Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Theater Review: The Fantasticks -- Music Theatre of CT

Jack Doyle, Lou Ursone and Shanna Ossi. Photo: Joe Landry
The Fantasticks
Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Musical Direction: David Wolfson
Directed by Kevin Connors

What's It All About:
The classic 1960s show, which is the longest running musical in the world (you still can find it in New York Off-Broadway at the Snapple Theatre Center http://www.fantasticksonbroadway.com/). It's about two fathers, Bellomy (Jack Doyle) and Hucklebee (Lou Ursone) who pretend to feud in a bit of reverse psychology to bring their daughter, Luisa (Carissa Massaro), and son, Matt (Jacob Heimer), together romantically. The stage directions for the musical don't say that it should be performed at Music Theatre of Connecticut's 45-seat theater in Westport, but maybe they should. The intimate space and wonderful circus-tent-themed backdrop by scenic designer Carl Tallent are the perfect setting for the one-piano musical (Music Direction by David Wolfson). The cast is vocally up to the well-known songs like "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "They were You" and the iconic "Try to Remember," sung by El Gallo (Tony Lawson). The role of the mute, who also doubles as the wall between the feuding families, is played by Shanna Ossi, making her professional debut. She wears a Harlequin-type costume designed by Diane Vanderkroef to continue the circus motif. Kathy Calahan choreographs.

What Are the Highlights?
Nicely directed by Kevin Connors, with exceptional lighting, both creative and decorative, by designer Michael Megliol. Comic relief is provided by Mortimer (Jim Schilling) and Henry (played by John Flaherty, who stepped into the role with just two hours of rehearsal when he was tapped to replace a hospitalized Bill Nabel. The transition is seamless. Without the notice of the replacement, we would never have known. Flaherty  is expected to continue through the run (and Nabel is doing well according to MTC's press representative Joe Landry.)

What are the Lowlights?
None. A great show to wrap up the company's residency at the back box site. Next season, its 28th, MTC moves to its new theater space down the road (with The Word Goes Around, Driving Miss Daisy and Little Shop of Horrors announced).

More Information:
The Fantasticks runs at MTC, 246 Post Rd., Westport, through May 4. Performances are Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 4 and 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. www.musictheatreofct.com; 203-454-3883.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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