By Kathryn Kitt
There is something magical going on in the heart of Times Square, without the usual conventions of auto-tune and vocal enhancement, The Fantasticks is still mesmerizing audiences with its intimate charm and minimal scenery. From the opening number of “Try to Remember,” the small Jerry Orbach Theater is transported into a setting where the moon is translucent and dreams are dreamed.
Since its Off-Broadway premiere in 1960, The Fantasticks has undergone countless changes including actors, locations and audience interest, the show remains poignant and melancholy, thanks in part to Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s timeless score and the structure of the story.
I took my eight-year-old daughter to this particular performance because I wanted to see if in this ever-changing world of special effects and fast movements, a small musical with six characters could keep her attention. I am happy to say that it did, thanks in part to the wonderful singing and acting from the current cast. At this performance, the understudies played most of the roles, but one could not tell the difference. David Schoonover as El Gallo displayed the right mystery and lovely singing that the role demands. My only quibble was that his voice had a “Tenor” quality, which made some of his songs a little weak in power. However, his acting was spot on and he had nice chemistry with Rita Markova (Luisa) in the dark song “Round and Round” in Act II.
Drew Seigla as Matt and Rita Markova as Luisia had lovely voices and acting. One could see how hard they were working with all of the intricate movements, but it did not show. Some of the most beautiful songs in the show, “Soon it’s Gonna Rain” and “They Were You” displayed wonderful technique and beautiful harmonizing.
Joseph Dellger as Hucklebee and Tom Flagg as Bellomy were convincing as conspirators-trying to keep the young lovers from actually falling in love. Their Garden-happy antics in “The Minute that You Say No” and “Plant a Radish” brought needed comic relief. Aaron Wright as the Mute added to the action by adding all the scenic moments in the show – including a wall to keep the young lovers separated and the enabling of the “actors troupe” to enter and exit through a trunk on the floor.
When Macintyre Dixon as Henry and Michael Nostrand as Mortimer appear, they hilariously lend a hand with their vaudeville gestures, parlaying their purpose into method acting. The over the top antics could be a show in itself!
Special mention goes to the impressive accompaniment from Robert Felstein as the Musical Director/Pianist and Maria Banks as the Harpist. The full-bodied sound from their ensemble supported and enhanced the musical experience, without overpowering the singers.
What struck me the most was when Act 1 ended, my daughter inquired as to what happens next, and I told her that we see what happens after “Happily Ever After.” She exclaimed, “Oh! Kind of like ‘Into the Woods!’” All of a sudden, a lightbulb went off, for this is what theater is all about! I had a teachable moment with her, for she had followed the wonderful story and invested in it. This, without bells and whistles but singing that almost seems effortless; without amplification. This highlights the beauty of the final moments with a resolution that leaves a lasting impression. I do believe that this generation deserves to experience this show and for this, I thank the investors for keeping it alive and sincere.
The performance schedule wis as follows: Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays at 8PM, Wednesdays at 2PM, Saturdays at 2PM & 8PM and Sundays at 3PM & 7:30PM.
Tickets to THE FANTASTICKS are priced at $76.50 and can be purchased by calling the box office at (212) 921-7862, by logging onto www.Ticketmaster.com or by visiting the Snapple Theater Center box office. A limited number of premium front row seats are available for each performance priced at $126.50.
THE FANTASTICKS plays at The Jerry Orbach Theater in the Snapple Theater Center, 210 West 50th Street at Broadway. The box office phone number is (212) 921-7862. www.SnappleTheater.com.