The Fantasticks- Fantastically Awesome and Awesomely Fantastic production at Village Theatre

Verbal Gymnastics, Humor and a Serious Message, in one Delightful Evening.

I was truly awe-struck by the Village Theatre’s flawless production of The Fantasticks which opened to a sold out audience on Friday, March 15. The world’s longest running musical, written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmiddt, opened off-Broadway in 1960 and ran for 42 years; it is not only highly entertaining with catchy, witty, poetic dialogue and lyrics, beguiling musical, physical humor, but also a profound message. Expertly directed by Adam Immerwahr, this production also had some intriguing and expertly executed magic on stage. And of course there was the memorable song Try to Remember.

Just to make it even more entertaining and original, as a musical it did not fit into the typical 1950’s format; it borrowed from several different theatrical traditions. It utilized a narrator and a bare-bones set like Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, had some Commedia dell’arte characters and an impish character from Japanese Noh. In my opinion, it was a bit of a spoof of sentimental 1950’s musicals.

Act I, is a re-telling of the Pyramus and Thisby tale, set in the late 1950’s Midwest, but with a slight twist. Luisa (Miranda Antoinette), a pretty young 18 year old girl, dressed in a late 1950’s shirtwaist dress, dreams of wild romance and adventure. She is romantically in love with the boy next door, Matt (Kawika Huston). They speak to each other through a chink in the wall between their back yards.

Unlike the original story, the parents are not feuding but are actually pretending to feud, using reverse psychology to get the youngsters to fall for each other. The two fathers, Ballomy (Hugh Hastings) and Hucklebee (Robert Shampain) expose their plan in a wonderful duet called Never say No. The hilarious choreography by Katy Tabb seemed straight out of a British music hall number, it was so irreverently enjoyable. Hastings and Shampain nailed every bit of humor and executed the kooky dance steps complete with unusual props to perfection.

When Act I ends, everything looks picture perfect, the boy has won the girl, with help from the fathers; the type of help which has aided and abetted her unrealistic fantasies. In Act II, everything unravels as the relationship between Luisa and Matt starts to get less romantic and more realistic. In the end, they both go through painful maturing experiences as they encounter the “world” beyond the protective environment of their families. In a few hours, they move through all the stages of love and are ready to settle down with a realistic view of each other and life itself.

Village’s production has an absolutely stellar cast. Michael Sharon as El Gallo, who also plays the narrator, was impressive especially his singing of Try to Remember. Also he was extremely amusing as the seductive rake El Gallo. All in all he was just a delight on stage.

Anthony Curry as Henry, the old actor, and Mark Emerson as Mortimer, his sidekick, played two clowns who appeared out of nowhere to help in the theatrics. The two added some of the best laughs in the show, and were exceptional performers.

Lisa Kwak as the Mute, a sort of onstage Assistant Stage Manager, in “Our Town” terms, gracefully bounced around the stage like a benevolent fairy.

Costumes by Esther Garcia added a huge amount to this production. Being old enough to just remember what teen-age girls wore, and how they styled their hair circa 1960, I can attest that Luisa’s costume was truly authentic and expressed all the innocence of the character as well as the supposed innocence of the era.

The costumes of the two clowns, Henry and Mortimer, were truly to die for, words cannot express how well the costumes of the two conveyed the idea of two broken down old actors, who had been on the road forever and just could not give up. If “clothes make the man,” Esther Garcia’s costumes expressed the characters of Henry and Mortimer to a “T.”

The set by Parmida Ziael, along with the lighting by Geoff Korf, served the production well. One very special touch was the magic and illusion design, by Nate Dendy. There were some incredible quick magic tricks on stage, which were quite impressive and took my breath away.

Without a doubt, The Fantasticks is a musical that everybody in the Puget Sound area should see, whether in Issaquah or Everett. I’m not much of a fan of musicals, but I was quite astounded at how enjoyable this production was.

In Michelin terms, the Script itself is 5 star. Also it isn’t often that any theatre can assemble such an outstanding collection of stellar actors, directed by such a brilliant director. Also when all was said and done and the laughter has died down, The Fantasticks spoke the truth about relationships and life.

It was sold out on opening night, so get your tickets now.

The Fantasticks
The Village Theatre Wed –Sun, Matinée and Evenings til April 21 in Issaquah, Everett April 27 to May 19,2024

N.B. I-90 is closed March 15 until 5 am March 18.


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