by VICTORIA HENLEY
Nestled within the peaceful, rolling hills of the indescribably serene and beautiful Amish Country, The Ohio Star Theater is the crown jewel of the Dutch Valley Campus, producing world-class, grand scale, Broadway-style theatrical productions, which are widely acclaimed by both audiences and critics alike.
The 500-seat theater, which was opened in 2017, produces a wide array of musicals and shows throughout the season, spanning a vast assortment of themes and genres, as well as a wildly impressive roster of top-billing touring acts, including the likes of Jimmy Fortune, The Collinsworth Family, The Sound, The Isaacs and Point of Grace.
Placing a heavy emphasis upon offering fine quality live theatrical entertainment experiences, The Ohio Star Theater has established a solid reputation as one of the premium professional live theater companies in the area.
Backstage Pass on IHeart Radio/CTFashionMag was afforded the exclusive opportunity to attend and spotlight the critically acclaimed, inimitably original, and heartbreakingly poignant musical production of “Josiah for President,” an intelligent and cleverly written work that asks, “Can plain truth prevail over politics?”
The musical centers around burnt out former congressman, Mark Stedman, who finds himself drained and uninspired after becoming unwittingly embroiled in a ludicrous scandal caused by baseless rumors from the opposing side. Fearing his reputation, career, and most importantly, his family life may lie in jeopardy, Stedman wrestles with voices inside his head that whisper he may not be ready to run for president, despite ardent and relentless pressure from his campaign managers and advisors. The discouraged would-be presidential candidate finds himself stranded in the middle of Amish Country after his GPS directs him down a “scenic” (albeit inaccurate) route, where he stumbles across the farm and home place of Josiah Stoltzfus, a kind, amicable, and simple, yet wise, farmer from Pennsylvania. Josiah and his wife, Elizabeth, invite the world-weary politician to stay for dinner, where the three bond over sharing family stories and meaningful conversation.
Stedman, who feels edified, uplifted, and deeply, profoundly inspired after the brief time he spent with the Stoltzfuss, expresses to his beloved wife that he is chagrined to return to his life as a career politician. Still seething at his opponent for the unsavory and malicious rumors spread about him earlier in the campaign, former congressman Stedman, in a heated moment, goes on the record with one of the nation’s top news anchors of prime time television, announcing his withdrawal from the race of presidential hopefuls and that he would be appointing someone to run in his place.
When prompted with the reasonable question of, “Who?” Stedman simply and trepidatiously responds, “Josiah.”
Hilarity, chaos, and some extremely poignant, thought-provoking moments ensue as the politico and the Amish farmer relentlessly argue in regards to this, now increasingly tumultuous, political race: Stedman insists that Josiah accept his nomination of candidacy-albeit made against Josiah’s will, and the Amish man fears what will happen if he leaves his peaceful, simple life behind in favor of the brutal, dark, and often seedy world of American politics.
Ultimately, Josiah feels he has been divinely and spiritually inspired to join this political race, and following a series of telling and spirited debates, the world falls in love with Josiah’s humility, simplicity, quiet dignity, and unadulterated wisdom.
Will Josiah’s campaign based on plain, unfiltered truth triumph over political pollution? Will his opponents obliterate his chances with more lies and slander? Can Josiah and Elizabeth survive the cutthroat world of Washington DC, and if so, will the world be ready for their message?
Powerful, haunting, and deeply moving, “Josiah for President” is an exceptionally well-written, beautifully acted, and superbly produced stage musical that encourages audiences to think more critically about everything they believe they know about politics today as well as the unjust stereotypes surrounding certain cultures.
The cast, all exhibiting unparalleled emotional and vocal range, were each chosen perfectly for their respective roles, including one of the many stand out principal leads, Connor Murphy-White, as the wife of the protagonist. Murphy-White stated that the role of Elizabeth Stoltzfus (who revealed during the first act of the musical that she had lost her teenage daughter due to a careless driver who hit their buggy while speeding through Amish Country) was, by far, the most difficult she played, as well as the most vocally, physically, and emotionally demanding role she has portrayed throughout the duration of her career. She prepared for the part by speaking with several Amish friends, studying about the five stages of grief, and reading about the behaviors of grieving people who have suffered prolific loss, allowing her to fully embody the character and encapsulate all the emotions her character entails.
Written by acclaimed author and playwright, Martha Bolton (who has over 40 books in her repertoire and served as a staff writer for Bob Hope, also working closely and collaborating with artists such as Mark Lowery, Jeff Allen, and Phyllis Diller), “Josiah for President” has garnered nationwide acclaim by critics, media outlets, and audiences alike.
Special thanks to the wonderful Steve Schneiter for facilitating our visit for this spotlight feature!
PHONE NUMBER: (855) 344-7547
CARLISLE INN (AT SUGARCREEK)
The premiere lodging destination of Amish Country, The Carlisle Inn at Sugarcreek is conveniently stationed as a focal point of the Dutch Valley Campus, featuring stately architecture, expansive rooms and an aesthetic that is, at once, luxurious and chic, yet homey and comfortable.
Droves of guests from around the world choose The Carlisle Inn as their accommodation of choice while in town to enjoy the rolling hills, breathtaking natural landscape, and pure, unadulterated beauty of Amish Country, and just one visit to this exquisite hotel make clear why it is so well reviewed by guests.
Upon entry, patrons are greeted by the sight of a striking grand staircase as well as a library and relaxation abode, where guests can unwind with a cup of coffee or tea and their favorite book in hand. The upper level features a grand piano, a full breakfast area (that features an included continental breakfast each morning, with a vast line up of homemade traditional fare), fresh coffee and hot chocolate machines (available 24 hours). A business center is also available for any guests’ work demands that should arise throughout the duration of their stay.
The Carlisle Inn also boasts a heated indoor pool, enclosed within a gorgeously designed enclosure that enables guests to savor the unmatched beauty of the Amish Country’s natural landscape as well as a relaxing hot tub. This impressive hotel also features a fitness center as well as the opportunity for guests to add massage services to their stay package.
The rooms, which feature exceedingly comfortable, handcrafted beds, exceptionally well designed, posh furnishings, a flat screen TV, and all the amenities you would want and expect from a high caliber hotel, are created to ensure that guests have the most comfortable and relaxing stay possible.
Guests are also afforded the exclusive opportunity to take a horse and carriage ride, led by a beautiful steed named, “Bob” who has quickly become a principal player in the Dutch Valley community and provides a fun, safe, and smooth authentic Amish Carriage ride.
PHONE NUMBER: 855-411-2275
DUTCH VALLEY RESTAURANT
Also conveniently located on the elegant Dutch Valley Campus, Dutch Valley Restaurant serves up a delightful array of freshly made, traditional Amish Classics and stick-to-your-ribs down home cooking unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the rolling hills of Amish Country. Featuring country chic interior decor and made from scratch Amish cuisine, available buffet style or “a la carte” from the menu, Dutch Valley Restaurant is guaranteed serve up something that will whet the appetite of everyone in your group.
Typically, The Carlisle Inn at Sugarcreek offers a complimentary continental breakfast buffet with each guest’s stay, on site at the property; however, the breakfast area was undergoing some renovations during our visit; therefore, we were sent to the delightful breakfast buffet at this acclaimed local treasure of a restaurant. The menu included a scrumptious assortment of eggs, applewood smoked bacon, and fresh pastries, as well as varieties of fresh fruits, yogurts, and granola to get your day started off on the sunny side. Milk and varieties of juice and coffee are available with each breakfast buffet.
The legendary dinner buffet provides one of the most impressive dining experiences you’ll have in Amish Country, highlighting a diverse spread of freshly cooked vegetables, savory grilled and fried meats, a full salad bar-complete with a staggering line up of traditional toppings and desserts, sure to satiate you and curb every possible craving your heart desires, before you take in an evening show at the Ohio Star Theater.
PHONE NUMBER: (330) 852-4627
*NOTE: while visiting Amish Country, please be extremely respectful of the Amish people and their culture, which includes slowing down and giving space to their horses and carriages on the roads and refraining from taking photos of their faces, as this is considered inappropriate and disrespectful. Vehicles crashing into Amish carriages causes a staggering amount of death and irreparable injury to Amish people every year; therefore, as visitors, we must take responsibility to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Amish Country belongs to the Amish, and we are thankful to visit and peacefully savor the beauty of their simple, beautiful, way of lif
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