I have not seen “Sarah Plain and Tall” since watching the Hallmark movie with my mother. We giggled at Christopher Walken’s awkward bowl cut while he yelled at Glenn Close for taking out the horses without his permission.
As a city girl from Denver, I have never been too fond of farm movies boasting of wholesome family values, arguing that the only hard work happens outside.
Thankfully, this year’s freshman production of “Sarah Plain and Tall” showed that real hard work is adapting to change and building relationships.
In the story, widower Jacob Witting advertises for a wife with the hope of finding help on the farm and a new mother for his two children, Anna and Caleb.
Sarah Elizabeth Wheaton leaves her home in Maine at the urging of her brother, William, and sister-in-law, Meg, to try being a family with the Wittings for a month before deciding to accept the offer. During the month, Sarah shakes things up, changing schedules and questioning Jacob’s idea of normal. In a farm atmosphere built on routine, Sarah is a fresh sea breeze over the plains of Kansas.
Caleb, played by Stephen LaGue, excitedly embraces his potential mamma, but Anna, played by Katherine Boettcher, is stubborn, barely making eye contact with Sarah, not wanting anyone to take the place of her mother.
We hear the story narrated by an adult Anna, played by Elyse Partee, as she reflects on her reactions to Sarah’s arrival.
I still felt warm and fuzzy on the inside when the curtain closed, but it was not the same as the cheesy Hallmark story I was expecting.
The not-so-plain Sarah, played by Sarah Jones, delighted me with her sweet singing voice and shining personality as she taught the children (and me) some catchy tunes. I found myself humming a few bars during the intermission.
The father, Jacob, played by Daniel Loganbill, was not as cross as the stern Christopher Walker Jacob of my childhood. He felt like a true father: he didn’t make the children afraid of him, but disciplined them lovingly.
All of them must adapt to life as a new family unit, especially Jacob. The Witting’s neighbor Matthew sums it up best: “You may not be able to change a woman. But the things you like about her won’t change either. And that’s a fact.”
Humorous situations arise as stubborn Jacob and strong-willed Sarah butt heads. LaGue’s skipping around and giant smile as Caleb made me cheer for everyone to love Sarah as much as he did. Sarah eventually charms everyone, even the audience, making the family sing again.
The happy turn-out to a classified ad for a wife made me wonder. What did Jacob say in his ad to attract such a lovely wife?
Too smart to lie, Jacob advises, “When you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”
The question remains, will the men of John Brown University consider a new option for finding a mate after seeing this show?