Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

The Fantasticks
Super Summer Theatre Studios / Five Stars Entertainment
Review by Mary LaFrance

Also see Mary's reviews of An Octoroon and Love, Love, Love


Stephen Rinck, Naree Asherian, MIke Erickson,
David Wade, John Wennstrom, Lou De Meis,
Madison Simpson, and Rick Ginn

Photo by Gary Colombo/5 Stars Productions
The Off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks holds the record as the world's longest running musical. With book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, its simple staging, small cast, and tiny orchestra make it a staple of school, community, and regional theatres. Is there anyone who hasn't seen at least one production?

First staged in 1959, the play is beginning to show its age. The tale of two fathers who pretend to feud in order to lure their children into falling in love, and who enlist a group of fake bandits to feign the attempted abduction/rape of the daughter in order to give the son an opportunity to rescue her, feels a bit strange in an era which recognizes rape and other sexual abuse as horrific crimes, and where the notion of women as helpless victims and men as essential protectors seems archaic. These father characters are supposed to strike us as cute and foolish, but today we would report them to Child Protective Services.

Like other plays that incorporate dated social attitudes, (including The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice), any modern production of The Fantasticks needs a creative strategy to overcome this weighty baggage. Unfortunately, the Super Summer Theatre Studios and Five Stars Entertainment production doesn't bring anything fresh to the table. Under Bill Fayne's direction, the production is soulful and sincere, but largely uninspired. It is also quite static, with minimal choreography. Watching naive youngsters sing sweet songs becomes cloying rather quickly when there is no dynamism on the stage. The small amount of choreography is well executed by Stephen Rinck and John Wennstrom, who deliver respectable performances as the foolish fathers, although they look and act more like grandfathers. (Perhaps they conceived their children very late in life.)

There are, however, two bright spots in this production, and they are bright indeed—so much so that every acting student in southern Nevada should make a beeline for this tiny black box theatre tucked away in an industrial district. In the roles of threadbare itinerant actors who agree to play the bandits in the fake abduction, veteran performers Lou De Meis and Rick Ginn show us what great acting is all about. Whenever they are on stage, the production leaps to a professional level. What a treat it would be if both of these actors could return to the local stage in a production of Shakespeare or another classical play.

Another performer worth watching is Madison Simpson as The Mute. Even without a word of dialogue, Simpson's expressive face, graceful and economic stage movement, and natural presence make her a standout in every scene.

The Fantasticks, through November 19, 2017 (Thursday-Saturday at 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm) at the Super Summer Theatre Studios, 4340 S. Valley View Dr., Las Vegas NV. For tickets or further information, go to www.supersummerthatre.org.

Cast and Musicians
El Gallo: Mike Erickson
Luisa: Naree Asherian
Matt: David Wade
Bellomy: Stephen Rinck
Hucklebee: John Wennstrom
Henry: Lou De Meis
Mortimer: Rick Ginn
The Mute: Madison Simpson
Piano: Dean Balan
Harp: Kim Glennie

Additional Creative:
Musical direction by Bill Fayne; lighting design by Michael Blak; costume coordination by Pat Newell.


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