Thursday, May 7, 2009

review - The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks
book & lyrics by Tom Jones
music by Harvey Schmidt

Reprise Theatre Company
directed by Jason Alexander
through May 17
It's been many years since I first saw The Fantasticks. I have fond memories of Barbra Streisand's 60s' recordings of "Much More" and "I Can See It". This is a love poem to and about life and living, warts and all. When done most simply, allowing characters' images and experiences and the lovely score by Jones & Schmidt to carry it, it will fulfill its mission and thensome. Fortunately, director Jason Alexander has kept the simplicity and cast 6 superb players to tell the story. Reprise's finale for the 2008-2009 season The Fantasticks is a pearl - no, a diamond! The Fantasticks may be classified a musical odyssey, sparking a journey laden with imagination, kind of like in Pippin, but less complex and more universal.

When I was a child I dreamed like Matt and Luisa of a beautiful life full of fantasy and indulgences. I quickly learned, though, via my strict parents and a not always easy Catholic upbringing, that life is NOT a bowl of cherries, as the song claims. You have to set your goals early, charter your course, and hopefully keep on it as steadily as possible. It's no picnic; the obstacles to success are many and difficult to surmount. Alas, what a delight at this stage of my existence to watch The Fantasticks and sum up the true meaning of life. We are forever trying to put up walls and then tear them down, but as El Gallo advises at the end of the play "Leave the wall!" What is remembered about one's life should include the good, the bad and the ugly sides. It's all of living that makes the difference.

Eric McCormack, now middle-aged, is a very good choice for the Narrator and El Gallo. He's charismatic, sturdy, responsible, and intelligent enough with just the right amount of humor, to make this wise gentleman his own. He is also a fine singer. Harry Groener as Luisa's father and Eileen T'Kaye as Matt's mother (originally his father, played by a male actor) look and sound like confused middle-class parents and play off each other superbly, with both dramatic and comedic panache. And talk about comedy, Barry Dennen as the Old Actor and Hap Lawrence as his sidekick make a dandy pair of misfits. Kimberly Mikesell is a very nimble and able Mute. Alison Woods as Luisa and Lucas Grabeel as Matt bring such freshness to their roles that the stage is alive with innocence, verve and a sense of magical adventure from start to finish.

This is a lovely show for all ages. "Try To Remember" another with the same wisdom and vivacious spirit.

5 out of 5 stars


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