Weston Playhouse kicks off its summer season on the main stage with the legendary musical, The Fantasticks. Originally produced in 1960 with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones, this show’s original production ran a total of 42 years, making it the world’s longest-running musical. The popular musical has been produced over the years by countless theater groups, drama clubs, and in film. How was it possible, then, that I had never seen this legendary show? When I saw that it was to be a part of Weston’s 2019 summer schedule, I was determined to finally see what all the raves were about.
But first, a little about the story. The plot of The Fantasticks is a timeless story of young love, fathers who believe they know best, and the results when fantasy and reality collide. Familiar songs such as “Try to Remember” will have you humming along. No spoiler alerts, but you will laugh, share poignant moments, and leave the theater with a full heart.
The mostly bare stage calls upon the audience to not only use their imagination, but to concentrate their attention on the characters, their flaws and their moments of growth. Susanna Gellert, the director, manages to take a play written over 50 years ago and infuse it with a 21st century sensibility. Actress Julie Benko, who plays the lead role as Luisa, puts it this way, “Throughout history, we humans have honed the ability, through force of will, to accept easy lies rather than face the uncomfortable truths right in front of us. You’d have thought the rise of the internet might have helped us overcome this moral defect – but instead, it seems worse than ever. We can live in the bubble of our choosing and tell ourselves whatever stories we like about the people living in other, misguided bubbles. And I think this show reminds us that it is our duty to remove that mask…”
It is certainly worth mentioning that the leads played by Julie Benko and Francisco Gonzalez were flawlessly performed. The remainder of the cast (Tom Aulino, David, Bonanno, Devin Ilaw, Megumi Nakamura, Wayne W. Pretlow, and Geoffrey Wade) delivered the same high-level performance. With piano and harp as accompaniment, the music drew you in from the first notes of “Try to Remember” to its final refrain as the story closes.
So, am I glad I finally experienced this wonderful musical? Absolutely! Whether you have seen the show in the past or, like me, have never been to a performance, I would wholly recommend you get yourself to Weston Playhouse to see this production. There’s still time. The show runs through July 13.
For more information, contact Weston Playhouse