Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre announces its 50th Anniversary Season

Joey Amato | September 9, 2022

J. Scott Talbott built it. And they came.

In an Indiana cornfield on the northwest side of Indianapolis, an unassuming building opened on March 2, 1973. Called Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, it was the Indianapolis location for a small string of dinner theatres by the same name, with other locations in Kentucky and Ohio. Built by J. Scott Talbott for his theatre-loving daughter, Beef & Boards opened with the show Tom Jones, and audiences were hooked.

After seeing the preview performance, the Indianapolis Star’s drama critic Corbin Patrick declared the “sparkling” theatre had “served notice that it will be a formidable contender among the city’s fun places.”

Among those lured to this new theatre was Fort Wayne native Douglas E. Stark, who came to see Tom Jones.

“I visited Beef & Boards almost 50 years ago, shortly after it opened in 1973,” Stark said. “I had a great time, and so did the audience. And I thought, ‘you know one day I would like to be here’.”

That would happen – but not right away. A few months after visiting Beef & Boards, Stark began operating the Enchanted Hills Playhouse in Syracuse, Indiana, with his Ball State University friend and business partner, Bob Zehr. When the opportunity came to purchase Beef & Boards in 1980, Stark and Zehr made the move to Indianapolis.

“At the time it offered the most stability that I could have as an actor and director to fulfill my artistic need – and at the same time provide the stability that’s necessary for raising a family,” Stark noted.

That first decade of Stark-Zehr ownership saw many big names grace the Beef & Boards stage, including B.B. King, The Smothers Brothers, Tony Bennett, The Temptations, Donny and Marie Osmond, Chubby Checker, Carol Channing, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Frankie Valli, and even Tina Turner. As concert venues began to emerge in the area, Beef & Boards shifted its focus to its Broadway musical offerings, and hasn’t looked back.

Zehr moved on to other interests in 1998, and Stark’s children have joined him as part-owners, working full-time to make Beef & Boards successful while more than 100 similar theatres across the country have closed their doors during the past five decades.

And 2023 marks a golden milestone for Beef & Boards – 50 years of keeping audiences well-fed and exceptionally entertained, and keeping them coming back for more. It’s a celebration that includes three new shows to the Beef & Boards stage, fan and family favorites, and a return of the most successful show ever presented at the theatre.

It all begins on Dec. 28, 2022 with the play based on the beloved Hasbro board game of the same name. Clue is a hilarious farce-meets-murder mystery in which six mysterious guests arrive at a remote mansion for an unusual dinner party, where murder and blackmail are on the menu. Led by Wadsworth, the butler, all of the usual suspects are on hand, including Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, and Colonel Mustard. This comedy whodunit is rated PG and is on stage through Feb. 5, 2023.

Then it’s time to cut loose for the first musical of the 2023 Season: Footloose. The explosive movie musical bursts onto the stage featuring the powerhouse hits of the Oscar-nominated score, including “Footloose,” “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Somebody’s Eyes,” and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” When Ren moves to a small town that has outlawed dancing, he takes the steps necessary for a better future. Footloose celebrates the exhilaration of youth, the wisdom of listening to one another, and the power of forgiveness. Rated PG-13 for adult content and teen angst, Footloose is on stage through March 26.

Originally scheduled for the 2020 Season, An American in Paris will finally make its Beef & Boards debut March 30. This musical by George and Ira Gershwin tells the story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl, and a romantic French city – each yearning for a new beginning in the wake of World War II. Nominated for a staggering 11 Tony Awards, An American in Paris won four, including Best Orchestrations. Great Gershwin tunes include “I Got Rhythm,” Shall We Dance,” and “’S Wonderful.” An American in Paris continues through May 14.

For its 2023 Season Family Show, Beef & Boards brings to the stage the epic Disney favorite, Beauty and the Beast starting May 18. This enchanting story tells of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a prince trapped under a magic spell. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end. Unforgettable songs include “Be Our Guest,” Belle,” “Gaston,” and the famous title tune. Rated G and featuring Beef & Boards’ $10 Family Show discount for all kids ages 3-15, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is on stage through July 9.

Then the musical legacy of Duke Ellington is celebrated in Sophisticated Ladies, a retrospective that takes audiences from The Duke’s early days at The Cotton Club through his widening acceptance around the world. Opening July 13, this high-stepping salute is inspired by the glamorous nightlife and sensuous highlife of a man who lived to love. Rated G, Sophisticated Ladies is on stage through Aug. 20.

The comedic duo of Eddie Curry and Jeff Stockberger bring the iconic characters of Max and John to the stage in the movie-turned-musical, Grumpy Old Men, opening Aug. 24. Feuding for most of their lives, these neighbors find themselves facing off in a new battle – as romantic rivals seeking the affection of an enticing new woman in the neighborhood. Based on the 1993 film, this stage adaptation captures the lovably crotchety characters through twinkling humor and great songs. Rated PG-13 for adult content, Grumpy Old Men The Musical is on stage through Oct. 1.

Opening Oct. 5 is the show that’s brought more people into Beef & Boards than any other: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Also featuring the largest cast to appear in a Beef & Boards production, Joseph… follows the Biblical story of Jacob’s favorite son. After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph discovers his ability to interpret dreams – a skill that ultimately frees him and elevates him to power, and ultimately reunites him with his family. Rated G, Joseph is on stage through Nov. 19.

Beef & Boards’ 50th Anniversary Season culminates in a classic celebration of the holidays with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas starting Nov. 24. In this stage version of the famous film, Broadway partners vacation at the Vermont ski resort of their former Army general. Snow isn’t falling and the guests aren’t coming, so the duo come up with a creative plan to help fill the inn – and a sudden snowfall is the icing on the slopes. This theatrical treat is on stage through Dec. 31.

Also returning in Beef & Boards’ 2023 Season is its popular one-hour production of the Charles Dickens favorite, A Christmas Carol. On stage for select dates Dec. 1-22, 2023.