An all-American musical comedy packed with glorious songs, dance and summer fun, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘State Fair’ plays at the Fallon House stage June 17 through Aug. 7.
Set in 1946 Iowa, State Fair is filled with simple pleasures and country charm. It celebrates the hardworking Frake family as they head for a summer weekend at the Iowa State Fair. They are ready to leave the farm and escape for a few days into the excitement and magic of the fair, where they can kick up their heels, compete for prizes, and maybe fall in love.
Originally written by Broadway masters Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein as an Oscar-winning movie musical, State Fair wasn’t adapted and expanded for the stage until 50 years later. It was quickly embraced by audiences across the country. Reviewers have called it “smart, sharp and refreshing,” “exuberant and romantic” and “warm, outgoing and unapologetically old-fashioned.”
SRT audiences loved the show when it opened the season in 2000. It was SRT Artistic Director Scott Viet’s first show at SRT (he choreographed), and now 16 years later, he’s directing and choreographing.
“This is a perfect family show for summertime at the Fallon House,” Viets said. “It’s a lesser known Rodgers and Hammerstein show that’s really a hidden gem. It’s a treat to bring our audiences a classic that they get to discover. It’s got some really beautiful songs, a lot of great production numbers, and it’s all about simple joys – taking pride in your home, your work, your land. These are traditions of the American heartland, and as hip as everyone tries to be, as fast-paced and electric, there are still these elements that appeal to us.”
While the show’s story is designed to be simple and old fashioned, it’s also packed with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s trademark touches – authentic characters, humor and romance, big dance numbers and of course a lush, wide-ranging score. The show has a mix of musical styles, with well-known favorites including “It Might As Well Be Spring,” “All I Owe Ioway,” “A Grand Night for Singing” and the title song.
A talented cast is on board to bring it all to life. Bay Area stage veteran Gary S. Martinez and Modesto’s Shelly Bort play the parents, Abel and Melissa Frake, both dead serious about bringing home blue ribbons for their champion hog and homemade mincemeat. Meanwhile, their two children are eager for some fun and excitement on the midway. Taylor Simmons, who played Rolf in 2014’s Sound of Music, is Wayne, who quickly falls head-over-heels for the beautiful singer Emily Arden (New York actress Melissa Wolfklain), while his older sister Margy (Hallie Brevetti, also from New York) finds herself attracted to Pat, a big city reporter with a sharp wit and worldly air. Sacramento artist Jerry Lee, who delighted SRT audiences as Adolpho in last season’s The Drowsy Chaperone, is back to play the role, and will showcase a whole new side of his talents as the show’s sophisticated song-and-dance man.
Rounding out the cast are ensemble members ranging in age from seven to 70, who fill a variety of roles from farm neighbors and fair goers to carnival barkers, fortune tellers and fair performers.
Sara Jones, SRT’s Managing Director, appeared as a farm wife in the 2000 production and has fond memories of the show.
“The music is just sensational,” Jones said. “The show just brings alive the romance of summer and the excitement of the fair … I’m so excited to share this great show with SRT audiences.”
SRT Musical Director Mark Seiver is working with Viets to create State Fair’s variety of musical numbers, which shift swiftly from big production numbers to beautiful romantic duets to soft shoe. Set design is by SRT favorite Noble Dinse, who is creating a beautiful 1940s atmosphere in the show’s many settings, from the Frake’s farm to the colorful midway to the livestock barns and dancehall stage. Also on the production team are co-choreographer Emily Gatesman, lighting designer Peter Leibold, costume designer Rebecca Meredith, props master Matt Sweetland, stage manager Joanna Hobbs and assistant stage manager Becky Saunders.
State Fair opens Friday, June 17 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 7, with performances Wednesdays, Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Thursdays at either 2 or 7 p.m. Sierra Rep will offer free cotton candy opening weekend (while supplies last). A special “talk back” performance is Thursday, June 30. Audience members are also invited to show their State Fair tickets to receive $1 off admission to the Mother Lode Fair in July.
Tickets range from $32 to $37, with senior, student and child discounts available. For tickets and information, visit www.sierrarep.org or call the Box Office at 209-532-5120.