'State Fair' opens at the New Castle Playhouse on July 15.
By L. CROW
The New Castle Playhouse is gearing up to present its fourth show of the 2005 season. "State Fair," a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, will open July 15. Playhouse director of musicals Michael Cavalier, of Ellwood City, says this show will appeal to the whole family, because it is just plain fun.
"'State Fair' is nostalgic, a slice of Americana after WW II," Cavalier says. "It is set in 1946, at the Iowa State Fair, the year of the first state fair in Iowa after the war. It is optimistic, happy, silly, and people will recognize many songs, such as 'It Might As Well Be Spring.' The song and dance is in a variety of styles, including tap and jazz. One song, 'Sweet Hog of Mine,' is sung by four pig farmers as a barbershop quartet. It is a love song to their pigs, and is hysterically funny."
The story centers around the Frake family. Abel wants his boar to win a blue ribbon, and his wife wants the prize for her mincemeat so badly that she spikes it with brandy (and unknowingly, so does Abel). "The Frake children, Margy and Wayne, both fall in love at the fair with people out of their element," Cavalier says. Wayne falls in love with Emily, a nightclub singer, and Margy falls in love with Pat Gilbert, a hot-shot newspaper reporter.
Pat is played by Tim Falter, of Youngstown, a member of the Actors' Equity Association, who, in 2002-03, was in the national tour of "Some Like it Hot" with Tony Curtis.
"Pat isn't too nice of a guy," Falter says. "He plays around, but starts to settle down when he meets Margy. Then he gets called off to Chicago, where he is offered the job he's always wanted with the Chicago Tribune. But there is a happy ending."
"'State Fair' is one of those sweet, old-fashioned, light-hearted, feel-good shows," Falter adds. "The children show up as kids, and grow and learn. There is a whole transition. It is a wonderful story." Falter says he particularly likes the Gene Kelly-style song and dance. His favorite song is "The Man I Used to Be."
Cavalier says the technical end of the production will be as close to original as possible. "Julia Garda is doing a re-creation of the actual Broadway choreography," he says. "Jack Hanna is building a scaled-down version of the Broadway set, and he and his wife Sindy are painting the drops. Peggy Hanna is building the costumes."
Cavalier, who also teaches senior English and performing arts at Neshannock High School in New Castle, said they had performed "State Fair" there two years ago, and were able to locate the actual Broadway costumes. "They had been sold and were sitting in a warehouse in Long Island," he said. "The costumes we are building will look as close as possible to the originals."
Cavalier offers a little background on "State Fair." "It is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that was a movie before it was a play," he said. "It wasn't until 1996 that the estate of Rodgers and Hammerstein decided it would make a great stage musical. It did a very successful pre-Broadway tour across the country for almost two years. It wasn't that successful on Broadway itself, where the audience is looking for more modern plays. It also came out at the same time as "Rent," so it ended up only playing four months. Then, it did another very successful cross-country tour for at least six months."
Cavalier has spent 25 years in the theater, and has been directing for 15.
X"State Fair" will open July 15 with a wine and cheese party that begins at 7 p.m. It runs through July 30. Evening performances begin at 8 p.m., and matinees begin at 3 p.m. The New Castle Playhouse is located at 202 East Long Ave., New Castle, Pa. For more info: (724) 654-3437. To purchase tickets online: www.TicketLeap.com.