Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The Best of Me
Dutchman Hospitality Group / Blue Gate Musicals
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Caroline Clay, Carry Greenberg
and Tim Clayton

Photo Courtesy of Carlisle Inn
There is a new theatrical venue in Sarasota, at the brand spanking new Carlisle Inn in the Pinecraft section of Sarasota. Pinecraft is the home of a large community of Amish and Mennonite people and is the destination during winter months of many more as a reprieve from the cold at their homes up North.

Dutchman Hospitality Group has joined forces with Blue Gate Musicals, an organization that is "leading the way in its creation of a unique genre of musicals set in Amish country America." The Best of Me is a new romantic musical about an Amish girl's journey toward love and happiness.

Rachel lacks the skills that most young Amish girls have, notably cooking. This propels her to New York to become an actress, another skill she has not mastered. But it all comes together as she finds her true mission, a happy ending.

Blue Gate Musicals clearly knows its audiences and what they want. With partners they present their shows, currently numbering 12 titles, at locations including Blue Gate Theatre, Shipshewana, Indiana, Bird in Hand Stage, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Ohio Star Theater, Sugarcreek, Ohio, and now Sarasota. The Best of Me, by composer Wally Nason and bookwriters Wally Nason and Martha Bolton, is not going to have crossover appeal. Still, something must be right about this musical that doesn't ring for me, because a second company opens in the Blue Gate Theatre February 20 and runs through most of July, and at another of the theaters in the Fall.

The cast, Caroline Clay as Rachel, Tim Clayton as Brock, and Carry Greenberg as Sophie Martinez and Patrice, are all fresh-scrubbed and youthful with pleasant singing voices. They are done in a little by material that is not first rate and directing/choreography by Mr. Nason that doesn't pull their best possible performances. It calls to mind Yiddish theatre of the 1920s-1950s: what it lacked in finesse was made up in specific appeal to the Jewish community.

Because the presentation is being done in a conference space, lighting and some stagecraft is not everything it might be in one of the other theaters, but the uncredited costumes are excellent.

Here is wishing success to this production and future ones elsewhere.

Blue Gate Musicals and The Carlisle Inn's The Best of Me runs through March 29, 2021, at Carlisle Inn, 3727 Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota FL. Visit for play reservations and more information.