The Fantasticks

Written on July 15th, 2013

Young Talent featured in The Fantasticks

Victoria Playhouse’s artistic directors, David Rogers and David Hogan, have again made decisions about their line-up of shows based on the talented young people they find. Their latest offering, The Fantasticks, features two fresh young singers from the area: Jonathan Gysbers from Strathroy and Rebecca McCauley of London.

The Fantasticks also provides an opportunity for David Rogers to play the role of El Gallo, the narrator of the story who sings the well-known favourite “Try to Remember the Kind of September”, which he does beautifully.

The Fantasticks is the story of neighbours who want their children to fall in love, so they attempt reverse psychology. Bellomy and Hucklebee pretend to be feuding, putting a wall between their homes, and forbidding their children to see each other. Of course, it’s a success – the teenagers fall in love, going behind their fathers’ backs.

To end the “feud”, the fathers hire some travelling carnival performers to kidnap the daughter, so the son can save her. The plan unravels when the children find out that it was all a scheme, and when they are no longer forbidden to see each other, the young couple loses interest. But in the end, they get back together again.Fantasticks ETT

The Fantasticks is the longest running off-Broadway musical, having been staged since the 1950s. It is a favourite of community theatre groups and high school musical productions. But frankly, I am puzzled by its popularity. It is not one of my preferences: the plot is contrived and slow moving, and today it seems very dated, even using the word rape in reference to the kidnapping. It is intended to be fanciful, and therefore it is generally over-acted, which I find tedious. It is saved only by some lovely songs, and fortunately those songs were performed well by very good singers in this production.

Jonathan Gysbers, a student in Sheridan College’s musical theatre program is delightful as Matt and this show is a great vehicle for him to demonstrate his strong vocal talents. Rebecca McCauley also shows her amazing singing ability in the role of Luisa. Both were students in the musical theatre program at H. B. Beal Secondary School in London, when director David Rogers “discovered” them.

David Rogers’ beautiful, clear voice is perfect as El Gallo, the narrator. Justin Bott as Mortimer and Mark Weatherley as Henry provide the comic relief with over the top performances and physical comedy as the travelling carnival actors. Rounding out the cast are the two fathers, played by J. Sean Elliott and Ian Simpson, and Gregory Pember as the Mute.

Musical director Mark Payne performs at the piano for this production, and a delightful addition is harpist Angela Schwarzkopf. Watching her play onstage is fascinating.

While the action slows down at various points, fans of whimsical stories will probably enjoy this show. Fortunately, it features a strong cast of singers and comic actors.

The Fantasticks continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until July 28. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit

To see a video of David Rogers singing the iconic “Try to Remember”, go to

The Fantasticks
Book & lyrics by Tom Jones
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Directed by David Rogers, assisted by Barbara Barsky
Musical direction by Mark Payne
Performed by Justin Bott, J. Sean Elliott, Jonathan Gysbers, Rebecca McCauley, Gregory Pember, David Rogers, Ian Simpson, Mark Weatherley.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
July 10 to 28, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

2 Responses to “The Fantasticks” | Add Your Thoughts

  1. Richard Doherty
    July 23, 2013 at 12:43 am

    I attend many shows in the region and often come across your reviews. I attended this production of the Fantasticks and thought it was an outstanding production of a classic piece. Perhaps if you are ‘puzzled’ by its popularity you should pass on reviewing it?
    I assume some of your readers take your advice to heart so may not want to see something you refer to as ‘tedious’ and ‘over-acted’. Unfortunately you may steer them away from seeing a classic musical done extremely well with your preconceived view of the piece. I also beleive they used the new version which does not use the word rape at all when referring to the kidnapping , again putting off your readers. I was involved with an amateur production many years ago and grew to like it even then so I may be biased as well but in another way so I actually understand why it is still running in New York. I do appreciate that you are allowed to express your personal thoughts …. But I am glad I saw the show before reading your review or I may have thought twice about going. Lucky for me I did see the show first and continue to understand its popularity. More than just a ‘ well sung’ effort featuring young talent I beleive. I respect we all all have diffrent tastes but Just sad to think you may be deterring others from seeing it.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I went to the show, knowing it would be well done with David Rogers, plus I was excited to see Jonathan and Rebecca, as they are great new talents. This is the 3rd time I’ve seen professional productions, but unfortunately I still don’t know why it’s so popular off-Broadway.

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