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The Fantasticks

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The Fantasticks, inspired by Edmond Rostand’s play Les Romanesques, (aka, The Romancers, itself a parody of Romeo and Juliet), became the world’s most enduring musical; beginning in 1960, it ran continuously Off-Broadway for 17,162 performances, over 42 years. With music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones, The Fantasticks offers a uniquely allegorical book (also by Jones), as well as a stirring composition (which includes the lachrymose ode, "Try to Remember") – both of which may be given credit for the show’s longitudinal success.


Now this melancholy love letter to love has landed genteelly on the Segerstrom Stage at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Rep. Delicately re-envisioned by director Amanda Dehnert, with timely musical direction (of a live three-member mini-orchestra) by Dennis Castellano, and distinct, succinct choreography by Sharon Jenkins, this unique re-telling of a hoary story is refreshed and renewed by neat touches such as a dandy magic act (Jim Steinmeyer designed the clever illusions to which we are treated) , a charmingly utilitarian mime (the sweet-faced Nate Dendy in a role that’s been substantially enhanced in this production), and a bit of vaudeville shine (in the form of Richard Doyle and Hal Landon, Jr. as the delightful duo of Henry and Mortimer, portraying vagabond thespians hungry for applause).


Like Romeo and Juliet, The Fantasticks (the title comes from an obfuscated translation of the Rostand play by a woman using the pseudonym George Fleming) has as its premise two young lovers whose families are deeply divided. In The Fantasticks, however, the family feud is a ruse, perpetrated by the patriarchs in order to bring their children together in matrimony. In fact, the doting dads – exquisitely portrayed by Gregory North and Scott Waara, as Hucklebee and Bellomy, respectively – display their plan in a bouncy rendition of "I’ll Never Say No," which suggests a child rearing approach based on reverse psychology; that is, encouraging youngsters to do something by forbidding them to do that something.

But it is the lad and lass – Matt and Luisa – who are the focal point in this musical romance, and they do not disappoint. Anthony Carillo’s Matt and Addi McDaniel’s Luisa are complementary to one another’s incandescent innocence. When they team up on the songs "Metaphor." "Soon it’s Gonna Rain.", and "They Were You," the experience is sublime.  Yet it is the enigmatic El Gallo (an elegantly comedic and vocally gifted Perry Ojeda) who drives the narrative forward with mystical force and theatrical élan.

With a set design by Eugene Lee that replicates a dilapidated amusement park (an imaginative directorial choice), and costumes by Jessica Ford which evoke the style and sentiment of the early 1900s, the production is a sensory delight (with Lap Chi Chu’s lighting and Cricket S. Myers’ sound design proving indispensible to the proceedings).  In two acts, and in about two hour with an intermission The Fantasticks offers fourteen song and dance routines, which range in effect from the giddy "This Plum is Too Ripe" to the ennobling "Beyond that Road."

The Fantasticks continues at South Coast Rep through June 9. SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays curtain time is 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For reservations, call (714)708-5555. For online ticketing and further information, visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.