By GABRIELLA BOCK | Reporter
On Friday, Sept. 1, Theatre Palisades opened its fall season with an intimate revival of the world’s longest-running off-Broadway musical, “The Fantasticks.”
Directed by beloved producer Sherman Wayne, Theatre Palisades’ latest production had the Pierson Playhouse packed to full capacity during opening weekend—and with good reason.
Wayne, a celebrated figure around the playhouse, earned his big break in 1962 when he was signed on to co-produce “The Fantasticks” during its early years at the Sullivan Street Theater in Greenwich Village. With fans all across the globe, the production would go on to run for 57 years until its last show on June 4.
With music by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, the play is a moonlit adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Victorian comedy “The Romancers,” laden with laughter, tears and astounding Broadway-style vibrato.
It’s a tale of timeless relatability: Two young, star-crossed lovers part ways, only to find that the world is not so pretty in the sunlight.
Add in two neighboring fathers who, although well-intentioned, devise a scheme to control the fate of their children and you’ve got “The Fantasticks.”
Stepping into the role of 16-year-old Luisa, part one of our naive twosome, was the ever-so-charming Giane Morris, whose thunderous voice shook the room with raw emotion.
Luisa, a sheltered girl who has just realized the power of her own beauty, falls in love with the boy-next-door despite the “disapproval” of her father.
Playing opposite Morris was Jeremiah Lussier as Matt, our boy tenor who captivates Luisa—and audience-goers—with his seraphic voice and sweet demeanor.
Perhaps just as naive as his counterpart, Matt’s budding love is displayed through idealistic daydreams and romantic prose, yet houses no true understanding of the harder realities that all couples must endure.
Bringing in the conflict were lovable fathers Bellomy—played by Darin Greenblatt—and Hucklebee—played by Greg Abbott—who delighted in faking a feud between their houses.
Why, you may ask?
It’s simple: As stated in their hilariously joyful duet, “Children, I guess, must get their own way the minute that you say no.”
Hoping to see them marry, the meddling fathers hatch a final plan to end the fued and combine their families for good. Together they enlist the help of El Gallo, a Spanish bandit who serves as the play’s narrator, and two screwball actors, Mortimer and Henry, to “kidnap” Luisa and grant Matt the chance to save his lady from despair.
But will such plans succeed, and if so, will the young lovers find contentment without drama?
Charming and suave, Drew Fitzsimmons transformed into the role of the deceitful bandit and Mark Fields Davidson and Michael-Anthony Nozzi had the audience in side-splitting laughter during the play’s rowdy kidnapping scene.
And although he had no speaking lines, Jeff Dewitt was a pleasant addition as “the mute” who provided stage props, moved furniture and mimed important details that would have otherwise been left unexplained by the production’s minimal set.
It should also be mentioned that conductor and pianist Brian Murphy and harpists Emma Rostykus and Liza Wallace played offstage as a live orchestra and provided the classic music that has enchanted theatergoers for nearly six decades.
The trio, along with the actors’ professionally trained vocals and powerful stage chemistry, made the evening one “Fantastick” affair in Pacific Palisades.
Running through Oct. 8, tickets to “The Fantasticks” are available at theatrepalisades.org.
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