BWW Reviews: An Enchanting THE FANTASTICKS
Quest Theatre Ensemble's THE FANTASTICKS lives up to it name.
Director Kent Joseph's production of the world's longest running musical (it first opened 57 years ago) is sweet, romantic and nostalgic without losing some of the elements of The Theatre of the Absurd and comedia dell'arte that give the piece its edge.
Neighbors Bellomy (Jordan DeBose) and Hucklebee (Megan Elk) are neighbors whose feud has escalated to the point that the pair have built a wall between their waring homes. Their respective children Luisa (a sweet and naïve Tiffany Williams) and Matt (A dashing Adam Fane) and have fallen in love in spite of (and account of) said wall.
Despite living sheltered lives, both children believe themselves to be worldly. Luisa dreams of adventure (the song "Much More" which is exquisitely sung by Williams). Matt insists with some certainty that he knows how the world works ("I Can See It," the reprise of which showcases a range to Fane's voice that we heretofore haven't really heard before).
The wall is all a scheme by the parents to manipulate their offspring (after all, if you want a child to do something, tell them 'no').
So that the ruse doesn't come undone, the parents further hatch a plot to hire a professional kidnapper Robert Quintanilla as El Gallo) and his acting friends (Kirk Osgood as Henry and Kristen Alesia as Mortimer) to abduct Luisa, thus allowing Matt to "save" her and end the feud.
Quintanilla's performance of the show's most well-known tune "Try to Remember" hits all the right notes. There's an acknowledgement of an underlying current of sadness behind any memory of things past, but there is a gentle sweetness as well.
Elk's performance as Hucklebee (a role traditionally played by a man) proves more than just a gender-blind bit of casting. She is the perfect foil to DeBose's Bellomy and both of their performances highlight the pair's comedic talents. Additionally, there is something down right equitable about showcasing how mothers and fathers can easily misjudge their children.
As the clueless pair of actors, Osgood and Alesia also prove they are more than capable of mining all the laughs from the script. Casting young actors in roles traditional depicted to be much older was a risk that pays off here. It manages to place emphasis on the more Absurdist aspects inherent to the show.
Lindsey Jouett has what is often times the most difficult and thankless role in the production -that of The Mute. Jouett finds just the right times to slyly smile and possesses a sort of knowing twinkle in her eyes that makes her performance exceptionally captivating
The two-piece orchestra (Sara Cate Langham on piano and Keryn Wouden on harp with music direction by Langham) add a layer of musical intimacy (it also ensures that the exceptional vocal work by the ensemble never get drowned out).
All in all, it's a handsome, intimate, emotional production. Given that tickets are free (reservations are highly recommended to reserve your free tickets), you really have no excuse to miss this production.
Quest Theatre Ensemble's production of THE FANTASTICKS runs Fridays at 8 p.m, Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through March 26 at the Blue Theatre, 1609 W. Gregory. Admission is free; reservations strongly suggested: www.questensemble.org