MSU's 'Fantasticks' is rooted in nature
|By Christopher Horb|
Director Jane Falion says the venerable musical is the perfect show for Summer Circle TheatreAs director Jane Falion tells it, it’s not hard to understand why “The Fantasticks” has endured since its Off-Broadway debut in 1960.
“It’s simply a beautiful show," Falion said. "The themes are universal. It’s about love, loss, trust. There couldn’t be themes any more universal than in ‘The Fantasticks.’”
“The Fantasticks” bows Wednesday as the final presentation of Michigan State University’s Summer Circle Theatre series. The free outdoor productions are staged along the banks of the Red Cedar River, and Falion said the famed musical by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones is a perfect entry in the series.
“The whole show is about nature — it’s filled with botanical references and references to the moon and the sky. It’s so nice to be staging this under the stars, surrounded by trees.”
“Fantasticks” is the whimsical tale of two fathers who stage a mock family feud in order to trick their children into falling in love by attempting to keep them apart. Young Matt and Luisa, desperate to defy their parents, set out on an adventure with the dashing and mysterious El Gallo as their guide on a journey that brings them to an understanding of true love.
“It’s charming and sweet and a bit edgy," said Falion, a fixture on the Lansing area theater scene who is making her MSU directorial debut with this production. "It’s about love, losing love and finding love again.”
Betsy Bledsoe and Christopher Robinson star as the star-crossed lovers, alongside Chad DeKatch as El Gallo.
The show’s original Off-Broadway run lasted 42 years, giving it the record for the world’s longest-running musical. The score features such signature tunes as “Try To Remember,” “Much More” and “I Can See It.” “The Fantasticks” has inspired a feature film and continues to be a staple of community and regional theatre productions with over 250 new productions staged every year.
The show’s notoriety has proven to be a challenge for Falion, who said so many audience members who've seen or even acted in other "Fantasticks" productions bring “emotional nostalgia” with them to the show.
“How do you balance the early remembered performances of the audience with a newness specific to this production?" she asked. "It’s tough, but I wanted to stay faithful to the original story and still infuse it with something unexpected.”
Edward O'Ryan's improvisational “Commedia Project” will precede the Friday and Saturday night performances.
Michigan State University Summer Circle Theatre
South of MSU Auditorium on the lawn next to the Red Cedar River (bleacher seating is available, or you can bring your own chair or blanket)
8 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, Thursday, June 23, Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26