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"I just got out of my theatre class and the teacher (Sara Morsey) went into a half hour lecture on how the Satellite is the best source for finding out about what was going on in town. She read parts of Shamrock McShane's article (The Play About the Baby – see: newmoonrising.com) and went on to say that Mr. McShane is a journalistic hero who makes his readers actually think instead of spoon feeding them their news and reviews. She strongly recommended that all her students pick it up this and every month."

– Denise Hank

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Updated: December 25, 2011

Chanterelle Davis and Felipe Bombonato in "The Fantasticks"

Chanterelle Davis and Felipe Bombonato in "The Fantasticks."

 

Players and Passion

Shamrock McShane

The house lights dim. The stage lights up.

Maestro Teague Johnson enters and strides across the hardwood floor of the Expressions Studio Theatre to the piano, and the audience gives an appreciative round of applause, but only theatre cognoscenti know what is about to happen next.

Johnson launches into the energetic overture to The Fantasticks with a rush and you start to get an inkling of where this musical might be headed  - soaring with wit and verve, the notes taking off now baroque now jazz and then something that can only be described as the American Musical – that gem that we discovered and cut to perfection.

England gave the world Shakespeare, yes, and the Japanese Kabuki, and the Italians Commedia dell’Arte, but it was America that gave the world the musical, and here it is in its purest and simply most elegant form: Boy (Felipe Bombonato) meets Girl (Chanterelle Davis), Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl, every moment alive with music lovely, rhapsodic, and haunting.

Here are two beautiful young people discovering love and the world, set to a unified score of music that constantly thrills the way that overture does – just when you think the climax has been reached and the dénouement is in sight, another climax crescendos and on and on. The Happy Ending occurs near the end …of Act One.

You begin to see why The Fantasticks is the longest running play ever in the history of New York City, which is to say Professional Theatre. Scot Davis, the master showman who also directs the show, sings “Try to Remember the Kind of September” with all the tenderness his mellow voice can muster, and we are embarked.

The Fantasticks

Book & lyrics by Tom Jones, Music by Harvey Schmidt.
Directed by Scot Davis
Expressions Studio Theatre
Gainesville, Florida
September 30 — October 16, 2011

Luisa, the sixteen year-old Girl who falls in love, is played by Chanterelle Davis, who transforms from ingénue to starlet before your eyes. And why wouldn’t she fall in love with a Boy played by the dashing Felipe Bombonato.

Felipe Bombonato in "The Fantasticks"

Felipe Bombonato in "The Fantasticks."

Bombonato, who will be joining the national touring company of Cats later this month, found the charms of The Fantasticks irresistible, offering a talented young male lead all the variety and degree of difficulty you could ask for. Ask Maestro Teague, the music of The Fantasticks is maddeningly difficult, but offers the greatest of artistic rewards: virtuosity.

If it weren’t for the lovers, and of course the Maestro, the star of the show, unquestionably, would be Scot Davis, who plays El Gallo, the narrator of the play and also a character in it. The veteran player, Davis subtly displays all the skills acquired from a life in the theatre, from fourth wall breaking intimacy to slapstick to soulful singer and back again.

Simple elegance is the name of The Fantasticks’ game, wreathing together melody, harmony, mystery, and laughter. Comic relief arrives with the plentiful talents of Phillip Godwin and Mike McShane, who play the fathers of the lovers. Big brassy singers with the stage presence of gangbusters, they bluster blissfully and tunefully.

Mike McShane, who designed the lights and runs them in character while onstage, doubles in the role of Mortimer, the aged actor, bringing to mind vividly the ghost of Buster Keaton.

Through it all, accompanied by the mimed theatrics of Derek Jarvis as the Mute, the maxim of Moliere is invoked: “Give me two players and a passion, and I will show you theatre!” Only that which serves to tell the simple story and advance the plot is allowed, lending the spare set a shimmering essence of stage, shape, color, and dreamlike illumination.

I play Henry, the old actor, a foil for the lovers. whose singing is blessedly kept to a minimum. For the opportunity to play with these stellar players and be part of the bountiful tradition of The Fantasticks, I am truly honored.

The Fantasticks, book & lyrics by Tom Jones, music by Harvey Schmidt, runs from September 30 - October 16, 2011.

- Shamrock McShane