Fantasticks Review
Thursday, September 17, 1998 Ventura County Edition of the Times
Section: Calendar Page: F-51
THEATER: Ventura County

Life After Melodrama - Modern classic 'The Fantasticks' is 1st show in theater's new

Reverting to its former management, the Magnificent Moorpark Melodrama & Vaudeville
Company has been reborn as the Moorpark Playhouse. In this incarnation, the theater is set
to present well-known plays and musicals, one-night variety attractions and, on occasion, a
return to musical genre parodies.
First up is "The Fantasticks," a show that's been playing off-Broadway for about 35 years.
Flaunting its low-rent origins, the show has virtually no stage set, a relatively brief playing
time of just over two hours, and the simplest of story lines: The Boy and The Girl live next
door, their fathers contrive to bring them together and the romance stumbles before
resolving itself.
There was a hit song, "
Try to Remember," that virtually nobody under 30 does. Still, the
script and tunes by Tom Jones (not the singer) and Harvey Schmidt (suggested by a play by
the guy who wrote "Cyrano de Bergerac") is all but timeless. A high tolerance for whimsy
helps one appreciate the goings-on, though, as might be expected when the cast includes a
full-time mime (
Jess Osier).
Many of the cast members are familiar to longtime melodrama fans, though the singing is of
a higher overall order than the average melodrama production.
Both The Boy (
Kent Winfrey) and The Girl (Kristin Towers) have performed at the
melodrama and elsewhere; in fact they have been in 11 shows together. (
Jim Harlow), who
plays The Boy's father, and
Damian Gravino, who plays "El Gallo"--hired by the fathers to
abduct The Girl so The Boy can rescue her--have starred in many melodrama productions,
and it's especially good to see them here.
Making their debuts with the troupe are
Dan Restuccio, as The Girl's father; Robert Towers,
who, as a doddering Old Actor (
he's Kristin Towers' father in real life), walks away with the
show every minute he's on stage; and
Rebecca Gessert, amusing as the Old Actor's largely
silent cohort.
Kevin Kern directed impressively; Dean Mora was musical director (Kevin Parcher is the
accompanist); and
Danielle Gunn created the choreography.
While "The Fantasticks" may not be for everybody, it's for darned near everybody, from
teens to dating couples to their grandparents. And the Moorpark Playhouse production bodes
well for the venue's future enterprises.

* "The Fantasticks" continues through Sept. 20 at the Moorpark Playhouse, 45 E. High St.
in Moorpark. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings; 3 p.m. Saturday afternoons; 2 p.m.
Sun. afternoons. Tickets are $12. For reservations, call (805) 529-1212
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