A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 70: The Fantasticks at the Mac-Haydn Theatre

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The Cast of The Fantasticks at the Mac-Haydn Theatre
The Cast of The Fantasticks at the Mac-Haydn Theatre

It was excellent to go to the venerable Mac-Haydn Theatre last night. One comes upon it like a secret location, hidden in the landscape. It is a company full of real people; pretension is not allowed. It has a round stage, and has seen a succession of musicals performed on it for forty-five years. I went there to see one of my favorite shows, Harvey Schmidt’s and Tom Jones’ The Fantasticks. The production itself was also a straight and honest thing, without exaggeration. Blessedly, we heard unamplified singing—real singers having to really sing. No one in the audience, young or old, seemed to have any difficulty hearing. The singing had its natural presence, and that made it real. Central to this show is the craft of performing itself. The causative action is a performance, and this was the performance’s finest moment. Henry, an ancient actor, is called upon to perpetrate an abduction, which the fathers of the young lovers think will make their marrying a certainty. In fact, because of the superb performance of David Beditz as Henry, the performance seemed to be the real thing. This actor has limitless physical virtuosity. Before he spoke a word, there were five minutes of stage business in which he quivered and quaked his way onto a prop, steadied himself, and finally began to speak. These five minutes riveted the attention. There was continuous, unavoidable laughter, wild laughter, and this was just the beginning of Mr. Beditz’s star turn. He did not speak the part as a pomposo. He spoke like an old actor, needing work, and determined to have some so that he could, as he says, “get along.” In other words, this was a reality—a character we started to love—not the histrionic bathos the part usually gives us. For me this changed the whole show. It made me listen more specifically to the disillusionment the abduction caused the young lovers. I heard their situation as a truer reality. The young lovers, Stephanie Granade and Andrew McMath, sang admirably—she clear and technically secure; he believable and young. Patrick Heffernan’s El Gallo was perhaps the most believable assumption of this role I have seen. He did not lord it over his flock. He seemed almost wistful throughout. This was beautifully played. The fathers, Gabe Belyeu and Derrick Jaques, again played exuberantly, but never excessively. In short, this excellent performance was believable in every regard. Last and certainly not least, Josh D. Smith was much more than a pianist; he led energetically. He and his harpist, Kalinda Caldicott, were real participants in the drama.presence, and that made it real.

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