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Amish Acres 'The Old Rugged Cross' Review


‘The Old Rugged Cross’ is a hit at Amish Acres


By Jeri Seely
Editor In Chief of The Papers

Amish Acres Round Barn Theatre opened its 2011 season with “The Old Rugged Cross,” a musical designed to capture the hearts of the audience as it pays homage to gospel music.
It’s a show where the actors each wear many hats. But, the audience doesn’t mind and, thanks to the expertise of costumer Laurie Schotz and wardrobe manager Jeremy Spinger they all look different in each scene.
While the threat of the impending loss of the church to the county for a road is woven from start to finish and the pastor is ever present, a number of short sketches give the audience a peek into the lives of the members of the congregation and some just passing by.
Travis Smith is the show’s musical director and is the church’s Pastor Jim. He is reprising the role he originated in the production at Cornwall’s Dinner Theatre in Marshall, Mich., three years ago.
In one scene he is a carpenter and a matchmaker, in another he listens carefully as members of a family each sing a solo number and then team up to sing a fifth number. He also manages to perform a wedding where the bridegroom is late and the bride isn’t sure if she should go through with the wedding or not. No matter which hat he is wearing, Smith, who also serves as musical director of the show, is brilliant.
Jeremy Littlejohn returns to The Round Barn stage as Bill, Reed and John. He’s an Amish Acres favorite and he doesn’t disappoint the opening production audiences. He’s great! Bill is a hog farmer. Reed is a very young boy and John is the bride’s grandpa. He portrays all three with equal enthusiasm and skill. It’s good to see him back on Round Barn Theatre’s stage.
Rachel Stargel is Stephanie, Diane and Angie and is joining the cast with her husband, Daniel, for the season. As Stephanie she is a young woman who has just lost her husband in the war. Diane is Reed’s older sister and Angie is the young bride. Stargel turns in remarkable performances and seems to be suited perfectly for the Amish Acres stage.
Daniel Stargel is Bob, Dad and Danny. Bob has been sent to the church park by her late husband to meet the young widow. Dad completes the family of singers and Danny is the bridegroom. He is an outstanding actor and turns in first-rate performances.
Kate Salsbury is Phyllis, Mom and Ava. As Phyllis she is a visitor to the area and is introduced to Bill by the pastor. Mom sings with her children, Reed and Diane, and manages a solo of her own and Ava is the bride’s grandma who is full of advice and good instructions for the soon-to-be bride. Salsbury captures the audience as she turns in terrific performances.
Each scene carries with it a story and a number of gospel songs. The production features such old time favorites as “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “Church in the Wildwood,” “Fly Away,” “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “Eye Is On The Sparrow,” “Since Jesus Came in to my Heart,” and “Oh Happy Day.” The list is almost endless with 14 songs in the first act and eight in the second plus two medleys.
Truly this is an evening to be enjoyed by all. It’s perfect for the Easter season. “The Old Rugged Cross” continues through May 29 with themed dinners May 20 and 27. For tickets or more information call Amish Acres at (800) 800-4942 or on the Web at