The Fantasticks

Nevada Conservatory Theatre at UNLV Presents Broadway Classic The Fantasticks Jan. 28 - Feb. 6

The Nevada Conservatory Theatre at UNLV presents The Fantasticks (music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones), Off-Broadway's longest-running musical, January 28 - February 6, in the Judy Bayley Theatre. Glenn Casale directs.

The play opened on May 3, 1960 and played 17,162 performances before closing January 13, 2002. The Broadway revival is currently running at the Snapple Theatre in New York City.

In The Fantasticks, two neighboring fathers construct a wall between their homes to ensure that their children fall in love, because they know children always do what their parents forbid. Hit songs from the play include "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain."

Casale is a veteran Broadway director with a resume that includes Peter Pan, starring Cathy Rigby; the international tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast; and the international tour of The Little Mermaid.

The cast includes Aaron Marcotte as El Gallo; Melody Wilson as Luisa; Jordan Bondurant as Matt; Alan Dronek as Hucklebee; Michael Thatcher as Bellomy; Michael Tylo as Henry; John Maltese as Mortimer; and Paris McCarthy as The Mute.


Dates of performance:

Jan 28, 8 pm, Judy Bayley Theatre
Jan 29, 8 pm, Judy Bayley Theatre
Jan 30, 2 pm, Judy Bayley Theatre
Feb 3, 8 pm, Judy Bayley Theatre
Feb 4, 8 pm, Judy Bayley Theatre
Feb 5, 8 pm, Judy Bayley Theatre
Feb 6, 2 pm, Judy Bayley Theatre

Boy meets girl meets classic musical in UNLV's 'The Fantasticks'

January 28, 2011
by Steve Bornfeld
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Sing with us.

We'll provide the classic prompt. You -- assuming you're even a marginal theater fan -- know the rest:

"Try to remember ... when life was so tender that no one wept except the willow."

Yup. You know it.

"Try to remember ... when life was so tender that dreams were kept beside your pillow."

"Try to remember ... when life was so tender that love was an ember about to billow."

"Try to remember ... and if you remember, then follow, follow, follow ..."

Nicely done, everyone.

"It's a whole new generation discovering it," says director Glenn Casale, recalling a conversation with an actor performing a previous production of "The Fantasticks," which Nevada Conservatory Theatre will reinterpret beginning tonight at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"He said, 'I can't believe, still, that I would sing "Try to Remember" and people would start crying.' "

Boy. Girl. His papa. Her papa. Romance. Deception. Narrator named El Gallo (pronounced "Guy-O," and originated by late "Law & Order" star Jerry Orbach). Fable sprinkled with stardust.

"Stands the test of time"? Cliche invented for "The Fantasticks," history's longest-running musical -- period -- earning that distinction over 42 years from 1960-2002, spanning the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. All from a cramped Greenwich Village theater.

Revived in 2006, "The Fantasticks" plays on at Manhattan's Snapple Theater, echoed by hundreds of tours and local productions. Including this one.

"Simple, simple -- don't overdo this show!" Casale instructs his cast during a rehearsal at the Judy Bayley Theatre, addressing an actress putting a bit too much body language into her performance. "And I should be able to hear you without the mics," he says, prowling the hall to take it in from different vantage points. "You can hear me, can't you? You have to engage everyone back here."

This material long ago proved it can.

"It touches everyone in a family and a growth-of-life situation," Casale says. "It is kind of a fantastic journey that we go out in life only to find that where we started is really where we belong."

Based on Edmond Rostand's "Les Romanesques" with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones (not Mr. Tight Pants), "The Fantasticks" gives us a traveling troupe of players telling the tale of Boy and Girl, tricked by their fathers into falling in love by pretending to feud and building a wall between their homes -- knowing teenagers will rebel and try to get together.

Hiring actors to stage a mock abduction so Boy can appear heroic and save Girl, the fathers' plan backfires as the kids discover the ruse, reject the arranged romance and go off to experience the world, returning wiser to realize they'd always been in love.

"I watch the kids in rehearsal and they all go, 'Wow, we didn't know this was such a good show,' " Casale says. "They're 17 to 21, so they do relate. In New York, they talk about how high school groups are in awe because it's so different than 'Wicked.' It's back to basics."

Enormous sets? Pyrotechnics? Grandiose subplots? Scratch all that.

"It's about love and relationships and children, universal themes," says theater/film professor Michael Tylo, playing the "Old Actor" who participates in the faux-kidnapping. "It's enjoyable, no matter if there's a Cold War or a Vietnam War or gas shortages. People need this kind of entertainment to feel good."

Highlighted by its twin classics, "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain," the show's score was progressive-sounding even at its debut 51 years ago, with its pre-Sondheim dissonance.

Many productions reduced accompaniment to two pianos, but Nevada Conservatory's returns to the ethereal original instrumentation: harp, percussion, pianos and a violin.

"You see it on paper and think, 'That can't be right,' but then you hear it and it makes perfect sense," says Jordan Bondurant, who portrays Boy. "The music never ages. I cannot get these songs out of my head. If you leave this play and you're not humming some of the songs, you don't have a pulse."

Having been Boy before, Bondurant says he's anticipating a new outlook. "The character is 19 and I did it at 16 with a company in Tennessee and now I'm playing it at 22," he says. "The innocence was a little easier when I was 16. Now I get more of the humor, though."

Opposite him as Girl, Melody Wilson came to "The Fantasticks" backward -- music first, then the show. The panned 1995 movie version initially left her wary. "Not the best of films," she says.

"I didn't think of it as a good plotline, but I'd always known the music. I grew up with it. My mom used to sing the standards, 'Soon It's Gonna Rain' and 'They Were You.' But after I got the script, I was immediately in love with the show. You have your 'Phantom of the Opera' and your 'Lion King,' but this is something every single person can relate to, no matter what age or religion or orientation you are. It's beautiful."

Join us again, as its signature song moves gracefully through life's journey:

"Deep in December ... it's nice to remember, although you know the snow will follow."

"Deep in December ... it's nice to remember, without a hurt, the heart is hollow."

"Deep in December ... it's nice to remember, the fire of September that made us mellow."

"Deep in December ... our hearts should remember, and follow, follow, follow ..."

Reviews on Michael's performance

"Aaron Marcotte perfectly narrates "The Fantasticks" as El Gallo and veteran Michael Tylo holds his own as Henry, a washed up actor, in the play." -The Rebel Yell, Jan 31 2011

"Michael Tylo, though, captures the comic spirit and heroism of Henry, an old trouper who travels the land trying to put on plays for anyone who might be interested. Tylo gets the laughs the script demands but also convinces us that Henry is a man with a past." -The Las Vegas Review Journal, Feb 1 2011