The McGuigans Shine On (Like the Moons, and the Stars, and the Sun)

It was ten years ago this day

That these boys got the chance to play

Some great music that will make you smile

And forget about life for a while.

So may I introduce to you

The act you’ve known for ten great years?

The McGuigans and their rockin’ Beatles band!!!!!

It’s the tenth anniversary run of Yesterday and Today and it’s playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Now it’s possible that there are some reading this review and wondering, “What is Yesterday and Today?”  Well, allow me to enlighten you.  Yesterday and Today is the tribute of three brothers (Billy, Ryan, and Matthew) to the music of the Beatles and to their late father who passed on his love of the Fab Four to his sons.

There’s no gimmickry with this band.  They don’t ape the Beatles.  They just play the music of rock’s greatest group, but fuel it with their own special energy for one amazing night of entertainment.

It’s also never the same show twice.  This is a request show where the audience chooses the night’s numbers.  Pick anything you like because this band can play them all from their biggest hits to their obscurest tunes.

Two years ago, I had the honor of reviewing this show and I felt privileged to come back and review its 10th anniversary run.  As a writer, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What new insights might I glean to share with the public?”  As it turns out, I had very little to fear because, as the Beatles did, this show just continues to evolve and grow with each passing year.

Not only did the audience get a new, simplified two tiered stage from Jim Othuse, but a slight change in the formatting of the show put more control in the hands of the audience than ever before.  As Billy correctly states, “If you’re not having fun, it’s your own fault.”

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This band plays the music of this legendary group with a reverence and passion no mere tribute band could ever hope to match.  I have seen this show in many, many incarnations over the years and I assure you, tonight’s performance was the best I have seen yet.  Not only were the performers beyond on, but this audience picked some of my all time favorite Beatles tunes.

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Billy McGuigan

Billy McGuigan is your Sgt. Pepper of the evening.  Using his magical wit and charm, Billy serves as the band’s spokesperson as he banters with the audience and shares a few heartfelt stories along the way.  He also dazzled the crowd with his skill on guitar and keyboard.  He got the night off to a fiery start with “Get Back”, sang a catchy cover of “When I’m Sixty-Four”, and paid heartfelt tribute to his father with his favorite Beatles song, “Let it Be”.

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Ryan McGuigan

Ryan McGuigan was a force to be reckoned with in tonight’s show.  Proving he may well be the second coming of John Lennon as he possesses the same beautiful, raw tenor singing voice; Ryan sang lead on quite a few numbers, blasting all of them out of the park.  Some of his standout performances were his harmony part on “It Won’t Be Long”, his haunting rendition of “A Day in the Life”, and an unbelievably nuanced take on the ethereal and stream of consciousness “Across the Universe”.

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Matthew McGuigan

Matthew McGuigan lent a hand with his top notch bass playing and own formidable tenor.  He got the crowd rocking with “Hey Bulldog”, took us back to yesteryear with “Eight Days a Week”, and poured his heart into “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

And let us not forget the rest of the talented group.  Jay “Superman” Hanson blew the crowd away with his fluid and difficult guitar work and got a moment in the spotlight with the sweet “Here Comes the Sun”.  Rich Miller’s drumming kept a steady beat and his own baritone voice was put to good use in “Yellow Submarine”.  Tara Vaughan had great presence with her animated tambourine and keyboard playing and was splendid with a solo in “Oh, Darling!”.  Aaron Slagle satisfied the audience’s need for more cowbell in “A Hard Day’s Night”.

This show is fantastic for any Beatles fan from the casual to the ultrafan and from the young to the young at heart.  I defy anyone who watches it not to feel like they’re flying ten feet off the ground when the night is over.  My only disappointment is that two hours feels like two minutes and I (and the rest of the crowd) could have easily spent all night rocking out with the band.

The opening night production was completely sold out, so if you’ve never seen this show, get a ticket right away.  And if you are a fan, you better have a ticket because I don’t see them lasting very long.  Find out why Yesterday and Today is the hottest show this holiday season.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

They’re the McGuigans and their Beatles band,

You’re going to enjoy the show.

The McGuigans and their Beatles band,

You’ll be sorry when it’s time to go.

The McGuigans and their

The McGuigans and their

The McGuigans and their rockin’ Beatles band!!!!

Yesterday and Today plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Dec 31.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Thurs-Sat and 6:30pm on Sundays.  There will be an extra performance at 2pm on Nov 26 and no performances on Nov 30 and Dec 24.  Tickets cost $40 a person.  On Dec 31, there will be performances at 7pm ($50 tickets) and 10pm ($75 tickets).  For tickets, contact the Omaha Playhouse at 402-554-553-0800 or visit www.TicketOmaha.com or www.omahaplayhouse.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

(Photography provided by Sonia Keffer)

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The Death of Innocence

A group of youths in provincial Germany experience the thrill of their emerging adulthood and the pain of losing their childhood innocence.  This is Spring Awakening with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik based off of Frank Wedekind’s original play of the same name.  It is currently playing at the UNO Theatre.

I’m not familiar with Wedekind’s original play, but have read praise for Sater remaining reasonably faithful to the original work.  Wedekind’s tale poses some very challenging ideas and themes that still resonate today.  The theme of emerging adulthood takes the form of their sexual awakening and the youths are thrilled and unnerved by the changes taking place within them.  However, this awakening comes at a price.

The change into adulthood comes at the cost of their innocence and hope.  Even worse, they are ill equipped to handle these changes due to a society of adults which refuses to educate and help them cope with these changes.  Instead they label the youths’ burgeoning desires as evil and hypocritically hide their own evil and cruelty to maintain a world that suits their vision.

Sater does a fine job updating Wedekind’s work for a modern audience and Sheik has written a punchy score full of catchy, memorable tunes.

It’s unusual to see two directors at the helm of a show, but Doran Schmidt and Wai Yim do quality work in guiding this musical.  Clearly both are on the exact same page with their vision, fusing their unique talents to create a strong show.  Their performers know what they are doing with their roles and where they are going.  Ms Schmidt’s musical direction is spot on and Yim’s gift for designing movement keeps this story going as there is never a static movement.  The actors make full use of the performance space in an effortless and unceasing flow of movement and action.

The supporting cast is skilled and unified.  They harmonize well.  They play well off each other.  All manage to find the ebbs and flows and the humorous and serious moments of the production.  But I’d like to single out Bethany Bresnahan for a memorable cameo performance as Ilse.  Ms Bresnahan’s Ilse is the lone character who seems to retain her childhood innocence as she transitions into adulthood.  She had a dynamic presence, beautiful animation, and a haunting sequence in “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind”.

Ryan McCann is wonderful as Melchior.  McCann well plays the duality of this character as Melchior is both the angel and the devil.  He is a playful, intelligent wit and loyal friend.  But he also has the makings of a fiend within him with his whipping (albeit requested) and possible raping of a childhood friend.  Truly, he seems to be the character in the most danger of becoming part of the cruel, hypocritical society he lives in until he finds the strength to overcome it with a little help from his spiritual friends.

McCann’s tenor was in fine form all night.  His voice captured all of the important nuances both musically and orally.  He especially shone in “The Guilty Ones”, “Those You’ve Known”, and the night’s best number, “Totally F@!#ed”.

Seldom have I felt the kind of empathy for a character as I did for Nick Jansen’s Moritz.  Moritz has pressures on him that few adults could be expected to handle, let alone a child.  His parents demand perfection from him.  He studies beyond the point of exhaustion.  He’s uncomfortable with his new “sticky dreams”.  Jansen does superior work in communicating the ever mounting weight on Moritz’s shoulders until he collapses under the pressure.  Jansen also has a fine tenor and falsetto best utilized in “Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind” and “And Then There Were None”.

Roni Shelley-Perez soars as Wendla.  Wendla may be the show’s most tragic character as her innocence makes her truly childlike.  An overprotective mother refuses to help her understand her transition into adulthood.  Her safe lifestyle has rendered her unable to feel, pushing her to request to get whipped by Melchior so she can empathize with a classmate who is routinely beaten by her father.  Due to her safety and immaturity, Wendla simply does not know how to protect herself and those who should protect her fail utterly.

Ms Shelley-Perez brilliantly essays the confusion and innocence of Wendla.  I was especially impressed with her facial expressions during her moment of intimacy with Melchior which left it beautifully ambiguous as to whether or not it was rape.

Ms Shelley-Perez can also belt out a tune with a monstrously strong soprano in “Mama Who Bore Me” and “The Word of Your Body”.

Steven Williams has designed a simple, yet imposing set of black pillars and balcony with chalk drawings all over it.  Audrey Wardian’s lights were incredible with strobe flashes and emotional colors which were all variations of the rainbow leading to subtler shades of meaning.  Valerie St Pierre Smith’s costumes invoked the sedate elegance of 19th century school uniforms and clothing.

At this preview night performance, the cast started off a bit hesitantly and quietly.  Once they reached “Totally F@!#ed” they were firing on all cylinders and the theatre was overflowing with their confidence and I do believe they are on to something quite magical.  Sound also suffered a touch from either microphone issues or dead spots on the stage.

Growing up is hard to do, especially when there isn’t an instruction book or a person with experience to lend a helping hand.  Spring Awakening does a dandy job in sharing the difficulty and pain of growing up, but it also leaves a glimmer of hope that the current generation will fix the mistakes of the previous.

Spring Awakening plays at the UNO Theatre in the Weber Fine Arts Building through Dec 2.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  Tickets cost $16 (a 2nd preview night performance on Nov 16 will be $6).  UNO students can attend the show for free.  For tickets, call 402-554-PLAY or visit www.unomaha.edu/unotheatre.  Due to strong language and sensitive themes, Spring Awakening is not suitable for children.  The UNO Theatre is located at 6001 Dodge St in Omaha, NE.

Watch Your Step at the Blue Barn

BLUEBARN THEATRE presents 

THE 39 STEPS

adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchanan 

The original cast returns in this retro-Award-winning flashback! Mix a 1930s Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy film noir and a dash of Monty Python and you have an unforgettable evening of pure pleasure. Packed with nonstop laughs, over 150 characters, an on-stage plane crash, and some good old-fashioned romance, The 39 Steps is a riotous blend of virtuoso performances and wildly inventive stagecraft that’s guaranteed to thrill.

Directed by Susan Clement-Toberer; Scene Design by Martin Marchitto; Costume Design by Lindsay Pape; Costume Coordinator, Kendra Newby; Sound Design by Craig Marsh based on an original sound design by Miles Polaski; Lighting Design by Shea Saladee; Cast includes Ben Beck, Bill Grennan, Kirstin Kluver, and Ablan Roblin.

Performance dates:

November 24 – December 17, 2017

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances at 7:30 pm

Sunday, November 26 at 6:00 pm

Sunday, December 3 at 2:00 pm

Sunday, December 17 at 2:00 and 6:00 pm

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES

Wednesday, December 6 at 7:30 pm

Wednesday, December 13 at 7:30 pm

Tickets go on sale to the public Monday, October 30, 2017

Call the BLUEBARN box office 9:30am-4:30 pm M-F

Or visit www.bluebarn.org

Ticket prices:

Adults             $30

Seniors 65+    $25

Students         $25

About the BLUEBARN Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company.  Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and purists.

It’s a McGuigan Musical Anniversary

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Omaha, Neb.—The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) presents the 10th anniversary of Yesterday and Today the Interactive Beatles Experience Nov. 24 – Dec. 31, 2017 in the Howard Drew Theatre featuring Billy McGuigan and his brothers.

Yesterday and Today is an interactive Beatles experience featuring Billy McGuigan, his brothers, Ryan and Matthew, and a backing band of local musicians. The performers play all Beatles music, take audience requests and interact with the audience; no two shows are ever the same. The brothers started the show as a tribute to their late father who loved The Beatles and introduced his children to the band’s music. The McGuigan brothers now tour the country with Yesterday and Today to create the ultimate living tribute to their father.

Billy McGuigan and his brothers are back for the 10th consecutive year at Omaha Community Playhouse! This all-request Beatles tribute show will have you dancing in the aisles and singing along to every song. Share your stories and relive your memories with your favorite Beatles songs. No two shows are the same, and every show is a guaranteed exhilarating time!

Production: Yesterday and Today: An Interactive Beatles Experience

Credits: Featuring Billy McGuigan, Music Director Rick Avard, © 2007 By Rave On! Productions

Group Members  

Billy McGuigan   (Vocals/Guitar/Keyboard)

Matthew McGuigan     (Vocals/Bass)

Ryan McGuigan     (Vocals/Acoustic Guitar)

Tara Vaughan    (Keyboard/Vocals)

Jay Hanson     (Vocals/Lead Guitar)

Rich Miller     (Percussion/Vocals)

Show dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 31, 2017; Thursday–Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. (Nov. 26 only) and 6:30 p.m. (No performances Thursday, Nov. 30 or Sunday, Dec. 24.)

New Year’s Eve performances: Two performances on Sunday, December 31 (No group discounts on New Year’s Eve)

7 p.m. $50 per person
10 p.m. $75 per person
Complimentary champagne punch and cake will be served prior to each performance with a champagne toast at midnight.

Tickets: Available now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $40 for adults and students. Tickets for groups of 12 or more are $35.

Sponsored by:   C&A Industries, Inc. and KMTV (media sponsor).

Location:  Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE  68132

It’s Christmas Time at the Playhouse

42nd Annual A Christmas Carol at Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha’s Holiday Tradition Opens November 17, 2017

Omaha, Neb.— A Christmas Carol will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre Nov. 17-Dec. 23, 2017. This will be the 42nd year for this holiday production at OCP. Actor Jerry Longe returns for his 12th season as Ebenezer Scrooge.

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol. Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey filled with beautiful costumes, exquisite music, perfectly crafted sets and special effects second to none. Perfect for the whole family!

Production: A Christmas Carol

Credits: By Charles Dickens, Adapted by Charles Jones, Musical orchestration by John J.  Bennett

Directors
:  Kimberly Faith Hickman , Jeff Horger
Music Director: Jim Boggess
Choreographer: Michelle Garrity

Cast

Jacob Roman as Fred

Don Harris as Jake, Ball Musician, Man at Cart

Amanda Charles as Nell

Jerry Longe as Ebeneezer Scrooge

Chris Berger as Bob Cratchit

Bob Gilmore as 1st Charity Man, Ghost of Christmas Present, Baker

Marcus Benzel as 2nd Charity Man, Mr. Fezziwig

Jake Parker as Peter Cratchit

Brodhi McClymont as Francis Cratchit

Maddie Smith as Belinda Cratchit

Annabelle DeWater as Tim Cratchit

Don Keelan-White as Jacob Marley, Ball Musician, Man at Cart

Lori Lynn Ahrends as Ghost of Christmas Past

Tyson Bentley, Judson Cloudt, Daniel Davis, Cal Hernandez, Lincoln Hoffart and Neal Jochim as School Boys

Andrew Hedin as Ebby

Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as Fan

Brendan Brown as Dick Wilkins, Poulterer

Catherine Vazquez as Mrs. Fezziwig, Baker’s Wife

Boston Reid as Young Scrooge

Emma Chvala as Belle Fezziwig

Jen Dillon as Mrs. Cratchit

Hannah-Kate Kinney as Martha Cratchit

Elise O’Neil as Millie

Jenna Hager as Lucy

Brandon Fisher as Topper

Amanda Charles as Myrtle Crow

Julia Ervin as Mrs. Dilber, Chestnut Vendor

Ava Palmer as Child with Sled

Adult Ensemble features Annie Hekl, Isabelle RAngel, Alex Nilius

Youth Ensemble features Cora Johnson, Lilian Johnson, Olivia Walling, and Burke Wissman

Sophia Markle as Little Bo Peep, Mary

Caeli Karasek as Little Boy Blue

Cody Girouex as Beggar

Josie Ausman as Greenery Vendor

Kristopher Fleeman as Toyshop Keeper

Fezziwig Ball Dancers will be played by Amanda Charles, Marcus Benzel, Emma Chvala, Chris Berger, Jen Dillon, Brendan Brown, Julia Ervin, Brandon Fisher, Jenna Hager, Kristopher Fleeman, Annie Hekl, Cody Girouex, Elise O’Neil, Alex Nilius, Isabelle Rangel, Boston Reid, Catherine Vazquez, and Jacob Roman

Marley Minions will be played by Jennifer Bonge, Katie Hoskins, Evelyn Kinney, and Reese Uptmor

Tyson Bentley as Joseph

Andrew Hedin, Cal Hernandez, and Neal Jochim as the Wisemen

Daniel Davis as the Innkeeper

Shepherds to be played by Judson Cloudt, Annabelle DeWater, Lincoln Hoffart, Brodhi McClymont, Bruke Wissman

Angels to be played by Josie Ausman, Jennifer Bonge, Stella Clark-Kaczmarek, Katie Hoskins, Cora Johnson, Lilian Johnson, Caeli Karasek, Evelyn Kinney, Ava Palmer, Maddie Smith, Reese Uptmor, and Olivia Walling

 

Show dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 23, 2017; Wednesdays, 7:00 p.m., Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.
and Sundays, 2:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. (No performances on Weds., Nov. 22 and Thurs., Nov. 23.)

Tickets: On sale now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Before Dec. 13, tickets start at $38 (adults) and $25 (students). Dec. 13-23, tickets start at $42 (adults) and $29 (students). For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $32 (adults) and $18 (students) for all dates.

Sponsored by: First National Bank, KPMG (orchestra sponsor), JK Barker Foundation (cast dinner sponsor), Rotella’s Bakery (bakery shoppe and snow sponsor) and KETV (media sponsor)

Location: Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre

6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132 

Performance note: A shadow interpreted performance for the hearing impaired is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Food drive: Audience members are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to OCP to benefit the Food Bank for the Heartland as part of Conagra Brand’s Shine the Light on Hunger campaign.

When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Day 9: A Rainbow in Ireland

The final day had finally arrived.

I awoke to the first truly dreary day we had experienced in Ireland.  It was grim and rainy outside which worried me a bit because our first stop of the day was a visit to the Cliffs of Moher.

After breakfast, we boarded our trusty bus once more and began the trek to the cliffs.  On the drive we experienced some rain and then, miraculously, the sun began to peek through.  How fitting it was to see a beautiful rainbow appear in the sky in Ireland.  Dad quipped my thoughts when he said, “Let’s go find the pot of gold,” to the amusement of our fellow travelers.

The sun began burning off this mist which made the day look a lot better as we approached the cliffs.  Frankly, I thought the mist enhanced the view of the Cliffs of Moher.  It gave it a mysterious, otherworldly quality as I looked upon this awesome spectacle of nature.

We spent a brief period at the cliffs before heading over to the city of Galway.

Galway is another major city in Ireland and its major street of commerce also happens to be named O’Connell Street just like in Dublin.  We were given a few hours to spend on our own before we would meet up for a mini-walking tour of the city.

I wandered up and down the street as I looked at the various businesses and enjoyed the various buskers.  The most interesting busker was a young lady who played a hurdy-gurdy.  It was truly a haunting sounding instrument.

I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, but decided to stop off at a café to enjoy one last bowl of seafood chowder as I knew it would be my last opportunity to taste this local delicacy.  After finishing my soup, I returned to our meeting point where Bill gave us a mini-walking tour of the city.

We walked past St Nicholas’ Cathedral, saw the remnants of the oldest building in Ireland (discovered when ground was broke for a new business), saw the King’s Head Pub which is Ireland’s oldest pub and has operated since 1649, and we also saw the Lynch Point.

The Lynch Point is exactly what it sounds like.  Back in the day, condemned prisoners were hung here.  Its most famed story is that a very just judge once ordered his son to be hung at this spot for the murder of a Spanish sailor who had cuckolded the son.  The son was guilty as sin and the judge refused to recuse himself, insisting that justice had to be served.  So honorable was the judge that he dismissed the executioner and personally placed the noose around the son’s neck so that full responsibility for this decision would lay on his shoulders.

After this little walk through history we boarded the bus and made our way to Rathbaun Farm, the final stop of the trip.

Rathbaun Farm is a working farm that has been in the Connolly family for six generations.  We met Vinton Connolly who led us to the kitchen where our group would get a lesson in scone making.

The cook told us we would be eating the scones we were preparing and she gave us our lesson.  Like a true chef, a lot of the prep work was estimation, but my table managed to prepare 8 scones for baking.  I crossed my fingers hoping that they came out edible.

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Ingredients for scones

From the kitchen we went across to the barn where Vinton showed us some of his sheep and lambs and told us about farming in Ireland.

Then he introduced us to Ted, his sheepdog.

Vinton explained that sheepdogs are not trained.  They learn a few voice commands, but herding sheep is an instinct that dogs either have or they don’t.  Dogs that have a lot of energy and can’t sit still probably have the instinct.  As Vinton said, “If a sheepdog is sitting still for ten minutes, it’s probably dead.”

Vinton then gave us a demonstration of Ted’s skills as he let Ted into an enclosed pasture.  Ted bolted right towards the sheep as Vinton gave a few voice commands simply telling Ted where to direct the sheep.  For such hefty animals, sheep can really run.  Ted never made a peep.  He just stared down the sheep and ran them in the direction he wanted them to go.

When the demo ended, we went to the dining room to partake of an Irish tradition:  Sunday dinner.

On Sundays, Irish people have breakfast and then don’t eat again until about 4 or 4:30pm when they have a large family dinner.  The cooks had prepared a hearty Irish stew full of chunks of beef, potatoes, and vegetables.  They also served our scones.

My team’s scones came out pretty well.  Nice and crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

When dinner ended, we said our good-byes to Vinton and boarded the bus to return to our hotel.

Officially that was the end of the trip.  I felt the way one should at the end of a vacation like this:  sad to see it end, but ready to get back home.  The next morning would take us to Shannon Airport which is one of the few cities where you go through U.S. customs there so you don’t have to do it back at in the states.  I looked out the window at the flight that would take us back to America and reflected on the many adventures I had and the new friends I had met.

I was so pleased with Globus that I joined their Journeys Club and began planning a trip to England and Paris which I hope to take in either 2018 or early 2019.  But that will be a story for another time.

But you won’t have long to wait for my next adventure.  On December 1, it will be time for my 5th annual Christmas B & B review.  Mont Rest Inn of Bellevue, IA is the site of my visit and it promises to be something special.  We’ll see you then.