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             Their Unforgettable True Love Experience  

By Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: 3Below Theaters

SILICON VALLEY -- With Valentine's Day just around the corner love is in the air, so it is not a coincidence that THE FANTASTICKS, a love story,  is playing on the stage of the 3Below Theaters in San José.

If the name THE FANTASTICKS  sounds familiar, it should be. The l960 romantic musical, written by HARVEY SCHMIDT, with lyrics by TOM JONES, ran for 42 years in New York. The off-Broadway premiere in l960, a showing in the West End the next year and another off-Broadway revival in 2006, making THE FANTASTICKS the world's longest-running musical. Another thing which made this show memorable is "Try to Remember" its leading song, which still plays on the radio fifty years later.

The story of the musical was based in Les Romanesques, a comedy in three acts written by EDMOND ROSTAND (the author of CYRANO De BERGERAC). When it was first performed at the COMEDIE FRANCAISE in l894, it achieved considerable success. The plot tells the story of two neighbors, both single fathers, one with a son and the other one with a daughter, who are friends, but are feigning to hate each other, even separating their houses' gardens with a tall wall, as they secretly play the roles of matchmakers to encourage their children to fall in love with each other, to defy their fathers, and, eventurally, get married. For a while, things go as planned, but at the end their parody takes a 'wrong turn'. instead of uniting the young lovers it separates them. And during their separation, life gives them many lessons that we all need to discover.

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ANNIE HUNT ( the romantic girl who believes she is a Princess)

Produced by GUGGENHEIM ENTERTAINMENT, INC. Directed by SCOTT EVAN GUGGENHEIM and the music by Musical Director STEPHEN GUGGENHEIM, the performance, which includes eight actors is superb. All have well trained singing voices and the experience that allows them to impersonate realistic characters in a musical where the first act is fantasy and the second act reality. They are: Musical Director STEPHEN GUGGENHEIM who also plays the roles of The Narrator of the story and El Gallo (A role within a role) the kidnapper. JACKSON DAVIS who plays the role of Bellomy, the girl's father. ANNIE HUNT, who plays the role of Luisa, her daughter, KRISTA WIGLE, who plays the role of Hucklebee, the boy's mother. JACKSON GLENN who plays the role of Matt her son. RICK HAFFNER , who is listed in the program as "the man who dies." STEWART SLATTER, who plays "the old actor" and ISAI CENTENO who plays several roles. without uttering a word, such as a mute building a wall.

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This  60th anniversary version of  the musical THE FANTASTICKS is a little different than the original. Instead of  two fathers and two children, a girl and a boy, this version has a father (DAVIS) playing the role of Bellomy,  Luisa's (HUNT)  father, and  WIGLE plays the role  Hucklebee, Matt's  (JACKSON) mother. Their children are still young and inmature:Luisa, l6 is a romantic girl, who may be compared to Juliet. She loves poetry has a complety unrealist view of life and love and believes she is a "princess." Matt, is twenty. Being a biology student he looks at life, a little more realistically. But reads poetry and like Romeo, he is completely infatuated with Luisa.

Both their parents love gardening, but Bellomy loves to over water his plants and Hucklebee to trim hers all the time. She seems to walk around with a pair of garden scissors always in her hands. Having a father and a mother planning together the future marriage of their children,  adds "charm" to the story.  Their antics also makes funnier the lyrics of their duet   "Plant a Radish" a gardening song about planting in which both sing that if you plant a Radish, you know that you are going to grow a radish, but when you 'plant' a  child you never know what you are going to get. Because this version of the musical changed the sex in one of the two fathers, now when the audience listens to the song they get the point of view of a single father raising a daughter and a single mother raising a son, which is interesting.

Because the musical is a comedy, is easy to underplay the characters' roles, but on opening night, the eight actors played their parts convincingly. When singing, their voices showed training and top quality. Two of the best singing renditions on that night, and the two most applauded were   "Try to Remember"  which opened and closed the show, sang by Opera Singer STEPHEN GUGGENHEIM and "Much More" sang in a melodious voice by HUNT.

The first act of this production of THE FANTASTICKS remains almost identical to the original production, but in the second act, this production becomes much  more  powerful that the original one. One of the reasons may be the enhanced role of  Matt, (GLENN) which gives the script the realism lacking in the first part and the visuals. At the end, the wisdom comes from the mouth of El Gallo and in the lyrics of  "They were you" that the lovers sing in a duet after having matured and understood the meaning of true love.

Accompanied at the piano by  Orchestrator and Arranger TOM TOMASELLO  and Harpist RUTHANNE MARTINEZ, this version of the FANTASTICKS is a must see for anybody who is curious about what is true love.

The FANTASTICS will play at the 3Below Theaters 288 S Second Street in San Jose, CA 95113 Until  February 23, 2020. For tickets and information call (408) 404-7711 or go online to www.3belowtheaters.com .