Sarah, Plain and Tall Songs Description

By Nell Benjamin/Laurence O’Keefe, 2002

1. Lady of the House
Anna (Kate Wetherhead) is the “the Lady of the House” and as the older of the two children, she and awakens the younger Caleb (John Lloyd Young) to get him to begin his chores. Later in the song Caleb implores Anna to sing the lullaby his mother used to sing, but Anna will not sing it.

2. Letters
Picture the stage divided in half. On the left side is the farmhouse in Kansas. The song opens with Jacob (Herndon Lackey), the widower and father of Anna and Caleb, together with his neighbor, Mathew (Kenneth Boys) are crafting a letter to send a letter to the Boothbay News in Maine, advertising for a “mail-order wife” for Jacob. On the right side of the stage is the house in Maine where Sarah (Becca Ayers), with her brother William (also played by Kenneth Boys) and Estelle (Debra Wiseman), her nasty sister-in-law, who reads Jacob’s advertisement in the Boothbay News newspaper. They construct a letter from Sarah to Jacob, responding to the ad. Estelle badgers Sarah telling her what she should write but Sarah has the strength of character to resist Estelle’s badgering and write only the truth. The spotlight shifts back and forth between the family in Maine and the family in Kansas reading and writing letters to one another.

3. Sarah, Plain and Tall
Sarah shows her spunk. She has arrived in Kansas and is in the kitchen planning what she will do to learn the farm’s routine. “I’d like to ride Jack”. “No” says Jacob, “He’ll toss you right off his back”. But she is determined. Sarah also wants to bake, name the chickens, milk the cows, and plow the fields. And she does!

4. Storm
An interlude (without singing) of an approaching thunder storm. You can feel the oncoming breeze and smell the rain in the air.

5. Would You Miss Me?
A nonsense sea chantey that Sarah sings and the children join in with her. Incidentally, on the CD there is an additional track which duplicates this entire song as an orchestral without any singing so that listeners can sing the song as a karaoke.

6. Don’t Miss the Sea
Caleb plaintively asks Sarah not to go home to Maine.

7. 60 Cents
Jacob tells his best friend, Mathew, that he owes him 60 cents – that’s the cost of the ad placed in the Boothbay News for a wife. Indeed, Sarah did not turn out as he had expected. After all, she rode Jack, the horse, which Jacob had expressly forbidden; she refinished the floors in the house. Indeed, Sarah was not working out anything like Jacob expected. And, by gum, Mathew, your advice to place the ad was not very good and you owe me 60 cents! OK, proposes Mathew, have Sarah cook dinner so that Maggie (also played by Debra Wiseman) and Mathew can come over to see how bad Sarah really is. Jacob agrees to Sarah’s cooking dinner.

8. Cow Pond
Description n/a

9. Dinner Song
Jacob is preparing for the dinner with Anna and Caleb coaching him: don’t slouch, don’t grouch; don’t interrupt; don’t always have to be right. Meanwhile, Sarah, too, is getting dressed for the dinner and Maggie is helping her. Sarah is getting into a corset — which she hates while Maggie is coaching Sarah to be “be a lady” with grace and show some sign to Jacob that she wants to be kissed. Everyone, including Anna whose heart Sarah has won over, want the dinner to “succeed”, meaning that Sarah would stay and become Jacob’s wife.

10. Quartet
The dinner is successful but Caleb and Anna wonder why Sarah does not appear happy. Sarah longs for her home in Maine, her brother and the sea. Maggie tries to console Sarah by telling her of how she, too, longs for where she grew up –the flowers and warmth of Tennessee. Anna begins to wonder if her mother who passed away would mind if Sarah stays. And Anna longs to be able to shed farm responsibilities long enough to go swimming in the cow pond again. At the end of the song, Anna and Caleb, Sarah and Maggie sing together acknowledging that they miss what they left behind them but realize it is more important to look ahead for something better instead.

11. Is it Me You Want to Kiss?
After becoming at-one with farm, winning the hearts of the children, and preparing the successful dinner where she is dressed like Jacob’s previous wife, Sarah wonders whether she truly has won the heart of Jacob. Sarah wonders if, in Jacob’s eyes, she is merely the embodiment of Jacob’s first wife? Is Jacob judging Sarah by the cut of her dress and her pinned up hair rather than for the strong, capable and independent woman she is? “Is it me you want to kiss or the wife you miss?” Tormented in not knowing the true answer, Sarah runs out of the house and goes into town.

12. Sing You to Sleep
The family does not know if Sarah will return. Whether or not she does, Anna, recognizing that love must prevail and that song should no longer be repressed, in the house, begins to sing her mother’s lullaby, long kept silent on orders from her father. Listening to his daughter sing, Jacob realizes that love and song must be part of the house again. He also realizes that he loves Sarah for the unique person she is. Jacob joins Anna in singing the lullaby. Sarah, realizing that her love for Jacob and the children is too strong, returns to house, and hears the two singing the lullaby. And the family becomes one.

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