Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Directed by Beth Wolf
Produced by Promethean Theatre Company
At City Lit Theatre, Chicago
Promethean’ s The Fantasticks has some worthy moments
Daring to venture into the world of musical comedy, Promethean Theatre Ensemble mounted a worthy production of the beloved classic The Fantasticks – the longest running musical of all-time.
The Fantasticks is an allegorical story concerning two neighboring fathers who put up a wall between their houses to ensure that their children fall in love, because they know children always do what their parents forbid. After the children do fall in love, they discover their fathers’ plot and they each go off and experience things in the world. They return to each other and the love they had, having learned from the world and made an informed decision.
Featuring a lovely score by Harvey Schmidt with poetic lyrics and dialogue by Tom Jones, The Fantasticks is beloved icon that generations cherish. Many terrific productions have emerged on Chicago stage through the years. The Promethean Theatre Ensemble, under the leadership of director Beth Wolf, got much of the musical correct. Her Fantasticks is worth a look.
The strengths of production, now playing at City Lit Theatre in Rogers Park is in the outstanding musicality of Janelle Lake (harpist) and Aaron Benham (pianist and music director). This Fantasticks’ music was expert–especially the lush harp.
I was impressed at the strong acting by the cast. Often with the Fantasticks, the emphasis is on the singing as directors cast singers at the expense of the acting. In this production, the acting far exceeded the vocals. Devon Candura played and sang Luisa with loads of charm and feminine innocence. Erik Kaiko was also a strong actor and adequate singer. Nick Lake (Henry, the old actor) and Nathan Drackett (Mortimer, the actor who dies on stage) both had fine comic moments.
Peter Verdico (Bellomy) and Will Hare (Hucklebee) -the fathers- nailed their songs with cute aplomb. Jess Mercer had the thankless role as The Mute-she had her clever moments.
The ultimate success of The Fantasticks lies in the casting of El Gallo, the Narrator. That role requires a commanding presence, a large dose of charm and charisma and an articulate speech with a strong soothing singing voice. Unfortunately, Michael Reyes was not up to that standard. He seemed unsure and tentative and he rarely smiled. He lacked charm and sex appeal. His vocals were barely adequate as his voice seemed shallow as he was drowned out by the harp and keyboard several times.
This production of The Fantasticks has enough going for it to be worth a look. The actors win us over with their enchanting truthfulness. Songs like “Try to Remember,” “Metaphor” and “Soon Its Gonna Rain” highlight the show. Give this show a look, you’ll enjoy it.
At City Lit Theatre, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-305-2896, tickets $20, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through March 21, 2010