SUMMER VALLEY FAIR
July 20, 2015
What a quirky, coming of age journey “Summer Valley Fair” proves to be. The musical evolved from the mind of the young artist Dylan Frederick who not only wrote the book, music, and lyrics, but also stars as the lead role of The Girl.
With pop artist Robyn’s “Hang With Me” playing in the background, sleepover girl talk between two middle-schoolers takes off. Playing The Girl, Frederick is joined by actress Oriana Lada as Ciara Jones; the pair goes on gabbing about the summer, their classmates, and their friendship, soon finding themselves in an unexpected kiss. Flashing forward to junior year of high school, the giggling best friends are no more. The Girl is a loner, most comfortable in her attic, watching the kids on the street and making music with her Mac laptop. Meanwhile, Ciara Jones is a popular “supermoon” girl with boys lining up.
Under the direction of Taylor Norton, the action of “Summer Valley Fair” takes place in the modest Mint Theater, midst piles of storage bins and ladders that morph into beds, tables, and other minimalist sets. In a way, it mirrors the shell of a person The Girl has become throughout high school and keeps singing about as she makes her summer CD.
It’s the music throughout “Summer Valley Fair” that is most intriguing. Each of Frederick’s songs boast carefully strung lyrics that are witty, ridden with contemporary references, and often comical. “Does a tree fall if you don’t upload it,” “so this is what it feels like to go outside, last time I did it I was ten and I cried,” and “we are the kids of the 21st century, do not forget to mention me” mark just some of the thoughtful lines. More than once, a song transitions into beat-boxing and a rap verse, typically led by actor Barrett Riggins who plays The Guy amongst a host of other characters. Riggins and Lada’s vocals throughout are especially impressive.
The Girl’s decision to step into the world and take a job at a Summer Valley Fair cotton candy stand is where her growing up begins. A particularly memorable scene comes in her flirty yet painfully awkward encounter with The Guy. Jumping from their conversation to her inner monologue via song, we get a hilarious glance into the nerves and uncertainty that come with one’s first crush. Self-discovery continues through their light show date nights and as The Girl reconnects with Ciara Jones, learning of the horrible other goings-on between Ciara and her father at that long past sleepover.
The premiere of “Summer Valley Fair” is presented by Sally Cade Holmes and Pattie Anne Miller as part of the twelfth annual New York Music Theatre Festival. With over 20 days of performances presenting 52 shows - including over 30 new works - the diverse lineup continues at theaters along 42nd street through July 27.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson