REVIEW – THE GOSHEN NEWS
SHIPSHEWANA — A unique homer between Amish and baseball “touch ‘em all” in the new musical, “The Home Game,” showing at The Blue Gate Theater in Shipshewana this summer.
The musical has romance, baseball, packed with laughter and drama in a tale full of twists and turns.
“It’ll be emotional, fun and full of drama for a good time,” explained script writer Martha Bolton Thursday. “I hope the audience feels the range of emotions. … I want them to leave with a lot of hope because the story is about second chances.”
What it’s About:
The plot focuses on two Amish brothers, Levi and John Troyer, who are complete opposites of each other.
For as long as he can remember, Levi has loved playing baseball. He daydreams about playing in the major leagues, but with his Amish father’s expectations that he remain on the family farm, Levi manages to keep most of his dreaming in check.
John is a hard worker who puts faith, their father and the family farm before everything else in his life.
When a sports talent scout happens to catch sight of Levi’s fast ball and his other pitching and batting skills while in town one day, the talent scout offers Levi a deal that he can’t refuse.
As Levi sways in his decision to choose between his father’s wishes of an Amish life and his own deepest dreams, he must consider the cost?
Bolton said she came up with the story idea several years ago after watching a group of Amish play baseball in a sandlot.
“I could see a fun musical about baseball happening and I mentioned it to my producer,” she said. “I sent a YouTube video to him of Amish playing baseball with the thought, ‘what would happen if Amish went pro,’ I wrote the original script with that in mind and then we started seriously thinking about doing it a while ago and kept working on it.”
Some of the characters were fun to create, Bolton said, including Hannah is known as the only Amish girl who can’t cook. Levi tries to win her heart when he’s not playing baseball.
“Hannah is a fun character and she’s always looking for her gift,” Bolton said.
The author wrote a novel and the musical together, and enjoyed the process of picking and choosing the best scenes in the book for the musical.
Bolton said it’s exhilarating to see the characters come to life on the stage.
“They become like real people in my mind as I write the script,” she said. “I love to see the person come alive through the talents of actors especially when they bring out the character as I envision. When (cast members) ‘catch it’ 100 percent, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Will the audience be disappointed in the ending?
“Oh my no, they will feel satisfied with a happy ending,” Bolton said. “The father, David Troyer, and the other characters go on their own journey in life. There are fabulous songs sung by cast members with fabulous voices.”
Jennifer Smith portrays Molly Glick, a bakery owner and town gossip, and Kevin McDaniel, plays Phil-the Real Deal-Watson, a New York sports talent scout.
Neither character is Amish, so they provide a neat contrast, Smith said Thursday.
“I think of Molly as a southern belle and a little uppity,” she explained. “Of course, she never repeats news, either.”
Smith said she was excited to meet and interact with Bolton, director Wally Neson, executive producer Dan Postema and co-founder and originator of Blue Gate musicals Mel Riegsecker.
“It’s a good collaborative creative process,” Smith said. “This is a brand-new script and discovering the characters is a neat process.”
Since McDaniel’s character originates from the Big Apple, he gives a New York accent to the agent and has fun singing a song written in the style of hard rock music.
“Wally Neson has written a wide range of music and has done a good job writing music based on the characters,” McDaniel said. “This story is good for everyone and touches on a person being able to go home. The title of the musical has two significant meanings. Not only does it refer to a baseball game but being able to go home.”
Smith added audience members will connect with the musical because it touches on family and the decision and choices made by family members.
“We have a very talented cast,” Smith said. “We call ourselves the ‘Blue Gate’ family.”
Neson said the music lends itself to a variety of music for audience members to enjoy.
“There are big chorus numbers to simple country folk ballads to a Cuban cha-cha number to 50s style of music,” Neson said. “It’s really fun.”
He said the script has a compelling storyline with strong characters that people can identify with while watching the production.
“Everyone has their own dream and everyone is on their own journey,” Neson said “People identify with Levi, who just wants to play baseball, and like his father, not everyone always supports their dream. But people need to have a home to come to, a safe place to go at the end of their journey.”
Follow Sherry Van Arsdall on Twitter at @svanarsdall_TGN.
If you want to go:
“The Home Game” debuted early this month and performances will continue Tuesdays through Saturdays through Aug. 16. The Blue Gate Theatre is located at 195 N. Van Buren St., Shipshewana. For show times and ticket prices visit www.BlueGateTheater.com or call 800-645-4725.
Kevin M. McDaniel (Phil), Stephen Howard (John Troyer), Derek Brookens (Levi Troyer), Lew Whitener (David Troyer), Alex Garcia (Marco/Charley), Jennifer Smith (Molly Glick), Danae DeShazer (Ruth), Elsa Scott (Annette) and Valla Johnston (Hannah).