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The Fantasticks

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Edmond Rostand’s 1894 play The Romancers (Les Romanesques) was the inspiration for Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’ musical The Fantasticks. (Rostand’s conceit was itself a convolution of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.) The Fantasticks premiered Off-Broadway in 1960 and ran for 17,162 performances, that’s  42 years – making it the longest-playing musical in the history of the world. With memorable and hummable songs such as Try to Remember, Plant a Radish, and Round and Round, The Fantasticks was recognized with a Tony Award in 1991 for Excellence in Theatre.

Because it is also the most widely produced musical of all time, The Fantasticks has become familiar to a wide variety of theatergoers. What’s more, the musical has also been filmed for the cinema (released in 2000) and made into a television event (a 1964 Hallmark Hall of Fame production).

Now the Good People’s Theater Company is paying homage to the Schmidt (music) and Jones (book & lyrics) collaboration that resulted in this masterwork.  Meticulously directed by Janet Miller, with exquisite musical direction by Corey Hirsh (Hirsh mans the keyboard, while Jillian Risigari-Gai plays the harp as if on loan from heaven above).

With a game cast of eight, the plot involves two fathers – Hucklebee (Matt Stevens in a charming turn as the boy’s father) and Bellomy (Michael P. Wallot in an equally endearing portrayal as the girl’s dad). These sires seem to be mortal enemies. But, in fact, their enmity is a mere ruse meant to lead their respective children into matrimony (ergo the duet sung beautifully by the daddies, Plant a Radish).

The mysterious El Gallo serves as the narrator of the proceedings (Christopher Karbo’s baritone vocals are enchanting). He explains that two youngsters, in love, are living next to one another but divided by a tall wall (Matt played by Matt Franta is exemplary as the “callow young fellow,” while Audrey Curd is delightful as lovelorn Luisa). The lush tune Try to Remember serves as El Gallo’s inciting musical number.

When El Gallo hatches a checkered scheme to have Luisa kidnapped in order to allow Matt to come to the rescue, he enlists two hardscrabble thespians to enact the supposedly treacherous deed. Henry, the demented Shakespearean and his sidekick Mortimer, who specializes is dying scenes, are the contracted kidnappers (Joey D’Auria and Corky Loupe, respectively, are truly scene stealers with their top-notch and over-the-top performances).

With comedic combustibility, combined with moving musical numbers, The Fantasticks is a show that has something for everyone. There’s plenty of merriment and laugh-inducing antics (look to the characters Henry and Mortimer to put the guffaws into high gear), but there’s also some tear-inducing moments made poignant through Schmidt and Jones’ captivating score. In short, the Good People Theater Company’s staging of The Fantasticks makes for a joyful experience in the theater.

“The Fantasticks” plays through June 29 at Hollywood’s Lillian Theater. It’s located at 1076 Lillian Way (at Santa Monica Boulevard). Performance times vary, with a mixture of matinees and evening shows. For details and online ticketing, visit www.goodpeopletheatercompany.org.

 

Spotlight

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.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

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.