Many moons ago, I had the chance to see A Christmas Carol at Beef & Boards Dinner Theater on Indy’s north side. I was young, maybe in the third or fourth grade, and never thought anything more about it. I had never had friends who were interested in that type of thing (maybe my good friend Heather Pechin) and just never made plans to go back.
A few weeks ago, another good friend of mine made mention to Hairspray being on stage at B&B. (It’s called B&B for short, in case you were wondering.) I had never seen Hairspray, but knew enough to know it was a Broadway musical about… well, about hairspray. They also made a movie of this.
I am not opposed to musicals; I have just never been inclined to go see them on purpose. But hey, Beef & Boards is just down the street, and it was a change from our typical Thursday night routine. (Not sure that we really have a Thursday night routine, but you get the picture.)
Seeing that the show ended on March 27th, we made plans to go that same week, got our tickets, and headed to B&B for the show. We saw the show on a Thursday, and it was a packed house. I’m not sure there were any empty tables.
The B&B Process
If you have not been to Beef & Boards before, it’s actually a pretty cool setup. When your first walk in, there are a few levels all centered on the main stage. The room isn’t huge, but by layering the levels like this, they can fit a lot more people in a much smaller space. In the middle, even when you first walk in, you will see two impressive buffets loaded with food. But we will get to the food here in a second.
Once you are greeted (the staff at B&B is almost TOO nice) you are seated at your reserved table. We didn’t get to choose our seats, but had a great view of the stage. I would venture to say that everyone gets a great view of the stage the way the tables are arranged.
If there was anything bad I could say about the room’s layout, you feel cramped. I will admit the people sitting at the table beside us might as well have just sat with us! Everyone was way too close for my typical comfort. Of course, I totally understand why they do that, but it was somewhat uncomfortable for most of the show. Plus, the table beside us talked the entire time, so that didn’t help matters.
Anyway, back to the food. Once we were seated, our server came up and greeted us. This is now the third, if not fourth person that had welcomed us to Beef & Boards. We definitely felt welcome! Our server’s name was Julie, and she offered us ice water, coffee, and lemonade. Those three beverages are complimentary, while soda and premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages range in price from $1.50 to $60. (Granted, the $60 drink is a nice bottle of wine, but still.)
Standing in the Buffet Line
The doors for the show actually opened at 6:00 PM the buffet line opens at 6:30, and the show starts at 8:00. So you have plenty of time to get in, get settled, order a drink, and eat your dinner. There are cheese and crackers on the table when you first walk in, but the cheese trumps the crackers. Although, I have never seen individually packed Ritz crackers though.
Once the buffet line opens, they control the order in which you can get food. Imagine a room full of people all going to the buffet at once. They control the crowd as best they can, but it still gets pretty hectic around the buffet. The lines were pretty long when we stood up to eat.
Once you get through the line, you start with the salad bar. It’s a simple salad bar, featuring romaine lettuce, with a handful of toppings and a wide range of dressings. There is also a pickle salad, which I have never seen before, that was delicious. Not sure what kind of pickles they were but I ate a ton!
Then the hot food sort of intimidates you. First you have a fish dish. (I like how that rhymes.) Then some pasta. Then a chicken dish. Then some roast beef. It’s almost too much food. There is a chef at the end of the buffet line carving you the roast beef. That’s a nice touch… it was unexpected. I wonder if the chef slicing the roast beef was Chef Odell Ward?
I had to try everything! I had some pearl potatoes, some tilapia, some chicken marinara, and even some roast beef. I also piled my salad high. I was ready to chow down.
When we got back to the table, and started eating, I was not blown away by the food. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but this wasn’t any St. Elmo’s Steak House or anything. But I can totally understand why. Imagine the number of people that go through that line each and every night. They have to, in order to keep their food costs down, cut back on certain areas. None of the food was bad; it just wasn’t anything to write home about.
I am hoping to cover Annie Get Your Gun next month, so we shall see if the menu changes from one show to the next. It would be really cool to see them change the menu for each show that came through.
Behind the Bar
If you want something besides water or lemonade, your options are somewhat endless. From specialty coffee drinks to frozen daiquiris, margaritas, and more, B&B has a wide selection of drinks for you to enjoy. They have an extensive beer and wine list as well, offering both domestic and imported beers, as well as a wide range of wines offered by the glass or by the bottle.
I ordered a glass of their house chardonnay; it went perfectly with my meal. They have reds, whites, blush, and sparkling wines from which to choose. For the beers, they have the typical domestic beers, but then kick it up a notch with Amstel Light, New Castle, Corona and more. So no matter your thirst, B&B can quench it.
Feeding my Sweet Tooth
After we finished our meal, Julie brought over a tray of desserts. She got about half way through the list and I was done listening. I am not huge into desserts, plus we already knew what we wanted. They had a featured dessert that was a turtle cookie dough ice cream pie. It was fantastic. I was only given two bites, as Sheryl hoarded it all to herself.
There is a wide range of desserts though, including cheesecake and even some sugar and flour free options. The server was very good in explaining all that to us, as well as the surrounding tables.
Take note, that if you don’t get your dessert before the show starts, you won’t get it until intermission. But as soon as the lights went on for the first and only intermission, the servers were on a mission to deliver those sweets!
The First Act
Again, I have never seen Hairspray. I had no idea what it was about. Well, of course I knew it was about hairspray, but had no idea in what capacity. Boy was I in for a surprise.
In talking with Patricia Rettig before the show, I learned that most of these actors come from either here in Indianapolis or are hand selected out in New York City. They do auditions for every show, and the cast is usually a good mix of both. You wouldn’t know it by the way these folks behave on stage… you would think they were just one big happy family.
The first act of this show was pretty solid. Out of the gate, I had no idea what to expect so when they first started singing I was pleasantly surprised. The sound at B&B is great, and while it seemed to be a bit too loud at certain points in the show, it helped add to the ambiance that I was feeling being there.
Before I forget, when I first made mention of seeing this musical on Twitter, a few of my followers replied with Baltimore in their Tweet. I had no idea what they were speaking in reference to… until the first song was complete. The first song was titled Good Morning, Baltimore, and that played into the entire storyline. The musical is based in Baltimore in the year 1962.
The story is pretty simple. There is a young girl with a dream. She has a dream to be on this hit TV show, but because she is short, fat, and has crazy hair, no one thinks she will succeed. She is also in love with this boy named Link, who appears on the TV show as well. They call him a young Elvis!
There is some drama thrown in here and there, and it made me want to see this same story play out in a hit motion picture, maybe with some big named actors. Or maybe even a novel written by the great James Patterson. Being in the same room as these people made me feel creative and inspired. Every scene in the play had one or two songs in it. They moved from the little girl’s living room to the TV station, even to jail for a couple of the scenes. Heck, they even break out of jail! The set was just fun to watch, and you can tell that the folks that built it put a lot of hard work into it.
The Second Act
About halfway through the show, the lights came on for an intermission. This show only had one intermission, so if you wanted to use the restroom you needed to hurry… and hurry I did. There were so many folks outside the restroom; I had to wait in line! Unless I am missing something, Beef & Boards only has one restroom.
The intermission was pretty long though, so that gave us enough time to get to the restroom and then get back to our seats for the second act. When the lights went off, we were right back in to the singing and dancing.
The second act was much funnier than the first. It actually was quite risqué in my opinion, considering that this is an all ages venue. Of course, it wasn’t too bad, but there were some seriously adult-humor moments in the second half. (Speaking of adult humor, I just love how a man plays the mom in this production. That is actually worked into the storyline a few times throughout the night.)
When the story was winding down, you could tell they were getting ready for something big. Nearly every performer was on stage jumping, singing, dancing, and just having a good time. Before you know it, the show is over. But wait, there’s more!
The crew comes back out, bows for the crowd, and then proceeds to get the crowd involved by inviting folks on stage to dance. Good thing we were sitting on the third level… I don’t dance. Everyone was just having a good time, and you could tell by the look on the performers’ faces.
The show was an absolute blast. I had several people communicating with me throughout the evening on Facebook and Twitter, and everyone wanted to see my reaction. I am not typically that interested in musicals, and all my friends know that. But after spending an evening at Beef & Boards, I might be changing my tune here, before too long.
The actors were great, the storyline was fantastic, and the setting was irreplaceable. Who knew that there was such a great dinner theater right here in the Circle City? I will hopefully be seeing more shows at Beef & Boards, as after this show closes Annie Get Your Gun takes the stage.
Hairspray is playing at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre until March 27th, 2011. It is an eight time Tony Award winning musical about a big girl with big hair and big dreams.
Just for the record, I use TRESemmé hairspray.