“The Fantasticks” is the world’s longest running musical and yet I had not seen it until Skylark Opera chose to produce it for their summer series. Instead of a grand ensemble and billowing pit, the show has a quaint cast of eight with an additional piano and harp player that accompany them. The show is not a spectacle, rather it revolves around the tunes and the actors ability to convey the story. As the play opens we are given a brief synopsis by The Narrator/El Gallo. We meet two kids, a boy and girl, both dressed in all white which displays their innocence. Their love is divided by a wall built by their fathers who are dressed in flamboyant striped and checkered pants. As the play progresses, they yearn for adventure just beyond the bend. The boy goes out to find it in a prodigal son-like way and learns the hardships and reality of “the real world”.
For me, the show was carried by the strong acting as opposed to the singing. Matt Berdahl who plays the boy does a wonderful job as the joyous young lad. Quinn Shadko, the girl, paired well with him as the dreaming, childish lovers. The two fathers were adorably silly. Their songs together were well choreographed and stood out. Mortimer played by Zachary Colby was the hilarious Igor-type character (Young Frankenstein). His man-who-dies scene made the audience chortle. The Mute, Penelope Freeh, did a fantastic job of lurking in the background and coming forward for brief, yet impactful moments.
The well known, hummable tune “Try to Remember” opens and closes the show. “They Were You” is such a precious lovers duet, it should be sung at weddings. Well, those who love theatrical weddings. A transition song which was played frequently, reminded me of “We Open In Venice” from “Kiss Me Kate” with music by the memorable, Cole Porter. Instead of an elaborate set, two ladders, treasure chests and a wooden structure partially filled the stage. Colorful confetti was used throughout the show to signify the opening, red blood, weather changes and so forth. It was a charming fixture and one I had not seen used before.
If you enjoy scaled back, yet loveable musicals, this show is for you. Learn more about Skylark Opera’s “The Fantasticks” here: http://www.skylarkopera.org/