Review: Don’t miss "The Fantasticks" |

Review: Don’t miss "The Fantasticks"

Trina Ortega
Carbondale Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” After seeing Thunder River Theatre Company’s production of “The Fantasticks,” I was imparted with tender reflections on first love, true love, and bittersweet memories of being broken-hearted.

Playing to a sold-out house Saturday, TRTC members and fellow actors from throughout the Valley delivered a memorable and touching performance of the world’s longest-running musical.

“The Fantasticks” continues at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19-21 and 26-27 at the theater at 67 Promenade in downtown Carbondale. The Sunday, Oct. 21, performance is a matinee at 2 p.m.

I imagined being at the Sullivan theater in 1960s New York and felt privileged to be in the audience of the TRTC production, to see this great musical that has had so many runs in so many cities across the globe.

TRTC artistic director Lon Winston described the Sullivan and TRTC theaters as being similar in physical size. In this production, Winston captures a different “closeness” to the audience, as well.

From the little touches ” such as the tricycle-riding Mute’s (Valerie Haugen) suave waves to the crowd and musical director Marie Gasau’s invitation to sing along ” to the more direct scenes that included action close to the front row and actors purposely making eye contact with the audience during El Gallo’s (John Goss) alluring number “Try to Remember” magically made the audience feel engaged. I am still haunted by Aspen actor Jennica Lundin’s gorgeous operatic voice singing “follow, follow, follow, follow …” during that song.

At times it felt like a spell was cast over the theater as we watched the characters’ discover their answers to El Gallo’s question of whether happiness can last.

All of the actors deserve kudos for their ability to sing flawlessly while spinning, dancing and climbing around on the set. To see this musical side of TRTC’s crew was a treat, and the performances of Goss as the confident El Gallo, Lundin as the starry-eyed Luisa, and Danny Pettit as her poetic lover, Matt, are impressive.

But it is the comical and haughty portrayal of the lovers’ fathers that stand out.

Colorado Rocky Mountain School theater director Jeff James-Schlepp and TRTC’s Richard Lyon play the scheming fathers Hucklebee and Belomy, respectively. Their scenes and songs are clever and funny, with the two playing their parts remarkably.

The parents attempt to control their kids’ lives, just as they do to the plants in their gardens. They have built a wall between their properties and pretend to hate each other as a means of connecting their rebellious teenagers.

They yodel to catch each other’s attention and brazenly proclaim that “it’s nearly settled; they’re out of their minds with love,” before breaking into an entertaining number and singing: “To manipulate your children, you simply say ‘no.'”

Even the all-knowing fathers are faced with unexpected outcomes after paying for a staged (and melodramatic) battle between Matt and El Gallo and two bumbling actors, humorously portrayed by Patrick Murray and Gerald DeLisser.

Another bonus of TRTC’s “Fantasticks” is the musical direction and accompaniment of Gasau’s piano, and Elise Helmke’s harp-playing.

The music in Act One is whimsical and upbeat, lending itself to the romantic moonlit ambiance of the first half. As the story shifts and we see the characters in full light during Act Two, the music changes, with sharp, sudden, low notes and even a bluesy tune, “I Can See It,” performed by Matt and El Gallo.

The combined talents of these actors and musicians from throughout the Valley help dispel the myth that TRTC is an exclusive company but, more importantly, make TRTC’s “The Fantasticks” a show not to be missed.

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