State Fair (musical)

For other uses, see State Fair (disambiguation).
State Fair

Original Broadway poster (1996)
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II
Book Tom Briggs
Louis Mattioli
Basis Phil Stong's book State Fair
and the 1945 Film
Productions 1996 Broadway

State Fair is a musical with a book by Tom Briggs and Louis Mattioli, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and music by Richard Rodgers.

Rodgers and Hammerstein originally adapted the Phil Stong novel of the same name for a 1945 movie musical, which was remade in 1962. The stage production closely follows the plot of its predecessors, providing a glimpse into the life of the farming Frake family and their three-day adventure at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines in 1946. While parents Abel and Melissa are hoping to win a few blue ribbons, siblings Margy and Wayne are more interested in finding romance on the midway.

Production history

In 1969, The Muny in St. Louis presented the world stage premiere of State Fair starring Ozzie and Harriet Nelson with Ron Husmann, Jerry Lanning, Bonnie Schon, Carol Richards, Tom Pedi, Tommy Tune and Lawrence Leritz (stage debut) in the children's chorus. The production was directed by James Hammerstein, supervised by Richard Rodgers and also choreographed by Tommy Tune. Additional songs included in this production were three from "Me & Juliet"; "It's Me!", "Keep It Gay" and "Marriage Type Love" and a new one, "Away From Home."

In 1992 a new stage adaptation, by Tom Briggs and Louis Mattioli, was produced as part of the Broadway Preview Series at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and was directed and choreographed by Randy Skinner. The show played at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem from July 17 – August 16, 1992.[1] From North Carolina, the show moved to Long Beach Civic Light Opera in October 1992.[2] A re-staging of the 1992 version received a lengthy national tour, opening at the 1995 Iowa State Fair at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines on August 12.[3][4]

The Broadway production, co-directed by James Hammerstein (Oscar's son) and Randy Skinner and choreographed by Skinner opened on March 27, 1996 at the Music Box Theatre, where it ran for 110 performances and eight previews. It was the final show produced by the legendary David Merrick. The cast included, as the Frake family John Davidson as Abel, Kathryn Crosby as Melissa, Andrea McArdle as Margy, and Ben Wright as Wayne, with Donna McKechnie (Emily) and Scott Wise (Pat) as the love interests. Susan Egan took over the role of Margy part way through the run when McArdle broke her ankle in June 1996.[5][6] The set design was by James Leonard Joy, the costume design by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, and the lighting design was by Natasha Katz. The production received 1996 Tony Award nominations for Best Score and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Scott Wise. It also received three Drama Desk nominations for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Scott Wise and Ben Wright and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Donna McKechnie.

On August 3, 2010, the Finborough Theatre production opened at London's Trafalgar Studios 2, starring Philip Rham, Karl Clarkson, Laura Main and Susan Travers. The show opened to generally positive reviews with The Guardian quoting "It's a great night out, and as exhilarating as a hoedown". Due to demand the run was extended two weeks to September 11, 2010.


The Frake family of Iowa make plans to attend the State Fair in late summer 1946. Father Abel Frake has hopes that his boar will win a prize; his wife Melissa is entering her mincemeat. Daughter Margy is upset with her beau's (Harry) plans for their life together ("It Might as Well Be Spring"). The family heads for the fair ("Driving at Night/Our State Fair"), where son Wayne meets Emily Arden, a singer, and falls instantly in love ("That's for Me"). Meanwhile, Melissa's mincemeat has won a Blue Ribbon. Margy meets Pat, a reporter, and a mutual romantic attraction develops.

On the last day of the fair, Abel's boar wins the Blue Ribbon, Emily breaks off the growing relationship with Wayne, and Pat must leave for a new job. Back home, Wayne returns to his old girlfriend Eleanor. Pat arrives unexpectedly and asks Margy to marry him. Margy accepts.

Musical numbers

Act I
  • Opening – Abel Frake, Melissa Frake and Wayne Frake
  • It Might as Well Be Spring * – Margy Frake
  • Driving at Night/Our State Fair * – Abel Frake, Melissa Frake, Wayne Frake, Margy Frake and Company
  • That's for Me *-- Wayne Frake
  • More Than Just a Friend *-- Abel Frake, Hank Munson, Lem, and Clay
  • Isn't It Kinda Fun? *-- Pat Gilbert and Margy Frake
  • Isn't It Kinda Fun? * (Reprise) – Margy Frake
  • You Never Had It So Good (cut from Me and Juliet) – Emily Arden and Fairtones
  • It Might as Well Be Spring (Reprise) – Margy Frake
  • When I Go Out Walking With My Baby (cut from Oklahoma!) – Abel Frake and Melissa Frake
  • So Far (from Allegro) – Wayne Frake and Emily Arden
  • It's a Grand Night for Singing * – Company

Act II
  • Man I Used to Be (from Pipe Dream) – Pat Gilbert, Vivian, and Jeanne
  • All I Owe Ioway * – Abel Frake and Company
  • Man I Used to Be (Reprise) – Pat Gilbert
  • That's the Way It Happens (from Me and Juliet)-- Emily Arden and Fairtones
  • Boys and Girls Like You and Me (cut from Oklahoma![4] and included in some productions of Cinderella, though not the original) – Abel Frake and Melissa Frake
  • Next Time It Happens (from Pipe Dream) – Margy Frake
  • Finale Ultimo – Company

Notes on the music

The six songs from the original 1945 film score were supplemented by others that were either featured in, or cut from, other Rodgers and Hammerstein shows. One, "More Than Just a Friend," was written by Rodgers for the 1962 film remake after Hammerstein's death. "Driving at Night" was created by co-director James Hammerstein and the production's orchestrator, Bruce Pomahac, with music from a song that had been cut from Allegro entitled "Two Short Years".[7][4]

The starred songs (above) were in the original 1945 or 1962 films.


The 1996 Original Broadway Cast recording is on DRG Records 94765 (CD/CS).

Award nominations


  1. Playbill Front Cover for STATE FAIR at The Stevens Center at The North Carolina School of the Arts, July 17 – August 16 1992.
  2. "Gorgeous, Schmaltzy 'State Fair' Is So Good, Broadway May Want It" Deseret News, Salt Lake City, August 22, 1992
  3. Hurley, Joseph. Variety, "Legit: Broadway & The Road", October 9, 1995 – October 15, 1995
  4. 1 2 3 "Rodgers and Hammerstein listing, History", accessed May 17, 2013
  5. Viagas, Robert. "John Davidson To Star in 'State Fair' Tour", March 14, 1997
  6. "Susan Egan credits, Broadway"
  7. New York Times, Vincent Canby, March 28, 1996
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