State Fair | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Rodgers and Hammerstein's only made-for-the-movies musical--a lightweight piece of Americana that was old-fashioned when it was new in 1945--has been expanded into a charming, nostalgic stage show whose pre-Broadway tour boasts an unusually high quality of performance and production. The film score, best known for "It Might as Well Be Spring," has been augmented by unfamiliar tunes from other R&H shows, including the lovely "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" (cut from Oklahoma!) and several numbers from the seldom revived Allegro, Pipe Dream, and Me and Juliet. These added songs, which range from catchy big-band numbers to folksy barbershop quartets, are worthy showpieces for a top-notch, cannily cast ensemble. The fine young singer Ben Wright and the marvelous veteran dancer Donna McKechnie are superbly suited to their roles as an inexperienced Iowa farm boy and the worldly-wise older woman he falls for; her maturity and polish contrast perfectly with his hungry innocence. Belter Andrea McArdle (the original Annie) and hoofer Scott Wise are effective as Wright's sister and the city slicker who woos her; and John Davidson shakes off his pretty-boy TV image to display stage-honed singing and clowning skills, playing Wright and McArdle's boisterous hog-farmer daddy with mischievous down-home charm. Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 902-1500. Through December 10: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $29.50-$62.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carol Rosegg.

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