“The Fantasticks”

  • Wed Oct 15th, 2008 8:00am
  • Life

a simple, startling and timeless show

tLocal cast and crew create modern musical fable

It was their last audition for the Orcas Center production of “The Fantasticks,” and co-directors Jean Henigson and Linda Tretheway had still been unable to cast two of the primary male characters.

Henigson said, “We were at the eleventh hour and were afraid we would not have a cast. Then fate lent a hand.

“A young man, Jayson David, who makes his living as a professional actor in New York and was visiting his mother on Orcas, came to the audition. We knew immediately we had our ‘Boy.’

“With 15 minutes to go before the audition ended, Robert Hall walked in looking for a friend and he looked perfect for the part of ‘El Gallo.’ We heard his wonderful, strong and mellow voice and asked him to read a part and sing a song. He nailed the part with his looks, reading and singing. He was hesitant to join the cast but we finally convinced him to take the part.

“It was like heaven looked down on us in sending us these two guys. Robert has extensive theatrical experience. He just set down on the island and is living on his sailboat. Jayson has a marvelous strong, well-trained voice and presence. He is a natural dancer. He has stage combat experience, which the audience will appreciate in the sword fighting scenes. Orcas audiences are in for a huge treat with these two guys from heaven.”

The Directors

Henigson and Tretheway, who have never co-directed or worked on a production together before, say they are co-directors with different but symbiotic talents that are so closely aligned that they finish each others’ sentences and thoughts.

Tretheway, who is the coordinator for the Orcas Senior Center, says she has been involved in community theater since she was 14 years old. Her experience includes everything from lighting and props to writing, acting and directing. She was the assistant director for “Steel Magnolias” and stage manager for “Arsenic and Old Lace,” she acted and sang in “Annie” and was the production manager for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” This is her directing debut on Orcas.

Henigson is also launching her directing career with this production. She says she has danced her whole life, and performed and was the assistant director with the Aman Folk Ensemble in Los Angeles. She has taught dance for more than 40 years and has her own dance studio, “A Place to Dance,” on Orcas where she teaches ballet, creative and folk dance.

Tretheway says, “I did the show more years ago than I can count. I loved it and have always wanted to direct it. Deborah Sparks approached Jean and I about doing it together. It’s a musical, Jean is an amazing choreographer and dancer herself, and I have had the directing experience. It was a perfect match of our talents,” Tretheway said.

The Fantasticks

“The Fantasticks” is musical from the 1960s with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones. It tells the symbolic fable of “Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy wins girl back.”

The character El Gallo is at once the director of a traveling company of players, the narrator, and the protagonist in the play-within-a-play, says Henigson. “He is a complex, altruistic character that controls the play’s story, sometimes creating pain in the process of helping people grow.”

The fathers put up a wall between their houses so their children will fall in love, because they know that children always do what their parents forbid. The children fall in love, discover their fathers’ scheme and break-up to go off and experience the world.

“It is a fun, funny, upbeat and hilarious play,” says Henigson.

Tretheway says, “The unique thing about this play, is that it’s the longest continuously running play [42 years] in the history of the American theatre, with performances all over the world. It’s a love story. It’s about the trials of growing up and learning about the world. It has wonderful music. ‘Try to Remember’ is probably the song most of the audience will be familiar with and Robert’s performance of it is so touching. It is a family show that will appeal and resonate at different levels for all ages.”

The Actors

“We have a wonderful cast,” said Henigson. The part of ‘The Girl’ is played by Grace McCune, whom many will remember in the part of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.” Others will know her as part of the musical performers Twirl.

“When Jayson and Grace met for the first time with musical director Ron Meyers, there was a perfect chemistry. They are two strong and extremely talented performers that are dynamic together.”

There are several family ties in this family production. Bryan Grantham – who is Musical Director Ron Meyers’ son-in-law – has been cast in the role of “The Girl’s Father.” Tretheway says that Grantham, who has just moved to Orcas, “has a shy demeanor that changes once he gets on stage. He sings, dances and acts with the best of them.”

Dave Roseberry is cast as “The Boy’s Father.” Roseberry is known on the Orcas Center stage for his performances in “A Christmas Carol” and the Orcas Idol competition. He is also a member of the singing group, “The Parking Angels.”

Henigson’s husband Steve is playing “The Old Actor.” Jean Henigson says, “Steve plays an old has-been Shakespearean actor who perhaps never-was. Steve has received acclaim for his outstanding performances in previous Orcas Center productions and with The Actors Theater of Orcas. I enjoy the fact that Steve and I can be in this production together. We like being so involved in the same project.

“Ezekiel Barr plays ‘The Man Who Dies,’ and brings his comedic instincts to the stage. Together with Steve they delight us as a Laurel and Hardy-like team.”

“The Mute” is played by Sabina Smith-Moreland, a high school student, whose maturity for the role impressed us as much as her dancing, acting and comedic skills,” Tretheway said.

The Production Team

Musical Director Ron Meyers, who has been either the accompanist or the musical director on a number of Orcas Center and Orcas Theater productions, said of the show, “It’s a wonderful show. It reflects the interaction of children and parents and some of the emotional problems they go through. It’s metaphoric. With the actors we have, it’s pretty easy being the musical director; all I have to do is follow them.”

Meyers started playing piano when he was six years old. During his career in the military, he worked in dance bands, as an accompanist for singers and as a musician. Since coming to Orcas, he has put on “Music from the Heart” all over the Puget Sound region, as well as teaching piano on the island.

There are more than 20 songs that move the plot along, and Meyers plays the piano for all the numbers. Jim Shaffer-Bauck accompanies him on percussion.

The stage manager for the production is high school student Chloe Scott; Freddie Hinkle is the technical manager and Deborah Sparks, Orcas Center Theatre Productions Director, is the producer.

Henigson says, in between rehearsals for the performances later this month, “The tunes are catchy. You will bounce away from the theater singing the tunes. This is a play that people like to see over and over again, because it has that way of grabbing people. People should get tickets early. This will be a sell-out and they won’t want to miss it.”

Orcas Center performances run from Thursday, Oct. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 1. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $12 for non-members, $10 for members and $8 for students. Tickets are available online at www.orcascenter.org or at the Orcas Center Box Office from Thursday to Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.