Los Angeles Theater Review: STATE FAIR (Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre in Glendale)

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by Tony Frankel on May 11, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles


Corny? Completely! Simple and sentimental? Sure! Did I love it? You betcha! Rarely performed since its Broadway outing in 1996, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s frolicking farmyard musical will have you believing that happiness is just a thing called prize pig and perfect pickle (“She knows her way around a cucumber” is now and forever one of my favorite musical comedy lines—regardless of its possibly unintentional double entendre). Originally written as a movie in 1945, State Fair follows the Frake family’s three-day visit to the Iowa state fair post WWII; hearts and rosettes are lost and then won for the white-bread brood: mom Melissa (flustered Carol Kline), dad Abel (matter-of-fact James Gleason), son Wayne (cuter-by-the-year Will Collyer), and daughter Margy (dynamic Kelley Dorney), who sings the only Academy Award-winning song for R&H: “It Might As Well Be Spring.” It’s the nuclear family fueled by corn: as deep as apple pie, and just as tasty.

Even with a pared-down, unevenly-miked orchestra, Musical Theatre Guild’s one-night staged concert performance was a jelly bean jar of joy, aided by Daniel Smith’s well-paced direction and whoop-dee-doo choreography. The show’s mindset is community-mindedness mixed with love and the various aches that go with it as Wayne and Margy meet new romances but are none too sure whether they’ll be around after the ball is over. It’s because of a perfect cast (including some exuberant dancers) that the soppy plot sizzles like steaks on the grill (although Tom Briggs and Louis Mattioli’s libretto vastly improves Hammerstein’s screenplay).

Zachary Ford sounds great, looks great (and by gosh I wouldn’t be surprise if he tasted great) as Pat, Margy’s ne’er-do-well fling, a budding journalist who grows a heart of gold; spitfire Katie DeShan does her best Betty Hutton as a swingin’ entertainer, Emily Arden, who steals Wayne’s heart; and Matthew Patrick Davis, a tall-drink-of-water—cool and refreshing—plays the man who wants to marry Margy. Gabriel Kalomas, Steve Limones, Nick Tubbs and Thomas W. Ashworth play a sort of Iowan Greek Chorus, singing in wonderful Barbershop harmony “More Than Just a Friend,” which is about Abel’s horny hog, Blue Boy.

This enjoyably down-to-earth musical romance may be a fanciful archetype of the Midwest, but it has some terrific tunes—many of them trunk songs from their other musicals. And watching the first-act finale, “It’s a Grand Night for Singing,” and the second-act rouser, “All I Owe Ioway,” I could say that I was happier than a prize-winning pig in shit.

photos by Alan Weston

State Fair
Musical Theatre Guild
Alex Theatre, 216 Brand Blvd. in Glendale
played Sunday, May 7, 2017
for future tickets, call 818.243.2539 or visit MTG

{ 1 comment }

Carol Kline May 12, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Thank you for your terrific review. We had so much fun doing this show; it is like a tonic for the times. Bless you!

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