The Fantasticks has become the longest running production of any kind in the history of American theatre, no small feat, and yet I hadn’t heard of it. So noticing we were getting a production here in the wonderful Hayes Theatre I went to listen on Spotify. I wound up a good deal confused- what is going on, are they talking about fruit, who on earth is this fellow and what in bejeebus am I trying to remember in September? As it turns out The Fantasticks is the type of musical that you really need to actually see performed, for then it brings worth a whole wonderful story and, at least a little, more sense.
For the concept to begin with is slightly confusing- telling of an allegorical story, loosely based on the play The Romancers, of two neighbouring fathers secretly tricking their children into falling in love by staging a pretend feud and hiring actors to stage a mock abduction. The children uncover the deception and each take off into the world for new experiences, which turn out to be a good deal disappointing, where they eventually return to each other’s arms.
The trouble comes because there are many moments of “play within a play” and 4th wall breaking and one becomes a little bit entangled in what is meant to be real- real in the play and real in the story. But really this becomes the charm of it, and if you can manage to loose yourself in the narration and characters then the story becomes less important.
For there is some fantastic character work here, created by some truly fantastic talent. Martin Crewes is an dashing El Gallo, our narrator who seduces us with promises of what’s to come- warnings that “life never ends in the moonlit night”. The young’uns Jonathan Hickey and Bobbie-Jean Henning are wonderfully energetic, Henning’s voice particularly resonating clear and beautiful.
Yet it is really the older’uns that take the spotlight here- Garry Scale and Lawrence Coy who are nothing short of absolutely wonderfully hilarious in both their roles. They steal the crowd’s affection with their perfect chemistry, merry bickering and spirited abduction staging.
The Fantasticks is definitely a production that you need to see performed live. A wonderful creation that is all at once bright and comedic and poignantly dark. El Gallo warns us that “the play is never done till we’ve been burnt” and the twists that face these puppets and actors keep you Fantastickly enthralled to the very end.
The Fantasticks will help you try and remember at the Hayes Theatre Sydney until the 31st January. For more information visit http://www.hayestheatre.com.au/
The reviewer attended the Opening Night performance on the 13th January.
Photo credit: © Marnya Rothe