Melody Fair

Melody Fair opened in the original round tent in 1955 on the present site.  A permanent structure was built in 1974.

Melody Fair
The Glitz meets the Ritz
edited 5-10-04

(Ed note: The names that are bolded (in the text), events, sequences, and relative dates are bona fide; the newspaper articles are fictitious.) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffalo Evening News.....

Theater Site Selected
by Brad Keller

Buffalo, N.Y.  September 11, 1955, 3:08P (UP, AP)
A press conference was held at the West Side Rowing Club at 10:00 this morning.  Mr. Tom Finn announced the site for the construction of a 1200+ seat theater.  The theater will be patterned after a facility near Cleveland.  The concept creates a total amphitheater.  The circular arrangement allows everyone to be very close to the stage. Called Theater-in-the-Round, it is an ideal venue for Musical Comedy.

The selected site is located on Wurlitzer property in the Martinsville section of North Tonawanda.  The site is nestled in a wooded area adjacent to the famed Wurlitzer Gardens. The site will utilize the paved southern parking lot, with easy access to Niagara Falls Boulevard.  The location will bring the theater to more than 1.2 million people.

The current plans call for the construction of the theater, a large support building, shops, and a control building.  Schedules will be developed to support stage activities by mid-April.  Site preparation activities will start immediately.

Advance and group sales information can be obtained by calling JAckson 2-1956.  General information is available at LUdlow 3-1956. Mr. Finn also.....


Tonawanda Evening News.....

Melody Fair Groundbreaking
by Amy Cicero
Staff Business writer

North Tonawanda, N.Y.  October 4, 1955, 1:27P, (UP, AP)
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at  the future theater site in North Tonawanda.  Dignitaries from various local municipalities were represented.  Mr. Finn announced the generalized construction plans and schedules to support the overall theater opening in June 1956. Finn introduced Lewis Fisher as the producer and overall creative director. Finn stated the goal of bringing quality cultural diversity to the area by staffing Melody Fair with “The best of the best”.

The respected Fisher, long a factor and proponent of live theater, is a partner and a major stockholder.  Widely sought as a guest lecturer, Fisher has taught a variety of theater related topics.  He and his actress/wife, Jo Talbot, regularly conduct seminars and workshops nationwide.


Buffalo Courier-Express.....

Melody Fair Schedules Set
by John Liscowicz
Entertainment Editor

Buffalo. N.Y.  January 18, 1956, 4:22P, (UP, AP)
The 1956 Melody Fair show schedule was revealed by Creative Director and Producer Lew Fisher during a 10:00 AM press conference held in the main auditorium at Buffalo State Teachers College.  The summer theater will provide seven productions, for 15 weeks of songs and merriment.  The shows will run for two weeks, starting with Opening Night on Tuesday, with a matinee on Sunday (Monday is an off day).  South Pacific is the exception which will run for three weeks due to its popularity.

The shows in order of performance, are “Plain and Fancy”, “Pajama Game”, “Guys and Dolls”, “Wish You Were Here", “Call Me Madam”, “Kismet”, and perennial favorite, “South Pacific.”

Fisher used this forum to introduce some of his newly assembled team of creative specialists.  Jake Hamilton was named Stage Manager (possibly the most important, but least appreciated job in live theater).  Jake will also administer an apprentice  program. Assisting Mr. Hamilton will be Don Judge and Tom Hinton. Jimmy Swift* is Costume Master.  Electrical and lighting are to be handled by Pete Zammora and David Zierk.


Niagara Falls Gazette.....

Elio Di Virgilio
Staff Writer

Niagara Falls, N.Y.  March 4, 1956
Melody Fair General Manager, Tom Finn has filled two management positions.  He has appointed Mrs. Nancy Hamilton to serve as Business Office Manager.  She will be responsible for daily expenses, the supervision of ticket sales, ushers, and payroll.  She is the wife of Stage Manager, Jake HamiltonMr. Guy Leblanc* was named Maintenance Chief.


Buffalo Evening News.....

by Mark Davis

Buffalo, N.Y.  April 9, 1956, 2:22P, (UP, AP)
Tom Finn, General Manager of Melody Fair, declared that construction is complete on Phase A.  The theater shell has been finished two weeks ahead of schedule.  It has been covered with the canvas top.  The stage and orchestra pit are at a point that can support rehearsals.  The control room has been energized and stage and house lighting can commence.  The two-story Support Building has the steel work and the exterior work finished.  The structure is ready for interior finishing.  The Support Building houses the Business Operations/Ticket Sales, dressing rooms and various shops.


Variety News............

Melody Fair
Summer Stock
By: Barry Adams

New York, N.Y., April 11, 1956, 8:19A (AP, UP)
Melody Fair has issued a casting call for the first season. The Equity index is.71 in the Buffalo area. Canadian competition is expected to be stiff. Irv Rosenthal is acting as agent. The Grimes Agency is at ME 6-6799.


Buffalo Courier-Express.....

by John Liscowicz
Entertainment Editor

Buffalo, N.Y., May 3, 1956, 6:48P, (UP, AP)
Producer Lew Fisher announced the Melody Fair Chorus for the 1956 season. The 18 voice ensemble will fill the air with the full range of vocal expression.  Musical Director Andres Mrincz* has named his lead singers for “Plain and Fancy.” The lead singers will change in future productions, depending on requirements. The lead singers will be Lillian Bosinoff, soprano, Joy Alexander, contralto, and Murray Goldkind, baritone. The chorus augmented by the dancers and principals will satisfy all tastes.


Tonawanda Evening News......

by Jeannette Sommerfeldt
Arts & Entertainment

North Tonawanda, N.Y.  May 5, 1956, 1:41P (UP, AP, Reuters)
The Melody Fair dance troupe has been finalized for the 1956 season. Producer Lew Fisher and choreographer and danseur Gordon Marsh developed a rigorous routine that demonstrated all steps that would be required for the entire season. The troupe will feature Briggitta Kivininni as Lead Ballerina, and David Soos as Lead Danseur. Mr. Marsh will be the Interpretive Director.


Buffalo Courier-Express.....

by David Cunningham
Feature Writer

Buffalo, N.Y.  May 7, 1956 (UP, AP, Reuters)
Rehearsals have been set for the Melody Fair production of the smash Broadway hit, “Plain and Fancy.” There are at least five different levels of rehearsals, each building on the previous level. The most rudimentary level is the personal or individual levels of performance, and thereafter climbing in sophistication to full dress rehearsals.

The assembled rehearsals will commence on Monday and will be a daily affair, culminating in the “Plain and Fancy” Dress Rehearsal on the Monday preceding the June opening. Dancers are to report at 9 AM and the chorus at 10:30. The Principals will report one week prior to dress rehearsal.

As an aside, possibly the most demanding job is that of the rehearsal accompanist. He has to have extreme patience to play and replay the same passages countless times.

The rehearsals are closed to the general public.


Buffalo Evening News.....

Facility Ready
by Mark Davis

Buffalo, N.Y.  May  11, 1956,  4:08P (UP, AP)
Tom Finn, General Manager of Melody Fair, has declared that the theater and all of the support facilities are ready for opening night.  All punch list items have been worked off.  Minor adjustments to the stage lighting will be made as required, during the dress rehearsal.  The facility, as shown in the accompanying arial photo, adds a dramatic new sight to the area.  Stage Manager, Jake Hamilton, has indicated readiness by saying “As soon as the Tempra is dry, we will run times for scene changes”.


Buffalo Courier-Express.....

by John Gorski
Feature writer

Buffalo, N.Y., June 11, 1956, 2:19A (UP, AP)
A few years ago I experienced my first musical “Opening Night”;  It was “Student Prince”, held at Amherst High School.  This was so different!  Perhaps it was the venue; or the professional status; or maybe it was nothing of the sort.

Then it occurred to me - it was all of the firsts involved.  It was the First time in a brand new theater.  It was the First time we had our own resident professional theater company.  It was likely that the very seat was First sat on by a human.  It was truly a first First.  And they only happen once - the First time.  (And, it was the First time I ever saw Lew Fisher without a cigar, lit or not!)

There are opening nights, then there are opening nights!  Congratulations Melody Fair - Great job!


Buffalo Courier-Express..........Tremendous.....!

Buffalo Evening News..........Spectacular.....

Tonawanda Evening News.....
We did it!!

Variety News.....
Fisher scores.....again!

Niagara Falls Gazette.....
Just what the doctor ordered...
*These  names are only partially  correct, but that was sooo long ago!

Photo(s): courtesy of Melody Fair website
Personal archives of David Stubbs
by: David Stubbs
May 2004

Letters & Comments from Museum Visitors

From: Jim Stamos - 5/19/06

I came across this memorial from Kenyon College and I thought you might possibly want to include this somewhere within your Melody Fair pages. It's a sad last chapter. I knew Jeff in elementary school; ps 56

Jeffrey R. Fisher '65 on May 5, 2004, of a heart attack. He was sixty and a resident of San Francisco, California.

Jeffrey entered Kenyon in the class of 1965 but took time out for a couple of years to work and consider his path in life. He returned to Kenyon in 1966 and graduated with a degree in English in 1968. Jeffrey was a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity.

After graduating from Kenyon, he spent three years in Paris and developed a lifelong affinity for all things French. He later earned a master's degree in linguistics from Brown University and also earned certificates in French language and literature from the Sorbonne and l'Alliance Francaise in Paris.

Combining his love of the theatrical arts with the day-to-day business of making a living, Jeffrey began his marketing career as producer, vice president, and treasurer of Melody Fair, a theater-in-the-round founded by his father, Lewis T. Fisher, in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. He later was director of marketing and education for the Buffalo Philharmonic and corporate communications writer for Goldome Realty Credit Corp. and NVR Savings Bank.

In 1994, Jeffrey began a year-long stint as director of development and marketing at the San Francisco Film Society. In more recent years, he was a freelance marketing strategist, writer, and communications and business consultant.

In addition to his father, Jeffrey is survived by two sisters, Amy Fisher and Christine Lewis.

From: Charlie Abbate- Warwick, RI - 1/12/06

I finally have a chance to set the Melody Fair story straight.

My father, Frank Abbate and Lew Fisher originally started the Old Lake Shore Playhouse in Derby, New York in the early 1950’s.  It was an old barn they converted to a theater where they put on summer  shows..  They did that for a few years until one winter, the barn/theater was burned down by  a former fireman who was finally caught in the crowd of another fire he set. 

A few years later, they got the idea of the theater in the round  from an actor –friend in California  and Melody Fair was born in the mid fifties.

My father and Lew were the primary partners from the start.  Over the years, they brought in minor partners, such as Ken Gill and Tom Finn but they eventually bought them out to where Lew and Frank owned 95% of Melody Fair.

My dad was president of Melody Foods which ran the bar, concession  and the programs etc. Lew was the producer of the theater but they were both partners in both corporations. My father was also the attorney for the corporations.

I wasn’t sure of the exact dates of the operations but I hope this will set the record a little straighter and will get my father’s name in there.

My parents, brother, our wives and I all worked at Melody Fair for over 25 years up until it closed.

It was a sad day for all of us when it closed.

I now live in New England and keep abreast of the Buffalo News and all the attempts of people to attempt to operate melody fair.

One of the most successful theaters similar to Melody Fair was right here in my city.   It was in business up until a few years ago.   A huge casino called Foxwoods opened in 1992 just 45 miles away in Connecticut and it finally buried the theater here. They  couldn’t compete with the casino’s prices for entertainment.

This is why Melody Fair will never make it again…..With the two casinos in Niagara Falls only a few miles away, and with  entertainment appearing there,  it would be impossible for Melody to compete.

© 2005-2010 North Tonawanda History Museum
54 Webster Street
North Tonawanda, NY 14120
(716) 213-0554