“The Fantasticks”: Now Playing at the Riverside Dinner Theater

Reviewed by Craig Schneider

“The Fantasticks opened in 1960 and didn’t close until 2002, making it the longest running musical in history. And the_fantasicks_logothere is a reason for that: the timeless romantic story of two young lovers and their faux-fighting fathers. This is a small, nostalgic and intimate show that is well suited to the Riverside Dinner Theater.

Dinner precedes the show and patrons are given a choice between Pot Roast, Chicken or Cod as their Entrée. The Pot Roast was tasty and my wife Diane liked the Cod. Rolls, Salad and Potatoes compliment the main course.

“The Narrator” (Bob Martin) aka the Bandit “El Gallo” gets things started with his wistful rendition of “Try to Remember”. Most of us in the audience were between ages 40 and 100, so we all have a lot to try to remember, good and bad. My tablemate to my left was a retired business owner from Buffalo, and he remembered that Ed Ames was famous for singing that song. I remembered that Robert Goulet sang it, so I am dating myself here. Bob also tripled as the Director and was in full command of the Riverside stage: fighting, cajoling and seducing with a steady smile.

The Narrator introduces the two young lovers, the girl “Luisa” (Anna Przybylinski) and the boy “Matt” (Luke Weyand)” and then their two fathers “Bellomy and Hucklebee” played by Brendan Daugherty and Jeffrey Carter. The fathers build a brick wall to separate the young couple and forbid them to see each other. But the fathers are only pretending to feud and forbid the couple from seeing each other, knowing that it will make them more crazy for each other. The young and talented Frank Smerka is ever-present on stage as “The Mute” who represents the brick wall or anything else that he is called upon for.

The set just consists of a curtain, a box of props and a paper moon and sun is hung up. The performance style harkens back to the vaudeville days, especially in the scenes where the gardening fathers do a little song and dance number to “Plant a Radish”. To finally bring the lovers together and reunite the families, the fathers hire El Gallo to abduct the girl and have the boy rescue her. But things work out maybe too well, as El Gallo predicts “Without a hurt, the heart is hollow”.

The coffee and chocolate cake follow follows Act 1. And in Act 2 things start to fall apart for the couple. A lot of hurt and heartache ensures.

Anna displays a golden voice, very sweet, especially in her duets with Luke, who also has a great voice and energy. I felt some goose flesh on their duet “Metaphor: I am Love”. As the parents, Brendon has a deep rich voice and has a lot of comic gardening bits with his partner in crime, Jeffrey. Hard to believe, but I think that this may only be Jeffrey’s third show ever.

“The Fantasticks” is just that. The costumes and stylized choreography are great. Try to remember to get out to the Riverside and see this show. The remaining show dates are July 10-13, 15-17. Please call 814 398-4645 for reservations or visit www.riversideinn.com.

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