On April 11-13, legendary Fayetteville, NC director Lee Yopp brought his frisky Fayetteville Technical Community College Players production of The Fantasticks, subtitled "A Parable About Love," to The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC for all too brief a run. The FTCCP's vivacious version of the longest-running musical in theater history had much to recommend it, including smart and stylish staging by Lee Yopp, uniformly excellent performances by an exceptional cast, crisp choreography by Rhonda Brocki, dynamic musical direction by Alan Porter, and exuberant instrumental accompaniment by pianist Beth Black and harpist Karen Kroon.
Ken Griggs gave a dashing performance as the handsome and mysterious bandit El Gallo, who doubles as the show's somewhat world-weary Narrator. LeAnn Smith mimed her role as The Mute most expressively; and J. Xavier Carteret and Cassandra Vallery were terrific as The Boy (Matt) and The Girl (Luisa), who brave their feuding father's wrath to meet and fall in love.
Ken Koonce and Clark Craver were hilarious as The Boy's Father (Hucklebee) and The Girl's Father (Bellomy). This Mutt-and-Jeff pair may disagree about gardening techniques — e.g., Hucklebee prunes his garden excessively and Bellomy over-waters his plants — but they brilliantly employ reverse psychology — by pretending to feud and forbidding their offspring to fraternize — in order to make Matt and Luisa irresistible to each other.
The ultimate in comic relief, however, was provided by the hilarious histrionics of Denver McCullough and Raymond Mays as The Old Actor (Henry) and The Man Who Dies (Mortimer) — the seedy confederates hired by El Gallo for the sham abduction of Luisa. (By defeating this motley trio of villains, Matt gives Hucklebee and Bellomy the excuse that they need to end their feud and rescind their prohibition against Matt and Luisa dating.)
The Fantasticks, which opened Off Broadway on May 3, 1960 and closed on January 13, 2002, after 17,162 performances over more than 41 years, features catchy tunes by composer Harvey Schmidt, whimsical lyrics by Tom Jones, and a charming book — in verse — by Jones based on French playwright Edmond Rostand's classic romantic comedy Les Romanesques (1894). (The Fantasticks introduced "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain" to the show-tune repertoire.)
Seldom have amateur productions of measured up to the April 11-13 Fayetteville Technical Community College Players presentation that delighted ArtsCenter patrons. The only negative was the brevity of the run.