(Actors Mark Lefebvre and Lauren Crowley, both performing the role of El Gallo, singing during rehearsal of Kordazone Artistic Productions’ presentation of The Fantasticks at Kordazone Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. The play opens Feb. 21. Photo above by Eric Bonnci / Eyes On Windsor.)
What is the best way for neighbouring parents to bring their two offspring together? If The Fantasticks is any guide, it is simply to build a wall to keep them apart. Apparently, as the audience finds out in Korda Artistic Productions’ presentation of this well received play, walls are actually the best way to bring two star-crossed young lovers together by parents who seem oblivious to the fact they are already an item.
Teens Luisa Bellomy and Matt Hucklebee’s shared love is the premise of one of the most produced romantic musicals in the history of theatre. First performed in 1960, with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones, the play shines a theatrical spotlight on two loving youth. And, although it is an idea sixty years old, the way Korda puts it together ensures its relevance remains contemporary with a stunning cast of characters sometimes seemingly at odds with each other in a wink, wink, nod, nod way.
As the play progresses, the audience is treated, as only Director and Producer Tova Perlmutter can, to a plethora of music that, like the play, has stood the test of time. This includes a superb execution of the famed ballad Try to Remember sung with inspiration by Lauren Crowley and Mark Lefebvre in what is a most unexpected twist. Both play the role of El Gallo (Not to be pronounced the way it looks like it might be pronounced.)
Assistant Director RoseAnne Palazzolo tells Eyes On Windsor the decision to add this wrinkle to the beloved musical is to highlight the male and female aspects of the character. Both actors bring their own personalities to their lines and by mixing them heighten the richness of the production with this very well executed element.
Certainly, in her element is Sydney White in the lead role as teen Luisa Bellomy. The genuine and admired scene-stealing beauty of her voice is only equaled by the astuteness of her actor’s instincts to properly portray the sensitivities of a young confused girl in love with the boy next door. Lev Tokol, playing Matt Hucklebee, the boy with a love interest close at hand, is a wonderful pairing with White. The perfect offset of their voices is a delight in a play with both surprises and considerable humour, although sometimes subtle.
A certain undertow exists which revolves, for some reason, around gardening. Both Luisa and Matt’s fathers disagree on the mechanics of how to make a garden grow. This produces some tense moments at times. It is here, in a kind of reverse Shakespeare, that Korda has altered the Fantasticks universe as well. The role of Mr. Hucklebee is acted with incredible dexterity by Mary Grave Weir. Mr. Bellomy, performed with singleness of sincerity by Nicholas Bourque, brings an added dimension to a particularly spectacular singing and dance number in which they magically glide across the stage in one of the play’s happiest of moments.
Two characters who bring a lot of character to the story happen to be rather akin to motion picture Home Alone’s Wet Bandits. Dean Valentino, in the role of Old Actor Henry, and Nikolas Prsa, as cowboy Mortimer, are also somewhat contortionists able to, well, best to leave that as a surprise.
Valentino quickly endears himself to the audience with repeated and mumbled references to things he did as an actor, slightly down-scaling the nefarious deeds he is asked to perform, while, Prsa just happily goes along with the schemes with considerable enthusiasm.
One of the most pleasant of surprises is Chris Boyd’s take on his role as The Mute. It is a multi-faceted part requiring him to be the wall between the families and the go to guy to move things around the stage. Despite this not being a speaking part, his character is a mute after all, he brings a rare collection of emotional variety simply by using his expressive countenance in what could be described as a rather pleasing editorial fashion.
It is best to keep an eye on him throughout in what is a most relaxing evening despite the skullduggery which plays out between and during its musical numbers. Aside from music director Sam Poole adding his piano stylings to the play, all of the other sound effects are actor-generated which the characters do with considerable skill, all part of the choreography precisely plotted by Sawyer Ellis.
And there is something new in the Korda hall, a shining technical addition of a fancy lighting board allowing Carter Dersch to turn the matter of lighting into one of the stars of the show.
Put it all together, with the new lighting board on top, and Korda has scored its first success of the new year. The play opens at the Kordazone Theatre on February 21 with following performances on February 22, 23, 27, 28, 29 and March 1, 5, 6 & 7. Showtimes are 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with Matinees at 2pm on Sundays. In the Korda tradition, the February 27th show is pay what you can night. General admission is $25 with general admission tickets available online at Eventbrite. You can also call 519-562-3394 to reserve tickets in advance or purchase them at the door a half hour before each show time.
For more information visit http://kordazone.com or the Eyes On Windsor Event Listing: The Fantasticks Presented by Korda Artistic Productions
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.