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Come to the ‘State Fair’ at Liberty Middle School

The cast of Liberty Middle School’s production of “State Fair.”

The cast of Liberty Middle School’s production of “State Fair.”

— Featuring a cast and crew of 90, Liberty Middle School presents the classic, Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “State Fair.” Show times are Thursday-Friday-Saturday, May 3, 4 and 5, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.

“It’s about an Iowa farm family in the 1940s, and the biggest thing that happens to them every year is going to the state fair,” said Director Jody Scott. “And this time, their children find romance there.”

They’ve been rehearsing since January, and Scott says things are coming along great. “It’s a well-written script, more for high-school kids, because the characters are so well-developed, but the kids love it,” she said. “They’re having the time of their life with the 1940s colloquialisms and culture.”

Liberty is the first middle school in Fairfax County to do this show, and Scott picked it because she loves the music. The cast will wear that era’s style of clothing, including vintage hats and handbags. The sets illustrate the Frake farm, plus the fair’s dance area, vendor booths and campgrounds.

Music underscores the dialogue in some scenes to enhance the emotion, and Scott said she couldn’t have done this play without the “invaluable help” of music directors Nancy Hayes and Gary Verhagen. She also has high praise for her actors.

“It’s heartwarming for me to see the students enjoying the humor and the storyline, considering it takes place nearly 70 years ago,” said Scott. “They’ve embraced these characters and made them their own. They put so much feeling into their portrayals. There are life disappointments and humor in this show, and the subtleties the actors bring to those scenes have moved me to tears.”

She said the audience will immensely enjoy the humorous scenes and will care about all the characters on stage and root for them. And, she added, “They’ll leave happy and singing the ‘State Fair’ song.”

Seventh-grader Hridhay (Reed) Rangaraju plays Abel Frake, a farmer with two children, Wayne, 20, and Margy, 18. “Abel has a prize pig, Blue Boy, that he loves, and he bets shopkeeper Dave Miller that his pig will win the pig race at the Iowa State Fair,” said Reed. “Miller bets something bad will happen.”

Reed says Abel’s “proud, gruff on the outside, but caring inside and a person who loves his family. He’s straightforward and knows what his priorities are, but he sometimes misses obvious things about other people’s feelings. A lead role is work, but a great honor, and I enjoy working with the rest of the cast and making new friends.”

His favorite number is “More than Just a Friend,” that Abel sings about his pig. “It’s a slow, beautiful song that goes into barbershop harmony with the other farmers,” said Reed. “And I get to pour so much emotion into it.” He said the audience will like the show’s period look and gain insight into how people lived back then. Said Reed: “It’s a classic story of love, loss, betrayal and triumph.”

Playing Abel’s wife Melissa is eighth-grader Gabie Nicchitta. “She’s a smart woman, happily married, friendly and nurturing, and especially looks out for her daughter,” said Gabie. “I like the acting experience of playing a mom and being part of the family.”

She likes the song, “A Grand Night for Singing,” in which she and Reed solo, because “it’s a happy song describing everyone enjoying themselves at the state fair.” Gabie said the audience will like the play’s humor and the feeling of “parents watching their children grow up and fall in love.”

Seventh-grader Kaitlinn Thornley plays Margy. “She has a boring boyfriend, Harry, who she doesn’t love as much as he loves her,” said Kaitlinn. “She’s in her own world, dreaming about life without him. And she’s never been out in the world. She’s opposite from my real-life personality and I get to sing a lot.”

Her favorite number is “Isn’t it Kind of Fun?” which she sings with Jeremy Rathjen, playing a WWII reporter who likes Margy. “The dance in this song is romantic, fun and free,” she said. “It’s catchy and upbeat and I love the lyrics.” Kaitlinn said the audience will enjoy the romantic scenes and all the “amazing musical numbers.”

Portraying Wayne is eighth-grader Khalied Bashri. “He’s a farm boy who’s never been to the city, and he’s upset that his girlfriend is leaving him for college,” said Khalied. “I’m nice and down-to-earth like he is, so I can relate to him, and I like showing his different emotions.”

He especially likes the “I Owe Ioway” song because of its happy tune and dances. And he said the audience will like the three stories told onstage, plus the “authentic-looking” costumes.

Stage manager is eighth-grader Brendan Doyle, in charge of the tech crew – lights, sound, props and running crew (scene changers). “It’s fun being in the background, helping make the show happen,” he said. “Hardest is keeping track of the more than 100 props and what everyone else is supposed to be doing. I like running crew best; there’s an adrenaline rush moving the props onstage while being watched, knowing you have to get everything right.”