THE FANTASTICKSBook and Lyrics by Tom Jones
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Garland Civic Theatre
Director Patty Granville
Musical Director Kevin Sutton
Stage Manager Karla Pajot
Set Design Hank Baldtree
Sound Charyl Pellett
Lighting Design Theresa Clapper
Costume Design David tinney
Dance Captain Caren Sharp-Herbst
Keyboard/Harp Andrew Friedrich
Bass Ben Brown
Drums Randy Linberg
Bellamy David Tinney
Huckabee David Noel
Mute Caren Sharp-Herbst
El Gallo Juan Perez
Matt Joel Jenkins
Luisa Morgan Maxey
Henry Jon Morehouse
Mortimer Evan Figg
Reviewed Performance: 4/14/2018
Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Jones borrowed from the dramatic form of the Commedia D’ell Arte theatrical form produced in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries. The stock characters of the Commedia come to life in modern form as “The Parents”, “The Lovers”, “The Macho Male”. The latter’s name, El Gallo, is often translated as “The Rooster” or “The Cock”, but it can also be translated as “The Macho One”. And in that context, El Gallo, the narrator of the story, brings the seamy side of life and male sexuality to life and provides the contrasting view of the “ real world” to the Lovers and the Fathers.
Using the Commedia form, THE FANTASTICS story is actually based on (and quite closely follows) Edmund Rostand’s play, LES ROMANESQUES. Rostand, whose most famous work was certainly CYRANO DE BERGERAC, was part of the neo-Romantic movement and that makes its way plainly into THE FANTASTICKS. When musing which play is better, Levi Asher wrote “Which version is better? Easy: LES ROMANESQUES doesn’t have a song called ‘Try to Remember!’” There! ‘Nuff said about THAT!
The cast at Garland Civic theatre leapt wholeheartedly into the fun and farce of the play in their current production of THE FANTASTICKS. I’m almost hesitant to attend any production of this show because, since I so love it, I’m afraid none would ever measure up to my expectations. Well, GCT’s production is definitely good enough! The singing is spot on, the characters well-defined. All visual aspects of the show: sets, costumes, props were splendid. The actors pushed so much energy into their roles as to be exhilarating!
Ms Granville’s staging is uncomplicated, as it should be. Characters are, as written one-sided but the actors gilded those sides. Costumes add to the color-coordination adjunct to the story—blue for the boy, pink for the girl. The set also reflects the simplicity needed and is very reminiscent of the Commedia form.
David Tinny and David Noel as the fathers of Luisa and Matt are wonderful stock characters. The numbers “The Did It ‘Cause We Said No” and “Plant a Radish” are standouts in the show.
Morgan Maxey as Luisa is perfectly sweet, eager and naïve and lovely to look at. Her vocals are lovely, though become a bit thin in the upper register. She is the epitome of sweetness and light.
Joel Jenkins as the boy, Matt, also displays excellent vocals and characterization. He, like Luisa, is caught up in the romantic, child-like blush of first love initially and is great as the almost-goofy, lovestruck young man. I did have pause to wonder if the glasses were necessary, as they named him possibly look older, but that was a minor point.
Henry, the Old Actor is another wonderful stock character and Jon Morehouse nailed it vocally and physically. And his sidekick, Mortimer, played by Evan Figg was sufficiently different and his “death” scene was a standout. While Figg was certainly believable as the creepy son in GCT’s production of THE WIDOW, comedy may be his true forte, based on his performance in the current show.
The Mute, played by Caren Sharp-Herbst is the legendary Harlequin character of the commedia brought forward into the show by Jones and Schmidt. Herbst was perfect: acrobatic, comic, a silent commentator and served as The Wall dividing the two families. The cartwheel and handstand at the opening immediately sealed her as the mischievous and athletic Arlecchino.
Last, but not least is the character of El Gallo, the play’s narrator. He is traditionally the handsome seducer, the con artist with the sardonic grin and untrustworthy way. Juan Perez in this role was vocally quite good with an amazing range. But there I have to pause, and my criticism may well rest with the director’s interpretation of the role, as he was just too nice! His big number, “Rape” was downplayed to the point my companion thought it had been cut completely out. El Gallo is sexy, seductive, the “bad boy” that females are often attracted to (see Jack Sparrow in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) . He should be aloof from entanglement in the action and emotion of the play and I just didn’t see that side of Perez’s portrayal. Also his costume was a bit off as well—he looked too much like Zorro without his mask. But that said, this by no means compromises the quality of the production.
This show is a delight and in my opinion, one not to be missed. It certainly did not disappoint this dyed-in-the-wool lover of the show!
For tickets and information go to www.garlandcivictheatre.org or call 972-485-8884 or 972-205-2780