THE Fantasticks premiered at The Sullivan Theatre on May 3rd 1960 and ran for 17,162 performances before closing in January 2002.
The current revival at The Snapple Theatre (renamed the Jerry Orbach Theatre) is directed by the show's playwright and lyricist, Tom Jones and stars pop sensation, Aaron Carter, in the role of Matt.
Ian Mackellar played Matt in a production some years ago and the show has always held a special place in his heart. (The Fantasticks seems to have this effect on those involved in it!).
This time Mackellar directs - very precisely - and plays Luisa's father.
Mackellar stepped into this role just a few weeks ago, to team up with John Woodlock, who plays Matt's father.
Together these gentlemen very nearly steal the show. Their final duet particularly, is one to look forward to.
As Director, Mackellar has done a stellar job. He imbues The Fantasticks with all the love he has for this show and for musical theatre and storytelling.
The storytelling is key. We are asked at the outset to indulge the players and put our imaginations to good use.
It sounds like a big call and it is. If it were not for the ingeniously (deceptively) simple staging and the deft efficiency of Carly Partridge as The Mute, it would be an almost impossible ask.
Partridge magically procures props and costumes from out of nowhere at the precise moment each is needed.
She establishes her quiet authority and maintains an air of all-knowing, all-seeing puppet master (but who is pulling her strings?).
She is omnipresent and she knows the show back to front and inside out; very little would happen without her.
Sam Coward is a wonderful El Gallo. And I'm not even biased. In fact, I'm probably his biggest critic.
In this role, Coward is in fine voice and takes seriously his responsibility to invoke our imaginations from the outset.
He finds just the right amount of sensitivity and swashbuckling, mischievous charm to woo and slightly terrify.
His rendition of Try to Remember gently draws us in before he hints at any of the horrors of the world.
His duet with Matt (He Can See It) is disturbing and loathsome in its foreboding, prophetic nature.
The latter is a highlight that comes in stark contrast to the opening number, another highlight, which is suitably warm, welcoming, and full of the promise of life (and a good story to boot!).
You would think that living with the man would have proffered some production clues, gossip, something, anything…but no; I took our six year old daughter, Poppy, to see the opening night performance having heard Try to Remember sung in the shower just once or twice and I guess from the bathroom renditions we were both expecting great things.
Happily, no one was disappointed and in fact the common cry over Chandon after the show was, "Why do we not hear this voice more often?" and "Why is this man not on stage more often?" (I said the same thing about Mackellar.)… Coward has focused on directing and producing for a little while, as you would know if you've been following this blog; this is his first role onstage since SRT's Short+Sweet winner, So, Where Is It?
Perhaps we'll see him in a musical again sometime soon since he's suddenly remembered he can sing.
We knew Stephen Moore would present hilariously and along with his sidekick, the silent Mortimer, played by newcomer Mal Farvar, he provides a lot of the comic relief.
The young lovers each reveal some good character work and a subtlety that Mackellar told me was honed during rehearsals as they imagined they were acting for camera.
As Luisa, Rachel Halverson is sweet, naïve and thrust into love and confusion.
She can afford to sing out a little more with such a beautiful, natural voice, reminding me of Sweeney Todd's Johanna.
The keyboards (one a keyboard, one a keyboard masquerading as a harp) could also do with a fuller sound or simply slightly more volume.
Without overpowering the voices, as so often happens - still - in community theatre venues, it might help the younger singers.
Callum Hamacek is love-struck and brave and foolish (and humbly forlorn and defeated) as Matt.
They are delightful, completely convincing, establishing a beautiful connection early in the piece, which helps us go with them on their journey.
The couple's final duet is simple and quite simply, captivating.
The Fantasticks is a rather old-fashioned, whimsical musical yet it manages to retain its relevance and is very much to be enjoyed by the whole family.
On opening night it ran at a languid pace, however; I've been told it has since picked up and audiences of all ages have delighted in the opening weekend.
Don't miss The Fantasticks as it continues next week Oct 4, 5, 6 at 7.30pm.
Tickets: Adult $30, Concession $26, Member/Group $24, Child $20.
Bookings 5449 9343 or online at www.noosaartstheatre.org.au or Mon to Sat at theatre 9-12 noon Noosa Arts Theatre Weyba Rd Noosaville.
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