LOGAN – If you can watch the current Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre production of “The Fantasticks” without grinning from ear-to-ear throughout the show, there’s something deeply wrong with you.
“The Fantasticks” is not only the longest running production of any kind in the history of American theater, but arguably also one of the sentimental favorite musicals of a majority of U.S. theater-goers.
So, director Rory Willats has wisely chosen to recreate much of the show’s traditional, simplistic staging, making this production of “The Fantasticks” into a thoroughly familiar and deeply pleasant nostalgia bath.
The enjoyment of that experience is enhanced by simply marvelous performances.
The show’s ensemble cast is led by Vanessa Ballam and Stefan Espinosa as young adults who have been bamboozled into falling in love by their scheming fathers.
The real-life husband and wife team are superb whenever they appear on-stage together and this is no exception. They convincingly radiate the insufferable know-it-all naiveté of youth while being blindly manipulated. The voices of Ms. Ballam and Espinosa effortlessly combine for the show’s most lovely duets, including “Metaphor,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “They Were You.”
UFOMT veterans Lee Daily and Curt Olds appear as the well-intentioned but devious parents Bellomy and Hucklebee. The pair smoothly perform their own duets, contribute to beautiful pieces of harmony and even get to kick up their heels a little.
As the bandit El Gallo, Kyle Pfortmiller is the monkey wrench that somewhat reluctantly disrupts the young lovers’ illusions and their fathers’ schemes. His deep baritone is perfectly suited for the show’s anthem “Try to Remember.”
The show’s scene-stealers are Jared Rounds and Levi Hopkins as the befuddled old actor Henry and his sidekick Mortimer, affectionally know in theater circles as “the man who dies, over and over again.”
Last but certainly not least is Alex Lambert as the Mute, who never speaks a word of dialogue but nevertheless represents the soul of this delightful musical.
Back in the 1960s, playwrights Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt intended “The Fantasticks” to be a silly little fairy tale with no deep meaning or lessons learned. Done right, however, the musical can still provide welcome moments of pure, light-hearted enjoyment.
This UFOMT production of “The Fantasticks” is definitely done right and the near-capacity audience in the Utah Theatre certainly seemed to agree on Friday evening..
Additional evening performances of “The Fantasticks” are slated at the Utah Theatre in downtown Logan on July 16, 20, 24, 28 and 31. Matinee performances are set for July 14 and