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Fantasticks a timely, excellent addition to Fall Festival season

SHARE Fantasticks a timely, excellent addition to Fall Festival season

THE FANTASTICKS, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Randall Jones Theatre, Cedar City; continues Wednesdays-Saturdays, through Oct. 20, alternating with "Around the World in 80 Days." Curtain is 7:30 p.m., Sept. 19-22, Oct. 3-6 and 17-20, and 2 p.m., Sept. 26-29 and Oct. 10-13. All seats reserved. Tickets range from $16 to $30. Box office: 1-435-586-7878 or 1-800-752-9849 or online at www.bard.org. Running time: two hours (one intermission).

CEDAR CITY — Utah Shakespearean Festival founder Fred C. Adams opened the theater company's Fall Festival in Cedar City last Saturday by quoting New York Gov. George Pataki.

This week, Pataki urged Broadway productions to "go on with the show" despite recent catastrophic events, saying, "We need the theater to take us out of our world."

The festival then began with an excellent and timely production of "The Fantasticks," a theater classic and the longest-running musical in the world. A multi-layered, sometimes disquieting tale about loss of innocence and bittersweet wisdom created by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, the show may henceforth hold even deeper meaning for audiences.

As Act 1 begins, the narrator sings the show's most famous song, "Try to Remember," inviting the audience to recall "the kind of September when life was slow and, oh, so mellow. . . ." In a world that may never view the ninth month in quite the same light again, "The Fantasticks" offers hope for the future through the power of compassion, awareness and love.

Kristin Carbone and Thomas Scott Parker play Luisa and Matt, the innocent, self-absorbed young lovers who grow dissatisfied with each other and go searching for happiness separately in an often-brutal world. Painful experience leads them to see each other in a new light, and discover the true depth and strength of their love.

Carbone is terrific as the naive, affected Luisa, who learns to see beyond her romantic illusions; and Parker is perfect as Matt, the fresh-scrubbed young lover whose self-righteous bravado mellows into tender humility. The production offers some wonderful comedic moments in the performances of Dan Foss as Hucklebee and Michael P. Morgan as Bellomy, the fathers of each character. Together they scheme to bring the lovers together, then lament the inconsistencies of their children as they sing the duets, "Never Say No," and "Plant a Radish."

Tony Clements is alternately reflective and sinister in the dual role of narrator and El Gallo, a bandit hired by the fathers to arrange the make-believe abduction of Luisa, a ploy designed to bring the two young people together.

Charles Metten and Rob Hancock are funny and instructive as the melodramatic Henry and Mortimer, El Gallo's mischievous, mysterious sidekicks. They appear magically onstage, climbing out of a large trunk, help stage the abduction, and later lead Matt off to find disillusionment in a harsh world.

El Gallo, Henry and Mortimer also wear colorful, exotic costumes that accentuate their link to a deceptive, disappointing outside world, and provide a surreal contrast to the everyday clothing worn by other characters.

Wade McCollum plays the silent but expressive Mute, a character who is frequently onstage but never speaks. In a Shakespearean twist, the Mute stands as a silent wall between the adjoining gardens of neighbors Hucklebee and Bellomy.

The entire show takes place on a square platform in the middle of the stage, with just a few, simple props. This production is smoothly choreographed, well paced and flawlessly performed. Scene changes happen subtly on the spare set, often through the skillful use of color in both spotlights and backlit curtains draped behind the stage.

Sensitivity rating: This production might not be suitable for young children, who may find some scenes disturbing. For adults, whether you're seeing this classic musical for the first time or rediscovering a familiar favorite, this well-done production will make you especially glad you came.

E-mail: jingrid@wordwind.com