RR LogoTheatre West Presents The Fantasticks - Los Angeles Review

The Fantasticks Photo 1

Reviewed by Ethan Silver

The musical The Fantasticks, presented by Theatre West in Los Angeles, opens in a spectacle of whimsy with plenty of fanfare leading to the breaking of the fourth wall for character introductions.  In Act I, we meet a father and son (Hucklebee and Matt) and a father and daughter (Bellomy and Luisa).  Matt and Luisa fall in love and must meet in secret on opposite sides of a wall (a la Pyramuis and Thisby) which separates their feuding fathers’ properties.  This feud is not as sound as it seems in fact; the fathers have an entirely different goal; to bring their children together without letting on who is actually pulling the strings.  After all, the only way to ensure that children will do something is to forbid them to do it.  Enter El Gallo, a bandit for hire.  A scheme unfolds complete with an elaborate abduction, a cleverly-crafted swordfight sans swords and a new hero.  Act II serves as the perfect foil to the first, shattering all youthful innocence and sending the characters into a macabre series of events, dark yet still keeping within the medium of fancy.  Wrap the ending with a bow and leave the theatre smiling.

With a book and lyrics by Tom Jones, The Fantasticks includes music that integrates well with the story.  From “Try to Remember” to “Plant a Radish,” the songs provide a nostalgic familiarity and are well performed by the actors.

Lukas Bailey is tasked both with narrating the action and playing the suave bandit El Gallo.  The sheer amount of energy exuded in his performance makes obvious his love for the role.  Molly Reynolds vocally carries the show with a beautifully disciplined voice but is surprisingly hesitant about using her belt.  A button here and there would make her already great performance that much more impressive.  Joey Jennings (Matt) plays a very charming boy, showcasing his excellent sense of timing with every line.  Seve Nevil (Hucklebee) and Roger Kent Cruz (Bellomy) are spot-on with a vaudevillian flair perfect for the roles.  Yancey Dunham (Mortimer) and Don Moss (Henry) make a delightfully odd pair of actors/abduction assistants and are quite engaging.  Lee Meriwether graces the stage as The Mute and although her character is silent and acts as a ploy to serve the story, she is so confidently engaged in her role that she is incredibly fun to watch. 

The production bursts with creativity from the sets (Jeff G. Rack) to the lighting (Yancey Dunham) to the blocking and choreography (Charlie Mount).  Add live musical direction (Graham Jackson) and The Fantasticks becomes one of the most creative musical adaptations in Los Angeles.  The production value alone is enough to draw a full house.  The pacing is excellent but with all of the action, music and lighting interspersed throughout, the energy changes dramatically in scenes in which they are absent.  This is due, not to the actors, but the situation.  The stage is quieter with less physical action and absence of the above elements thus causing an abrupt and temporary slowing of story.  It would be beneficial to mic the actors for these moments to maintain the energetic momentum.  This would also help during the musical numbers when instrumentation is high and vocal volume is low.  The only other critique to be offered is a tightening up some of the blocking in the second act musical numbers as it becomes a tad loose.  It is important to note that these items do not detract from one’s enjoyment, but when fixed, can only add to it.

Theatre West’s The Fantasticks is a must-see, rated A+ for entertainment value.  Catch this wonderful production through October 7th, Fridays and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2.  Online ticketing can be found at www.theatrewest.org or call the reservation line at (310) 851-7977

Photo: L - R Molly Reynolds, Lee Meriwether, Joey Jennings.

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