While some Carls were at Spring Concert this past weekend, Nourse Little Theater was filled with others enjoying Lee Conrads’ ‘12 production of the world’s longest-running musical, The Fantasticks. The original off-Broadway production ran for 42 years until its 17,162nd show in 2002. This off-Broadway classic is a treasured memory to many, including multiple cast members and adoring fans. As Clara Nulty ’14 explains, “The music is fun and the story is charming and endearing.” It is a musical that has the power to renew a person’s faith in musical theater.
For those who missed out on this gem last weekend, the show revolves around Luisa (Emily Altschul ’13) and Matt (Connor Lane ’13), the children of two next-door neighbors, Bellomy (Jon Kittaka ‘13) and Hucklebee (Adam Denny ‘12). The two fathers pretend to feud, building “a wall” (one of the parts played by the mute, Nulty) in order to trick the youngsters into falling in love, because nothing is more enticing than the forbidden fruit.
The fathers go so far as hiring three different actors, (Simon Ginet ’14, Freddie Stein ’14, and Gustauve Maison-Rouge ’14), to kidnap Louisa so that Matt can “rescue” her and secure her affections. But of course, this fairy tale is only the first half of the show.
Conrads explained the show perfectly, by saying that The Fantasticks at first “seems like a silly story, but ends up being really wise about a lot of things. The transition that Matt and Luisa go through from a sort of storybook romance to real love is a transition that … a lot of college students are working through. Even if it’s not a romantic situation we are trying to learn how to translate our optimism and idealism into something that is practical but still poetic.”
The Fantasticks was Conrads’ first time directing a musical. She remarks that much of her process for this production “was about plunging into something more or less unknown and just trying to figure out what worked.” This is a credit to Conrads’ prowess as a director; not only was the final product fabulous, but her entire cast could not stop raving about her. “Lee was amazing, she was insightful, inventive, honestly, everything you could want in a director,” said Altschul.
As well as loving their director, the cast and crew became like a family throughout the process. “As a cast we synched in with each other on a very profound level,” said Ginet. Nulty added that the production gave her “thirteen new friends and a family.” This level of comfort and closeness within the cast was evident in their performances on stage and was what made the show so truly fantastic.