The Fantasticks | Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

The Fantasticks New Review (Theater and Comedy) The Short List (Theater) Recommended Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: June 3-14 2015

Light Opera Works presents a genuine rarity: the little-known "expanded version" of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's familiar 1960 concept musical, whose original off-Broadway production ran a history-making 42 years. Based on Edmond Rostand's 1894 verse drama Les Romanesques, the allegorical narrative concerns an archetypal Boy and Girl (Christopher MacGregor and Meredith Kochan) who find true love only after their romantic illusions have been shattered by painful life lessons inflicted upon them by a cynical, worldly-wise narrator, El Gallo (James Anest). Rudy Hogenmiller's polished, prettily designed staging serves the material well, though it misses the emotional nuances more intimate renditions I've seen have conveyed. Ironically, the most moving moments come from supporting players James Harms and Brian Rooney as two elderly traveling actors recruited by El Gallo to bring the young lovers together and then break them apart. This show's great strength is the music. Originally arranged for a delicate, low-budget piano/harp combo, the inventive, tuneful score is played here by a 23-piece orchestra conducted by Roger L. Bingaman; the orchestrations (by the brilliant Jack Elliott) feature a lush string sound (highlighting the love songs' operetta flavor) and a crackling jazz feel in the driving second-act highlights "This Plum Is Too Ripe" and "I Can See It." —Albert Williams

Price: $34-$94

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