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Blue-Ribbon Talent Brings ‘State Fair’ to Hill Country Community Theatre Stage

The cast of the Hill Country Community Theatre’s production of ‘State Fair’ includes Abigail Storm (left), Tristan Johnson, Lew Cohn, Jennifer Brust, and Jordan Jones. The musical runs Thursday-Sunday, July 19-Aug. 5. Courtesy photo

COTTONWOOD SHORES — As director Les Young leads the rehearsals of “State Fair,” the Hill Country Community Theatre’s summer musical, he knows audiences are in for a treat from the production’s talented cast.

“We’ve never had trouble casting a show,” he said. “(Other community theaters) don’t have that type of talent pool. When people come out for auditions, there’s usually 30-people-plus.”

The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic runs July 19-Aug. 5 at the theater, 4003 RR 2147. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 2:15 p.m. Sundays.

The musical stars Lew Cohn as Abel Frake, Christine Ashbaugh as Melissa Frake, Abigail Storm as Margy Frake, Jordan Jones as Wayne Frake, Jennifer Brust as Emily Arden, and Tristan Johnson as Pat Gilbert.

Members of the Frake family are all hoping for something special at the Iowa State Fair. Parents Melissa and Abel are each trying to win blue ribbons — for mincemeat and boar, respectively — while children Wayne and Margy are searching for love.

“This stage production is real entertainment,” Young said. “It’s rural America getting together once a year. There’s love and humor and lots of songs.”

While this is Young’s third Hill Country Community Theatre production, it’s the first he has directed. Past productions have had him providing the music as a pianist and a member of the orchestra.

What drew him to “State Fair” was the opportunity to direct a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. For all the talented duo’s success on stage, “State Fair” is their only musical written for the big screen (1945) and features an Academy Award-winning score. Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the screenplay and lyrics, while Richard Rodgers created the music.

“State Fair” is based on a novel by Phil Stong and was originally adapted for film in 1933 starring Will Rogers.

When audiences hear the names Rodgers and Hammerstein, they immediately know what they’re in for, Young said.

“They know (there will) be a consistent quality,” he said, “quality of production.”

That’s why Young and the cast have worked hard to make sure this production lives up to that quality. Neither he nor the cast mind working constantly on the same scene until they’re all happy, the director added.

“We work until we get it right,” he said. “The cast, they match up together well.”

Young noted the local theater also draws incredible musicians.

“It’s everything you want,” he said. “It makes it fun for me.”

The orchestra includes trumpeters Bear Schwartz and Bo Boshears, trombonist David Langford, violinist Graham Avery, cellist Mary Jane Avery, french horn player Bern Myers, flutist Pat Myers, bassoonist Marsha Spinner, clarinetist Wanda Christian, oboe player Sydney Kelley, bassist Al Williams, and Young on piano.

This musical also gives Young the chance to once again work with choreographer Kristi Stere.

“She’s doing a wonderful job,” Young said. “In five minutes, she has them dancing.”

He noted that he wakes in the middle of the night with ideas on how to make the show better and implements them at the next rehearsal.

“Once you get to opening night, you know you’ve done your best,” he said. “I work them really hard up to opening night. They’re proud and happy because they know it’s a good show.”

Admission for “State Fair” is $25 for adults and $12 for students with valid identification. Tickets go on sale Thursday, July 12. Call the box office at (830) 798-8944 or got to thehcct.org.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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