Plain and Fancy is a Broadway musical with a book by Joseph Stein and Will Glickman, music by Albert Hague, and lyrics by Arnold Horwitt. It is an original musical, not adapted from a novel, play, or any other literary source. The original Broadway production opened at the Mark Hellinger Theater, New York, on January 27, 1955, and played 461 performances. Richard Derr, Shirl Conway, David Daniels, Gloria Marlowe, and Barbara Cook led the original cast.
The plot brings a pair of New York sophisticates, Dan and Ruth, into the Amish country of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to settle a piece of property owned by Dan's family. While there, they become involved with the local villagers, including an Amish girl who wants to marry a young man her own age despite the fact that her father hopes to marry her off to a much older farmer, and an even younger Amish girl who falls into puppy love with Dan. Her attentions, however, only serve to clarify to Dan how much he really likes Ruth, and all eventually ends happily.
The Hague/Horwitt score is a first-rate example of a post-Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway theater score, using music and lyrics to set atmosphere, reveal character, make social comment, and advance the plot, as well as to provide (it would be hoped) a pop hit song or two. Very much in the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein manner, these songs establish the rural charm of the Amish lifestyle and provide a brawny communal barn-raising song for the villagers, an exuberant recurring "Pennsylvania" theme, a lilting waltz, sophisticated and rustic comedy songs, and a pair of made-for-the-Top-Forty ballads for the young lovers. Principal songs include "You Can't Miss It," "It Wonders Me," "Plain We Live," "This Is All Very New To Me," "Plenty of Pennsylvania," "Why Not Katie?", "Young and Foolish," "By Lantern Light," "The Shunning," "I'll Show Him," "Follow Your Heart," "City Mouse, Country Mouse," "Take Your Time and take Your Pick."
Although it was one of the first depictions of an Amish community in American pop culture, the show's attitude toward the religious community is less sentimental and more ambiguous than in such 1980s treatments as the Peter Weir film Witness or the TV series Apple's Way. Plain and Fancy captures all of Lancaster County's quaint charm, but it also does not shrink from depicting the drawbacks of rigidly enforced communal conformity, such as the punishment of shunning for too much independent thinking or disobedience to parents. Broadway audiences of the 1950s--the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch hunts" for Communists in the U.S. State Department and elsewhere--would not have missed the point of the show's "shunning" number. And yet Plain and Fancy remains a delightful entertainment, light-hearted and very funny throughout.