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Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
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Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre's My Fair Lady Sparkles

by Rita Kohn
April 2, 2017
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
9301 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
317-872-9664
Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Indianapolis' Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre reprised its My Fair Lady with a sterling performance on April 1st that married stage direction with choreography.

From the opening Covent Garden scene depicting the mix of ‘classes’ to the closing moment in Professor Henry Higgins’ home, body language and movement in space defined the overriding themes of the beloved Lerner and Loewe musical. Not only did the breakout numbers sparkle with insightful character development, the musical was as freshly pertinent now as it was at its 1956 Broadway premiere. At a moment when divisiveness and loss of humanity are the message from our seat of government, the wit and heart from George Bernard Shaw’s "Pygmalion" touches us through the dialogue, lyrics and music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

Eddie Curry’s direction amplified the ways in which we show our station in life, beyond the obvious speech motif. Think of how sitting, standing, walking define who we are. Every character on stage had an asterisk on those points. And then think how placement of the spine portrays transformation. The character of Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns) begins burdened by her basket but then adorned with a tiara she is regal. So too is Eliza's father dustman Alfred Doolittle (Eddie Curry) who has a supple prance in poverty, but in middle class haberdashery is ramrod, stolid.

Ron Morgan’s choreography for each dance number clearly articulates class in relationship to each other and to space. The Ascot scene is particularly memorable with the electric moment of Eliza reverting to her roots. Not only is she pitched back into her ‘gutter-snipe’ mode, but the backdrop of ladies and gentlemen in reaction is a moment of revelation—in a whoosh they become a tidal wave of reprove. Without a word we know what they think.

The Ensemble, taking on roles in both worlds of upper and lower society, brings crispness and precision to each dance number clearly showing how we are who we are by how we move. The Ensemble includes newcomers to B&B Charlotte Campbell, Kelsey B. Hankins and Nicholas Roman; and returning cast members Jaddy Ciucci, Logan Moore, Carrie S. Neal, Betsy Norton and Craig Underwood.

Herb Porter inserts the character of Freddy Eynsford-Hill into the action across a swath of relationships from brusque at the the musical's opening, to pretentious hovering at Ascot, to smitten solitude 'On The Street Were You Live' and assertive bearing at 5 a.m. in Covent Garden.

Along with Curry as Alfred Doolittle, Doug King as Jamie and Jeff Stockberger as Harry delivering memorable characterizations in “With A Little Bit of Luck” and “Get Me to the Church on Time,” Kelsey B. Hankins as Mrs. Pearce and Vicki Cornelius Phipps as Mrs. Higgins subtly draw our attention to their changing attitudes towards Eliza. All allow transformation to stem from an attention to details of body language.

With “The Rain in Spain” we witness Eliza as an equal in the company of Higgins (David Schmittou) and Col. Pickerington (Mark Goetzinger) — Higgins and Pickering "letting their hair down" in the company of Eliza.

But most of all, the stage direction/choreography between Higgins, Eliza and Pickering shows us how our thoughts about another person’s worthiness [and worth] motivate our stance and gesture. The turn of the head, wrist,a tilt of the chin or fingers each indicate you matter or you don’t.

Throughout, Schmittou as Higgins, Goetzinger as Pickering and Doreen Burns as Eliza Doolittle, are in a pas de trois that informs gender politics, class, language and the role and responsibility of family, institutions and government in education.

With sprightly musical direction by Kristy Templet, poignant lighting design by Ryan Koharchik [particularly a punctuating moment at the close of each scene], glittering costume design by Jimm Halliday, atmospheric scenic design by Michael Layton and superb sound design by Daniel Hesselbrock, Beef & Boards not merely dusts off a 50-year old musical; it shows how a small space can make a big impact. Credit, also, technical director Bill Mollencupp and stage manager Ed Stockman for delivering deft production.

As a side note, because this is the fourth Eliza portrayal for Kimberly Doreen Burns, I asked her how she changed her interpretations over the past five years—2012 at the Finger Lakes Music Theatre Festival (Merry-Go-round Playhouse); 2014 at San Diego State University singing the score with the symphony; 2015 at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre.

Miss Burns replied:

"My portrayal has been changed a lot because as an actor we have to adjust to our scene partners and to our audience. I have had three separate Higgins' who all have their own unique takes on the role. Each of them has given me different and extremely interesting things to play off of, and they inform my take on Eliza just as much as I do. I have done the show over 100 times by now (not including all the rehearsals!). Every time I play the role, I have discovered something new about her hidden in the text, or just something hidden in my own mind that will creep its way in. I've also learned where each "beat" is, whether it's a humorous one or an emotional one. After listening to audience's responses, you mold the character based on what they give you back. I like to think that my Eliza is consistent, but always changing and growing because I have a different scene partner each time, and a different audience every night."

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre's production of My Fair Lady continues through May 14.

Ticket are available by calling the box office at 317.872.9664 between 10 a.m. & 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays. Tickets range from $42.50 to $67.50 and include Chef Odell Ward’s dinner buffet, fruit & salad bar, and select beverages.

For more information or show schedule, visit beefandboards.com.
Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), center, joins high society for the races at Ascot in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), center, joins high society for the races at Ascot in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns) makes her first appearance among high society to test her ability to convince them that she is a proper lady in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns) makes her first appearance among high society to test her ability to convince them that she is a proper lady in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Kimberly Doreen Burns plays Eliza Doolittle in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. It’s a role which has previously earned her the Broadway World Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Kimberly Doreen Burns plays Eliza Doolittle in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. It’s a role which has previously earned her the Broadway World Award for Best Actress in a Musical. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), left, tries to sell a flower to Professor Henry Higgins (David Schmittou) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), left, tries to sell a flower to Professor Henry Higgins (David Schmittou) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


As part of her lessons to speak proper English, Professor Henry Higgins (David Schmittou), right, put marbles in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), left, and tells her to speak a line from her book in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

As part of her lessons to speak proper English, Professor Henry Higgins (David Schmittou), right, put marbles in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), left, and tells her to speak a line from her book in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig


Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), center, sings “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), center, sings “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady, now on stage through May 14. The Tony Award winning musical is returning to the Beef & Boards stage after a 20-year hiatus.

Photo © & courtesy of Patricia Rettig

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