‘The Fantasticks’ is fantastic fare

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A “Happy Ending,” from the Pierce College production of “The Fantasticks.” (From left) Peter Knickerbocker (Bellomy), Kristen Salacka (Luisa), Jon Huntsman (Matt) and Blake R. York (Hucklebee).

By Lynn Geyer

Undaunted, the Pierce College Theatre Department has managed to do it again — mount a theatre-less theatrical production!

Director Fred Metzger has taken an old tried and true standard out of the prop box and, with the help of an excellent, talented cast, dusted it off and presents a fantastic production of The Fantasticks, by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.

This is touted to be the longest running musical ever. Years ago, someone once asked me, “Why does everybody do The Fantasticks?”

Why not? After all, it has a small cast, virtually no set, only a modicum of costumes, mostly imaginary props, great songs and only needs a piano for accompaniment —played by musical director Ken Olendorf, who hits the 88 a bit too loud at times, but did a fine job with the direction. A drum set, ably played by Donnie Edward Bell completes the two-man orchestra.

This is the story of a couple of neighbor kids who grow up and fall in love. Their oh, so very wise fathers, decided they should be married, but knew if they wanted them to marry, the kids would balk at the idea. Therefore, they feign a feud, an arranged marriage, a moonlight kidnapping by a romantic thief, who enlists the aid of a couple of down-on-their-luck thespians who pose as gypsies, pirates and ninjas. Now, if that isn’t enough of a convoluted plot, the boy and girl decide they aren’t in love with each other so, he goes off on an adventure and she stays behind to fall in love with our very lovable thief. Of course, like in all good fairytales, love conquers all and the two are ultimately reunited.

Metzger, who modestly says that when you’ve got a good cast, you just give them their head and they take off, has done an excellent job with this show. It’s fresh and alive with a very versatile set and good lighting techniques, considering the space with which he had to work.

Still waiting for the new Pierce Theatre, which is due to open within the next six months, Metzger found the empty space on the second floor of the Health Education Center, just south of the main building on the college’s Fort Steilacoom campus. And it does work well for this show.

Ally Hockman as Henrietta and Ashley Degon as Mortimer are the two abetting our thief. Hockman is quite comical as the has-been board-trodder who offers you clippings at the drop of a mixed-quote. Degon appears to be the reserved one of the duo — until she dies, then, she dies beautifully — and long; longer — funnier!

The girl’s well-meaning father, Bellamy, is Peter Nickerbocker. He has quite a good voice, but seems a bit ill at ease on stage; relax, we all love you!

Blake R. York is Huckebee, the boy’s equally well-meaning father. York never ceases to surprise me; he can do comedy, drama and now, we learn he can sing, a very versatile, competent young man.

Kristen Salacka is Luisa, our sweet young girl. She acts the part very well and has quite a good voice, easily hitting the high notes, even singing out while dancing or in the most impossible positions. However, she needs to improve her projection when singing with so loud a piano player.

Josh Johnson plays El Gallo, our gentle thief and breaker of young girl’s hearts. Johnson has an exceptional voice which is easily heard by all. His acts a charming rogue with panache and possesses a singing voice worthy of the role. His rendition of “Try to Remember,” the show’s big hit, is warm and meaningful.

Jon Huntsman is Matt, our hero. Huntsman has an extraordinary voice which easily fills the room. This young man promises to have a good future in local if not professional musical comedy theatre. He has good stage presence and line delivery, as well.

Last, but not least, Lew Gorman as The Mute acts as the classis Chinese theatre prop master ‚Äî “unseen” and “unheard.” Gorman is hilarious in his simplicity. He definitely proves the adage, “He also serves who stands and waits!”

Andrew Richards, Dryace Degon and Lancelot Purdue, handle the lighting and follow spots that light up the show.

The Fantasticks has a very short run, only February 21, 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $5 and $10. For reservations, call the theatre box office at 253-964-6710.

Be sure to catch this fantastic show before it goes back into the prop box.