Arena Stage The FantasticksBy Mark Lee Adams • Dec 1st, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Lincoln Theater, Washington DC
Through January 10
Reviewed November 27th, 2009
To see a musical theatre production today is delight for almost everyone. Each of us can sing or hum the familiar ear catching memorable tunes of those shows, past and present, while in the shower, car and/or at work. We all think back to the story and secretly cast ourselves in the role we are or maybe even want to be. Reliving the life of the lead character, dancing like the ingénue or being as funny as the comedic character, are all part of our enjoyment of this theatrical element.
Director, Amanda Dehnert, has taken her play, along with set designer Eugene Lee, to a place I’ve never imagined before. An old and over-run amusement park is the play setting. Besieged by neglect the park had fallen into the realm of passé. Not exciting enough to endure the requisite demands of the magical thrills and chills the public desires and demands. Thus, the play begins.
As you go to your seat you may, as I did, begin to imagine and even dream a little of the amusement parks you’ve been to or seen in pictures or in one show or another. I found myself looking for a “Zoltar” coin game within the ruins of the set.
Ok, I digress; this play is truly one of the best musical productions I’ve seen in a very long time. Directed by Amanda Dehnert, along with all her designers of light and magic: Choreography by Sharon Jenkins; lighting by Nancy Schertler; music director George Fuliniti-Shakar; costumes by Jessica Ford; sound by Timothy J. Thompson; fight choreography by Craig Handel; Hair and Makeup by Anne Nesmith; Illusion designer is Jim Steinmeyer and Magic Consultant is Jeff Grow.
The show is a show of youthful love and its trappings. The story is of Matt (Timothy Ware) and Luisa (Addi McDaniel), young lovers searching for their path to happiness. The realities of life prevent them from having their fairy tale dream. I really enjoyed Matt’s and Luisa’s excitement and zeal as each developed their characters growth and learning through the show.
The Master of Ceremonies, if you will, El Gallo is wonderfully played by Sebastian La Cause. He is the foundation and leader of this story. He leads us into the story with the popular song, Try to Remember. All my previous memories of El Gallo are dashed as La Cause continues to lead us on. His aid and assistant is The Mute, brilliantly performed by Nate Dendy. I began to wonder how an actor could be so good without saying a word. Dendy’s expertise with magic and illusion is dazzling. I found myself on the edge of my seat after this first number and remained there through the 2 hour and 15 minutes of the show.
The young couple each has a father. Hucklebee, played by Michael Stone Forrest and Bellomy played by Jerome Lucas Harmann. These two actors show us all how to be standouts as they tend their gardens and soft-shoe their way into our hearts. A great job!
The role of Henry, recruited by El Gallo for the Abduction of Luisa, is played so well by Laurence O’Dwyer. You will love this show, if for nothing else, just for him. At first I wondered if his slow approach to the role was too lengthy, just to find out he was luring the audience into his web of comic genius. Henry’s sidekick and master of a death scene, Mortimer, is played by Jesse Terrill. He expertly leads us through the true art of dying. (I was reminded of my own childhood game of the best dying act.) Thanks Jesse, for the memory.
The four-piece band led by George Fulginiti-Shakar, with Nadie Pessoa, Kate Rogers, Daniel Villanueva, Daniel Hall accompany this tale excellently almost becoming a character with the show. The songs of this play: Try to Remember, Much More, Metaphor, Never Say No, It Depends On What You Pay, Soon It’s Gonna Rain, Abduction Ballet, This Plum Is Too Ripe, I Can See It, Plant a Radish, Round and Round, They Were You.
A must see fantastical sojourn is The Fantasticks. Thank you all for a wonderful night of theatre! Well Done! Well Done! Well Done! Well Done! Yes, I give this play 4 “Well Done’s”! Get your tickets now before they sell out.
Photos by Scott Suchman for Arena Stage.
- The Mute: Nate Dendy
- El Gallo: Sebastian La Cause
- Luisa: Addi McDaniel
- Matt: Timothy Ware
- Hucklebee: Michael Stone Forrest
- Bellomy: Jerome Lucas Harmann
- Henry: Laurence O’Dwyer
- Mortimer: Jesse Terrill
- Hucklebee/Bellomy/Henry/us: Thomas Adrian Simpson
- El Gallo/Matt/Mortimer/us: MichaelVitaly Sazonov
- Acting Apprentice: Jeannie Hosler
- Book & Lyrics: Tom Jones
- Music: Harvey Schmidt
- Director: Amanda Dehnert
- Choreographer: Sharon Jenkins
- Musical Director: George Fulginiti-Shakar
- Set Designer: Eugene Lee
- Costume Designer: Jessica Ford
- Hair & Makeup Designer: Anne Nesmith
- Lighting Designer: Nancy Shertler
- Sound Designer: Timothy J. Thompson
- Illusion Designer: Jim Steinmeyer
- Magic Consultant: Jeff Grow
- Fight Choreographer: Craig Handel
- Stage Manager: Martha Knight
- Asst. Stage Manager: Kurt Hall
- Production Dramturg: Janine Sobeck
- New York Casting: Calleri Casting, CSA
- Casting Director: Daniel Pruksarnukul
- Production Manager: Carey Lawless
- Associate Artistic Director: David Dower
- Technical Director: Jim Glendinning
- Property Master: Chuck Fox
- Master Electrician: Christopher V. Lewton
- Master Sound Technician: Timothy J. Thompson
- Costume Director: Joseph P. Salasovich
Disclaimer: Arena Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4375.
Mark Lee Adams has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.