The Fantasticks
by Musical Theatre Anthem

It’s the longest-running show in Broadway history. Not a big, splashy musical like the kind that have mostly dominated for the last few decades. Harvey Schmidt’s The Fantasticks is a charming, intimate musical fable about a boy and a girl, next-door neighbors whose puppy love of youth gets replaced with a taste of the real world, a tale of loss of innocence as our young, callow days of gentle September give way to our older, sadder, but wiser days of winter when we can Try To Remember when life was slow and oh, so mellow.

Director Jackie Hammond of Musical Theatre in Anthem has a great feel for this show’s potential, working with a talented cast of mostly college and high school performers who have a lot of fun with the production, a production that seems to make the most of each moment in the show. 

The cast includes Sterling Liska as young, wide-eyed Matt who fancies himself worldly. Sterling’s a veteran in the role, and his transformation from the callow boy to the weary man is expertly portrayed. Rachael Killeen stars as girl-next-door Luisa who features a strong sense of humor as the teenage girl who fancies herself a princess and the kind of special girl “designed to be kissed upon the eyes.” Both Sterling and Rachael have great vocals for their duets.

Our narrator and villain of the play is the dashing El Gallo played by Brian Sweis who guides us through the tale with style, suavity, and some good singing of the show’s signature song, Try To Remember. El Gallo is hired by the fathers of the two lovebirds, a sort of anti-Romeo and Juliet as they pretend to feud and forbid their children from seeing each other, knowing that if they tell their kids “no,” the kids are sure to do it. To cement the relationship, they get El Gallo to pretend to abduct Luisa, giving Matt a chance to save her. As the dads, Zac Coffey and K.C. Lindley are in good vaudevillian form as they hatch their fatherly plots and lament their failures as kids don’t grow as predictably as radishes.

Meanwhile, Lyle Kishbaugh plays the ancient and forgetful Shakespearean actor Henry with hilarious flair, and young Nicki Herst plays his supposedly Native American actor Mortimer who specializes in death scenes. They play off her youth well as Henry claims that Mortimer has been with him for forty years while Mortimer shakes her head and gestures for people to look at her. And then there’s the nicely staged fight scene that includes using Mortimer’s pigtails.

And then there’s the Mute. Or, in this case, the Mutes. The director split the silent character in two, with one bitter mute (Channing Pickett) who watches the action and does her various jobs with bored disdain, and the other one a happy mute (Kelsey O’Meara) who watches the action with smiles when it’s romantic or funny, or fear and concern when bad things are happening. They might not be able to interact with the others (as Mortimer discovers when he tries to get the happy mute to touch her tambourine and is met with an apologetic shrug), but that gives them time to do things like play cards when they aren’t needed. They are needed during intermission as they set the stage for the next act, sometimes playing, sometimes squabbling, never making a sound, but always adding to this show’s storytelling as the fable plays out and Matt and Luisa learn more about the world and about love.

Performs May 28 - 31, 2009

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

El Gallo: Brian Sweis
Luisa: Rachael Killeen
Matt: Sterling Liska
Hucklebee: Zac Coffey
Bellomy: K.C. Lindley
Henry: Lyle Kishbaugh
Mortimer: Nicki Herst
Mute: Channing Pickett
Mute: Kelsey O'Meara

Director/Vocal Director: Jackie Hammond
Choreographer: Sherry Henderson
Assistant Director: Lindsay Urbank
Stage Manager: Sarah Brayer


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