Like everyone else, I was in lockdown this time last year and not able attend the various holiday shows I regularly review due to pandemic cancellations. Happily, thanks to COVID-19 vaccines, most of the local presenters are back in business and operating at full speed. Such is the case for Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, now presenting “A Beef & Boards Christmas.” I attended on Sunday at the venue on Indy’s far Northside. The show runs through December 23.
A family-friendly show, “A Beef & Boards Christmas” had a 25-year run before it took a break following its 2017 presentation. But because the theatre had to go dark last year, theatre management decided it was a good time to bring the show back due to popular demand.
One thing is certain, if you like your entertainment old school and wholesome, this is the show for you. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s, the show is a throwback to holiday specials on TV, hosted by performers such as Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, and Lawrence Welk. It is no surprise many in the audience were baby boomers, but there were plenty of second and third generation theatergoers too.
Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard co-hosted the show. The pair have teamed up numerous times, probably because they can be relied upon to turn solid performances and employ their likable personalities to connect with audiences. Joining them in a featured role was charismatic, powerhouse vocalist Jalynn Steele, who has impressed me before in the theatre’s production of “Mama Mia.”
Also featured were principal singers, all of them versatile performers, including Peter Scharbrough, Bobbi Bates, Michael Ray Fisher, and Bridgette Ludlow. The remainder of the cast, all on chorus duty, were uniformly talented, without a weak link among them.
Smartly directed by Doug Stark, with musical staging and choreography by Ron Morgan, the fast-paced, tight show’s musical numbers were set to many familiar and popular holiday songs, including “Jingle Bell Rock,” Snow,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Snowfall,” “Christmas Waltz,” “Carol of the Bells,” “O Holy Night,” just to mention a few.
Traditional numbers from past Christmas shows serving as highlights this year included an appearance by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in “Rudolph/Come Fly with Me” and a moving tribute to veterans that saw cast members dressed in military uniforms of all the services and Dan Bob Higgins poignantly singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and the ensemble intoning “White Christmas.”
Giving the show an extra bit of polish was the superb seven-piece orchestra, led by music director Terry Woods on piano, playing top-notch arrangements that added to the cachet of the production. As usual at Beef & Boards, the sets, lighting, sound and costume design reflected a caliber that speaks to the it’s elevated production values that are first rate.
Finally, cheers are in order to the show’s producers and creative team for the attention paid to replicating the style, look and attitude of holiday shows of yesteryear. Not only did the show pay tribute to the past, but it also managed to provide relevancy for an audience hungry for live entertainment, after months of deprivation and loss. Most importantly, in the true spirit of the season, it sent a timeless message of peace, love and hope.
For tickets and information about “A Beef & Boards Christmas,” visit beefandboards.com.