America's Longest Running Annual Broadway Musical Opens At The Round Barn Theatre

As unlikely as it might seem, it is possible that despite the fact that "Plain and Fancy" has been performed over three thousand times during the past thirty years with an attendance of over three hundred thousand patrons there might still be some folks who haven't seen "Plain and Fancy" at the Round Barn Theatre in Nappanee.

But as this year's Amish Acres acting company prepares to perform in the thirty-second version of this classic it might be worthwhile to let those who haven't seen it -- yet -- know what they have to look forward to.

"Plain and Fancy," which opened on Broadway in 1954, is the flip side of another musical classic, "Fiddler on the Roof." Both have a script written by the famed playwright Joseph Stein (after whom the Round Barn's stage is named).

In Fiddler two cultures collide, and though the Russians are more powerful, the supposedly weaker Jewish society will prove to have more endurance. By contrast, in "Plain and Fancy" two 1950's New Yorkers who are part of the dominant American culture travel to Lancaster County in Pennsylvania and though their values come into conflict with the non-resistant Amish culture, in the end both sides are strengthened as they come into a greater understanding of each other.

All that stuff, however, is wrapped in a love story. Two, really, or maybe three. Katie Yoder is only days away from her arranged marriage with Ezra Reber when the Amishman she truly loves, Ezra's brother Peter Reber, returns from an imposed exile to claim her hand and heart against the opposition of her father, Papa Yoder. At the same time Ruth Winters has followed the journalist Dan King on this journey to Amish country because she's hopelessly in love with the clueless writer. And then there's Hilda Miller: dissatisfied with Amish life, she may be in love herself.

Those who have not yet seen the show will delight to songs like "You Can't Miss It," which will make confusing sense to anyone who's abandoned the straight and true roads of Indiana for hopelessly confusing web of two lane highways of Pennsylvania, "Young and Foolish" (the title speaks for itself), and the forthright anthem "Plain We Live."

Not only that, but those who come twice during the early weeks of the show's long run this season will have the chance to see not one but two of the more memorable actors who've portrayed Papa Yoder in recent years.

Travis Bird, who's played Papa to some acclaim the past few seasons, can't join the company when the show opens May 20, so Jerry O'Boyle, arguably the most prolific Papa Yoder, with over 800 performances, to play the part these many years, will open the run.

"There's a lot of legacy between the two of them," noted Round Barn Artistic Director Amber Burgess, who is directing this season's version. She added that this year's cast, as usual, will include both familiar and fresh, new faces.

Burgess likes the way "Plain and Fancy" fits in with the larger season, dubbed "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Red." Members of the group will sometimes take leads and other times be part of the supporting cast of shows like "Copacabana," "Mamma Mia," and "Happy Days: The Musical," "Lend Me A Tenor," and "Annie!"

"There's not a tragedy in the bunch," Burgess said, "It's Comedy Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight. The core company really composes a team. Everyone will have a turn in the spotlight."

This year's production of "Plain and Fancy" will feature some small innovations that emphasize the show's visual nature. It will all revolve around the set that has developed over the years.

"That's one of the coolest parts of 'Plain and Fancy,'" she said. "The set changes are like a well-oiled machine. The house rolls on, the chairs take their place, fences and trees appear, like a ballet."

In addition, Burgess said, "All of my Amish touches, like my quilts that play a part in 'Plenty of Pennsylvania,' will be retained." One favorite song will make its reappearance after a few years on the sidelines -- "Why Not Katie?"

In addition to the aforementioned Jerry O'Boyle as Papa Yoder, cast members include Olivia Manlove as Ruth Winters, Ryan Schisler in the part of Dan King, Emily Whitley as Hilda Miller, Violet Race as Katie Yoder, Dion Stover as Isaac Miller, Katie Barnes Emma Miller, Dalton Tyler Isaac in the role of Ezra Reber, and Max Mattox as Peter Reber.

Preview of Plain and Fancy, Book by Joseph Stein and Will Glickman, Music by Albert Hague, Lyrics by Arnold B. Horwitt, runs May 23 - October 13 (American Sign Language Performance May 26 2pm), Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. For tickets, information, and reservations call the box office at 800-800-4942 or go to www.amishacres.com

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