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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Snapple Theatre Center, New York

By Peter Filichia

  Sara Jean Ford, Douglas Ullman, Jr. and Santino Fontana in The Fantasticks (Photo/Joan Marcus)

Those who didn't deign or dare to travel downtown to see The Fantasticks  during its 42-year run (1960-2002) can now catch the show in a reasonable facsimile on Broadway and 50th - at the humiliatingly named Snapple Theatre Center.

The playhouse's inside has been configured to resemble the now-demolished Sullivan Street Playhouse, home of the show's previous 17,162 performances. A few more rows have been added, of course, to make a little more money. (A little? There's a $75 top, which is about $72 higher than the original price.)

Every word is almost the same. Over the years, many took issue with the word "rape," so some years ago, bookwriter-lyricist Tom Jones changed most - but not all - references to "abduction." This time around, he's exercised a few more - but Jones won't entirely part with the word. Why doesn't he just rework the song to include the word "kidnap"? That's what he's really talking about.

For this is the story of Boy meets Girl, Boy Prevents Girl from Being Kidnapped, Boy wants to lose Girl after marriage, Boy gets Girl and Re-adjusts. The new cast sings Harvey Schmidt's notes quite well. But Burke Moses , who plays the narrator El Gallo, has a joyless demeanor that makes him look like bad guy in an old Republic Studios western. Even when he sings the show's trademark theme, "Try to Remember," he appears to be trying to forget he's in this third-floor walk-up theater.

Sara Jean Ford  has nice bite (and libido) as The Girl who's waiting for life to begin. She's quite annoyed at still being so naive - but rarin' to change. As the Boy, Santino Fontana  has an appealing immaturity, , especially in the way he adds nervous quality to the lyric, "What are we gonna do?" in "Soon It's Gonna Rain."

Leo Burmester  and Martin Vidnovic have happy-go-lucky demeanors and rubbery legs as, respectively, the Boy and Girl's parents. Playing Mortimer, the journeyman actor, is Robert R. Oliver, who's wonderfully hammy. While he is officially laying it on thick, he manages to convince an audience that this is just who his character is.

Director Jones hired Thomas Bruce to portray the Old Actor. But Bruce is a pseudonym for Jones himself. Now he's aged into the role that he probably played at many backers' auditions (and certainly on stage when the show started out). What wonderful panache he offers! One could say that he alone is worth the price of admission, if the admission price weren't so high.




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