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'The Fantasticks' Osbourn Park High

Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page PW03

'The Fantasticks' Osbourn Park High

Boy loves girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back and all ends happily ever after. This plot, found in so many Broadway musicals, provided the structure for Osbourn Park's production of "The Fantasticks," by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.

Matt (Andrew Ling) and Luisa (Crystal Foster) are next-door neighbors who fall in love. Convinced that their fathers are against the relationship, they meet secretly, talking across the wall between their houses built "to keep them apart." However, the meddlesome fathers, Mr. Bellomy (Marc Davis) and Mr. Hucklebee (Josh Peterson), are actually using reverse psychology to arrange a match for their children. They organize an elaborate abduction in which a nasty villain will steal Luisa away, forcing Matt to rescue her and bring her back triumphantly to her father. He will then deem it appropriate that they wed.

All goes as planned until the second act, when the romantic moonlight disappears and the harsh sunlight exposes everyone's flaws. After a series of quibbles and catastrophes, the two lovers realize that they were truly in love all along.

In a song-heavy musical, the actors' voices shone. Foster navigated difficult songs and harmonies with her clear, bright soprano. Ling's dry comedic timing came through in his songs, especially when he sang of his love in "Metaphor." Also, fathers Peterson and Davis had the audience in stitches during their duet, "Plant a Radish," about the perils of parenting.

El Gallo (Brendon Mason), who served as narrator, instigator and abductor, moved the action along. From the moment he opened his mouth on "Try to Remember," Mason enraptured audiences with his strong, rich singing voice. The ever-present Mute (Molly McChrystal) used her face and body masterfully, never dropping her character or enthusiasm although onstage the entire show.

The Players, a troupe of traveling jack-in-the-box actors, added even more comedy to this already farcical show. Henry (Collin Lewis) couldn't quite admit that he's past his prime, misquoting Shakespeare and playing any role with a hilarious energy and vigor. His partner Mortimer (Ben Frelke) loved to die -- which he demonstrated with an insatiable energy, writhing and falling all over the stage until he collapsed to the sound of laughter throughout the auditorium.

For such a straightforward plot, "The Fantasticks" has enchanting music and an endearing sense of humor. Osbourn Park captured this lightheartedness and brought it delightfully to life on stage.

Marisa Behan

Paul VI Catholic

The Osbourn Park Players proved their prowess by showcasing Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's "The Fantasticks."

Aloof and removed El Gallo, the narrator of the story, set the stage. With the help of the Mute, he tells the tale of two families whose children are hopelessly in love with each other, despite their parents' feuding. However, this tale takes a turn from the traditional "Romeo and Juliet" plot line with one key twist: The parents are conspiring to bring their romantically inclined children together.

Hiring a professional abductor, none other than El Gallo, and a few out-of-luck actors, under the leadership of Sir Henry, the parents end the feud with a highly romantic finale. All is done, at least for the first act.

The conflict arises when the secret gets out about the parental scheming and the glamour of the forbidden relationship ends. Intent on living life first, the couple separate. El Gallo then takes it upon himself to teach the two lovers important lessons on life, with the help of actors for hire.

The part of El Gallo, played by the skilled Brendon Mason, calls for an actor with a talent for singing and a feeling of detachment for the events that occur around him. In this regard, Mason excelled, providing the audience with a bold and intriguing character necessary to the whole production.

The most notable character (and a crowd favorite) was the Mute (Molly McChrystal). Dressed as a mime, this character provided a tone and mood for the show using vivid facial expressions, choice effects and treasured moments for the audience. With her bag of tricks she provided the show's snow, rain and celebration confetti, as well as supplying props to other actors while still being a vital character of the show herself.

The two families -- consisting of Mr. Hucklebee (Josh Peterson) and his son, Matt (Andrew Ling), and Mr. Bellomy (Marc Davis) and his daughter, Luisa (Crystal Foster) -- provided depth to the story with their actions and expressions. For example, in the song "Plant a Radish," Mr. Hucklebee and Mr. Bellomy expressed their confusion over the behavior of their children. Being skilled horticulturists, the parents wonder why their children could not be like the plants they tend, where what you plant is what you get.

The skilled Osbourn Park Players created a lively and heartwarming tale, cautioning people on how foolish notions may not lead to what you expect.

Darek Baczewski


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