Monday, September 14, 2015

Broward Stage Door: The Fantasticks (reviews)

FantasticksBroward Stage Door opened its production of The Fantasticks on September 4, 2015.
It is a funny and romantic musical about a boy, a girl, two fathers and a wall. The narrator, El Gallo, asks the audience to use their imagination and follow him into a world of moonlight and magic. The boy and the girl fall in love, grow apart, and finally find their way back to each other after realizing the truth in El Gallo's words that "without a hurt, the heart is hollow”. The famous score, which includes the classics “Try To Remember”, “They Were You” and “Soon It's Gonna Rain”, is as timeless as the story itself.
Dan Kelly directed a cast that included Alan Gerstel, Pedro Kaawaloa, Larry Kent Bramble, Michael Small, Molly Anne Ross, Alexander Zenoz, Sebastian Lombardo, and Pierre Tannous.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The crucial test for whether a production of The Fantasticks truly succeeds, as Broward Stage Door’s does, is the last few minutes… So deliver up praise to Dan Kelley’s production… Kelley has never directed this warhorse before, a surprise since he has imbued the entire production with the precise whimsical tone that teases human folly but retains an aching compassionate affection for it as well.
Ross… exudes a fresh-face loveliness matched by an even lovelier creamy soprano that is more than a match for Schmidt’s faux operatic runs. More importantly, she is an actress whose unafraid embrace of Luisa’s wide-eyed ecstatic reaction to everything in the first act is counter-balanced in the second act by the slow bloom-off-the-rose realization that her fantasies are, indeed, fantasy.
Zenoz… is just as good as a vocal thespian, although you wish Kelley had pushed him even harder to dig a little deeper into Matt’s emotions.
Among the distinct pleasures is watching troupers Larry Kent Bramble and Michael Small do their vaudeville double-act as the lovers’ fathers.
Alan Gerstel… his impersonation here of the vainglorious down-on-his-luck aging travelling thespian Henry is just note perfect from the plummy voice to the mixture of pride and neediness. Sebastian Lombardo makes for a fine sidekick, Mortimer, the specialist in death scenes.
The tall and lithe Pierre Tannous becomes an essential piece of the stagecraft as the Mute, smoothly providing necessary props like magic, changing the mood and the lighting with a graceful wave of his arm.
As El Gallo, Pedro Kaawaloa Jr. is a handsome, likable fellow with a sultry baritone that is perhaps a few notes higher than some of his predecessors. He’s always working to deliver the character. The problem here is casting. First, he has a sibilant S problem that undercuts the Harlequin Romance image of a dashing rake. Second, he is reciting the delicate insightful monologues like memorized lines with little of verbal music that Jones imbued in the near-poetry. The young Kaawaloa also needs some life experience before he can deliver those lines as if they emanate from rue-filled lessons.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The Fantasticks has been produced and produced and produced, by professional theaters, community theaters, colleges, schools. But 55 years after its creation, the musical seems as fresh as ever… Stage Door’s version is… modest yet lovely,  right-sized for the smaller of the facility’s two theaters.
Musical director David Nagy and harpist Kay Kemper sit downstage left, offering the actors and audience the subtle (and irreplaceable) give-and-take of live music. The simple set and lighting by Ardean Landhuis, Nancy Clay’s props and Colleen O’Connell’s playful costumes have a “hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” vibe. And director-choreographer Dan Kelley, whose work here is just right for the piece, ties it all up with a bow a pretty as the one in the heroine’s hair.
The Stage Door cast sings well, Kaawaloa and Zenoz dueting as if they were dueling, Ross and Zenoz finding the romantic harmony of young characters and young actors. Small and Bramble work their roles like vaudeville pros, and Gerstel and Lombardo are exactly as hammy as they should be.
The Broward Stage Door production of The Fantasticks plays through October 11, 2015.

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