Theatre Mirror Reviews - "THE FANTASTICS"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Contemporary Theatre's first show of their summer season is The Fantasticks", a 1960 musical with music by Harvey Schmitt and lyrics by Tom Jones. The original show opened off Broadway on May 3, 1960, ran for 17,162 performances, closing on January 13, 2002. It tells an allegorical story, loosely based on the play "Les Romanesques" by Edmond Rostond, concerning two parents who put a wall up between their two houses to ensure that their children fall in love, because they know children always do what their parents forbid. Seeking to end the charade, the parents hire the services of a rogue, El Gallo, who is also the 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 Chris Simpson infuses his cast with the necessary energy to play these roles and musical director Jean Maxon Carpenter obtains some terrific vocals from this talented cast, creating a terrific musical treat for their very appreciative audience.

Chris' direction is marvelous from start to finish, eliciting strong performances from his cast. He makes the show fresh and alive for current day audiences. Jean taught them the lovely numbers and plays the piano beautifully. Playing El Gallo is Amelia Giles. Her El Gallo is still the rogue who pretends to be the good guy. Amelia's strong voice renders the most well known song in the show "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. She displays her comic side during the abduction scene with Henry and Mortimer and in "It Depends On What You Pay" with the parents. Neil Motta and Isabel McCullough play Matt and Luisa splendidly. They capture the innocent love in Act 1 and their renewed love at the end of Act 2. Their strong baritone and soprano voices soar off the charts with their musical numbers including "Metaphor", "Soon It's Gonna Rain" and "They Were You", the loveliest ballad in the show. Isabel is a stunning blonde whose first number is "Much More" which displays her voice marvelously while Neil's voice shines in the belting duet "I Can See It" with Amelia. They also do an excellent job with the jazz quartet "This Plum Is Too Ripe" with the two parents.

The comic parents are played wonderfully by Tim Mahoney and Ashley Moore as Hucklebee and Bellomy. They are very funny when they pretend to argue to get the kids together. Their Spanish style number "Never Say No" and their vaudeville number "Plant a Radish" stop the show with merriment. They also sing with Amelia in the Abduction song and with Neil and Isabel in "This Plum Is Too Ripe." The two biggest scene stealers in this show are Terry Simpson and Kyle Coutre as Henry and Mortimer as they enter and exit mischievously. They abduct Luisa in Act 1 and torture Matt in Act 2. Tim spouts screwed up Shakespearean lines and tries to show the audience his old press notices from days gone by. Kyle as his sidekick has died on stage over 40 times. His death scene antics are priceless. They are a hoot in these madcap roles. I have many pleasant memories of this show, having played Henry twice in 1996 and 1998. I loved getting my revenge on Shakespeare. So for a marvelous musical treat that the whole family can enjoy, be sure to catch "The Fantasticks" at Contemporary Theatre before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

THE FANTASTICKS (9 June to 2 July)
Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main St, Wakefield, RI
1(401)218-0282 or

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