Thursday, September 19

Theater Review: Phoenix Theatre: The Legend of Georgia McBride

An Elvis impersonator, a couple of drag queens and a curmudgeon all meet up in a bar one night ...

Sounds like the beginning of a very bad or very good joke, depending on the ending, right?

In fact, it is the basis for a new production at Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis. The Legend of Georgia McBride, written by Matthew Lopez, brings in dance expert Kenny Shepard as choreographer, and a few of the best local performers to rip up the stage with antics and talent.

Set in a dying bar, owner Eddie, the straight man in this comedic gem, is played perfectly by Ty Stover. The crotchety businessman is desperate to find that winning live show to draw crowds and save the venue. At first he hires a local guy whose passion is impersonating the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

Elvis impressionist, Casey, played by Sam C. Jones, just isn't popular with local patrons. Although Jones personifies the late music legend superbly, bar regulars aren't entertained. Casey returns home to reveal to his fiancee' (Bridgette Ludlow) he is fired, when she interrupts him to reveal she is pregnant.

Enter new performers Miss Tracey Mills and Miss Anorexia Nervosa --impersonators of a different sort. Drag Queens, to be precise.

Mills is portrayed impeccably by John Vessels. Vessels has wowed audiences in numerous roles and productions, including Smoke on the Mountain,  Hello Dolly and Chicago. As a queen of dressing in women's clothing he is uproarious and outright fabulous.

Tutoring the Elvis he-man into becoming a she-man is seamlessly played by Vessels and Jones, with - let's call them feisty debates - is an interaction of pure joy for the audience.

Add in drama drag queen Anorexia, played royally by Jonathan Studdard, makes it's a performance definitely worth attending. Studdard, who's portrayal can only be described as fierce, is a feisty and welcome change to Indy's stage productions.

Side note: Complimentary parking across the street, intimate venue and efficient box office are pluses for visiting the new Phoenix Theatre.

Other notes: Jim Parsons will produce and star inn the upcoming film version of the same name.

Bottom Line: The Legend of Georgia McBride is an absolute must-see for anyone who has even an inkling of a sense of humor.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Sunday, July 7

Theater Review: Beef and Boards: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story

Maybe it is because I grew up hearing the Don McLean song, American Pie, but I have always had an interest in Buddy Holly. Now, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, Indianapolis, is featuring Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story on stage through Aug. 18.

Although McLean's lyrics were woven throughout more than a decade of disappointments, they all started because of that fateful night when Holly, an early pioneer of the Rock 'n' Roll genre, was killed at age 22, in a plane crash. The crash included other up-and-comers Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Jr.

Kyle Jurassic dons the iconic black-rimmed glasses portraying Holly with enthusiasm and deft ability. Drawing you in with his exuberance and pace. Jurassic matches Holly's style perfectly.

Valens is portrayed superbly by Edward LaCardo, while Chuck Caruso turns in an impressive performance as The Big Bopper.

Tarra Conner Jones and Joshue L.K. Patterson rock the audience as performers at the Apollo Theatre when Holly and The Crickets perform due to a misunderstanding that Holly and crew were African-American. D.J. Hipockets Duncan, portrayed by Indy favorite John Vessels, brings his radio listeners (and the audience) updates on Holly's life and career throughout the show.

In just under three years, Holly rocketed to the top of the charts, producing hit singles, albums and appearing in top television shows American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. Touring was added in to reach audiences across the nation. With a frantic pace and bitterly cold winter conditions, Holly chartered a plane to take himself, Valens and Bopper to the next location. Just after takeoff, the plane plunged into the frozen ground immediately killing all upon board.

Featuring almost two dozen of Holly's hits, including Peggy Sue and Rave On, Valens' La Bamba and Bopper's Chantilly Lace, this production is easy to get lost in. It is family friendly, which means it is safe to take your grandma and older children.

Bottom Line: Beef and Boards' Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, with its powerful talented cast, is certain to become a summer hit.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.