Usually when I see a theatre, whether it be a play or a musical, I have a visceral reaction to the show – positively or negatively. I know I’ve seen something fantastic, when I’m so enraptured in the production (like American Idiot) that I’m not sitting there critiquing the performance or production qualities. (Just so you know, there are actually very few shows that happens in.) There’s something different about The Fantasticks at Sunnyvale Community Players. I walked out of this production not really understanding my reaction. I honestly was still digesting the entire production. And a day later, I’m still digesting; I honestly think I’ll be digesting for a long time — maybe 35 years, just as long as it took Walter Mayes, the director, to finally mount his production that had been playing in his mind.
Mayes’ production was stripped down to the very basics, which I very much appreciated. The stage was very bare — so bare you could even seen the back wall. I don’t think you can do The Fantasticks well in any other way. I think it’s best attribute is it’s simplicity of the message. It’s why, I think, it ran Off-Broadway for forty-two years. I don’t think it’s necessarily the plot, songs or even characters. It’s the message of love and acceptance. (I almost think that it could have been stripped a little bit more, almost like a concert version.)
Some of the message was lost in this version, only because of lost lyrics — at times, the blend was off and without the aids of microphones, the actors would have had to change the blend themselves. I did see the “understudies performance” which probably had an affect on this. Blend usually comes with continued practice and effort – so if you aren’t used to singing with each other (as understudies are not), then blending sometimes becomes overlooked. That being said, Lauren Herman (Luisa) and Nik Duggan (Matt), were great actors and Herman found the subtleties in the script and played them well. Matt Tipton (Hucklebee) had great comedic timing throughout. He played off Jeffrey Henson (Bellomy) very well.
I’m glad that Mayes took this opportunity to produce his version of The Fantasticks in the Bay Area. Though it’s run Off-Broadway for forty-two years, I don’t think very many people have actually seen a production of The Fantasticks. (There were several people in the audience remarking that this was the first time they were seeing it.) While not perfect, this production has Mayes’ gigantic heart weaved into every scene and line and that’s something worth seeing. Now, I’ll continue to digest and we will see how long it takes.
Get tickets to closing weekend here.
Listen to: “They Were You” and “Try to Remember (Reprise)” from the Original New Cast Recording