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The Fantasticks at Snapple Theater Center
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The Fantasticks at Snapple Theater Center

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Snapple Theater Center
(Theater Website)
210 West 50th Street
NY, NY
212.307.4100
With The Clementine Company,
Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, and Thomas Viertel
Present:

The Fantasticks
(New "Fantasticks" Website)
Book & Lyrics by Tom Jones
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Director: Tom Jones
Original Production Staged by Word Baker

Featuring: Paul Jackel (The Narrator, El Gallo)
Douglas Ullman, Jr. (The Boy, Matt)
Sara Jean Ford (The Girl, Luisa)
John Deyle (The Boy's Father, Hucklebee)
Martin Vidnovic (The Girl's Father, Bellomy)
Thomas Bruce (The Old Actor, Henry)
Robert R. Oliver (The Man Who Dies, Mortimer)
Nick Spangler (The Mute)
Dorothy Martin, At the Piano
Erin Hill, At the Harp

Scenic & Costume Design: Ed Wittstein
Lighting Design: Mary Jo Dondlinger
Sound Design: Dominic Sack
Production Management: Aduro Productions
Casting: Telsey & Company
Production Stage Manager: Gregory R. Covert
Press: Barlow*Hartman
General Management: Richard Frankel Productions, Rod Kaats
Music Director: Dorothy Martin
Production Supervisor: Dan Shaheen
Musical Staging by Janet Watson


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 5, 2006


This 1960 - 2002 musical production, lasting years and years (17, 162 performances in the Village at the tiny Sullivan Street Playhouse), is the world's longest running musical, and, thankfully, it has been restored and revived at the tiny, new Snapple Theater Center, 50th Street and Broadway. Tom Jones, aka Thomas S. Bruce, who wrote the original book and lyrics, and was also the original "Old Actor", is yet again the "Old Actor", only now of elderly stature, but raving with boundless energy and enthusiasm. (Of note, Rita Gardner, the original show's Girl, is now Rosie, the grandmother, in The Wedding Singer.) Mr. Jones/Bruce has revived this enchanted work with the same simple sets and costumes, the silver confetti raindrops, the red paper streamers, and a thick, paper moon. The wall between two neighbors, both of whom plant radishes and kumquats, is still the dashing mute, in formal black attire, holding but a straight, wooden rod, and the two fathers, mock enemies, but fast friends, still wear overalls, suspenders, bright plaid and stripes. The Girl and The Boy still believe in youthful innocence, and, when burned by life, still leap into each others' arms. This is family-rated fun with heart-warming humor. And, the music and words play in your head forever, "Try to Remember", "It Depends On What You Pay", "Soon It's Gonna Rain", "Plant a Radish", "They Were You"...

I first saw this show too many years ago to admit, and then again and again, whenever relatives or friends from out-of-town wanted to see a really great musical. The Fantasticks was and remains reliable, resilient, and ravishing. (My guest, tonight, was Floridian, Rhonda Reagan, of Stunning Details Jewelry). There are no hyped electronics, no synthesizers, no giant microphones, no artificial smoke, no strobe lights, and no cheap thrills. Every lyric and note are classy and genuine, like the patched and tattered trunk for the Old Actor and his dying (American Indian) sidekick, Mortimer (Robert R. Oliver). El Gallo, The Narrator, who twice sings "Try to Remember", also carries off the mock rape (actually harmless kidnapping) and duels with restraint with The Boy, whose machismo and self-esteem are enhanced. If only there were new shows with such simplicity of production and lack of artificiality. If only there were more actors so suited to the roles, who can actually, also sing. And, if only there were lyrics and music with such memorable melodies and nurturing narration. It's no wonder that this show has been replicated on tour in so many incarnations.

Tonight's Sunday eve performance had some replacements, and they were all excellent. Paul Jackel filled in as The Narrator, El Gallo, with persona, voice, and attitude. Douglas Ullman, Jr. filled in as The Boy, blond, enraptured, and adventurous, and, as he sang in the nearby aisle, he captivated the audience. John Deyle filled in as The Boy's Father, Hucklebee, suitably buoyant and well-timed. And, Nick Spangler filled in as The Mute, deft and dashing, appropriately poised. The remaining cast was listed in the program, and Sara Jean Ford, as The Girl, exuded chemistry with her new partner and sang like a songbird. Her ingénue demeanor was delightful. Martin Vidnovic, as The Girl's Father, Bellomy, was right out of small town, America, and sang and danced as a pro. Robert R. Oliver, as The Man Who Dies, Mortimer, has one of the most challenging roles to master and is a perfectionist of Vaudevillian technique. And, of course, Thomas S. Bruce, actually Tom Jones, who wrote and still directs and acts in this show, as The Old Actor, Henry, dusty and dingy, bearded and bent, emerges and re-enters that old trunk with wit, wisdom, and terrific one-liners.

Dorothy Martin, Musical Director and pianist, actually played at Sullivan Street from 1984-1996, and thankfully she was available, as there are but piano and harp to backup the 15 songs, including Overture and Reprise. Her interpretation is perfected to the intimate milieu, as well as to the song and action at hand. Erin Hill, on harp, captures that incandescence so inherent to this long-running, tour de force musical. Word Baker, who originally directed this show, died in 1995, but is still listed on the credits and bios. Scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound have all been designed to retain the ambiance and detail of the original staging of The Fantasticks. Kudos to Tom Jones for such a successful revival, and kudos to Snapple Theater Center, where you can actually purchase Snapple souvenirs and sodas.



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



The Fantasticks
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus



Rhonda Reagan, of Stunning Details, and Roberta, both Wearing Stunning Details Necklaces
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower





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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net