“The Fantasticks … attracts you, settles again a bit limply, wakes you up once more and averages out rather less than passable,” concluded Walter Kerr in his New York Herald Tribune evaluate after the present’s 1960 off-Broadway premiere. “Maybe,” stated Brooks Atkinson in The New York Occasions, “[it] is by nature the kind of factor that loses magic the longer it endures.”
Certain, after watching grand and glamorous musicals like My Honest Woman, The Music Man, and Gypsy (all on Broadway on the time), Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s minimalistic, melancholic, commedia dell’arte-style parable about two neighboring dad and mom tricking their youngsters into falling in love with each other will need to have appeared underwhelming to critics. And listening to simply piano and harp fairly than a sometimes loaded orchestra most likely did not assist.
However audiences picked up on the present’s delicate sophistication – the complexity inside seemingly inventory characters, highly effective lyrics nestled inside hummable songs, and rhymed verse labored into the prose. And so, The Fantasticks grew to become the longest-running musical for the reason that creation of the artwork kind. Its unique staging logged 17,162 performances and the 2006 revival added 4,390 extra. The Fantasticks has additionally grow to be a staple in regional, group, and highschool manufacturing schedules the place, too usually, stagings fail to seek out that delicate sophistication and grow to be fairly treasured affairs. Worse, too many try to make the present grander and extra glamorous to ensure that it to be engaging to youthful audiences who would possibly in any other case discover it troublesome to “attempt to keep in mind the sort of September/ When life was sluggish and oh, so mellow.”
I converse from expertise, having witnessed the mom of all missteps at L.A.’s Reprise Theatre Co. in 2009, the place director Jason Alexander (sure, that Jason Alexander) misplaced the present’s fastidiously honed whimsy underneath sitcom froth. This isn’t the case with the Metropolis Theatre Co.’s pleasant staging underneath Matt Shead’s reverent course, which embraces the present’s romanticism and permits the work to whisper to the viewers, as meant, fairly than shout at us.
Inventive Director Andy Berkovsky’s scenic design is historically austere, with the theatre’s intimate efficiency house geared up with only a small stage and curtain, two wooden crates, a prop chest, Music Director Karl Logue on piano, and Vincent Pierce on harp. Set-pieces are moved about gracefully by Jane Schwartz who, within the position of the Mute, facilitates the storytelling in silence. Because the present’s choreographer, she additionally does an exquisite job having the solid transfer about gracefully in the course of the present’s many musical numbers.
As Luisa and Matt, the starry-eyed lovers, Jacob Bernelle and Mel Elkins are enchanting. They offer beautiful voice to our youthful and harmless needs by “A lot Extra” and “Metaphor,” and in Act II they do the identical to our dream-squelching disappointments in “This Plum Is Too Ripe.” With Elkins being the one soprano within the room, the various intricate harmonies labored into Schmidt’s rating will surely profit from her projecting to the rear of the home fairly than the ear of her fellow actors.
Kirk Kelso and Bryan Headrick are charming because the fathers Hucklebee and Bellomy, respectively, and their track “By no means Say No” is a spotlight in a night full of them. However Headrick’s tendency to do an excessive amount of too usually comes awfully near turning his character into caricature and his portrayal to parody.
Greg Allen is an outstanding El Gallo, the villain employed by the fathers to abduct Luisa to arrange Matt’s relationship-cementing rescue. El Gallo continuously breaks the fourth wall to supply commentary, philosophy, and foreshadowing: Allen does this with immense sincerity and, when narration turns to track, with a stunning baritone. El Gallo, in flip, hires an historic ham actor named Henry (performed to perfection by veteran thespian Michael Harlan) and his death-scene specialist sidekick, Mortimer (performed by a terrific Eli Mendenhall), to help within the abduction.
Not too grand and never too treasured, this manufacturing of The Fantasticks is good.
Trinity Avenue Playhouse, 901 Trinity, 512/470-1100
By Sept. 18
Working time: 1 hr., 45 minutes.
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