The Finborough Theatre has an interesting remit; half focused on new writing¹ and half on staging "forgotten classics." The current show is in the latter category: A Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that started life as a film, but only ended up on stage in the US in the 1990s and has never been staged in Europe before. With a cast of 14 - which pretinama
might be interested to know includes Siôn Lloyd, the original West End Brian in Avenue Q
- this is a pretty ambitious project for a tiny theatre but Thom Southerland's production effortlessly pulls it off. The size of the venue ends up being a plus because the songs may not be Rodgers & Hammerstein's most memorable (a lot of them were actually rejected from some of R&H's more famous musicals) but the production coasts by on charm.
The story's pretty simple; the Frake family go to the 1946 Iowa State Fair, where Abel and Melissa (Philip Rham and Susan Travers) are entering the mincemeat-making and best pig breeder contests respectively, while their children Wayne and Margy (Lloyd and Laura Main) have little romances with people they meet there. The whole cast are very good, full of energy, all sing well and the American accents are mostly decent. Kellie Arden, who I liked in Rookery Nook
is good here too as the showgirl who flirts with Wayne, and there's not really any weak links in the cast. It's also worth mentioning Sally Brooks' choreography - although there's only a few big dance sequences they're very well done, and in that size of theatre it's impressive that nobody kicks an audience member in the face, let alone perform energetic routines. It's probably fair enough that State Fair
has never become a huge show as it's rather slight, but in this pared-down production it's a really charming evening.State Fair
by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Tom Briggs and Louis Mattioli is booking until the 29th of August at the Finborough Theatre.
¹so yes, it'll be one of the theatres getting an unexpected present once my script's finished; if I'm lucky you may want to plan your route to Earl's Court.