After all the years “Plain and Fancy” has been on stage at Amish Acres Round Barn Theatre in Nappanee you would think area residents would tire of it. Not so.
It’s still the place to go. It’s still the musical to see. There’s always something different. Something new. Something unexpected.
From the book by Joseph Stein, “Plain and Fancy” shows the difference between the plain folk (the Amish) and the fancy folk (from New York City). The musical is set in Lancaster County, Pa., where some 250,000 Amish make their home. There is a smaller population of Amish in Elkhart and Kosciusko counties.
“Plain and Fancy” puts the spotlight on the way of life of a special people. The Amish are known for simple living and plain dress. They do not adopt many conveniences of modern living.
“Plain and Fancy” opens with Dan King (Jeremy Littlejohn) and Ruth Winters (Sarah Philabaum) lost. Dan is looking for the Pennsylvania community of Bird-in-Hand. He has a farm he plans to sell to Jacob Yoder (Don Hart) for his soon-to-be son-in-law Ezra Reber (Trent Loggins) and his daughter, Katie (Angie Fisher). But, where is Bird-in-Hand?
A stop at a local gas station only confuses them more as the people there tell them, “You can’t miss it.” Later they meet Isaac Miller (Timothy Leonard) who confuses them with the number of Yoders in the area, then the number of Jacob Yoders. All is solved when Dan tell him Jacob’s daugher, Katie, is getting married.
Working with the Yoders on wedding preparations are Miller’s wife and daughter, Emma (Pam Gunterman) and Hilda (Ruth Olson). Emma and the cast delight the audience with “Plenty of Pennsylvania.”
The fun begins when Papa Yoder invites Dan and Ruth to stay at his house. Dan can have the big room. Ruth gets the little room under the stairs. Dan adapts quickly but Ruth is having problems with the Amish way of life. She has a bottle of Scotch, which she finds solace in when she is alone.
Hilda is 22 and has yet to marry, much to her father’s dismay. She falls for Dan. Will he marry her?
Enter Peter Reber (Ryan Yoder) who has been sent away from the community for fighting. Peter has always held a special spot in his heart for Katie and Katie would rather marry Peter than Ezra. But the marriage between Ezra and Katie has been arranged and Papa will not hear of anything else. He won’t talk to Peter. He won’t let Katie talk to him. He won’t talk to Dan. It seems there is no way to stop the wedding.
The first act ends when the barn on Dan’s farm is struck by lightning and burns to the ground. Papa blames Peter and the young man is shunned.
The women are busy in the kitchen getting ready for the wedding when Ruth arrives and offers to help. Katie allows her to churn the butter. Emma and Katie request a pan of water and the audience enjoys the antics as Ruth tries to figure out how to operate the pump and churn the butter at the same time. They also want help with the food on the stove. After Ruth gives up and leaves, Emma and Isaac team up to sing, “City Mouse, Country Mouse,” explaining the differences between the plain and the fancy.
Another scene that keeps the audience in stitches is when Ezra finds Ruth in her bedroom with her bottle and decided he needs a drink. Needless to say, he gets drunk. Soon Hilda arrive and Ruth tries to hide Ezar, but to no avail. He decides he is going to the carnival in Lancaster. Hilda dons Ruth’s “fancy” clothing and takes off after him.
Fisher has a beautiful voice as becomes evident with the first song she sings, “It Wonders Me.” She’s delightful and is perfect for the part of Katie, the young, obedient Amish woman. Her expression shows how torn she is about following her heart or obeying her father. Yoder is equally right for the part of Peter. He is young and hasn’t yet learned to control his actions. His desire to protect Katie gets him into trouble and Yoder, who hails from Shipshewana, plays the part to perfection. Olson is a native of Mishawaka and is perfectly suited for the part of Hilda. She’s cute. She’s witty. She’s great!
Likewise, Loggins turns in a superb performance as the prospective bridegroom. He’s really not for marrying but if he has to, “Why not Katie?” Hart proves he is a superior actor as he rules the family. Leonard is equally as good as the hard working brother-in-law and Gunterman, who is from Bremen, has the younger women under her wing as she works with both her daughter and her niece and does it with the professionalism of a proven actor.
Littlejohn and Philabaum make the perfect New York couple, although Littlejohn is actually the production’s director and was filling in for Dan Baker. All three are seasoned actors and it shows.
For tickets contact Amish Acres at 800-800-4942 or online at www.AmishAcres.com. The musical, which makes its national home at Amish Acres, will be on stage through Oct. 19.