By Karen Isaacs
Ivoryton Playhouse is presenting an absolutely delightful production of The Fantasticks through Sunday, April 8.
If not handled correctly, this charming piece by Harvey Schmidt (music) and Tom Jones (book and lyrics), can become simplistic and sugary. But director Brian Feehan and the cast have added the salt and spice this piece needs to totally engage you.
It helps that El Gallo, who serves as the narrator, is in the capable hands of David Pitrsinger. He has the voice and the stage authority to carry off the multiple facets of the role: story teller, villain and seducer. He also interacts with the audience wonderfully.
Director Feehan has made a relatively minor adjustment to the plot. In the original, it is the fathers of Matt and Luisa who feign a feud so that their children will rebel against them and fall in love. In this production, it is the mothers who are the instigators. Perhaps that is more plausible that they would be interested in seeing their children wed. Patricia Schuman plays Matt’s mother with great warmth. Of course, it is also her, who spills the beans on the plot when the two young lovers seem too smug. Schuman has a rich mezzo. Carly Callhan is Luisa’s mother, who is more circumspect but does a fine job.
As the young lovers, Branford’s own Ryan Bloomquist is excellent at Matt, the young lover. It isn’t an easy part, for Matt is more naïve than we would expect a 20-year-old to be today. The character is more like a juvenile lead from a 1930s musical – somewhat out of touch with reality, until it is forced upon him. His voice, however, is perfect for the romantic ballads in the show.
Kimberly Immanuel plays the equally naïve and romantic, Luisa. She doesn’t try to hide the fact that the character is self-absorbed and out of touch with the real word. In addition, her soprano voice is excellent.
Together Bloomquist and Immanel make the most of their duets from “Metaphor” to “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” to “They Were You.”
Connecticut favorite R. Bruce Connelly plays Henry, the aging Shakespearean actor who with his assistant (a fine Will Clark), assists El Gallo in staging the abduction that allows Matt to rescue Luisa. Connelly never lets the humor become too broad which is the potential in the role. He still gets all the laughs.
Special praise must be given to Cory Candelet who plays the Mute. The role is an observer and silent commentator on the activities. His facial expressions and body language were so appropriate and expressive that he got loud applause during the curtain calls. It just goes to reinforce that you don’t need a lot of lines to make a big impression in a show.
The direction and choreography by Feehan makes use of the center aisle as well as some interaction with the audience. Musical director Jill Brunnell has helped the performers do an excellent job with the music.
Added to that is the attractive and spare set by Martin Scott Marchitto, the costumes by Elizabeth Saylor Cipollina, the souond by Tate R. Burnmeister and the lighting by Marcus Abbott.
This is an excellent production of this classic “small” musical. If you, go see it.
For tickets visit Ivoryton Playhouse.