- Reporters Desk
By John Farrell
Before there were any Fringe Festivals — well before the first Edinburgh Fringe Festival — there were plays that should have been in a festival, plays that started small and grew big and successful.
Perhaps the best representative of that sterling, but very limited class, is The Fantasticks, which opened far off Broadway in New York in 1959, and is still running there.
It was a small scale musical in a world of big musicals, but it was a hit nonetheless, a musical that brought back 19thcentury production values and a score that was rich and timeless, featuring hit songs and a story that harks back to Shakespeare, but remains as modern as young love.
The Fantasticks, in a pristine revival (featuring a Harp! the show boasts) comes to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year, presented by the Good People Theater Co. and directed by Janet Miller and featuring all of Tom Jones’ lyrics and Harvey Schmidt’s delightful music. On stage at the Lillian Theater it is simple and uses only one set, just like the original. And, if the cast isn’t quite as musical as it should be, they are, in all other respects, perfect.
The Fantasticks tells the story of a young couple who have been destined for years by their fathers to fall in love: the fathers have built a wall between their homes so the young folks will think their love is forbidden. With the help of El Gallo and a couple of theatrical companions the young woman is stolen away and rescued by the young man. But things don’t come out quite right, and it is only after the couple experience a little of the real world that they finally get together, sadder but wiser.
Matt Steven is Hucklebee and Corky Loupe is Mortimer, the two parents who comically scheme to bring their children, Audrey Curd as Luisa and Matt Franta as Matt, together. They hire El Gallo (Christopher Karbo) to abduct Luisa and he in turn hires two actors, Henry (Joey D’Auria) and Bellomy (Michael Wallot) to help. The play is brought together by the the Mute (Alix Ogawa) who moves furniture, impersonated the wall and makes herself generally useful.
Hucklebee and Mortimer are sincere, likeable and patient. They are prepared to par for a good abduction. El Gallo serves as the play’s narrator, not only singing the best-known song, “Try to Remember,” but also explaining how the story advances. Henry is very funny aging Shakespearean actor living on memories of past triumphs and Bellomy is famous for dying spectacularly.
Miller directs a performance much like (presumably) the original, with Corey Hirsch on the piano.
Tickets are $20, $15 for Fringe participants, $10 for seniors and students. Performances are June 20 at 7:30 p.m., June 21 at 2 p.m., June 22 at 2 p.m., June 27 at 7:30 p.m., June 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and June 29 at 1 p.m.