|Out & About / Ventura County; theater notes; A Romance Revisited; Whimsical
'Fantasticks' features a fine cast having fun with an oft- told tale.
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; May 18, 2000;
Two families live next-door to each other, separated by a wall. Neither the artificial barrier nor
their fathers' mutual hostility deters teenagers Matt Hucklebee and Luisa Bellomy from
discovering each other and falling in love--which may be what was supposed to be, all along.
That's the setup of "The Fantasticks," a simple little musical that's been enchanting audiences
off-Broadway for 40 years, nonstop, as of earlier this month. The current Marquie Dinner
Theatre production is the first of two in Ventura County this year; the second is scheduled for
Ojai in October.
"The Fantasticks" demands a strong appetite for whimsy, which it fulfills with a cast that
includes a dashing swordsman, El Gallo; two disheveled wandering actors, Henry and Mortimer,
straight out of "Huckleberry Finn" if not "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; and a mime. A second
act that's rather darker than the first counters the sweetness.
The best-known song in the score by Tom Jones (not that one) and Harvey Schmidt is "Try to
Remember," in which the two try to see how many times they can rhyme "Remember" and
"December" (occasionally "September") before the audience starts throwing dinner rolls at the
singers. Another song deals with rape--which, it's carefully explained several times, is in this case
an abduction, rather than a sex crime.
Back to the play: Those considerations aside (and they haven't deterred audiences for four
decades) "The Fantasticks" is quite sweet and gentle. A good cast helps considerably, and
director Aileen- Marie Scott has assembled Mark Andrew Reyes and Jeannine Marquie- Reyes
as El Gallo and Luisa (the two, now married, first acted together in this very show in this very
theater some years ago); Hank Florence as Matt; James Harlow and Barry Maultasch as
Matt's and Luisa's fathers; and Fred Baid and Brian Bookbinder as the actors. Franca Roda is
the mime who sets the story up and assists with props onstage.
They're uniformly appealing personalities and seem to be having a lot of fun with the material
under Scott's direction. Musical director Zachary Spencer bangs out the score on the piano.
What else can he do? That's the way it's written.
"The Fantasticks" continues Friday and Saturday nights through June 10 at the Marquie
Dinner Theatre, 340 Mobil in Camarillo. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; dinner is served from 7 and
the show begins shortly after 8. Nonrefundable tickets are $35; $32, seniors; and $28, children
under 13; and include a buffet dinner with choice of entrees, nonalcoholic beverages, tax and
tip. A full cash bar is available. For reservations (mandatory) or information about group
sales, call 484-9909.