Wednesday, May 4, 2011

REVIEW: The Fantasticks (New York)

The Jerry Orbach Theater (New York), Sunday April 24

The Fantasticks is the longest-running musical in the world (it claims) and for the good reasons. It has a poetic book, endearing songs, utilizes a pocket-size cast and orchestra; and at least based on this production I saw, it packs an excellent cast in a charming production, in a theater that is just the right size.

I saw this musical 15 years ago done by a community theater in Hong Kong and hated it. Since then, I never tempted to revisit it again until this trip to New York, all because that this is the only musical i haven't seen that is open on a Sunday evening in the broadway district.

The remarkable difference in my opinion on the two performances can be mostly attributed to three aspects: the actors, the production and the venue. The performance in the Jerry Orbach Theater (named after THE broadway and TV star who originated the role El Gallo) was first and foremost about the excellent cast. As a company, it was very even and the lesser roles were weighted and performed magnificently. The production was simple and polished and suited the small venue to a T... any bigger venue will render the production underdesigned.

I particularly enjoyed the performances of McIntyre Dixon as Henry, Michael Nostrand as Mortimer and Edward Watts as El Gallo. Watts' El Gallo was sleek and mesmerizing. I rarely use the word 'mesmerizing' to describe a musical actor and the only other 'mesmerizing' musical actor I can think of is Craig Bierko in the Broadway revival of The Music Man in 2000. They both possess an effortless and sincere charm that made their characters believable and personable.


The Fantasticks

Lyrics by: Tom Jones
Music by: Harvey Schmidt
Book by: Tom Jones

Creative Team:
Tom Jones (Director)
Word Baker (Original Director)
Ed Wittstein (Scenic and Costume Design)
Mary Jo Dondlinger (Lighting Design)

Cast List:
Bill Bateman
Matt Dengler
MacIntyre Dixon
Matt Leisy
Michael Nostrand
Dan Sharkey
Juliette Trafton
Edward Watts

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