October 3, 2002
(the article first appeared in The Charlotte Observer)|
CPCC makes a questionable choice by returning to its roots with the longest running musical in American theatre history. The Fantasticks, performed by Central Piedmont Community College, is an uninspired romantic musical that provides a mediocre showcase for some talented actors. How it established itself as the longest running musical, from a small Greenwich Village theatre in New York, is a mystery. Perhaps it was due to a constant influx of theatre-going tourists, and a small house in a hip neighborhood.
Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt wrote the play, which is based on Les Romanesques by Edmond Rostand. The Fantasticks is a story about first love between a dreamy sixteen-year-old girl and her awkward next door neighbor. While they think they are in love with each other, they are really in love with the idea of being in love.
The Boy’s father is played by James Flynn, who spent the last 11 years as the voice of the Charlotte Hornets and the Sting. He has a natural stage presence and a melodious voice. The duets "Never Say No" and "Plant a Radish," sung by Flynn and The Girl’s father, played by Dana Alderman, are the highlights of the show. Steve Bryan is also notable as the hilariously dopey actor-for-hire, whose specialty is agonizing, effeminate death scenes.
Most confounding is the scene where the fathers hire actors to perform a "Rape" of The Girl. Intended more as a kidnapping, such as that illustrated in the Restoration poem "Rape of the Lock," the concept is linguistically defeated. Perhaps the word rape once had an alternate, inoffensive meaning, but its evolution in our lexicon makes it unsuitable material for light parody. The slipshod set, a replica of the one in Greenwich Village, may work at the Sullivan Street Playhouse, but just looks sloppy on CPCC’s larger stage.
Bright spots included the unusual stage appearance of a harpist and a pianist who performed the score. I also enjoyed the inventive use of confetti, and the omnipresent smile of The Girl, played by Erin Cusack. But all in all, the play is dull and plodding. There is nothing wrong with any of the actors; the play simply doesn’t give them substantial material with which to illuminate their talents.
Lynn Trenning, October 3, 2002