GS Production of "The Fantasticks" Connects Actors and Audience
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
George School musical theater and stagecraft students will present The Fantasticks by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt on Friday, February 20, 2009, and Saturday, February 21, 2009, at 8:00 p.m. in Walton Center Auditorium. The show is free and open to the public.
The world’s longest-running musical, The Fantasticks is a romantic comedy about a young boy and a young girl who live next door to each other and fall in love in spite of a feud between their families. Unbeknownst to the boy and girl, their parents want them to marry and have conspired to stage the feud, believing that young people will fall in love only if they are forbidden to do so. The original off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks opened in 1960 and played 17,162 performances before closing in 2002. A revival of the show is currently playing at the Snapple Theater Center in New York City. Actor Scott Willis, a member of the revival cast, visited a recent rehearsal of the George School production and coached the students.
George School senior Kevin Hang of Shanghai, China, plays the role of El Gallo, the narrator, who opens the show with the well-known song “Try to Remember.” During the course of the production, the mysterious El Gallo prompts the boy and girl to make decisions about what directions their lives will take. “The whole two-hour show is like a life lesson,” said Kevin. Because the characters encompass a broad range of ages, he observed, audience members can easily relate to the characters. “You can find yourself in the show,” he said.
The Fantasticks is traditionally performed in a small space that facilitates interaction between the performers and the audience. In order to create such an atmosphere, stagecraft teacher Scott Hoskins and his students have temporarily modified the stage and seating in George School’s Walton Center Auditorium for the show. An extension has been added at the front of the stage, and the seating has been adjusted in order to bring the actors and audience closer together.
George School drama and musical theater teacher Maureen West, the director of the production, noted, “All of the production choices have focused on the goal of telling the story with genuine simplicity and honesty in an effort to preserve its charm and timelessness.”
Interaction between performers and audience members makes The Fantasticks an unusual show, according to Maddie Kane, a senior from Newtown, Pennsylvania, who plays the role of Luisa, the young girl. Traditional theatrical productions require actors to maintain an imaginary boundary, or “fourth wall,” that precludes them from acknowledging or directly addressing the audience. In The Fantasticks, however, the “fourth wall” is gone. “We’re actually staring at the audience members and speaking to them,” said Maddie.
Palmer Trolli, a junior from Levittown, Pennsylvania, who plays the role of elderly actor Henry, added, “We’re telling the story to the members of the audience, so we have to keep them involved.” The concept, he said, is “like reading a book to someone.”
As with all musical theater productions at George School, musical direction is by Jacqueline Coren, costumes are by Liz Lukac, choreography is by David Abers, and sets are designed by Scott Hoskins and built by his stagecraft classes. For more information about the show, please call 215.579.6568.