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Walls Bring Us Together: CTC goes musical with "The Fantasticks" 

click to enlarge The Fantasticks: Waving jazz hands for 40-plus years.
  • The Fantasticks: Waving jazz hands for 40-plus years.
The Fantasticks: Waving jazz hands for 40-plus years.
Luisa is 16, "pretty for the first time," and quite insane. Matt is 20, nerdy, and wondering what's beyond that road. Oh, and they're in love and as close together as the wall their parents have literally built between them allows. This isn't another Romeo and Juliet or Pyramus and Thisbe, but The Fantasticks - the longest-running off-Broadway musical (some 17,162 performances spanning 42 years), loosely based on Edmond Rostand's Les Romanesques, and now available to hum along with at the Cascades Theatrical Company.

Marking the middle of the CTC's 29th season, The Fantasticks is a stage standard; dripping with nostalgia, audiences lap up the escapism and the cast ever-cognizant that they are part of history. Yet the CTC has again offered a twist: Director Kymberli Colbourne has dared to alter the time-tested formula of The Fantasticks by replacing the two meddling fathers (who built the wall to manipulate their children) with two equally errant mothers. Bellomy (Kimberlee Lear) and Hucklebee (Mandy Rockwell) bring new life to the sometimes quaint script, while Jimena Romero as Luisa and Scott Carroll as Matt never take themselves too seriously - which is most welcome when watching a play nearly a half-century old.

Suburbia versus Bohemia, Hucklebee and Bellomy are trying to match their children by intentionally limiting their contact, and it works - too well. Enter El Gallo (portrayed by the ever-polished Jon D. Plueard) to arrange for "a first-class rape." What? The Fantasticks may be quaint, but it isn't politically correct - an "abduction that's American" proves Matt's mettle, and makes Luisa fall in love with her hero-neighbor.

Tom Jones wrote the original book and lyrics, Harvey Schmidt the music, and The Fantasticks still rings, plucking heartstrings until one simply succumbs. The CTC's comfortable theatre is ideal for the play's simple set - yet almost too small for Romero's voice - and the ensemble embodies the teamwork that makes community theatre so compelling. Famous songs abound, including "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain," begging the audience to hum along (which they did), then burst into laughter as Henry and Mortimer make their entrance. Russell Seaton and Jim Lee are slap-stick stalwarts - Seaton's Henry (dramatist and fellow abductor) and Lee's Mortimer (a death-scene master) cover the cost of admission.

And then there are the unheralded, yet critical, roles of The Mute and the musician. Rickey Minder offers an ominous, unsmiling, one-woman scenery department as The Mute, while Eileen Seelye gracefully flows from ballads to ragtime on the piano. The sets, stage management, costumes and lighting only underscore the professionalism of the CTC, especially during the effective acid trip that is "Round & Round" - with El Gallo seducing Luisa as Matt takes a beating. The road beyond has been unkind to Matt, leaving Luisa as fickle as ever, and the star-crossed lovers have experienced much from September to December. If there's one lesson to be learned from The Fantasticks it's "Always leave the wall!"

As well as, "We all must die a bit before we may grow again ... "

This echoed throughout the CTC as the audience exited, still smiling and humming - trying to remember when we were a Matt or Luisa, when times were simpler, and it took only a wall to bring us together.

The Fantasticks

7:30pm Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30pm Sunday. January 25-February 17. Cascade Theatrical Company, 148 NW Greenwood Ave. Call 389-0803 for tickets.


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