NEW THIS WEEK
THE FANTASTICKS -- (Wolf Trap Filene Center, through Sunday)
This used to be one of the world's perfect, small musicals. Now it's a lounge act. The Wolf Trap production, emphatically starring Robert Goulet, preserves the glorious music and simple morality tale that makes up the plot. But instead of a few props, a cast of eight and a few musicians, we have scenery that runs around the stage, neon lights, a full orchestra and a chorus of eight. Goulet looks great and sings wonderfully, but he hasn't noticed he should be portraying a character -- El Gallo, the narrator and manipulator, does not have to work the room. The members of the chorus look like refugees from "Sesame Street," with nothing to do except get in the way of characters like Henry and Mortimer, the still-hilarious caricatures of theatrical hams. Adding a lot of violins to the orchestrations also dilutes the original's ability to skirt sentimentality. Slowing down the tempo of the songs, however, allows everyone to understand the words and gives Goulet a lot of terrific, full stretches of song. The other singers are wonderful too, including Glory Crampton and Neil Nash as the boy and girl next door, whose budding romance is nurtured and revived by El Gallo and their fathers. -- Megan Rosenfeld
ROUGH CROSSING -- (Olney Theatre, through Sept. 16)
While Tom Stoppard based this play on one by Hungarian Ferenc Molnar, the situation is loonily Stoppardesque: It's the 1920s and two playwrights, their glamorous leading lady, her handsome composer/lover and a vapid leading man set sail on an ocean liner to rehearse their next play, accompanied by a steward who has never been on a boat before. The two ship-bound playwrights are desperately searching for an ending to their confection while trying to convince the composer that the leading man has not made whoopee with the leading lady. The plot moves along furiously but pretty soon one starts to wonder what the hidden agenda is. By the middle of the second act one realizes there isn't one. While some parody is to be expected with Stoppard, "Rough Crossing" gets stuck becoming what it is trying to parody -- a lot of silliness. Tony Rizzoli is wonderful as the neophyte steward who refers to the ship's bridge as the "balcony" but on the whole this play is like one of those early airplanes that required a great deal of propeller-turning and noise to get off the ground and then couldn't really get anywhere.