In Brian Edward's Amish Burlesque — billed as "the cleanest dirtiest show in town" — four Amish folks put on the naughtiest show they can imagine.
The current offering at McKeesport Little Theatre is set in Jebadiah's barn, located somewhere in the farmlands of central Pennsylvania. The 2006 comedy features parodies of Broadway classics including Chicago and West Side Story, and songs written in a Weird Al Yankovic style (i.e., familiar tunes set with new lyrics by Edward) with an "Amish" twist. For example, ABBA's "Dancing Queen" becomes "Harvest Queen," and the B-52's "Love Shack" is transformed into "Hog Shack."
Edward also serves as director and has assembled an excellent cast.
Andy Coleman plays Jebadiah, the emcee. Katelyn Nee portrays Goody Plenty, Mandie Russak is Apple Betty, and Kimberly Janosko is cast as Jezebel Jones. All four move well and nail all the jokes (even the bad ones). Also, they sing beautifully — so brava to music director Lisa Harrier!
Even in this high-energy, talented cast, Janosko stands out. With her facial expressions and perfect comedic timing, she wrings every drop of humor out of her role.
Individual scenes and musical numbers are well paced. Sometimes, though, there are long pauses between scenes, and that hurts the momentum the cast has built. After one such lull in the action, the cast is forced back to square one to re-build the energy.
The set (also by Edward) is non-descript. Had the narrator not told us it was a barn, the show could be taking place almost anywhere. However, the lighting, by George Schlict and Dylan Baker, is some of the best I've ever seen at McKeesport in years.
Edward has created a unique — and often funny — evening of theater. However, the bad puns, the "daring" glimpses of ankles and the "quilt humor" are not deep enough to sustain a show of more than two hours in length. Edward should consider gleaning the best of the show and paring it down to a tight and seamless 60-75 minutes without an intermission.
Definitely on the "keep" list should be the "Ye Olde Dating Game" scene (which features audience participation) and the musical number "Send in the Cows."