- About WCT
- How to Participate
- Special Events
- Contact Info
Book by Tom Briggs and Louis Mattioli
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by John Baiocchi
March 25 to April 10, 2011
Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography
Volunteer of the Production
Al Van Lith
By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
March 31, 2011
There is something refreshing about the old musicals. They are charmingly corny and often predictable, but always entertaining.
"State Fair" by the inimitable pair, Rodgers and Hammerstein, now playing at Waukesha Civic Theater, meets that formula.
Originally a movie starring Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews and Dick Haymes, it was converted into a musical for the stage in 1996.
The play is set on a small farm in Iowa, where the state fair is the highlight of the rural folks’ lives. The Frake family sets out for their annual weekend journey with Abel’s prize boar and Melissa’s cherished pickles and mincemeat, along with high hopes of winning their respective competitions.
Their young adult children, Margy and Wayne, have their own dreams. Both are looking beyond their present romantic situations for something different and more exciting, and both are drawn into new adventures.
The strong cast of leading characters adds strength to the production. Paul Burkard in his role as Abel, the man who loves his family and his pig, delivers a fine performance.
His wife Melissa (Patty Wilson) mirrors June Cleaver with a little spunk. Margy, as played by Brooke Studnicki, has an innocence and sincereity about her that draws us in. She also can carry off some of the lovely ballads, such as "It Might as Well Be Spring," one of the show’s most beautiful tunes, with aplomb.
Margy’s older brother Wayne (Jake Konrath) does a fine job of conveying a young man stepping into new territory with bravado and naivete. His rendition of "So Far" was especially well done.
Michela Kealey was believable as the city sophisticate and provided a sharp contrast to the plainer folk. Her accompanying Fairtones could have provided a stronger musical backdrop in her two solo numbers.
The suave journalist, Pat Gilbert, played by Ian Curtis, has a nice swagger about him. It was fun to watch him succumb to the power of a compelling attraction despite his best efforts to be invulnerable.
Though the quartet of Abel, Lem (Alex Johnson), Clay (Jon Jones), and Hank (Isaiah Reynolds) was a little off-pitch at times, their earnestness provided compensation.
The ensemble numbers were very well done, especially "It’s a Grand Night for Singing," the big production piece. I was surprised how many songs have had a life beyond the show. I enjoyed being reintroduced to them.
The scene changes were accomplished quite smoothly, and some of the choreography was a little ragged. But overall, it was a very enjoyable experience. Comments from those leaving the theater were very positive.
Kudos to Director John Baiocchi for coordinating all the facets into such a harmonious whole.
By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
March 29, 2011
Flurries were in the air outside, but inside Waukesha Civic Theatre it was the middle of summer at the Iowa State Fair.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's "State Fair" is a pleasant break from a long winter as it follows the Frake family through the fair in 1946.
Abel (Paul Burkard) is sure his hog, Blue Boy, will be the blue-ribbon winner this year. His wife Melissa (Patty Wilson) has entered her pickles and mincemeat, hoping to snatch the top prize away from the perennial favorite. Their nearly grown-up children Margy (Emily Thompson) and Wayne (Jake Konrath) have left their small town and come to the fair in the big city with eyes wide open and hearts wide open for the taking.
Margy falls for the slick reporter, Pat Gilbert (Ian Curtis), while Wayne is smitten by a nightclub singer named Emily Arden (Michela Kealey).
The youngsters leave the fair with a new perspective on love and life, but find all they were seeking once they return home.
"State Fair" does not rank among R&H's finest, but it still has some recognizable tunes, including "It Might As Well Be Spring" and "It's a Grand Night for Singing."
Burkard and Wilson set the tone for the show with their comfortable portrayal of Abel and Melissa Frake. Both seem perfectly at home - Burkard in his bib overalls in the farmyard with his stock, Wilson in her apron in the kitchen with her recipes. Their song and dance to "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" exudes ease and unabashed joy.
Thompson's portrayal of Margy is earnest and her singing sweet and lovely as she guides her character through her youthful longings for something more than the farm has to offer. Her longtime friend Harry - who hopes to become her husband now that they have graduated from high school - is played with such sincerity by Spencer Ortega you can hear the audience sighing as he tries to sell himself to Margy.
Konrath as Wayne seemed to grow into his character as the character grew through the show.
A couple of noteworthy performances included Curtis' as Pat Gilbert and Kealey's Emily Arden. Curtis is silky smooth and commands the stage in an understated way. Pat's song and dance number, "The Man I Used to Be," with Vivian (Elizabeth Novacek) and Jeanne (Becky Miller), is nicely done. The trio conveys the tune's message with a pleasant blend of sound and deft footwork.
Kealey is a natural portraying the entertainer who sees herself in the bright lights of Broadway. She is all glam with star quality as she performs in the nightclub scenes, especially in "That's the Way It Happens," which features Arden in a floor-length, slinky berry gown with silver glitter, surrounded by her backup singers, The Fairtones (Joey Ferrito, Miller, Novacek and Ortega).
A small, but fun, role was that of the cooking competition head judge, played by John Sindic, who samples a little too much of an entry with a potent secret ingredient and ends up tongue-tied as he announces the contest winners.
Though Konrath handled the role of Wayne ably, he got off to a rough start in the opening number and had a little trouble keeping pace and staying on top of notes in some of the tricky R&H tunes. A few other singers seemed to have some pitch problems, which could have been attributed to opening night jitters.
The ensemble numbers were done well and the little girls in front projected smiles and energy that traveled to the back row. In "All I Owe Ioway," a tune remindful of the "Oklahoma," Burkard attacked the lyrics with abandon and kept the number sprightly with the ensemble.
Burkard leads another cute number, "Driving at Night," as the family packs up and heads to the fair in the "vehicle" that makes its way down the theater's aisle with a spotlight on it. It was a clever way to turn attention away from the curtain being readied to open onto a bright and colorful state fair midway with crowds and barking vendors. A big neon sign even surrounded the stage. Set changes were nearly imperceptible, save for some squeaking behind the curtain during Margy's "The Next Time It Happens."
"State Fair," directed by John Baiocchi, is simply a great way to come out of the cold and into the sunshine of the '46 Iowa State Fair. Why, it might as well be spring
Al was always willing to help out in any way needed; he helped with the set, costumes, props, scene changes, raffle sales, and even presented the curtain speech! His enthusiasm never waned, and was an all-around positive influence to the cast, crew, and staff. He was a great motivator and always respectful. One cast member said "he was so generous, he even brought pizza in for everyone to share." Thank you, Al!