The current show at Portsmouth Community Theatre 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 that 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 sidekick 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 Kate Grana infuses the cast with the necessary energy to play these roles and stages the musical numbers wonderfully while doing so. Music director Jonathan Keene not only plays the keyboards for this show, but obtains some stunning vocals from this topnotch cast, creating a musical treat their audiences can savor.
Leading the cast as El Gallo is Brian Killavey. He plays this smarmy role wonderfully. His strong baritone voice carries the well known song "Try to Remember" as well as the powerful duet "I Can See It" with Matt and the sinister "Round and Round" with Luisa while Matt is tortured on his world travels. Brian shows off his comic side in the abduction scene with Henry and Mortimer and during the abduction song "It Depends on What You Pay" with the fathers. (The whole Killavey family is in this show.) His brother,Kevin Killavey and Samantha Acampora play Matt and Luisa wonderfully, capturing the characters innocent love in Act 1, their tortured break up and renewed love in Act 2. Their topnotch baritone and soprano voices soar off the charts in their musical numbers including "Metaphor", "Soon It's Going to Rain" and my favorite song in the show "They Were You" which brings a tear to your eye at its poignancy. It is one of the loveliest ballads in the show. Samantha is a pretty brunette whose first number is "Much More" which shows off her gorgeous voice while Kevin's belting voice shines during the "I Can Feel It" duet with Brian. They also do an excellent job on the jazz quartet number with the fathers "This Plum Is Too Ripe". Cindy Killavey, Brian and Kevin's mother plays the mime. She has a gorgeous soprano voice but is mute in this show. She does excellent facial expressions during the set up of each scene and is a whirlwind of activity, handing out props, being the wall, rain and snow.(I directed Cindy and Jim in "Cheaters" at the Newport Playhouse in 2007 which was my 100th show.)
The comic fathers, Hucklebee and Bellomy are excellently played by Jim Killavey and Ron Marsh. They are very funny with their wacky 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 the vaudeville style song "Plant a Radish" which are both show stopping numbers. Jim and Ron also sing with Brian in "It Depends on What You Pay" and with Kevin and Samantha in "This Plum is Too Ripe". Two other scene stealers in this show are Richard Schmidt as Henry and Bill Murphy as Mortimer who enter and exit through a huge trunk. They abduct Luisa in Act 1 and help to torture Matt in Act 2. Richard spouts screwed up Shakespearean lines while wanting to show everyone his press notices for shows done many years ago. Bill as the Indian has been dying on stage for the past 40 years. They are a hoot in these madcap roles. They sing a snippet of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" when they kidnap Matt in Act 2. Hard working stage manager Denise Betz keeps things running smoothly all night long. This show brought back many wonderful memories having played Henry in it back in 1996 and 1998. So for a trip back to 1960, be sure to catch "The Fantasticks" at Portsmouth Community Theater.