Lou’s A&E To-Dos for 3/19-3/25

Welcome back. No, the name for these previews isn’t solidified yet. Give it time. It will work out.

As for this week, here’s some A&E that should be on your radar. Remember: Boredom is not an option.

“South Pacific”

Not so long ago, the then-powers-that-be at the Indianapolis Opera were adamant about not crossing the line between opera and musical theater. Well, those days are gone and the new regime has embraced the idea that familiar Broadway titles can sell tickets and (we hope) prove artistically sound. I missed last season’s “Man of La Mancha” and, alas, will have to miss this week’s “South Pacific,” but I’m anxious to hear if the Rodgers & Hammerstein chestnut is given the production it deserves. (For the record, I may be the only person on the planet who wasn’t a fan of Kelli O’Hara’s take on Nellie Forbush for the acclaimed Lincoln Center revival. I loved that Opera-overtonproduction–especially Danny Burstein’s Luther Billis and the wonderful orchestra–but I’m more interested in Nellie when she’s got more hick and less country club in her DNA. ) Indianapolis Opera’s Nellie, Christina Overton, comes from the opera world, but she’s also lent her talents to regional productions of “A Little Night Music” and “Kiss Me, Kate.” March 23-25 at the Schrott

Swearingen and Beedle

Okay, those names don’t ring any bells. Such is the fate of most musicians trying to make names for themselves. The two, though, do manage to get gigs with symphonies around the country. How? By singing the songs of  Simon & Garfunkel. And, more importantly, singing them well. Playing guitar also helps. The duo bring their tribute show to Indy this week for a series of concerts with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The thought of our musicians playing the crashing climaxes of “The Boxer” should be enough incentive to give this one a listen.  March 23-24 at Hilbert Circle Theatre

“Dear Bobby”

The Kennedy King Memorial Initiative commissioned this piece commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s visit to Indianapolis, which coincided with the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

The story of Kennedy’s handling of that delicate, tragic day has become a touchstone in Indy, sparking one of the more dramatic Indiana Historical Society You Are There exhibits, inspiring a James Still play at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, and anchoring a book by Ray Boomhower.

Here, it gets a musical treatment courtesy of Ball State University English faculty members Angela Jackson-Brown and Peter Davis. It’s part of OnyxFest, the annual festival of new works dedicated to the work of African-American playwrights. Deborah Asante directs a cast from Asante Children’s Theatre of Indianapolis. March 22-31 at the IndyFringe Building

“The Orville”

I know. I know. There’s more great TV out there now then there has been in history. Mention a show you love and, inevitably, the response will be “Oh, but have you seen _____________.” So I’ll preface this by saying that a) I watch almost no TV anymore, not out of snobbery, just out of prioritizing time. I spend a lot of time writing and attending arts events. When I’m not writing, I like to be face to face with human beings, not looking at a screen. Or sleeping. I have to remember to sleep. b) I was very into original series Star Trek but didn’t watch any of the spin-offs for more than orvillean episode or two. c) I’m okay with the Star Trek movie reboot, although the second film was a major disappointment. d) Every few weeks when I know I need to laugh, I’ll watch an episode or two of “Family Guy.” All that is prelude to stating how much I’ve enjoyed the first season of “The Orville,” Seth MacFarlane’s science fiction series  that embraces the original Star Trek idea of combining contemporary social questions with a comfortable family of characters and telling those stories with senses of both adventure and humor. There were maybe two dud episodes in Season one, which didn’t dampen the delight of the stronger ones and the two or three that deserve Emmy consideration. I’ll leave details out so that you can discover them for yourself. If you go three episodes and aren’t committed, just walk away. I won’t judge.




A&E To-Do List

Good morning (or afternoon or evening, depending on where you are).

Welcome to Louharry.com, where you’ll now find my list of the upcoming or currently running arts and entertainment events I’m excited about. Being only human, I can’t get to them all. But these are the events I’d prioritize if I had a wide-open schedule.

(Skip the next paragraph if you already know me.)

In case we aren’t acquainted, here’s some context. I’ve been covering the arts locally and nationally for decades, most recently–well, for the past 25 years or so–anchored in Indianapolis. I’m on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association where I chair its New Play Committee and I’m proud to be part of the island of misfit toys known as the Indiana Film Journalists Association (I say that with love, of course). I served until recently as Arts & Entertainment Editor for IBJ.com and continue to write for that esteemed publication. I edited the gone-but-not-forgotten Indy Men’s Magazine and have written for more than 50 publications and websites including Variety, TheatreWeek, and Howlround. My stack of published books include Kid Culture, The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures, Creative Block, and The High-Impact Infidelity Diet: A Novel. I also wrote the novelization of Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. So there. If you make it to the bottom of this post, you’ll find a rundown of where I’ll be speaking or otherwise making a nuisance of myself.

(Welcome back, friends.)

Here we go with this week’s A&E To-Do List (which needs a name–suggestions welcome).

  1. The Eiteljorg Museum’s “Reel West” 

I’ll have to check with my aforementioned IFJA colleagues, but is the western dead as a genre? Is it back? I haven’t been paying close enough attention and its status in Hollywood seems to change every other year. That wild fluctuation–and the way these films tend to reflect the times the movies are made more than they reflect the period the films are set–are one of the key points of interest here. I wrote a preview piece on the exhibit for IBJ. You can find it here. Have to admit, I’m proud of the headline.

2. “Les Miserables”

How many times have I seen this one now? I’ve lost count. But I still remember seeing it for the first time on Broadway, taking my seat with great anticipation…and feeling like it climaxed in the first twenty minutes. Once we got past “Who Am I?” I felt, from my balcony seat, like it never quite developed the urgency and passion. Subsequent viewings have made up for that initial disappointment and I found the first few national tours far more compelling. The movie version was hit and miss–with far too many misses (and a “WHY? WHY? Why? performance by Russell Crowe) to make me want to rewatch–but the most recently Broadway revival (sans turntable) showed that the hefty show still had breathe left in it. The tour–in Indy courtesy of Broadway in Indianapolis–has the benefit of strong performances in the difficult supporting roles of Cosette and Marius and a fluid design that keeps things moving. The ensemble is strong as well. I only wish Josh Davis’ Javert didn’t come across as if he were auditioning to play one of Cinderella’s Princes from Into the Woods and that the otherwise solid Jean Valjean (Nick Cartell) had more gravitas when having to don old-age makeup and halting delivery. What once felt weighty, now feels more concert-like. Nonetheless, it’s still “Les Miserables.” It runs until Sunday, at which point the barricade is dismantled and the show moves on. Oh, and the Thenardiers, once again, overstayed their welcome. Alas, too late to change that.

3 and 4. “Appoggiatura” at Indiana Repertory Theatre and “Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre

Being out of town running a conference in Cincinnati (hello, ATCA members!), I missed the openings of both of these less-familiar titles at Indy’s two leading downtown regional theaters. The first is the latest in James Still’s collection of marque-unfriendly titles–this one about a family trying to cope with past personal losses while in Venice. The second is the final show at the Phoenix’s old home before migrating to its brand new theater complex. Happy trails.

5. Indy Actors’ Playground 

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Indy Actors’ Playground is a free monthly play reading at Indy Reads Books. And if you haven’t gone, then you really can’t complain that theater is too expensive or that there’s nothing to do except binge watch TV shows. Every month, a different professional actors in town picks a play that he or she has a burn to do. The actor picks the cast and, voila, a play is presented. The audience doesn’t know what the play will be, although a hint or two can usually be picked up on Facebook. Yes, I co-created this series and usually introduce it, but I have zero control over the content so I have no qualms about endorsing it here. Over the last five years, it has offered some of the most satisfying theater evenings I’ve experienced here. This month, Leah Brenner–who recently relocated from Indy to Chicago–offers her pick. Oh, and someone on this page is a hint as to the show she selected. Indy Actors’ Playground is always the third Monday of the month. If you have some books to donate, bring them along. If not, consider coming early to do some shopping.

See you around…

As for me, I’ll be participating in the Intersections Summit for regional theaters at Milwaukee Rep March 22-24 (and seeing three shows), speaking to a journalism students at Butler University on March 26, and presenting the Steinberg and Osborn Awards for the American Theatre Critics Association at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Lousville on April 7 (and seeing six shows while there). Say hello if you see me and let’s talk arts.



“The planet spins/And the world goes ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round”—Kander & Ebb

After 11 years (and over 1000 reviews plus nearly 300 profiles), I will be leaving IBJ as a full-time employee mid-March.

It’s an amicable separation sparked by the company’s decision to eliminate the position of Arts & Entertainment Editor—along with my Lou’s Views and Dining columns—in order to focus on its core business and political coverage.

My final columns as well as my 40 Under 40 profiles appeared in the Feb. 9 issue, although you will see some of my additional writing for the paper and online between now and my departure date. And beyond.

Local, serious journalism by outstanding, dedicated journalists matters and should never be taken for granted. Central Indiana is lucky to have IBJ and its owners should be praised for their commitment to news and thoughtful opinion.

Thanks to all who helped make it a great run.

As for me, I’m exploring many options for what’s next. As I cast the net wide for where I can be of service, I welcome your ideas, connections, and leads.

It’s been, as you can imagine, a very busy couple of weeks. I can’t get into specifics here about which puzzle pieces might fit together.

But I am excited to report that journalist Rick Pender and I have organized a conference for members of the American Theatre Critics Association in Cincinnati that’s happening the weekend of March 10. It will include four plays, panel discussions, an interactive theater and journalism ethics session that I’m running, and much more. It’s a format that we hope to replicate in cities around the country.

I’ll also be participating as an ATCA board member at the Intersections Summit this month at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

And leading a pub trivia battle at Who’s Yer Con in Indianapolis

And presenting the Steinberg and Osborn Awards at the Humana Festival in April.

And heading to St. Louis to represent ATCA at the annual TCG conference.

You can message me here with specific questions and to keep me in your loop. And please follow me on Twitter @louharry

“I’m still here” –Sondheim