“Try to remember” … a better rendition of Tom Jones’ The Fantasticks than the one that debuted Friday night at the Indiana Repertory Theatre and you will be hard pressed.
Combine a small troupe of actors, a sparse, yet skillfully designed stage and a minimal number of instruments providing the music, and you have the setting for The Fantasticks. In contrast to this presentational minimalism, the acting in The Fantasticks is intentionally ironic and over-the-top, amplifying the hipster humor that characterizes the musical. The Fantasticks’ eight actors, excellently cast by the IRT, keep this brand of humor fresh and accessible to the audience, and are reason enough alone to see this production.
Charles Goad and Mark Goetzinger perfectly portray the quaint country fathers Jones must have envisioned when he wrote the musical. Their two children, played by Mackenzie Thomas and Eric VanTielen, admirably succeed in portraying the impetuosity and naïveté associated with youth. Thomas, whose voice is eerily reminiscent of Judy Garland’s, especially stands out. Rounding out the cast are the bandits Henry and Mortimer, played by the lovable William J. Norris and zany Robert K. Johansen, respectively, and their leader and the narrator of the musical, El Gallo, played by the charismatic David Studwell. Last, but certainly not least, Alexa Silvaggio plays the role of the Mute and acts brilliantly at various times as both the wall separating the two households and as the keeper of the musical’s tempo by use of percussive instruments.