What is it about musicals that seem to captivate viewers and mesmerize fans of theatre? Is it the ambiance of the stage? Or is it the exquisiteness of the costumes? Perchance it’s the delicious songs of the script. Whatever the case, the Tallahassee Little Theatre production of “The Fantasticks” certainly seems to possess those spectacular qualities and more.
Written by Tom Jones with music by Harvey Schmidt, the very first production of “The Fantasticks” debuted in 1960 and is the longest running musical ever with 17,000 performances and 42 years to its name.
TLT’s production of the show won’t quite reach that particular number but it still manages to deliver all of the heightened supremacy of a true Broadway hit.
This is not your typical Tyler Perry melodrama. Nothing is blown out of proportion. No one has slept with any baby daddies and there certainly isn’t a 6-foot-tall man dressed in drag.
What makes the musical so excellent is that it is actually rather simplistic. At the heart of it is a love story, a bristling romance of comic proportions.
“The Fantasticks” begins with the song “Try to Remember,” sung by the mysterious El Gallo who is played to perfection by Sam Higdon. El Gallo serves as the musical’s resident narrator and explains the plot.
Matt and Luisa live next door to each other and are utterly and hopelessly in love. However, their feuding fathers have ordered them not to interact. To that end, the fathers have constructed a wall to separate their children from each other.
But little do Matt and Luisa know that their fathers are actually buddies and want their children to be together. Upon discovering this, Matt and Luisa turn the tables on their conniving fathers.
TLT’s production of “The Fantasticks” is theatrical perfection. While the thin plot may often times have some viewers lifting an eyebrow, the acting is downright superb. Among the artistic cast members are Jake Armstrong and Ashley Townsend, who have both starred in a vast plethora of plays. Both Armstrong and Townsend possess beautiful voices and their acting is completely flawless.
The same can be said about Shawn McCauley and Patrick Campbell who portray their respective fathers. Colin Wulff also does quite a great job as the ominous Mute, the one character that doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. The entire cast is devoid of any weak links.
However, the true stars of the production may just be the dynamic duo of Duncan Hoehn and Martin Peacock who play a pair of colorful actors hired by El Gallo to abduct Luisa in a plot hatched by her father. Not only does the team garner laughs, but their chemistry is evident and that helps make their amusing characters a bit more two dimensional.
Filled with laughs, heartache, excitement and a few thrills, “The Fantasticks” proves to be a true showstopper. Not only is it heartwarming and clever, but it is enlightening and charming and that makes the show very ‘fantastic’.