The photos on this page are from different scenes of the show Sarah, Plain and Tall. The New York Times review stated that the “evocative scenery by Michael Fagin, lighting by Chris Lee and costumes by Anne Kennedy, is a virtually unalloyed delight”. As you will see from the photos, the set design is sparse, befitting rural America’s frontier and its simplicity is reminiscent of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Indeed, the combination of the musical’s powerful story line of personal loss and recovery, its uplifting message of love and strength of character, the show’s wonderful book, music and lyrics with a simple yet evocative set design will make this musical a classic show for grade schools, high schools, colleges, community and professional theater groups forever more.
Poster for the premiere of Sarah, Plain and Tall at the Lucille Lortell Theater on July 17, 2002 in New York City. Produced by TheatreworksUSA with Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director and Ken Arthur, Managing Director. The musical itself was directed by Joe Calarco.
Anna (Kate Wetherhead) is talking to her brother Caleb (John Lloyd Young): “One song especially, (Mama sang), I can hear it in my head. Its like she’s here with me. Standing, smiling by my bed”. Caleb replies: “Why won’t you sing it for me?”. But Anna refuses to sing the song for him because the song reminds her father, Jacob, about the death of his wife.
Sarah (Becca Ayers) is a strong independent woman who helps her brother, William, fishing off the Coast of Maine. It is tough work for a woman -- but she loves the work and she loves the sea.
William (Kenneth Boys) with Estelle (Debra Wiseman) who is reading their local newspaper, the Boothbay News. Estelle, newly married to William, wants to get Sarah, William’s sister, married and out of the house. Estelle suddenly spies an ad in the personals column. Estelle says: “Sarah is an adventurous sort, isn’t she? Listen to this. . . Jacob Whiting, farmer, settled out in Kansas, widowed with two children, living simple life. . . Jacob Whiting, farmer, looking for a . . . wife!”
Sarah has just arrived by train in Kansas and Jacob (Herndon Lackey) is driving her the from the train station to the farm in his horse-drawn buggy. Jacob holds the reins for the horse in his hands and next to Sarah is her satchel with all her belongings. The conversation between them is awkward and wooden with Sarah trying to smooth things out but not doing a very good job of it.
Sarah talks about gathering eggs from the chickens and is surprised that the chickens are not named. She names the mean-looking chicken “Ilene”.
Caleb sees that Sarah misses her home and the sea back in Maine. Caleb sings for Sarah to not miss the sea. Don’t miss the shells, the smells, the waves, the seals. “Please don’t miss the sea, at least, not much more than you’d miss me.”
Jacob tells Mathew (Kenneth Boys) that he owes him sixty cents for the personal ad that Mathew persuaded Jacob to put in the paper. “How do you figure?” asks Mathew. Jacob tells Mathew that Sarah is not working out. Sarah took Jacob’s horse when he expressly forbid it. Sarah ignored rules that Jacob laid down. Sarah took Jacob’s tools and refinished the floors of the farmhouse. Sarah wears pants and her manners are unbecoming a lady. “So”, Jacob says, “I want my sixty cents back and I am going to build a bigger fence.”
Maggie (Debra Wiseman), Mathew’s wife, walks by while Jacob is telling Mathew that he owes him sixty cents. Jacob says: “See, that’s the kind of woman that I should have got. She’s quiet, she’s agreeable.” She bakes.
Sarah takes Anna to the cow pond and teaches her to swim and they both so enjoy the moment. The blue scarf waving across the stage represents the water of the pond. Anna, who has always had the responsibility of being “the lady of the house” after her mother died in childbirth of Caleb, feels wonderfully freed. She wonders what it might feel like being a girl child again were Sarah to become “the lady of the house”.
Song has returned to the farmhouse. Sarah has returned from town recognizing that she loves Jacob and the children. Anna recognizes that Sarah cannot replace her mother and shall not. Jacob recognizes Sarah for the individual she is and the love she has to offer. All the family looks forward to lives of mutual support and love, enriched by ties to the past rather than fettered by them.
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