There is a lot of leeway when staging the 1960 Harvey Schmiidt (music) Tom Jones (lyrics) “The Fantasticks.” The show, now at the intimate Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, is among the best productions I’ve seen of a play that normally makes my “least favorite” list. I’ve seen it overly long and boring and overly clever and gimmicky.
However, under the direction of Pat Murphy (“A Christmas Carol,” Deathtrap”) Citadel’s show charmingly mixes old-timey, unsophisticated character portrayals with humorous, burlesque-style staging, set design and movement.
The second offering of a four-show series by MadKap Productions at the Skokie Theatre is “The Fantasticks,” a theatrical classic that holds the record as the longest running off-Broadway musical when it closed in 2002 after 17,162 performances over 42 years.
The story is about innocence and experience. Matt (Graham Todd) and Luisa (Jessica Surprenant) learn that life can be messy and cruel but as the song goes “without a hurt the heart is hollow.”
At the beginning the young lovers revel in the danger of their forbidden romance but come to learn that their fathers had actually erected a wall between their two properties to draw the two together.