The Fantastics at the White Rock Playhouse

By Ed Farolan

The Fantasticks
Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones
White Rock Playhouse
August 21-31
Tickets: (604) 536-7535

The Fraser Valley Gilbert and Sullivan Society's production of The Fantasticks at the White Rock Playhouse Theatre last August 22nd was, what B.C. ex-Premier Vander Zalm would say, if he had seen the show, "Fantastic!"

This musical by Tom Jones is loosely based on the Romeo and Juliet story-line, and traces of another adaptation of the Shakesperean tragedy, West Side Story, is reflected in Jones´s work.

It´s a pity that these young and talented players will only have till August 31st to do the show. This is a kind of a musical that gets better as it is performed, and I am sure that after 2 weeks, these actors would present this show even more "fantastickally".

Opening night jitters were apparent in tonight´s show, but the actors with their songs and dances rose to the occasion. Kerry O´Donavan (Matt) knew his songs dance steps to the T , but he needed to be more natural. But I believe that this will arrive after doing the show a few more times.

Keri Minty as Luisa was beautiful, innocent, and portrayed her role as the modern Juliet. She felt a bit uncomfortable with her dance steps, being careful a few times she wouldn´t slip and slide on the stage, I could sense, but then was able to surpass these obstacles as the musical progressed.. Again, as she does more shows, I´m certain she´ll feel more and more comfortable with the role.

The fathers played by Jimmie Allen and Christopher Cullen were superb. Their timing was close to perfect, and hit the punch lines to the delight of the audience.

But the show stealers were Marco Hohlbein (The Old Actor) and Troy Yee (Mortimer, The Man Who Dies), and the audience couldn´t stop laughing at their antics. Just their presence alone got the audience´s tickle bones going.

Last but not least was the dashing Gallo played by John Burgess-Murray. I was reminded of the actor who sang Ol´Man River in Showboat, his deep baritone voice, and how this young man was on his way to play this role 20 years from now in Broadway. My impression, though, was that Burgess-Murray needed to project his personality and his voice more, especially his baritone voice. I was sitting in the second row, but I felt he wasn't giving it all. His voice cracked a few times, or was he just over-rehearsed and didn´t have any more voice left to give? But he is a talented young man and we can look forward to see him become a musical star one day.

All in all, the production was, as I´ve pointed out a number of times, "fantastick". The audience at the end of the play and even during intermission had all great things to say: "Wasn´t that wonderful?", "What an entertaining show!", etc. Truly, it was an entertaining evening, a show for the family to see, from children to grandparents.

Congratulations to Cast, Orchestra (just a piano and harp, but it was sufficient), and Production crew for a job well done!