Try to Remember the last time you saw the Tom Jones-Harvey Schmidt musical evergreen The Fantasticks. If it’s been a while, you should get yourself over to the Players Theatre and fall in love all over again with this frequently magical production.
That it’s so familiar—and yet can still seem so new—is a tribute both to the original piece (based on an Edmond Rostand play, this version became the longest-running show in musical theater history) and to the talent at work in the Players production. Director-choreographer Scott Keys has pulled a new trick or two while not losing any of the simple power inherent to the bittersweet story of a girl, a boy, two fathers, a couple of traveling actors and a mute who is there to be whatever she needs to be.
First of all, he rounded up a great cast, most of them returnees to the Players stage. As Luisa, the girl for whom everything changes when she turns 16, Trina Rizzo is, to start with, the right age. Then she’s also got a voice that’s well showcased on such songs as Much More and They Were You, as well as an ability to play both the tremulous and the more defiant moments of her character.
She’s nicely paired, both vocally and dramatically, with Craig Weiskerger as the boy Matt, who quickly discovers much about life beyond his four walls (to his sorrow). Jason Kimble and Doug Nelson are fun as the supposedly sparring fathers who secretly want their kids to marry. Greg Wiegers is a properly dashing El Gallo (he makes his entrance on a motorcycle in this production). And Bob Fahey and Bill Sarazen as the actors drawn into El Gallo’s paid abduction plot feel like old familiar friends. Fahey in particular makes the most of his hammy line deliveries and is really something to look at in his age make-up and tattered costumes. And Anna Trinci moves with grace and sureness as the mute.
Keys, along with scenic designer Kirk V. Hughes, costume designer Ellie Pattison and lighting designer Brad Pattison, can also take credit for providing just the right atmosphere for this poignant, funny tale to develop. A big sign labeled The Fantasticks lights up occasionally at the right moments; the Act II highlight of Round and Round provides both the color and the terror it should, well choreographed and executed; and overall, all the familiar lines and emotions most of us know so well become fresh and clear again.
Did I mention the nice orchestral backing by harpist Cheryl Losey, keyboardist Becky Heintz and percussionist Tony Martin? Well, I have now. Kudos to Keys and all involved for a lovely show.
The Fantasticks has already been extended from its original closing date to Oct. 3; call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.