is the tiny musical that played in a tiny New York theatre for
more than forty years, though I fear that this new production may have
difficulty making it through the summer. *
problem is that
it is a fragile show, knee-deep in whimsy, and a production that works
too hard at being charming threatens to destroy all the charm.
of it survive,
in Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's alternately lovely (Try To Remember)
and witty (Never Say No) songs - click on the Amazon buttons to the
right to hear snippets - and in some of the performances, and
they may be enough to make the evening a mild success for you, but you
are likely to go away wondering what it was the New Yorkers saw in it.
story is a
twist on an old formula, as a pair of fathers keep their children
apart, expressly to make them fall in love, and extend their scheme by
hiring a passing brigand to abduct the girl so the boy can heroically
save her. (The second act gets a little muddy as it explores the Into
The Woods question of what happens after the happy ending.)
goes wrong here can be blamed on director Amon Miyamoto, who just
pushes too hard, with an overblown production and too much visible
strain where it should all seem light and effortless.
staging is not the same as simplicity, putting some of the audience
onstage Equus-style is gratuitously clever, confetti and/or fairy dust
is thrown just a few too many times, and songs that should float across
an intimate space to us are blasted over the volume of the amplified
one point the
narrator recruits a couple of audience members to help with the mock
abduction, and until I realised they were plants, I was distracted by
concern that they were spending so much time backstage and missing the
show they had paid to see - evidence that I wasn't being captured by
the fable as I should have been. At another, the girl's nightmare
vision of the Big World Outside is so clumsily staged that it is
ineffective at best and incomprehensible at worst - for much of it she
isn't even looking at the things she's supposed to be seeing.
Doubling as narrator and brigand, Hadley Fraser is neither charming enough as one nor flamboyantly dashing enough as the other, so what comes across most clearly is a nice-enough performer trying valiantly to compensate for being miscast. Luke Brady has a nicely innocent air as the boy, but his singing voice is so weak, even with amplification, that he is barely audible. Lorna Want is more successful as the girl, singing well and giving her an attractively feisty air from the start.
As the fathers,
the unquestionably talented Clive Rowe and David Burt have been
directed to mug and shtick constantly, giving performances that are
exhausting to watch and that overpower Jones's worth-hearing lyrics.
then, for far
too few moments in each act, Edward Petherbridge appears as a dotty old
Shakespearean, and effortlessly steals every single second he is on the
stage. He's coasting, of course - there's a lot of Newman Noggs in his
characterisation - but he hits exactly the tone of lightness and whimsy
the show wants, and puts everyone else to shame.
actually closed in two weeks. It wasn't as bad as that makes it sound -
it was just a product of its time and place, and magic couldn't happen
again. I doubt if a new production of The Mousetrap would succeed in
New York today.
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Fantasticks - Duchess 2010