Palm Beach Dramaworks made great use of their new space on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach with a fresh production of the world's longest running musical "The Fantasticks" on Friday night. This beautifully designed and crisply-performed version breathed new life into an aging show with such high potential to miss the mark. However, director J. Barry Lewis wisely reminds his audience that there is much more to this love story; that there lies a great deal of complexity amid its simplicity.
The incredibly long run that "The Fantasticks" has enjoyed in New York over the past 51 years is a credit to its writers, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. A brilliant commentary on innocence and idealism is woven into a deceptively trite plotline revolving around boy and a girl with music just haunting enough to do what theatre is meant to do: make you think.
This strong company of actors at Palm Beach Dramaworks tells the story with the honesty and integrity necessary to highlight the darkness lurking underneath the surface. Jim Ballard's El Gallo is just the right amount of creepy and his smooth voice makes his "Try to Remember" hard to forget. It was a pleasure to see a dancer in the role of Luisa. Jennifer Molly Bell does a great job of making complete sense out of the childlike character, and Jacob Hiemer is an unapologetic and vibrant Matt with a spark of boyish charm. Barry Tarallo and Cliff Goulet are a joy to watch as the comic pair of fathers whose cleverly staged duets have you tapping your toes.
While the performances were excellent, this production's success was in large part due to its creative team. A purposefully bare stage was smartly designed by Michael Amico to provide opportunities for seamless blocking and quick scene transformation. Craig Ames' beautiful blend of voice, piano and harp is immediately noted during the opening, and John Hall's lighting comes alive in "Round and Round" during the second act.
This top-notch production is proof that Palm Beach Dramaworks is creating quality and worthwhile theatre in South Florida. "The Fantasticks" runs through August 5th at the new Don and Ann Brown Theatre at 201 Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.
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A North Jersey native, Michelle grew up in the dance studio and then soon called the theatre her second home. Professionally, she has used her passion for dance and musical theatre to lead her to a fulfilling career as a performer, choreographer and an educator. She has toured the country in the First National Tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, served as the Dance Captain of the National Tour of Camelot, spent months at sea as the lead singer/dancer on board the Dawn Princess, and has been seen regionally in such shows as …Forum, Pal Joey, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Pippin and Company. In Boston, her choreography for Pal Joey was nominated of an IRNE award. Upon relocating to Florida from New York, she choreographed the Florida Premier of Snoopy The Musical under the direction of co-creator Arthur Whitelaw as well as Urinetown and Bat Boy: The Musical at Area Stage Company in Coral Gables and was seen in Hello Dolly at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Michelle earned her BFA in Musical Theatre with an emphasis in Dance from The Boston Conservatory and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.|
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