By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
Santa is coming to town, but if you want to catch a sneak peek at him, head to Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. His presence delights both the audience and cast members as he walks the aisles passing out candy, recites his famous “Yes, Virginia” monologue and chases Santa imposters off the stage.
But Santa isn’t the only one enjoying the spotlight. In a Christmas tradition marking its 20th year, “A Beef and Board Christmas” is a variety show that truly has something for everyone — a tall order in this day and age.
For those more interested in the religious import of the festivities, a live Nativity and beautiful renditions of “Silent Night” sung by Sarah Hund and “O’ Holy Night” sung by Courtney M. Cleveland bring the house to a reverent state of awe.
Country music fans will enjoy “Tennessee Christmas” sung by Sarah Hund and “Christmas Cookies” sung by Jayson Elliot.
Comedy lovers will belly laugh as John Vessels belts out “All I Want For Christmas Is A Real Good Tan” while dressed in flippers, water wings, an inner tube, swimming cap, and black dress socks held fast by garters. Watching him try to dance with dolled up vixens is a hoot — and so is the moment he is caught by his wife wielding a rolling pin.
Humor isn’t relegated to one number, however. Laughter is spread throughout the show and aided by the two youngest cast members, Olivia McKenna, 8, and Ethan Halford Holder, a fourth grader. Both have been acting since they were 4 years old and both are returning to this year’s performance after success during the last Christmas show.
New this year is “Indiana Christmas” sung by Jayson Elliot. Perhaps after singing “Tennessee Christmas” the cast thought something a little closer to home would be nice. During this song, projector screens are lowered and scenes from the Hoosier state remind the audience of their favorite familiar spots.
Always delightful is the number that fills the stage with Raggedy Anns and Andys who are singing, dancing and flopping to “Marshmallow World.” Even adults can’t help but laugh at the mascot-sized chipmunks who sing their popular Christmas song. And orchestra lovers will have to admit that Terry Woods and the Beef and Boards Orchestra on the spinning stage is excellent.
No Christmas program would be complete without a salute to the military, a Christmas waltz, toy soldiers and tap dancing. Add in the sparkly — not to mention fast — costume changes, and the show is a blitz of entertainment.
Even though Kenny Shepard, an adjunct professor at Anderson University, and Deb Wims have hosted the show for years, they are clearly still in love with each number and perform their parts effortlessly.
While Christmas traditions may be difficult to start because tastes vary so wildly (even among family), “A Beef and Boards Christmas” is a safe bet to satisfy everyone — at least for one night.