Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts
will bring some of the top touring shows to Brooklyn College’s
Whitman Theater with its "Broadway Sundays" series.
This season’s BCBC series features three favorites: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "State Fair" (Nov. 17); "Crazy for You" (March 9), based on George and Ira Gershwin’s "Girl Crazy"; and "The Cotton Club" (May 18), which celebrates the legendary Harlem nightclub at its heyday.
"State Fair," with a screenplay by Oscar Hammerstein based on the 1933 adaptation of Phil Stong’s bucolic novel, and a score by Richard Rodgers is the only musical the team ever wrote exclusively for the screen.
The story line is virtually the same, but the addition of the Rodgers score made the film a hit. The 1945 film was directed by Walter Lang and featured Vivian Blaine, Dana Andrews and Dick Haymes. The 1962 film was directed by Jose Ferrer and starred Pat Boone, Bobby Darin and Ann-Margaret.
"State Fair" relates the adventures of Abel and Melissa Frake and their two children, Margy and Wayne, as they leave behind the routine of their farm for three days at the Iowa State Fair.
Each wants a different prize: a blue ribbon for Abel’s pet pig, first place for Melissa’s homemade pie, and romance for Margy and Wayne.
Set against the colorful backdrop of the American heartland, the play features foot-stomping production numbers and dreamy ballads, including the hits "It’s a Grand Night for Singing" and "It Might As Well Be Spring."
Sarah Jackson, who plays Margy in this production of "State Fair," produced by John Hodge and directed by Robert Ennis Turoff, calls the play "very all-American and very human."
"People can relate to all the characters," she told GO Brooklyn.
And the music - from foot-tapping waltzes to hoedown numbers - is just great.
"It’s classic Rodgers and Hammerstein," said Jackson.
"Crazy for You" opened at the Shubert Theatre on Feb. 19, 1992 and closed just over a year later after 1,622 performances, three Tonys (Best Musical, Best Costume Design and Best Choreography) and two Drama Desk Awards (musical and choreography).
Although the play was based on Gershwin’s 1930s musical "Girl Crazy," it had a new book, by Ken Ludwig, and a score in which songs had been rearranged, deleted, borrowed from other Gershwin musicals, and even rediscovered. The play was radically changed because, although it had many classic Gershwin tunes, such as "I Got Rhythm" and "Embraceable You", the original story - about a young man, Danny Churchill, who is banished by his father to a family owned ranch in Clusterville, Ariz., where it is hoped he will improve - was considered frivolous by all accounts today.
Ludwig, who called the original book "dumb, silly beyond silly, and full of ethnic humor that wasn’t funny at all," turned Churchill into Bobby Child, the rich son of a banking family who escapes his domineering mother and his wealthy fiance by going to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on Everett Baker’s Gaiety Theater.
In Deadrock, Bobby falls in love with Baker’s daughter, Polly. To win the girl and save the theater, Bobby, who is a frustrated performer, decides to put on a show to pay off the mortgage. The result is mistaken identity, confusion and romance - accompanied by song, dance and, of course, plenty of rhythm. Mainstage Productions’ "Crazy For You" will be performed at Brooklyn Center on March 9.
The Cotton Club, a Harlem institution in its day, was the home of such giants as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Ethel Waters. They are just three of the celebrated performers who come to life in this revue, which will be staged at Brooklyn Center on May 18. With 17 costume changes, two tap dance numbers and classics like "It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing" following one after the other, some people may have to take the A train to keep up with Supreme Talent International’s production.
Alfred Fredel, director of community outreach at the Brooklyn Center, explained that programming is based mostly on the age and ethnicity of BCBC’s audiences. "’The Cotton Club’ is African-American centered. ’Crazy for You’ is for a younger audience, because the show was just on Broadway. ’State Fair’ is an older show for older audiences. It’s a good singing show, too," he said. "We try to represent the community."
"State Fair" opens at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 17 at 2 pm. "Crazy for You" will be performed March 9 and "The Cotton Club" on May 18. Tickets are $40.
Brooklyn Center performances take place at the Whitman Theatre, located on the campus of Brooklyn College, one block from the junction of Flatbush and Nostrand avenues, in Midwood. For tickets and information, call (718) 951-4500 or visit www.brookl