'The Fantasticks' given enjoyable performance Musical: 2nd Star Productions presents show at Bowie Playhouse. Principals and others are in good voice in the lighthearted look at parents and children and the wisdom of the heart.

September 03, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

What can you say about "The Fantasticks" that hasn't already been said?

The Tom Jones-Harvey Schmidt musical fable about parents, children and the wisdom of the heart has been packing them in nightly at Manhattan's Sullivan Street Playhouse for more than 36 years.

Any why not? It's message is timeless, and the score, peppered with such wonderful songs as "Try to Remember," "They Were You" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain," is always a delight.

You can enjoy a production of one of the longest-running shows ever this month at the Bowie Playhouse in Whitemarsh Park just across the Anne Arundel County line, where 2nd Star Productions is giving it a run. If bright, engaging performances are your thing, 2nd Star won't disappoint you.

It's the dynamic young lovers who make "The Fantasticks" go, and 2nd Star provides us with a wonderful couple.

Amanda Smear, who is entering her freshman year at Annapolis High School, is the complete package as flighty Luisa, whose craving for love dusted with excitement proves that "without a hurt, the heart is hollow."

Amanda's stage presence belies her tender years, and her singing is downright remarkable for one so young. She has received honorable mention in the Rosa Ponselle All-Marylander's Opera Competition, and rest assured that award will not be her last. Here's hoping her teachers continue to nurture her by keeping the vibrato in check and allowing the upper range to work its way in naturally, with a minimum of fuss.

Neil Puzon is a handsome, virile presence as Matt, the young girl's intended, whose brush with the real world leaves him a sadder but wiser mate for Luisa. He, too, sings beautifully.

Delightful comedy comes from Jerry Khatcheressian and Bob Brewer as the horticulturally attuned fathers who conspire to bring their children together by pretending to keep them apart. Their "Plant a Radish" is worth a drive to Bowie by itself.

The laughs multiply exponentially when Ed Kuhl hijacks his scenes as Henry, the goofy actor brought on to bring the couple together by pretending to assault Luisa. Wendell Holland is cute as Mortimer, his rather bizarre assistant.

There is a problem, however, with Thomas Zielinski's portrayal of El Gallo, the narrator and (at times) devilish manipulator, whose job it is to wise everybody up. He was missing a sense of command during the character's spoken moments.

There's nothing wrong with Zielinski's singing. He is an accomplished bass-baritone who will sing the title role in the Annapolis Opera's production of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro." He grabbed the stage with his songs, but often gave it back with his lines.

Perhaps this talented performer can level things out over the course of the run and give us an El Gallo whose elocutionary bark is just as imposing as his vocal bite.

The accoutrements were a little disappointing. The stage seemed a bit drab (was it the lighting?), while the two mimes failed to add much in the way of energy or atmosphere.

Excellent music, though, from a first-class trio of musicians in the pit.

Ticket information: 301-205- 0502 or 410-798-7001.

Pub Date: 9/03/98

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