BWW Review: STOLEN THE MUSICAL at Bird-in-Hand Stage
When you think of Lancaster County, things like whoopie pies and farmers markets probably come to mind. Visions of a horse-and-buggy carrying an Amish family through the lush countryside may fill your mind's eye. What you most likely don't think of is a crime like a kidnapping happening. That's exactly what happens, though, in this brand new musical mystery. Based on the Daughters of Lancaster County book series by Wanda E. Brunstetter, this charming story takes us into the lives of an Amish family and their surrounding community. When Naomi Fisher's baby brother is kidnapped from a park one stormy afternoon, the entire community is shaken to its core by the tragedy. Everyone is a suspect and, after a first failed attempt at solving the case, Foster Bates finally gets a chance to set things right when Naomi insists that the 20-year-old case be reopened. I don't want to give too much away, but I can tell you that the heartwarming twist at the end of the show will leave you warm and fuzzy while teaching you how important it is to learn to forgive both yourself and others.
It is easy to tell that this production was created out of a great respect for the Amish way of life. Jaime Markovich McMahon (the director of this production) and her team did a lovely job all around. The theatre at Bird-in-Hand Stage is set up in one of the conference rooms on the lower level of the building, which I found to be unique. I was not sure how well that would go, but the space was well utilized and cozy. My only wish is that more plush chairs had been considered, as my husband and I both found them to be incredibly uncomfortable. I suffer from chronic low back pain, so a seat that is friendly to my back when sitting for any length of time is super important for me. The set was well done. Even though there are times when three locations may be on stage at once, I did not find it distracting or cluttered. At least some of this is due to Shannon Seip's lighting design, which kept each locale feeling distinct. I will say that I was a bit disappointed that the music was recorded instead of having live musicians. However, I suspect that it may have had something to do with the space and understand that sometimes it really is the only option. The music was well produced and clear, so it did not take away from the show at all.
I was very impressed with the entire cast of this show. Each performer did a wonderful job bringing their character's quirkiness and complexity to life. My favorite character was the highly eccentric Fannie Miller, played brilliantly by Monica DePaul. She serves as both the comedic relief and the bridge between the Amish community and the outside world. There were some incredibly touching moments as well, so be sure to bring a tissue or two. My personal favorite was the duet "My Beloved" between Naomi and Caleb Hoffmier (played respectively by Anna Beth Riggs and Nathan Kiliany). Their chemistry onstage was beautiful to watch. Between the well developed characters, the accurate and (for certain characters) fun clothing created by the costuming team, and the fun musical numbers... get ready for a toe-tapping good time!
This family friendly musical adventure is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening, especially if you take time to savor the delicious food being served upstairs either before or after the show. You have plenty of time to get to Bird-in-Hand Stage to experience this unique immersion into Amish tradition since the show runs now through October 23rd. Visit www.bird-in-hand.com/stage for more information and get ready for hospitality like no other!