Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
Director/Music Director/Light Design – Dick Helmcamp
Choreography –Nolan Moralez
Set Design –Hillard Cochran
Costumer –MacKenzie Pillow
Tech Director –Andy Newby
House Management/Props –Mindy Wilborn
Hillard Cochran –The Narrator (El Gallo)
Rachel Daniels –The Mime
Bryanna Levac –The Girl (Luisa)
Andrew Guzman –The Boy (Matt)
Bob Beck –The Girl's Father (Bellomy)
Jay Lewis –The Boy's Father (Hucklebee)
Gene Milstead –The Actor (Henry)
Ryan Basta –The Man That Dies (Mortimer)
Pianist –Hazel Bell
Photos by Lisa Pillow
Reviewed Performance 3/7/2014
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Fantasticks premiered off-Broadway at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in 1960. Its initial run consisted of 17,162 performances, ending in 2002, making it the world’s longest-running musical and the longest-running uninterrupted indoor theatrical event of any kind in the United States. It has been seen in 67 countries and translated in many languages over the years.
The Fantasticks is about two fathers and their children. The fathers think up an elaborate plan to get their children, twenty-year-old Henry and Luisa, age sixteen, together by pretending to feud. To make this a success they hire the bandit El Gallo to kidnap Luisa. Comedy ensues as we see how this brings the two families together, until we get to Act 2, where everyone does some growing up.
The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players is presenting this musical, and Dick Helmcamp had multiple production responsibilities, including Director, Music Director and Lighting Designer. The lighting was well done, all of the actors were clearly illuminated throughout the play, and I appreciated the use of warm and cool colors to contrast existing emotions in the different two acts. Stage blocking kept each scene’s featured actors front and center, so that the audience easily focused on them. Helmcamp’s direction was very thorough in keeping the pacing fast enough to not lose interest in the musical.
Nolan Moralez’s choreography was decent though extremely simplistic. “Round and Round” had some good movement to it and was interesting to watch. The only partnered dance in the show, the actors moved their feet well but their arms were slumped throughout the song, an indication that they weren’t experienced dancers. The abduction scene/ballet had some good moments in it, adding a comedic feel, though at many times the actors were unsure of what they were supposed to be doing.
Set Designer Hillard Cochran kept it very simple so as to highlight the actors on the stage. It resembled a black box theater with a black stage and black set pieces. The way this set was designed made it work well on a proscenium stage. There were also two ladders near the fence to represent trees that separated the homes, various benches and a trunk of props. Center stage stairs led up to a small platform where the actors could stand above others in moments of heated arguments. The musical’s title banner was set at the beginning of the show and during the intermission.
Costumes, designed by MacKenzie Pillow, lent a 1960’s feel in a more rural neighborhood. I especially liked the costume for El Gallo, with his Spanish matador look, cape included. I also liked the outfits for the fathers, one portraying the look of a farmer and the other that of a simple businessman. These worked well, taking the audience back to the time period the show was originally performed.
Mindy Wilborn made some good choices with her properties design, using wooden swords, and a rose & necklace that is given to Luisa.
Gardening tools the fathers used and the book Matt was reading throughout the show fit in with the simplicity of the set and costumes, being just enough to convey an image to the audience while letting the imagination take it further.
Hazel Bell was incredible as the pianist for this performance. She helped keep the musical upbeat and her playing was consistent throughout. All the music was lively, clear and accentuated each actor’s performance.
Hillard Cochran played the part of El Gallo, the handsome rogue who narrates throughout the play, while also playing the part of the bandit. Cochran had exceptional singing skills which were well used in this role, especially during the classic song “Try to Remember” and “Round and Round”. Cochran was also enjoyable to watch in hisinteraction with the other characters, especially during the abduction scene where he kept a comedic persona as he fought Matt. Cochran repeatedly struck a matador-like pose to comic effect, adding to the persona that he created.
Bryanna Levac played the part of Luisa, the extremely naive, starry-eyed young girl who matures by the end of the show. Levac had an enjoyable singing voice, especially noticeable during “Metaphor” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain”. Onstage, Levac’s character haughtily interacted with her father, showing that Luisa was still youthful and willful. Throughout the show Levac would also shriek delightedly when good things happened, further showcasing her character’s naivety.
Andrew Guzman played the part of Matt, the young man who is ready to take on the world but doesn’t actually know what’s in the world. Guzman showcased a strong singing voice, noticeable during “”Metaphor” and “I Can See It”. His strong acting skills as he interacted with El Gallo and Luisa helped communicate his character. Guzman put his physicality and body stance to good use when his character stands up to his dad. Guzman squared his shoulders with resolution, and later in the show, when his character had matured, Guzman staggered onstage with slumped shoulders, clearly weighed down by what he had seen and experienced.
Jay Lewis played the part of Hucklebee, Matt’s father, and Bob Beck played the part of Bellomy, Luisa’s father. These two characters are friends/neighbors that go from liking each other to hating each other and back again. While these actors were able to successfully perform their roles, nothing in their performance really stood out to me. They were comedic at times, and I really liked how Lewis and Bellomy interacted with their respective children, but too often they were trying to remember the lyrics for their songs and their dance scenes were not quite there.
Henry, the Shakespearean actor, was played by Gene Milstead, while Mortimer, the man who dies (repeatedly), was played by Ryan Basta. It was rather fun to see Basta die multiple times, each in a different (and very prolonged) way. Henry had a strong presence onstage, though all of his lines delivered were in the exact same way without much tone variation.
Rachel Daniels portrayed the Mime, who passes out props throughout the show. She also played the part of important objects, such as the wall that separates the young lovers, much as it done in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Daniels was always present in the moment throughout the show, while keeping to her character and always having props on the ready.
The Fantasticks has some amazing music and TGCCP’s production had some strong moments, which made it an enjoyable piece, though the quality was lacking in several places. It is a great way, though, to see and “try and remember”this long-running, classic musical.
The Greater Cleburne Carnegie Players
Cleburne Conference Center, 1501 W Henderson St.. Cleburne, TX 76033
Performances run through March 23rd
Performances are Friday/Saturday at7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2:30 pm. General Admission tickets are $13.00 and $9.00 for seniors and students.
For info and to purchase tickets, go to http://www.carnegieplayers.org/ or call their box office at 817-645-9255.