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The Fantasticks

a Musical
by Tom Jones (words) & Harvey Schmidt (music)

COMPANY : Act 3 Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Act 3 Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 4943

SHOWING : August 12, 2016 - August 27, 2016



"The Fantasticks" is a funny and romantic musical about a boy, a girl, and their two fathers who try to keep them apart. The narrator, El Gallo, asks the audience to use their imagination and follow him into a world of moonlight and magic. The boy and the girl fall in love, grow apart, and finally find their way back to each other after realizing the truth in El Gallo’s words that "without a hurt, the heart is hollow." Holding the record of the longest-running musical in the world, "The Fantasticks" is a timeless fable of love that manages to be nostalgic and universal at the same time.

Director Zip Rampy
The Mute Sarah Carroll
The Girl’s Father (Bellomy) Chris Davis
The Boy (Matt) Aaron Hancock
The Girl (Luisa) Meg Harkins
The Man Who Dies (Mortimer) Evan Hussey
The Boy’s Father (Hucklebee) Joel Rose
The Old Actor (Henry) Mickey Vincent
The Narrator (El Gallo) Jody Woodruff
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60’s TV Comedy Special
by playgoer
Friday, August 19, 2016
Director Zip Rampy’s professed intention in presenting "The Fantasticks" is to show why it has withstood the test of time to become the longest-running off-Broadway musical in history. Instead, he tends more to reinforce Brooks Atkinson’s 1960 opinion that it’s "the sort of thing that loses magic the longer it endures."

"The Fantasticks" is a poetic little show about adolescent love and its aftermath when the real world intrudes. It works best when done with lightness and sincerity. Mr. Rampy has instead chosen to weigh it down with comic schtick and asides. Consequently, it falls flat.

The only complete sincerity comes from Aaron Hancock as The Boy. He inserts a lot of comedy into his performance, but it’s comedy arising internally from his character, not comedy imposed on it through direction or self-indulgent actor choices. His thrillingly splendid voice only adds to the success of his performance.

Meg Harkins also shows great sincerity as The Girl, although there are a couple of moments when she seems to have been directed to take an insincere approach that rings false. Her voice is thinner than Mr. Hancock’s, but blends beautifully with his. Together, The Boy and The Girl provide the heart of the story, but you need more than a naked, thumping heart plopped onstage to create a successful show.

The fathers, Joel Rose and Chris Davis, have fine voices, do their dances well, but are caricatures rather than people. Evan Hussey and Sarah Carroll, as Mortimer and The Mute, are school age, and give competent school-type performances. Mickey Vincent, as The Old Actor, portrays a grotesque caricature of age without a shred of pathos.

That leaves Jody Woodruff, as El Gallo. He’s handsome and dashing and has a very fine voice, but his eye makeup gives him an androgynous look, and his portrayal shifts uncomfortably from poetic and sincere to comic, with no touch of underlying slyness.

Costumes, designed by Alyssa Jackson, help to give character to the actors, but there doesn’t seem to be any design consistency in the costumes, aside from both fathers wearing bow ties and straw hats. The various sizes of pink gingham check in Ms. Harkins’ costume are an interesting idea, but it doesn’t read particularly well from the audience. The stark black and scarlet of El Gallo’s outfit is certainly striking, but if it makes him stand out, it’s as a sore thumb.

The uncredited set design is simple, consisting of a square platform up center, a prop box (nicely filled by props master Mary Sorrel) stage right, and a few moveable boxes starting at stage left. Its uniform blackness acts as a background for the constantly changing lights designed by David Reingold, in a somewhat over-ambitious lighting scheme that sometimes draws attention to itself.

Kate O’Neill’s choreography is greatly hampered by the small expanse of stage in front of the square platform, but it and Mr. Rampy’s staging generally do a good job of keeping the action flowing. There are no sightline issues with this small cast.

With fine voices overall and competent accompaniment by Harris Wheeler and music director Laura Gamble, the sound is good throughout. Sound designer Paige Crawford has saddled the speaking/singing cast with body mics, but I didn’t notice amplification at any point when it could have enhanced the vocal balance. The voices I heard seemed to be coming from the people onstage, not from a disembodied speaker located elsewhere.

"The Fantasticks" can be a sweet and magical show. To weave its spell, however, it needs consistency of direction. Here, Mr. Rampy has chosen to surround the heart of the show with a skeletal comic framework that exposes it rather than giving the show flesh and life. The show and its music are still good, but this production has all the impact of a forgettable 1960’s comedy variety special. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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