, visit
Photo credit: JulieCurryPhotography

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC, and follow her on Twitter @GottaGo and Facebook. Gotta Go is published in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

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