The Fantasticks | Insight Theatre Company

The-Fantasticks 75The cast of The Fantasticks could perform anywhere and I would watch them.

 

 

 

I am surprised I have never heard of The Fantasticks before I was asked to review this production. Theatre had been my life for eight straight years, and it was a major part of it for at least another 12. Why on earth hadn’t I heard of the most “widely produced musical in the world,” according to the Directors Note in the program? Then I thought, “Maybe I have heard of it; maybe I have heard its music before.” Maybe I had just forgotten about it, since I was humming the song to another show (“The Girl That I Marry,” from Annie Get Your Gun) the moment I walked out the door.

While I think the show, as a whole, was entirely forgettable, the actors really made an impression on me. The whole show was slightly convoluted with the circus theme that was never really thought through; it wasn’t incorporated into the story beyond having the part of Mute (James Kerr) be a mime and the set. This, I suppose, was meant to symbolize whimsy and stand in stark contrast to the very real themes of the play, but it didn’t. The actors, on the other hand, played their parts with perfectly balanced components of realism and quirkiness that I didn’t need the set to tell me this was going to be a weird, yet delightful play.

Christina Ramirez plays the part of Luisa, the 16-year-old daughter of Bellomy (Michael Brightman). Luisa thinks she is a princess destined for dancing all night at balls. Much to the feigned chagrin of her father, Luisa falls in love with the neighbor boy Matt (Adam Hunn). The two star-crossed lovers meet in secret at the wall their fathers put up to keep them apart. Matt is older than Luisa, fresh out of college, and woos her with all the metaphors he’s learned while in school.

Bellomy and Hucklebee (Tom Murray) are friends who realized that children will do what children will do, unlike vegetables, and that usually means going against the wishes of their parents. Desperate to find a way to end the false feud the two fathers hire El Gallo (Martin Fox) to abduct Lusia, so that Matt can save her and the four can finally be one big happy family. Unfortunately, happily ever after is rarely the ending and the two must taste all the bitterness the world holds before they can truly find happiness again.

Ramirez played the naive, but loveable, Luisa without having the character get too annoying, which could have happened easily. Fox’s voice was soft and so moving in his song “Try to Remember” that, if the piano didn’t drown out the tender moments, it would have brought the audience to tears. Brightman obviously thoroughly enjoyed his role as Bellomy and was a joy to watch. The crown jewel of the whole performance, however, was Joneal Joplin as Henry.

Henry’s character is heartbreaking; he’s an old man who is just looking for his purpose in life once more. Joplin made me laugh and made me want to give him a hug. His character was so powerful because I think we all feel a little irrelevant at multiple stages in our lives; when we just graduate college and have no sense of who we are or what we want to be, when we become first time parents and wonder if this is it for life, when we retire and wonder if we ever did enough with our career, and when we see our first grandchild and hope, but aren’t really sure, we made enough of an impact on the world to make it a better place for them. 

While the music is pretty forgettable, and the set was a little confusing, the cast of The Fantasticks could perform anywhere and I would watch them. Each was wonderful on their own, but as an ensemble they shined. | Becca Doran

The Fantasticks runs at Insight Theatre Company July 9-12 and July 16-18. For ticket information, visit http://insighttheatrecompany.com/shows/the-fantasticks-2015/.

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