One of the biggest problems I have with Light Opera Works and their productions is that they run for such short periods of time that many readers never get to witness the creativity that they bring to the theater. Tis truly a shame! So, my friends, if you really want to see their latest production, “The Fantasticks” as never seen before, you need to hustle your way to Evanston, because “Beyond that road” lies an empty Cahn Theater ( well, after June 14th), and I for one would hate to see you miss out on this classic, long running musical that still holds a dear place in my heart. This small scale musical with a book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt that began in a tiny Sullivan Street Theater in New York back in 1960. Yes, over 55 years.
The show has not changed with the exception of opening it up to a larger theater and adding some of the original music that was not in the original or even the 1990’s revival. It is a story about neighbors, two widowers that love gardening. They have children, a boy and a girl who they want to wed, BUT, if they tell them they want this, they will do the opposite. I think that may be a sign of the times for that era which makes the song “Never Say No” even better.
As it turns out, the boy, 20 year old Matt (Christopher MacGregor truly shows off his solid pipes in this show) and 16 year old Luisa (the lovely and talented Meredith Kochan), are in fact in love, but afraid to tell their fathers, Matt’s,Hucklebee (Rick Rapp) and Luisa’s Bellomy (deftly handled by Kirk Swenk) because of the feud and the wall built between their houses. The fathers bring in El Gallo, who is also the story Narrator (played to perfection by James Anest). He takes each on journeys to show them that the world is not all peaches and cream and that we all must feel a little pain before we can find the happiness that we are seeking.
Other characters in this “small musical” are the Mute (Clayton Cross brings a rather acrobatic feel to this character), Henry, the old actor (Chicago legend James Harms truly proves that there are “no small actors, just great interpretations of the roles they are given” and his sidekick, Mortimer (the man who dies) played hysterically by Brian Rooney. This is the entire cast and under the skillful eye of director/choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller, who truly knows this show inside/out, even moving it to a larger venue with a much larger stage and a full orchestra instead of just a few pianos and a harp, works! Man does it work!
We get the following songs- “Try To Remember”, “Much More”, “Metaphor”, “It Depends on What You Pay” (which used to be called the Rape number, and was handled very well with the change to “abduction”, which is also the case in the “Abduction Ballet”),”Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “They Were You” Many of these are well known songs that many of you never knew the origins of. This is where they came from and they are still as vibrant todays as they were over 55 years ago. The full orchestra conducted by Roger L. Bingaman filled the Cahn Auditorium as no storefront could ever sound. The big theater works! The full orchestra works! In fact this entire production is solid from start to finish thanks to the tech people: Adam Veness (set), Andrew H. Meyers (lights), Alicia Anne Lees (costumes), Aaron Quick (sound) and Cassy Schillo (props). Notice: all the tech folk, except Cassy have first names starting with the letter A. Just something I noticed that I wanted to share with somebody.
This fantastic production of “The Fantasticks” will run through June 10th with performances as follows:
Wednesday ,June 10th at 2 p.m.
Friday, June 12th and Saturday, June 13th at 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 14th at 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $34-$94 and are available by calling 847-920-5360 or online at www.LightOperaWorks.com
Children under 21- tickets are 50% off. The Cahn Auditorium is located in Evanston at 600 Emerson Street (at Sheridan) and parking is available on Chicago Avenue and at the garage two blocks south of the theater.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “the Fantasticks”