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LOU'S VIEWS: Mixed bag of 2010 bests

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Lou Harry

The holiday happenings are behind us. The 2011 offerings are yet to come. That means its time for my annual trek through the IBJ archives for reminders of A&E events that I enthusiastically recommended during the past year.

While no one event stood head and shoulders above the others (as 2009’s Indianapolis City Ballet benefit did), there was more than enough quality work to make me happy to be the guy with this job.

The usual caveat: No one person can see everything, so I’m not pretending this is a comprehensive—or objective—Top 10 list. But I hope it does offer a snapshot of some of the things that made 2010 worthwhile in the arts in Indy—and that it inspires you to take advantage of more in 2011.

Let’s start on the screen, where some outstanding documentaries populated this year’s Heartland Film Festival. For weeks, it seems, I wouldn’t shut up as I tried to encourage friends to see “Thunder Soul,” “The Parking Lot Movie” and “Freedom Riders.” The Indianapolis International Festival had its share of terrific reality films, too, with “Ballhawks” and “LaPorte, Indiana” leading the pack.

But the most fun documentary of the year was screened not at a film festival, but at Conseco Fieldhouse. That’s where “Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks” aired before being seen on ESPN as part of its “30 for 30” series.

On stage, it was great to see some first-class productions in the Broadway touring mix. Along with the current return of “Wicked,” Murat and Clowes audiences were also privy to an eye-popping “Dreamgirls” and a well-cast “Mary Poppins”—plus “Jersey Boys” and “The Color Purple.” (Which, combined, may help us forget “Happy Days: The Musical.”)

Locally, Indiana Repertory Theatre proved there can be new life in familiar material with its charming, inventive take on “Around the World in 80 Days,” which capped last season

with a smile. And at IndyFringe, the outrageous “Screw You Review” and ShadowApe Theatre Company’s goofy “Not a Peep” showed that it’s possible to be solidly professional, solidly Fringe-y, and very entertaining all at the same time.

The Phoenix Theatre not only staged, but created. “Pure Prine” transcended the usual jukebox musical to such an extent that it was brought back for a revisit just months later. It’s also likely to have an afterlife, with a concert version opening this month in Chicago. See what happens when great raw material, a first-rate cast, and an ideal set are managed by a talented director with a passion for the material? This one made it look easy, but anyone who knows theater knows it wasn’t. Kudos to all involved. Some of the “Pure Prine” crew were also involved in the infectious, surprisingly joyful “Hoosier Dylan” at the Athenaeum.

I didn’t see nearly enough classical music this year, but I did catch first-rate work from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s pops lineup, with outstanding concerts headlined by Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway and, on Valentine’s Day, Tony DeSare. The ISO also did a great job supporting the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis for its finals program. I’m looking for even greater sounds with a new music director at last in place.

Some of my favorite musical moments of the year came from the mouths of students. Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Competition helped hone the talents of high school students and created a strong showcase for classic tunes. It wasn’t open to the public, but I also have to mention the pleasure of hearing Broadway star Sutton Foster (soon to open in “Anything Goes”) guiding students through master classes at Ball State University. She was remarkably generous with the students who, in turn, produced some unforgettable, truthful performances.

I can’t think of another visual art opening here that generated the attention and excitement of the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “100 Acres Art & Nature Park.” It’s a project that changes the landscape here and, regardless of your take on individual works, the achievement is remarkable and a cause for additional Indy pride. The IMA also hosted a first-rate, original exhibition of Andy Warhol work, which you can still see through Jan. 2. I’m not suggesting national attention is the most important thing for a museum, but both of these drew some national recognition—and it’s nice to be recognized.

Other favorites: At the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, “Generations” creatively showed the influences within multi-artist families. Bobdirex reclaimed the Athenaeum as a musical theater venue with a fun “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Beef & Boards generated big laughs with “The Foreigner.” And then, of course, there was Indianapolis City Ballet’s “Evening with the Stars,” back with another group of the world’s top dancers.

All in all, not a bad twelve months.

See you in 2011.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com. Twitter: IBJArts and follow Lou Harry’s A&E blog at www.ibj.com/arts.

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