This is the story of Matt and Luisa, two lovers from feuding families, who find out that the world is not what they thought it was. It is indeed much worse.
The dichotomy of good vs. evil is the spark that ignites the fire.
And oh, what a fire it is.
The story, based on "The Romancers" by Edmond Rostand, is stark, striking and strong in its vivid and electrifying embrace of a very real fantasy vs. reality motif that motivates this wildly popular foray into the subconscious.
The music by Harvey Schmidt and the lyrics by Tom Jones strike a chord with us, the audience, from beginning to end.
The two belong together like the sky and clouds, rust and dust and the very red and orange that Luisa admits is her favorite color in act II.
The synchronicity and sacred relationship of the language, music and lyrics are not only what made this show an off-Broadway hit for 42 years, but makes this production work so well.
So well, in fact, that there was nary a dead spot or moment on opening night when this critic saw the show.
The energy, attitude and ambiance were all positive and, in some unique way, almost spiritual during the two hour run which includes a 12 minute intermission.
Lisaun Whittingham's direction is spot-on in its detail and specificity. She allows the actors to be themselves without compromising the intent or integrity of the musical.
Whittingham seems to be very much in sync with the creative uniqueness of the show itself. Her direction proves that she understands the deepest and most difficult aspects of the work produced by the triumvirate of composers and writers on the page here.
The Crown City Theatre acting veteran has also assembled a talented cast that comprehends the intensity of the paradoxes and dichotomies on foot and papyrus here.
Michael J Marchak (Matt) who gives a confident and convincing turn as one of the lovers. He possesses a singing ability and sensitivity that grab you by the lapel and do not let you go. The former USC chemistry student leaves the audience joyful and jubilant with his naked, but piercing voice and range.
Shayna Gabrielle (Luisa) who captures the tender and romantic spirit of her character flawlessly and gently. Her voice is as beautiful as the portrayal she gives. Her gift as supple as the presentation.
Jerry Hoffman (Henry) who almost runs away with the show in a performance at once side splitting and enlightening. It is not so much that the veteran actor has you laughing at almost every syllable he utters, it is his use and knowledge of the stage and words that mesmerize and mystify. His is a deeply engaging and brilliant portrait of an older actor performed in an almost Shakespearean vein. Hoffman's stage presence and experience bubble to the top here.
But it is Kurt Andrew Hansen (El Gallo) who steals the show.
In an electrifying, raw and valiant characterization, the Ovation Award nominee allows us to see and feel the very qualities that make us human.
In coloring this psychological landscape vividly and achingly, Hansen gives us a chance to investigate the performance aspect of musical theatre acting.
The Broadway veteran exemplifies the musical actor who belts out classic larger-than-life stage tunes such as "The Fantasticks'" beautiful and haunting "Try To Remember" while maintaining a realistic and natural thespian inner life and voice minus musical theatre acting mannerisms.
It is Hansen's stage presence that comes through most profoundly as he tackles the role of the show's lynch pin in orchid and midnight black.
This critic hopes to see the longtime screen actor on stages in North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
Furthering the message of the show are William A. Reilly's musical direction, Danny Davalos and Noelle Cruce's projection and video design, Zad Potter's lighting design, Joe Shea's sound design and Amanda Walter's costume design.
All in all, "The Fantasticks" succeeds because of its dichotomies, differences and door opening diatribes, not despite them.
The confetti rains and the smog machine erupts as this tango between what there is and what we would like there to be stays true to its roots and draws a new audience that probably interprets its language, music and lyrics much differently than when the show first opened in the mid twentieth century.
This production gives all its big heart can afford in showing once more that it is the purpose, mission and process of a show that matter as much if not more than the money it garners at the box office.
As this production proves, all appears well on Camarillo Street.
The innocence and courageous naivete now on stage there only further point out this theatre company's never ending commitment to quality, candor and quantity.
This show, then, is more than a pleasure to behold, it is a thought provoking, life affirming, question answering and deeply entertaining artistic victory over indulgence, ignorance and intellectual institutionalization.
May this crown jewel of an ensemble continue sharing its refreshing mix of talent, harmony, purpose and charm with a city that desperately needs and wants it. Kudos to all involved.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m.
$30 General Admission
Student and Senior: $20 tickets available
Information and Admission: (818) 605-5685
Where: Crown City Theatre (located on the campus of St. Matthew's Church)
11031 Camarillo Street,
North Hollywood, CA 91602