‘The Fantasticks’ — tale of love, humor a big hit at Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival | SierraSun.com

‘The Fantasticks’ — tale of love, humor a big hit at Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

From left, fathers Bellomy, played by Justin Ness, and Hucklebee, played by Lynn Robert Ber, conspire to make a love connection between their daughter and son respectively in Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s production of "The Fantasticks" at Sand Harbor State Park, which runs through Aug. 23.
Courtesy Joy Strotz |

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Visit visit laketahoeshakespeare.com" target="_blank">Bold">aketahoeshakespeare.com to learn more about “The Fantasticks” and “Romeo and Juliet” and to purchase show tickets, and about the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s star-studded history.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As the saying goes, “The show must go on.”

That held true Friday night when Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s outdoor performance of “The Fantasticks” went on as scheduled, despite rain showers just prior to the start of the musical.

“The Fantasticks” tells the story of a young man and the girl next door whose feuding fathers have built a wall to keep them apart, but nonetheless, the two fall in love and dream of being together.

“It’s another telling of Romeo and Juliet,” said audience member John DiBiasi, of Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s probably very intentional that they put ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘The Fantasticks’ opposite each other, because the story is basically the same.”

For its 43rd season, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival — Nevada’s largest professional nonprofit theater company — is presenting both “The Fantasticks” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Yet, unlike the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers in “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Fantasticks” is mostly a light, breezy story — with a humorous twist.

The fathers’ feud is a sham, created so their children, Matt and Luisa, will fall in love. Hijinks inevitably follow as the dads plot to end the fake feud without the children finding out.

“You know when you go see a show and it doesn’t quite live up to what you think it’s going to be, but this was more than I expected,” said audience member Kara Franklin, of Garland, Texas. “Everybody should come because it’s really fun.”

She and other audience members praised the actors’ performances, singing abilities and enthusiasm.

“There’s a really good camaraderie in the group, and with a small group like this, there is nowhere to hide,” said DiBiasi, referring to the actors. “It really has to be a strong team. Like a baseball team, the second baseman has to be on the base when the shortstop is going to throw him the ball. They really can’t miss.”

While not listed as a cast member, Sand Harbor State Park — where the performance took place — played a role in the musical. Its trees helped root outdoor scenes, its darkening sky indicated the change in mood when things start to go awry, and its overhead birds lent their voices to the musical’s songs.

“It’s just a beautiful setting,” reflected Reno resident Suzette Blanke. “Anybody can be inside in an any town, but only here can you be outside in the sand watching a play.”

Having originally opened in May 1960 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York and its subsequent rival at Snapple Theater Center, “The Fantasticks” is the world’s longest-running musical.

When asked what makes “The Fantasticks” an enduring tale, Franklin said: “It’s a timeless story. If you have ever been in love, you can identify with this story.”

Beyond the love story, the musical does touch on themes of disillusionment, maturity and consequences of one’s actions.

Performances of the “The Fantasticks” and “Romeo and Juliet,” as part of the festival’s 43rd anniversary, run until Aug. 23 at Sand Harbor State Park.

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