Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s The Fantasticks had a legendary 42-year Off-Broadway run (and then an 11-year revival), suggesting that there’s something strangely captivating about this sweet and simple musical fable. The Little Theatre of Alexandria demonstrates this in its new production of the musical, with a cast that brings plenty of charm and a welcome spirit of camaraderie to the proceedings.
Luis “Matty” Montes and Rachel Hogan shine as young lovers Matt and Luisa, whose parents use reverse psychology to drive them into each other’s arms. In the original show, both parents are fathers; here the show has been adapted so that Luisa has a father, Bellomy, played by Stephen P. Yednock, and Matt a mother, Hucklebee, played by Janice Zucker.
Their parents’ pretend feud brings the two youngsters together, just as planned. But everything starts to go wrong when the dashing bandit El Gallo (Christopher Overly), hired to help with the scheme, takes matters into his own hands, bringing the story, as he puts it, out of the moonlight and into the harsh light of day. Along for the ride are two “Mutes” (Ilyana Rose and Lauren Sutton) and two actors, Henry (Fred Lash), who recites Shakespeare more or less successfully, and Mortimer (Matt Liptak), who specializes in death scenes.
The level of whimsy here takes considerable finesse and comedic sensibility to pull off, and fortunately, there’s plenty available. Yednock stands out as the brash but affectionate Bellomy, doing a knockabout turn worthy of an early film comedian, and playing nicely off Zucker’s straitlaced Hucklebee. Lash and Liptak bring, respectively, wry wit and over-the-top hilarity. Montes evolves convincingly from a winsome and innocent boy into a world-weary but tender young man. Overly brings easygoing charisma to the part of El Gallo, but taps into a more sinister and powerful quality in numbers where he treats the young lovers like his personal marionettes.
Backed by an energetic three-piece orchestra, the cast handles the classic songs, including “Try to Remember,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain,” and “They Were You,” with aplomb, with Hogan’s clear soprano particularly appealing.
Michael DeBlois’s set is spare but effective, strongly enhanced by Marzanne Claiborne’s nimble lighting design. Juliana Cofrancesco and her team have outdone themselves with the costumes, which range from classic black and white harlequin costumes for the mutes to bright colors and big zany patterns for Mortimer and Bellomy.
“Without a hurt, the heart is hollow,” El Gallo sings to explain why he manipulates the story to turn out the way it does. In the capable hands of director Eleanore Tapscott and her company and crew, The Fantasticks pulls at the heartstrings in a way that makes its delights all the more meaningful.
Running Time: Two hours and five minutes, with one intermission.