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Review: McKeesport Little Theater's 'Amish Burlesque' raises many laughs

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The community theater debut of “Amish Burlesque” hits the mark, offering everything expected from burlesque — jokes, mockery, caricatures, parody — in a variety-show format.

The four-person cast in McKeesport Little Theater's production of Brian Edwards' musical comedy — which he directed — does an excellent job keeping the audience laughing.

For those not familiar with “Amish Burlesque,” which ran for six weeks at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's Cabaret Theater, it's a show within a show. Jebadiah serves as the emcee for the burlesque, which stars Goody Plenty & the Amlets. As the title suggests, they are Amish, so showing a little ankle is pretty risque. But they loosen up as the show progresses.

The music should be familiar, but the lyrics will be new. Edwards uses pop and Broadway tunes and changes the words. Songs like Nancy Sinatra's “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” becomes “We Weren't Made for Mockin',” Sonny and Cher's “I Got You Babe” is “I Got Thou Spouse” and “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music” is converted to “Send in the Cows.”

The cast is wonderful, each a star in his/her own right. As Jebadiah, Andy Coleman does a great job at keeping the show moving and takes part in numbers like “Farm Noir,” a throwback to Mickey Spillane-era private eyes, and goes solo a few times with songs like “Time for the Harvest.” Between acts, he delivers some great one-liners.

Goody Plenty & the Amlets are played by Katelyn Nee as Goody Plenty, Mandie Russak as Apple Betty and Kimberley Janosko as Jezebel Jones. They start out very stoic with “I Feel Humble,” but gradually throw caution to the wind. As Goody Plenty, Nee does her best to be the stabilizing factor of the threesome, but even she has her moments of levity.

Russak and Janosko are the scene-stealers, thanks, in part, to their exaggerated expressions. Russak brings a youthful innocence to Apple Betty, while Janosko injects a bit of wildness to Jezebel Jones — you never know what she'll do next.

When it comes to a creative use of props, “Take the Horse to Intercourse” is excellent. To create the wheels of the buggy, black umbrellas are twirled to give the effect of moving down the road. Given the title — it's an actual town in Lancaster County in the heart of Amish country — there are a lot of innuendos.

For one segment, “Ye Olde Dating Game,” a male audience member is selected to take part in a “Dating Game” scene. Fortunately, there is no pressure to bow out of the invitation. If asked and you choose to accept, be ready for some funny and over-the-top responses to the questions.

If you're looking for a lighthearted, fun way to spend a couple of hours, “Amish Burlesque” should rate well above average on your laugh scale. This is a show worth seeing — and not just because it's a first for community theater.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or cfrazier@tribweb.com.

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