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Published on September 13th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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Review of the Fantasticks at Theatre West

By John Farrell, Photos by Thomas Mikusz

Theatre West is a Los Angeles landmark which has been producing plays for fifty years now, most recently in their theater in the stretch of Cahuenga Blvd. just west of Universal City.

The Fantasticks, the musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt which opened at Theatre West the first week of September (Sunday, September 8′s performance is reviewed here) can do better than that. The Fantasticks opened in 1960, ran for 46 years in New York, closed in 2006, re-opened in 2006 and is still going strong. It is the longest-running play in the United States, the longest running musical, and has been performed in more than 11,000 productions in two dozen languages. Whew!

The Theatre West production sticks closes to the original, with a simple platform stage with six wooden pillars, a cardboard moon (it’s mentioned in the play) and the actors sitting on stage when they aren’t participating. The only serious deviation is in the costuming of the two fathers, Bellomy (Roger Kent Cruz) and Hucklebee (Steve Nevil) who have a decidedly Laurel and Hardy partnership going on. (It works.)

The story, inspired by a play by Edmond Rostand called Les Romanesques, tells the story of Matt (Joey Jennings) and Luisa (Molly Reynolds). Their Fathers, Bellomy and Hucklebee, are determined for them to fall in love, and so they build a wall to separate the two, and hire El Gallo (Lukas Bailey) to stage a fake abduction (it was a rape in 1960 but political correctness has altered that.) Matt saves Luisa and they are married. That’s the first act, by moonlight. In the second, lit buy the sun, they are no longer in love, and must see a little of life’s harshly lit side before finally reconciling.

Reynolds in the star performer in the cast: she sings with a brilliant voice and dances with grace and charm. Jennings is believable as a 20-year-old in love, and the proud fathers, Cruz and Nevil, doing their Laurel and Hardy schtick, are charming as the plotting fathers, talking on occasion directly to the audience. Donn Moss is delightful as Henry, the aging actor who helps El Gallo. Charlie Mount, who directed the play, was Mortimer Sunday, the actor who plays an Indian and is known for dieing on stage, which he demonstrated with athletic ability. Leona Britton was effective as the all-purpose mute. Only Bailey’s El Gallo was a disappointment. Well acted but, at least Sunday, without a voice up to the musical’s best-known song, “Try to Remember.”

Jeff G. Rack designed the sets and Graham Jackson provided the musical direction and played the score from an on-stage piano.

The Fantasticks has charmed audiences for decades and its delightful mixture of commedia dell’arte and Noh techniques and a wonderful score keep it fresh around the world (except, curiously, in London, where the critics and audiences hate it.) Hollywood isn’t London, so you’ll have a great time.

Tickets are $28, $34 for Premium Seating in the first four rows, $24 for seniors, $22 for groups of twelve or more, $10 for students. Performances are Friday, September 14 at 8 p.m., Saturday, September 15 at 8 p.m., Sunday, September 16 at 2 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 7.

Details: ((323) 851-7977, www.theatrewest.org
Venue: Theatre West
Location: 3333 North Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles

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