How to make it Fantastick…

When I chose this show, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do with it. I had seen The Fantasticks a few different times in my life, but to be honest the show never really spoke to me. I became interested in musicals because of epic productions like Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, and I will admit that I never really understood the allure of a musical where one of the main characters is a mute who spends most of his time holding sticks, throwing confetti and handing out props.

Original cast of The Fantasticks

Original cast of The Fantasticks

It all seemed so dated and uninteresting to me for so long that I had sort of categorized it as one of those “old shows that isn’t really relevant anymore.” I know… I know… so far this is not making you want to come see the show. Hopefully the next paragraph will change that.

Fortunately, over the past few years my taste has evolved and I have begun to look at shows like The Fantasticks through a different lens. I have come to realize that one of the things I do well, and by proxy Flat Rock Playhouse does well, is make people take a second look at musicals they thought they knew. In practice this means stripping down the show to its most simplistic form, discovering what is universal and timeless about it, and then using that discovery as a springboard for re-imagining the piece for a modern audience. In the case of The Fantasticks, the show is ultimately about true love… not the kind of love that is based on fairy tales and fantasy, but the kind that is based on experience and understanding. It is about a lasting love, not a fleeting affair – love between two people who know who they are and what they want to be. Once I discovered this about The Fantasticks, and we began to imagine the best way to present the show to our audience, I began to fall in love with it. Now that we have been working on it for months and have created what I believe is the most unique concept for a show that I have ever been a part of at Flat Rock Playhouse, I can tell you that it is the show that I most want our audience to experience in 2014. It has the potential to be… in a word… magical. It is passionate, romantic, inspiring, thoughtful, elegant and perhaps most importantly… relevant. When you see it, which I truly hope you will, you’ll understand what I’m saying.

From Martin Scorsese's Hugo... one of the inspirations for our design

From Martin Scorsese’s Hugo… one of the inspirations for our design

I don’t want to give away too much about the production design, but I will tell you that our Playhouse Downtown is literally being transformed as I write this. When we conceived of the downtown theatre four years ago, this is exactly the kind of production I hoped we would one day produced there. It puts the audience in and around the action in a form we could never achieve on our MainStage.

We just completed our fifth day of rehearsal. We don’t have very much rehearsal time so we are moving very quickly. The actors are doing a wonderful job picking up the material, especially considering the varied theatrical disciplines on display in our new production. The music is sounding glorious, the flow of the show is starting to come together and everyone is beginning to understand the ultimate vision of the piece. Jennifer, the choreographer, has an appropriately inspired vision for We’ll Just Dance in Act II and despite the fact that it has taken some time to realize, I think it will really help bring the second act to a climax.

I can also tell you that I am truly excited about the the work that the crew and the designers are doing. The set looks AMAZING and while Dennis’s design is certainly due a lot of the credit, the scene shop has literally exceeded every expectation on this one. Tony, Spencer, Sam and the entire team are doing inspired work. I hope they’re proud of what they are accomplishing. Ashli (costume designer) and I spent hours today trying to nail down exactly what we want The Mute in our production to look like. She has evolved through the rehearsal process (we have a female in the role) and we are going in a very different direction than we had initially planned. We’re both at that point where we really don’t know if the costume will work or not so the next few days are going to be critical! Chris has been working around the clock on the props for the show and I am truly excited about the plan for lighting and sound with Stephen and Nick delivering ambitious, inspiring designs.

The next few days will be critical. We only have three days to stage most of the second act and prepare to move into the theater on Saturday. I know there will be some bumps and bruises along the way, but I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to begin technical rehearsals. I hope we can deliver on the potential of this one. If we do… it will be something truly special.

Read more about: Front Page News, FRP Blog, The Fantasticks

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Author:  Vincent Marini