On our way to see the The Fantasticks, words by Tom Jones and Music by Harvey L. Schmidt, currently at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave in Downtown Skokie, my friend and colleague shared that she has seen it numerous times and that it has had a significant impact on her life from the first time she saw it, close to the time it opened to the last time about 10 years ago. It is playing in Skokie through October 6, 2019, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm, See it while you can. It is a wonderful production.
The play has a remarkable history. (see Playbill) The Fantasticks is the most beloved of Broadway musicals. The original off-Broadway production ran for 42 years and 17,162 performances, earning an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is sometimes described as the tale of a boy and a girl, their fathers and a wall, or for a bit more, the story of two neighboring fathers who trick their children, Luisa and Matt, into falling in love by pretending to feud. This play continues to enchant audiences today with over 250 regional and local productions each year. Its signature tune, Try to Remember, has become a well-known part of American culture. In this performance, the final rendition of the song was so moving, it brought me to tears.
In this production, I had the delight of seeing Jessica Surprenant and Graham Todd as the young lovers Luisa and Matt. In addition, a great job was done by Mark Anderson, Brad Davidson, Darryn Glass, Nate Hall, Edward MacLennan, Lily Jean.
The Fantasticks is directed by Joseph Jefferson award-winner Stephen M. Genovese, with musical direction by Aaron Kaplan. Costume Design is by Joseph Jefferson award winner Beth Laske-Miller, with lighting design by Becs Bartle, sound by Matthew Chase, and properties by Margaret Garofalo.
The songs are beautiful, and include: Much More, Never Say No, Soon It’s Going to Rain, Plant a Radish, Round& Round as they alternate with words that are also musical with their rhyme. While all of the voices were very pleasant, Jessica Surprenant as the girl, Luisa, Graham Todd as the boy, Matt and Edward MacLennan as El Galllo were irresistible.
The size of the theatre was an asset, being large enough for a full production but intimate enough for the audience to feel a part of the magic playing out on stage. All the elements that included, costuming, staging, sets, choreography, lighting, and sound came together with a captivating result. The musicians that included: Aaron Kaplan, cello, Talar Khosdaghian, piano, Michael Maganuco, harp and Lee Finan, bass greatly enhanced the performance. Some stand out moments were the mime (Lily Jean) in action, the “sword” fight scene and the use of shadow puppets.
I can’t tell you why, exactly, but I had not seen a live production of The Fantasticks although I tried to many times. Of course, I loved it. It is striking that in its simplicity, there is profound wisdom and the magical quality heightens the emotion and the impact. See it. You will love it, too.
And about my friend. She has seen The Fantasticks four times, the first time in 1963 when she was 19 and falling in love. She said about the show, “I enjoyed it too and had tears in my eyes.”
MadKap Productions is celebrating five years at the Skokie Theatre with one great performance after another. The Fantasticks is the 2nd of a four-show series which began with 1776 this past July. The series continues with the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Marjorie Prime in November, and concludes next February with the thriller Veronica’s Room. A three-show subscription package including all remaining shows of the season costs only $84 and includes a fourth guest ticket which is good at any one of the shows.
Tickets are $45 general admission, $38 for seniors and students and can be purchased online at Skokie Theatre or by calling 847-677-7761
Photos: Courtesy of MadKap Productions