Sarah Plain And Tall (Lawrence O'Keefe - N. Benjamin)
Sarah, Plain and Tall ~ The Musical premiered off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York City in the summer of 2002. Based on Patricia MacLachlan’s Newbery Medal award-winning book, the musical was produced by TheatreWorksUSA as summer theater for children. The show received glowing reviews from The New York Times, Variety and a host of other papers.
Sarah, Plain and Tall ~ The Musical is the story of a family – Caleb, Anna and Papa – whose house on the prairie is devoid of joy and song until a mail-order bride named Sarah enters their lives, awakens their hearts, and helps them sing again. This charming musical has songs that you will carry away in your head – it’s a show you’ll always treasure.
"…this handsome new musical, splendidly acted and sung by an exceptionally talented cast, and with evocative scenery by Michael Fagin, lighting by Chris Lee and costumes by Anne Kennedy, is a virtually unalloyed delight".
“Mixing deep yearning, comedy, lively song and music and excellent performances, “Sarah, Plain and Tall” is a fine addition to Theatreworks’ formidable lineup”.
“…the musical’s scenes in Maine, which introduce Sarah, her weak brother and his humorously nasty wife, are a successful creation…” – Lawrence Van Gelder
"…the nimble cast is up to [the] multilevel role playing…and the ensemble work is well nigh flawless. Just the same, Becca Ayers is hard to miss as Sarah. This big-boned blond is tall and strapping all right, although she's about as "plain" as a Victoria's Secret model. But she has such an affinity for the tomboyish Sarah (and enough conviction as an actress to pull it off) that we'll humor her”.
“…Laurence O’Keefe’s bright tunes get much of their mileage from counterpoint giving the characters the opportunity (as in “The Dinner Song”) to sing-through entire scenes as an ensemble, while still allowing them their individual voices. As it works out, this means plucky for Sarah, mournful for Jacob, feisty for Anna, sad for Caleb and humorously bossy for the two-performer chorus (played by Kenneth Boys and Debra Wiseman)… But the musical themes are so supple – and Nell Benjamin’s lyrics so surprisingly incisive and touching – that no one is confined to stereotype. In song after song, one character or another will lean forward to share a rebellious thought or reveal a secret longing. This is subtle stuff for a kid’s show”. -- Marilyn Stasio
“Ingenious scenery, catchy music, relevant lyrics, intriguing lighting, professional actors … is showing kids how amazing and accessible theatre can be”.
“ I went into “Sarah, Plain and Tall” with absolutely no expectations. When I saw that the theatre was filled with noisy, small children and I, although only sixteen, was one of the oldest people there. I was convinced that not only was the show going to be intolerable, but the atmosphere as well. I couldn’t have been more wrong”.
“…Director Joe Calarco uses every production aspect at his disposals – costumes, sound, props, lighting and music – to support and enhance the show, without ever detracting from the story. The musical score is quite appealing and memorable. I caught myself humming it later...”
“Perhaps the best thing about the show, though, is the creators’ attitude. The show is never patronizing to its audience or “dumbed down.” The actors approach the show seriously and professionally. This stance is totally unlike any other kid’s theatre I’ve seen. And in turn, the young people responded by being amazingly receptive and respectful audience. At the end of the show the applause was deafening”. – Julie Congress
"Sarah, Plain and Tall" is …based on the same popular young adult novel that, with its two sequels, inspired the series of TV movies that starred Glenn Close. What the story in general - and this musical version in particular - has going for it is an honest, touching affinity for the lessons and losses of childhood.”
“The show's lyrics, direct and often clever, are by Nell Benjamin, and Laurence O'Keefe, composer of "Bat Boy," provides the peppy prairie music.”
“The show, with its book by Julia Jordan, is at its strongest when it concentrates on the kids; the push and pull between their respect for their mother's memory and their longing for a mother figure is delicate and convincing. Kate Wetherhead (as young Anna) and John Lloyd Young (as her brother Caleb) - both adults - give fine, unfussy performances.”
“Designer Michael Fagin's set, though inexplicably red, is well- punctuated by a wide stretch of painted sky, and director Joe Calarco makes good use of its versatility to keep up the pace of his staging. At a speedy 80 minutes, "Sarah, Plain and Tall" is fast and entertaining enough that it will manage to hold the attention of even the most restless teenagers in its audience.” - Gordon Cox
“…Nell Benjamin's lyrics and Laurence O'Keefe's music capture the emotional undercurrents of the story with great sophistication and power.
“Although the show is intended for children, this nominal adult found himself utterly captivated. In part, this stems from the superb performances, especially Herndon Lackey as the laconic father.”
“Becca Ayers' Sarah has a kind of swaggering charm that is endearing. Kate Wetherhead manages to make Anna sympathetic despite her resentment, and John Lloyd Young is deeply poignant as Caleb.”
“Joe Calarco's direction is full of invention. As entertainment, ‘Sarah’ indeed stands tall.” -- Howard Kissel, New York Daily News, Chief Drama Critic