The following review by Peggy Saunders appeared in The Wakefield Daily Item on Thursday 4 January 2001.
While most of us were busy with the comings and goings of the holiday season, The Theatre Company of Saugus’ staff was gearing up for its … production of The Fantasticks, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s whimsical chamber musical. The longest running play in American theater history, The Fantasticks is the story of young love, scheming fathers, growing up and reality versus fantasy….
Under the direction of Wakefield resident Brian Underwood and musical direction of Suzanne Baron of Melrose, the cast has been in rehearsal for two weeks only as all cast members and directors are college students (save for one cast member who is still in high school). With their jobs cut out for them, Underwood and Baron sent cast members back to school after Thanksgiving break with a script and CD and the requirement to come to first rehearsal with lines memorized and songs famliar. (No small feat for the most talented of actors.) The resulting production is fantastic!
Underwood cast the production perfectly! Joseph Holmes of Wakefield is an impressive El Gallo, dressed in black as the mysterious, handsome bandit who sings the famous “Try to Remember” with brilliance. His character also narrates the story through words and magic with the help of The Mute (Kimberly Burk of Wakefield), whose expressions and movement bring life to the stage in a way that words would be incapable of.
Wakefield resident Emily Strong portrays the girl next door, Luisa, exceptionally with her beautiful, clear mezzo-soprano voice and remarkiable acting ability. Matthew Smith of Wakefield is excellent as the boy, Matt, with hjis supple baritone voice and engaging naivete.
The two fathers – Christopher King of Wakefield as Hucklebee and Brian Underwood (the director) as Bellomy – are terrific together. Their interaction through dialog and song are hilarious – whether singing “Plant a Radish” or “Just Say No” or staging a battle with clipping shears and a watering can.
Wakefield resident, Nicholas Twohig, as Henry the Old Actor and Greg Holland of North Reading, as Mortimer the Man Who Dies, are comical in their roles as they poke fun at classical actors. They are burlesque clowns who come out of a costume trunk whenever needed in whatever manifestations is required at the time.
The score is incredibly varied – a waltz, a ballad, jazz, vaudeville, a tango. It is brought to live by Musical Director Suzanne Baron – who is also the sole pit member – on piano. A challenge for any pianist, Baron performs spectacularly.
The set is simple with black staging, colorful banners, benches and trunks – yet striking. The costuming is outstanding – from Henry and Mortimer’s patched “Union Suits” to Hucklebee and Bellomy’s flashy attire.
If you want a great way to get out of January doldrums, go see The Fantasticks – for the story, the music, the comedy – the fun of it. You’ll bring in the New Year with a smile on your face.
The Fantasticks is sponsored by the Saugus Federal Credit Union.