Fiddlehead Theatre's current show is "The Fantasticks", a 1960 musical with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones. The show opened on May 3, 1960, ran for 17,162 performances, closing on January 13, 2002, making it the world's longest running musical. The show tells an allegorical story, loosely based on the play "Les Romanesques" by Edmond Rostand, concerning two fathers who put up a wall between their two houses to ensure their children fall in love, because they know that children always do what their parents forbid. Seeking to end the charade, the fathers hire the services of a rogue, El Gallo who is also the play's narrator, as well as a roving actor and his sidekicks to stage a phony "abduction" of Luisa so that Matt can rescue her. In the aftermath of this successful scheme, however, both the boy and girl experience hardships along the way. They rediscover their love for each other and try to develop a more mature relationship. Director Meg Fofonoff infuses the cast with the necessary energy to play these roles and stages the musical numbers beautifully while music director Brendon Shapiro obtains some marvelous vocals from this hardworking cast, creating a musical treat the audience can enjoy thoroughly. Special guest for this performance was the original Luisa, Rita Gardner.
Leading this cast is Gene Dante as El Gallo. He plays this smarmy role perfectly. His strong baritone voice carries the well known song "Try to Remember" as well as the powerful duet "I Can See It" with Matt, "Beyond this Road" with Matt and the sinister "Round and Round" with Luisa while Matt is tortured on his world travels. Gene shows off his comic side during the abduction scene with Henry and Mortimer and during the abduction song "It Depends on What You Pay" with the fathers. I first reviewed Gene as the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" and the last time in 2006 as Conrad Birdie in "Bye Bye Birdie".Tall, blond and handsome,Michael S. Dunavant and gorgeous blonde, Rachel Assaf play Matt and Luisa splendidly, capturing the innocent love of the characters in Act 1, their tortured break up and renewed love in Act 2. Their glorious tenor and soprano voices soar off the charts in their musical numbers including "Metaphor", "Soon It's Gonna Rain" and "They Were You", one of the loveliest ballads in the show as well as my favorite song. Rachel's first number is "Much More" which shows off her lovely voice wonderfully while Michael's voice shines in the belting "I Can Feel It'' duet with Gene which stops the show with their powerhouse rendition and Meg's superb staging. They also do a topnotch job on the quartet jazz song "The Plum is Too Ripe" with the two fathers. Rachel is also the choreographer for the show. The mute in the show is well played by Hector Flores Jr. who is a whirlwind of activity, handing out props, being the wall as well as rain and snow. He brings a lot of personality and joie de vivre to the Mute.
The comic fathers, Huckelbee and Bellomy are wonderfully played by Ray O'Hare and Ron Cook. They are hilarious with their crazy antics of trying to get their kids together by pretending to feud with each other. They show off their strong singing voices in their Spanish style song "Never Say No" and their vaudeville style song "Plant a Radish" which are show stopping numbers. They also sing with Gene in "It Depends on What you Pay'' and with Michael and Rachel. Two other scene stealers in this show are Arthur Waldstein and Ben Bartolone as Henry and Mortimer who enter and exit through a huge trunk. They abduct Luisa in Act 1 and help to torture Matt in Act 2. Arthur spouts screwed up Shakespearean lines while wanting to show everyone his press notices for shows done many years ago. Ben as the Indian has been dying on stage for 40 years and is marvelous in his death scenes. I hadn't seen Ben in six years and he is a recent graduate of Circle in the Square in New York City. They are a hoot in these madcap roles. So for a trip back to the 1960's, be sure to catch "The Fantasticks" at Fiddlehead Theatre.It is a terrific rendition of this show. The show brings back many happy memories having played Henry back in 1996 and 1998.