“The Fantasticks”, Sonoma Community Center, Sonoma CA

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Members, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Photos courtesy of Sonoma Arts Live

Jeffrey Dreyer, Anya Cherniss, Brett Mollard, Tim Setzer

Jeffrey Dreyer, Anya Cherniss, Brett Mollard, Tim Setzer

The original 1960 off-Broadway production of “The Fantasticks”, with music by Harvey Schmidt, and book and lyrics by Tom Jones, ran for an amazing 42 years. It’s the longest-running musical in history, beloved by generations, and for good reason. It moves ever so gently through universal themes of love, wisdom, disillusionment and folly with a beautiful score that includes such iconic melodies as “Try to Remember”. It’s a perfect show for September, or any season.

The story is sweet and simple, about a Girl (a winsome Anya Cherniss) and Boy (fine performance by Brett Mollard) who live next door and fall in love mainly because their fathers (Tim Setzer and Jeffrey Dreyer) built a wall (represented by a droll and mute Ryan Witlock). The deceptive dads have faked a feud between them to drive the pair together with the wall as its powerful symbol. This trick of reverse psychology is one that many parents will recognize, and laugh. The fathers go to elaborate measures to perpetrate the illusion, including hiring a pair of ancient ham actors (zany turns by Jim McFadden and Richard Thompson). But the most pivotal character is The Narrator (dazzling performance by Sean O’Brien) who also plays El Gallo, guide and man of mystery.

Sean O'Brien

Sean O’Brien

Trevor Hoffmann’s direction is fluid and energetic, especially during the comic mock-battles. The entire cast (with the exception of Witlock) sings, and sings beautifully, in solos and together. Cherniss’ voice is lovely when she’s on-pitch, which fortunately is most of the time. The real standout, again, is O’Brien, with his soaring lyric tenor. Setzer also gives a memorable performance, along with the goofy and loveable Dreyer.

The deceptively minimalist set engages the imagination, and lively, honest performances by the cast make this an unforgettable experience, whether you’re seeing it for the first time, or the tenth.

When: Now through September 11, 2016

7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays

2:00 p.m. Sundays

Tickets $15 to $45

Where: Sonoma Community Center, Rotary Stage in Andrews Hall

276 E. Napa

Sonoma, CA

866-710-8942

www.sonomaartslive.org

Next offerings by Sonoma Arts Live at Sonoma Community Center:

I Hate Hamlet” by Paul Rudnick, September 22 through October 9

Bad Dates” by Theresa Rebeck, October 26 through October 30