When the Gingerbread Players’ production of “The Fantasticks” opened this past bone-chilling, rain-swept Friday night, the hot cider and trademark baked goods warmed the body, but it was the love-kissed performance that warmed the heart.
It was hard to tell who was having a better time, the audience (who seemed to have a permanent collective smile on their faces) or the particularly game cast of eight (who put their souls into everything they did).
“The Fantasticks,” with a book and lyrics by Tom Jones and haunting music by Harvey Schmidt, holds the record as the longest-running musical in the world, having played nearly 42 consecutive years in its off-Broadway incarnation.
While the current run will be a lot shorter, this version has much to offer anyone willing to embrace the show’s admittedly sentimental message.
A parable of sorts about the nature of love and seasonal rebirth, the simple but meaningful story is a “Romeo and Juliet” tale in reverse.
Act I is a pure delight, offering the show’s anthem, “Try To Remember” and enough plot twists and turns to maintain interest. Following the intermission, much of the buoyancy is gone, though there are still plenty of rewards as the young protagonists learn that “without a hurt the heart is hollow.”
The singing voices are generally disappointing, but the entire cast—young and young-at-heart—are troupers all.
Trey Sandusky, as the evening’s narrative character, turns in a well-focused performance. Bart Haggerty and Gayla Adkins (who appeared Friday but alternates with Stephanie Williams in the role), make an adorable couple as the on-again, off-again romantic leads.
Andrew Dinan and Jim Chamberlain have a grand old time as a pair of plotting fathers. Wallace Wood steals a couple of scenes as an actor not quite in peak form. As his cohort, David Friedman tends to overplay, Scot Williams is serviceable as a mute who plays a wall and who helps set each scene.
Director Tamara Ruppart has staged the production in the center of the jewel box of an auditorium, the spectators surrounding the actors on three sides. The intimacy goes far in keeping all concerned completely engaged. Under the musical direction of Ron Hackel, the small band plays delightfully.
Remaining performances at St. Luke’s Church, located at 85 Greenway South in Forest Hills, are on Saturday, November 20th at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 21st at 3 p.m. For further information, call 718-268-6021.