FANTASTICKS: Overdone with a Few Magic Moments

Disappointing Performance of a show icon at Orleans Academy Playhouse
Show runs through July 14 and the orchestra nearly saves it


                                   By Libby Hughes, capecodtoday theatre critic

The Academy Playhouse in Orleans tackles The Fantasticks musical that ran from 1960 to 2002 off  Broadway in 17,162 performances and wrung the hearts of thousands-possibly millions in New York City, community theatres, and schools across the nation. 

arenafan2_376_01In right are cast members Peter Milsky, Kevin Quill, Becky Gosselin, and Peter Earle.  Photo by Robert Tucker/Focalpoint Studio.

It had an off Broadway revival in 2006. Even though the Orleans show has been underway for two weeks at the Playhouse, their attempt falls short of expectations from a reviewer who has stood in awe of many of their past productions.

Timeless Romeo and Juliet clone

The story is timeless. The plot is a Romeo and Juliet spin-off. Two neighboring families want to match-make their children. The fathers pretend to discourage the relationship in hopes the girl and boy will rebel and eventually become a couple. Their plans backfire.

The play is not dated. It stands the test of time, but unfortunately this production is overdone, bordering on broad slapstickThe girl falls for a con-man and the boy goes to see the world. He is corrupted and abused by gypsies. When the Prodigal boy returns home, he finds his love is rekindled.

Harvey Schmidt composed the music and Tom Jones wrote the book and lyrics. The allegory came from a play called "The Romancers" by Edmond Rostand. Songs such as "Try to Remember" and "They Were You" are hauntingly memorable.

Lack of pacing at fault

The play is not dated. It stands the test of time, but unfortunately this production is overdone, bordering on broad slapstick. The first act was full of peaks and valleys. The rhythm and pacing were lost. Not until Kevin Quill arrived on stage as the young boy, Matt, did the pace pull up for a few magic moments. The duets and harmonies between the two fathers, Peter Earle and Peter Milsky, also lifted the show out of the doldrums. The summer heat and zero A/C  may have compounded the problem.

Second act came to life

There is no doubt that Kevin Quill has a talented futureThe second act was a great improvement. The actors began topping lines and projecting. There is no doubt that Kevin Quill has a talented future. His acting is natural, convincing, and his tenor voice has an operatic flavor to it. His energy level dropped somewhat in places in act two. But even when he sang in almost a whisper, his diction was clear. Although Rick Smith looked devilishly handsome as the debonair El Gallo, his roguish ways lacked variety and credibility. Many times his singing voice was too soft. He has a fine voice-let's hear it! Christopher Thomas in the small role of Mortimer had a pirate's glint in his eye.

Rebecca Banas Gosselin as Louisa, the young girl, improved in act two. The three mutes, Emily Rice, Mary Elizabeth Trull, and Judy Guyon were consistently good as the mimes.

Perhaps much of the credit belongs to the three piece orchestra: Chris Morris on piano; Katie Lynch-Koglin on harp; and Dick Stocks on guitar.

The Fantasticks runs through July 14 at the Academy Playhouse on Main St. in Orleans at 8:00pm Tuesday through Saturday. Call 508-255-1963.

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