State Fair by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Phoenix Players directed by Fran Bosly-Craftat Belconnen Community Centre till November 14, 1998.
This is a warm and fuzzy musical about family values based on making sure you marry the right person. Set in Iowa, America's mid-west corn and hog farming country, in 1946, State Fair seems to be intended to re-establish old values now that the nasty experience of World War II is over. It's problem is that it is so-o-o nice - with nothing like the guts of Oklahoma or South Pacific.
Fran Bosly-Craft, however, lets the simple story tell itself without artifice, ably assisted by Jenny Hill's sensibly contructed choreography and Sally McRae's small rhythmically precise band. The result is a "Grand Night for Singing" and indeed "It Might As Well Be Spring", though I have to admit that none of the other songs are memorable - except the "Sweet Hog of Mine" barbershop quartet (actually called More Than Just A Friend) in which Ian Davenport, Frank Farrell, Kit Collins and John Van de Graaff absolutely excel themselves in praise of pig relations.
Libby Warren and Adrian Gillmore play the young lovelorn leads Margie and Wayne very well, Warren standing out as the most accomplished actor and singer in the cast. In the end, though, the value of this production is that the feeling of community - which is a sentimental American stereotype on stage - is a reality for Phoenix Players. The strongest scenes are when the whole cast from 10 year olds to people of an age not to be recorded here are singing and dancing along together. The sense of commitment is measured by Ian Davenport - actor, production manager, set constructor and painter - who took leave from his paid work for a month to get this show on the road. And Bosly-Craft, long known around this town's theatrical traps, nowadays makes the trip in for rehearsals, she tells me, "from the other side of Goulburn".
You last saw State Fair in 1962 as a film with Pat Boone. I missed it then, but like me you can catch the Australian premiere of the stage version at Belconnen Community Centre and enjoy a pleasant light spring entertainment from Phoenix Players.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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