Review: NICKEL MINES at ACT Of Connecticut

By: Jan. 20, 2022

Review: NICKEL MINES at ACT Of Connecticut

On Thursday, January 20, I had the pleasure of seeing a phenomenal show that I have been waiting to see for about two years! It was well worth the wait! The ACT of Connecticut has struck gold with NICKEL MINES, an emotionally intense musical based on the true story of an Amish school shooting, perpetrated by an outsider, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 2006. The use of song, interpretive dance, and dialogue are all combined to tell the story. It is not presented in a strict linear time sequence, yet it somehow brilliantly flows together in an ideal way, parts of the story taking place in 2011. With book by Shannon Stoeke and Andrew Palermo, and music & lyrics by Dan Dyer, this show which is also directed and choreographed by Andrew Palermo stars an extremely talented ensemble cast, backed by an amazing live band. The depth, power, messages, and entertainment value of this production are all so strong that it is difficult to put them into words. Not only was I highly entertained, but by God's grace, I feel like I left the show a better person than who I was when I entered, more focused on my own need to forgive others.

The entire cast gels together as a cohesive unit, synchronized with strong stage chemistry. They portray the roles of the deceased victims, the wounded surviving victims, the boyfriend of one of the victims, the boyfriend's father, family members of the victims, and even the wife, and the mother of the perpetrator. This first rate cast includes Lauren Celantano, Anna Cooper, Shea Coughlin, Emma Lou DeLaney, Morgan Hollingsworth. Kelsey Jenison, Milan Magana, Mark Bradley Miller, Alex Nee, Eric Michael Parker, Justine Veronica Rafael, Josephine Rose Roberts, Hannah Joy Snyder, and Jayme Wappel. All cast members maximize the quality of the roles they perform.

The band is conducted by keyboardist Tom Cuffari and also includes Elyse Gellert Mullen on violin, Dan Harrington on guitar, Jordan Jancz on electric bass, and Dennis J, Arcano on drums and percussion. They are also joined on stage by Morgan Hollingsworth on acoustic guitar, as he sings, in the role of the boyfriend of one of the deceased. The songwriting of Dan Dyer is absolutely wonderful. If this cast and band was to make an official studio cast recording, I would definitely purchase it. I imagine that it would go platinum.

The central message of forgiveness pervades the production. The Amish community reached out with love and forgiveness to the surviving family members of the perpetrator, even including a funeral invite. One family who lost one daughter and had a significantly wounded surviving daughter even had the mother of the perpetrator regularly come to their home to read to their wounded daughter, a form of emotional healing for them both. The audience is also emotionally touched by the story of the wife of the perpetrator, the pain she went through, and the outpouring of love she received from the families of the victims.

We also feel the pain of the families who experienced loss, and especially the adverse impact it had on the boyfriend who struggled with forgiveness, seeming to falsely equate forgiveness with a denial of the magnitude and impact of the wrong that has been done. This leads to a highly emotional scene between him and his father.

The show elicits thoughts about how it may be easier to live a devoted Christian life in the absence of an outside world that is vying to distract our attention. I know that my own levels of inner peace are higher when I am focused on God, and not on the outside world. The extreme levels of love and forgiveness shown by these Amish families is an inspiration and powerful witness. The Amish are definitely a culture I respect.

I highly recommend Nickel Mines which is scheduled to continue to run through January 30, 2022. I caution the seizure prone that there is one brief moment with flashing lights. For times and tickets, please go to tickets.

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