book and lyrics by Tom Jones music by Harvey Schmidt.

Duchess Theatre 3-5 Catherine Street WC2B 5LA.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Runs: 2hr 125min.

TICKETS 0844 412 4659 .
Review: Carole Woddis 10 June.

Not quite fantastic but with its strong points.
Think The Mousetrap and you get some idea of the longevity of this iconic little show. When The Fantasticks opened in 1960 it almost died at birth. But producer Lore Noto sank his life savings, and his trust, into it. The result is a legend that has run for the past fifty years in New York.

It was never a great show. But it had charm and an unforgettable number in `Try to Remember’ that enjoyed the virtues of both innocence and nostalgia for a time that seemed simpler even it wasn’t.

And here it is back in London, in a brand-new production by Japanese director Amon Miyamoto with an English cast that includes Clive Rowe, David Burt, Paul Hunter (of Told by an Idiot theatre company) and the evergreen Edward Petherebridge.

Indeed it’s the white-haired Petherbridge sending himself up deliciously as Henry, the old actor, who almost runs away with the show. In the end, it’s hauled back to its driving concept – young love and life’s harsh lessons – by the tunefulness of Harvey Schmidt’s music and the artfulness of Tom Jones’ book and lyrics.

Mixing sentiment with a tongue-in-cheek, impromptu quality that also, in its time, produced musicals like The Rocky Horror Show, Jones and Schmidt pull together snatches of Shakespeare, a touch here and there of music hall and even throw in a benign `Devil’ as narrator to bring this tender tale of love overcoming all to full flowering.

Miyamoto, aiming to recreate the show for a new generation, misjudges certain aspects. Having the audience onstage adds nothing. And Rowe and Burt are allowed to over-act disastrously.

But Luke Brady as The Boy is a discovery, strong in voice, sincere in acting who delivers the youthful vision of hope and hunger to experience life, `Beyond that Road’, with freshness and passion. Along with Hadley Fraser’s attractive, charismatic narrator and the aforementioned Petherbridge, the show’s wisdoms and wit are brought safely to harbour.

Even if Miyamoto doesn’t get it all right, it’s hard to dislike a show that can still leave a warm after-glow for young and old alike.

The Mute: Carl Au.
The Narrator: Hadley Fraser.
The Girl: Lorna Want.
The Boy: Luke Brady.
The Boy’s Father: Clive Rowe.
The Girl’s Father: David Burt.
The Old Actor: Edward Petherbridge.
The Man Who Dies: Paul Hunter.
Ensemble: Ross Aldred, Matthew Craig, Ceili O’Connor.

Director/Choreographer: Amon Miyamoto.
Designer: Rumi Matsui.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Sound: Mike Walker.
Musical Director: Tom Deering.
Orchestrations/Musical Supervision: Jason Carr.
Costume: Nicky Shaw.
Assistant Musical director: Bob Broad.

2010-06-13 23:30:43

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