By Sonya Ellingboe, Littleton Indepenedent
‘The Fantasticks’ gets magical treatment at Littleton Town Hall Arts Center
Bellomy (Rick Long) and Hucklebee (Bonnie McIntyre) are neighbors, who like to garden — and who wish their offspring would fall in love with each other as they grow up. They recognize they must not push it, or those kids will react negatively …
The pair schemes a bit, pretends to feud, thinking kids will be contrary and take a counter route … “The Minute You Say No” and talks about gardens as well: “Plant a radish, you get a radish …” is a recurring theme in the charming “The Fantasticks,” playing at Littleton Town Hall Arts Center through Oct. 17.
This is the longest-running theatrical production in the world, running for 42 years off-Broadway. The book and lyrics are by Tom Jones and music is by Harvey Schmidt.
El Gallo first sings the sentimental “Try to Remember,” setting the mood … We are in a magical story.
Director Billie McBride, who is also a very accomplished actress, has used a gentle touch on this tale.
After the parents, we meet Matt (Carter Edward Smith), who enters while the tall, lean, expressive Mute (Cal Meakins) hangs around on stage, occasionally supplying a prop piece … or a moon … “I’ll marry when I marry …,” Matt sings. “There is a girl…”
Sweet Luisa (Katie Jackson in lacy anklets and Mary Janes and a girlie dress) appears singing and looking dreamily at neighbor Matt … They talk through a wall of sorts.
Onstage most of the time is El Gallo, who speaks with a dry humor and may be up to no good at times. Randy Chalmers plays this part with imagination and humor — and straight face. He interacts and sings with the other cast members …
(I’d suggest addition of a song list to the online program of sorts — print it and carry with if you like to have actors’ names in hand, because there are none at the theater— a COVID casualty. Nor are there paper tickets …)
El Gallo explains dryly: “The lovers meet in secret … there may be musketeers and so forth … a happy ending, and so forth … cost? Depends on what you buy … perhaps an abduction is in order … first class, with trimmings, a couple singers, a string quartet …”
Music director Donna Debreceni performs on piano and harpist Barbara Lepke Sims adds a melodic accompaniment throughout — really pleasing to these ears … live music!
As the audience is seated, they notice a large wooden trunk onstage. It eventually opens and out come Henry (John Ashton) and Mortimer (Diane Wziontka), a pair of players, who are a delight. Mortimer specializes in dying on stage and proceeds to demonstrate — a hilarious spoof of theatrical traditions … “I’ve been dying ever since I was a child,” Mortimer explains …
I’ve enjoyed Ashton’s performances in the metro area for years and have never seen him look so absolutely delighted to be on stage … it’s been a tough time especially for those talented folks who love to entertain us … The man glows! “There are no small actors … only small parts,” Mortimer declares.
The parents, Bellomy and Hucklebee, are cranky with each other as they try for the best garden. They sing about how you have control over veggies — “Plant a radish, you get a radish,” while rearing children is not so predictable. They are competitive about their gardens and almost come to blows …
Complications ensue with the romance, but of course, there is eventually a happy ending to this quirky piece, which Town Hall first performed in a big tent in the 1980s, when Hudson Gardens opened.
What a great choice after a tough stretch!
The year’s program is announced: “Winter Wonderettes” and “Plaid Tidings” in repertory over the holidays, followed by “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Once on This Island,” and “The Wedding Singer.” There will be some short run musical programs-tba.
Town Hall Arts Center is at 2450 W. Main Street in downtown Littleton. Tickets cost $37 and $52, townhallartscenter.org, 303-794-2787, ext. 5.
On Oct. 4, proceeds from a special performance of “The Fantasticks” will be donated to the Denver Actors Fund, which has assisted many members of the theatre community over the years.