Courtesy of The Riverton Ranger.
“The Fantasticks” is a 1960 musical with music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones. It tells an allegorical story, loosely based on the 1894 play “The Romancers” (“Les Romanesques”) by Edmond Rostand, concerning two neighboring fathers who trick their children, Luisa and Matt, into falling in love by pretending to feud.
The Central Wyoming College production ran last week from Thursday night until Sunday afternoon. The Sunday show was a sellout performance with people seated on folding chairs in the back.
The stage set took a minimalist approach as the director, Joey West, made sure that he provided exactly enough without overdoing anything. With the live piano playing stage left throughout the play, the piano itself became part of the set and blended away into obscurity as the actors took your attention away from anything else in the room. Betsy Milek gave an almost flawless performance, with playing that should have demanded a grand piano and a person just to flip pages.
The one constant throughout the play was the ever present “Mute girl” played by theatrical legend Madison Orr. Her capture of the role, although without words, placed her strategically in almost every scene and as she blended into the stage props, she added humor through facial expressions and gestures.
Ryan Jevne, or as the audience came to know him, “El Gallo,” provided all the necessary information to the audience at the beginning and throughout the play. His capture of classical theater was evident as he spoke with authority and with accents and fluid movements that brought each scene to life. His dimwitted, often sarcastic humor provided laughter and answers to the holes left by the passage of time in the lives of the characters.
“The Girl,” Luisa, played by Madeline Dike, was a refreshingly naive child of a farmer and button maker who cherished his daughter and desired only that she marry the young neighbor boy who was played by Kailand McCann. “Matt,” a slightly narrow-sighted boy who craved education and came to find out later, adventure, was also beloved by his father who desired that he marry the neighbor girl, Luisa.
The two fathers, who have had this plan for years, combine their collective desires and add a level of music and comedy that at times shook the auditorium with laughter. Both actors, Jason Arbogast (Hucklebee) and Matt Hartman (Bellomy), delivered a performance of song and dance that must have been difficult to learn for such a small stage.
Two of the unsung heroes of the performance provided some of the most vivacious laughter from the audience as they became both villain and hero to the young lovers. Ron Howard, “Henry,” played a wandering minstrel who along with his sidekick, “Mortimer,” played by Jane McDonald, give awkward, yet calculated interaction and a sense of classical vaudevillian drama as they attempt to swindle and mislead the cast.
In a final assessment of the performance, I offer words of wisdom and caution. I recommend that anyone not taking advantage of this theater’s productions is missing out on a group of community and college actors who are giving their all to the craft. I also advise that anyone interested in a grand entrance into the world of theater should by all means contact the director, Joey West, to audition for the upcoming performance of “A Christmas Story” the musical coming in December.