"State Fair," a new stage adaptation of the schmaltzy 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical movie, has its heart in exactly the right place.
A few other vital parts need to be relocated, easy enough to accomplish, and this old-fashioned, good-timing musical about love amongst the hogs and pickles and mincemeat of Iowa is ready to join the retro rage on Broadway: the Gershwins' "Crazy for You," and Frank Loesser's "Guys and Dolls" and "The Most Happy Fella."From Winston-Salem, where it is being produced by the N.C. School of the Arts Broadway Preview Series - which launched Neil Simon's two current Broadway shows - "State Fair" goes to Long Beach Civic Light Opera. From there, Broadway?
"State Fair" has all the right elements: It is a big, gorgeous musical with an insubstantial but pleasant plot, lusciously orchestrated, lovingly sung, energetically danced and decently acted. And it reveals a jazzy, big-band side to Rodgers & Hammerstein.
The plot, based on the 1932 Phil Stong novel, the 1933 nonmusical film, the 1945 musical and the 1962 remake, is love.
An Iowa family goes to the fair. Mom and Dad are already in love, but get to win contests. Son thinks he's in love with a nightclub singer, but she dumps him and he realizes he should settle for the girl next door. Daughter, however, gets to do the dumping, of the boy next door, and snares a reporter covering the fair.
Book writers Tom Briggs and Louis Mattioli leave out or squeeze several of the better subplots from the '45 movie: The pigs falling in love; the reporter's cantankerous relationship with his editor; the songwriter looking to sell songs.
They add or expand a couple of twists: Daughter's hometown boyfriend shows up; lovers meet at a magic show; and a cop's 12-year-old daughter falls for Son (and says so a time or two too often).
Not satisfied with the '45 movie's six songs (and numerous reprises), Briggs and Mattioli added 10 other R & H songs, two from the '62 movie, two deletions from "Oklahoma!" and the rest culled from more obscure musicals, plays and movies.
The result, at 2 hours and 40 minutes (a full hour longer than the '45 movie), is not overly long. But it is out-of-balance. With two exceptions, all the best songs are in Act 1. And almost all of the plot is crammed into the first act, leaving Act 2 flaccid.
Visually, the show is ready. James Joy's old-fashioned drop-sets, especially of the midway, are fabulous. Michael Bottari and Ronald Case's costumes are a swirl of overalls, bowling shirts, plaid suit jackets (men), swirling skirts, fluffy petticoats and ruffled underpants (women).
And do we ever see those undergarments, thanks to the plentiful and energetic choreography by director Randy Skinner. The movie is almost completely without dancing, a shortcoming Skinner rectifies with tap numbers, jitterbugging and one all-out production number.