"The Fantasticks"

By Marlene S. Gaylinn

For those who haven’t seen this longest running show in New York City’s history, you can save yourself the hassle as Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) is presenting a very enjoyable production of “The Fantastics,” right here in Westport, CT.

This classical fable dates back to the ancient Greeks and is presented here in the style of a troupe of traveling, carnival actors. The play’s charming simplicity, with wonderful music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones, keeps attracting audiences because most folks can relate to meddling parents and the disappointments of teenagers who think they know everything.

Under the capable direction of Kevin Connors, the two meddling parents are Jack Doyle (Bellomy) and Lou Ursoene (Henry). The men delightfully play the neighbors who conspire to match their children for eventual marriage. Their philosophy rightly states that if you say “no!” children will naturally rebel and act contrary. And so, the fathers proceed to build a stonewall between their properties and pretend to be enemies. The teenagers, Jacob Helmer (Matt) and Clarrissa Massaro (Luisa) thereby follow suit and pursue their forbidden courtship over the wall.

Helmer has a wonderful voice and plays his lovesick part tenderly while Massoro is his sweet, next-door girlfriend. The parents decide to meddle still further in order to securely bind the relationship. Tony Lawson, the handsome “El Gallo,” is hired to perform the girl’s “abduction” -- which in turn, will hopefully make the boy into a hero and bring the lovers closer. However, not all goes according to plan. At this point in the stage action, the developing attraction between Lawson and Massaro needs more subtle definition in order to be clearly understood.

El Gallo’s comic co-conspirators are Jim Schilling (Mortimer) and John Flaherty (Henry) who squeeze out every juicy ounce of hilarity from their ridiculous roles. Shanna Ossi, the smiling mime, effectively uses ballet movements to introduce the characters and the props. The play’s familiar songs are: “Try to Remember,” Plant a Radish,” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” which are nicely rendered by the cast and arranged by David Wolfson on the piano.

Although some of its magical, imaginative atmosphere is lost when sitting too close to the action, this production of “The Fantasticks” has a fine, professional cast and entertains throughout.

We are certainly looking forward to next season when MTC transfers to larger quarters. Plays to May 4. Tickets: 203-454-3883

This review appears in “On CT&NY Theatre”  Posted 4.16.2014

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