Theater Info for Maryland

Milburn Stone Theatre The Fantasticks

By • Mar 21st, 2012 • Category: Reviews
The Fantasticks
Milburn Stone Theatre
Milburn Stone Theatre, North East, MD
Through March 18th
2:15 with intermission
$18/$15 Students and seniors/$10 Children
Reviewed March 17th, 2012

What do most people know about The Fantasticks?

Well, probably this! The Fantasticks is a 1960 musical with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones. It tells an allegorical story, loosely based on the play The Romancers (Les Romanesque’s) by Edmond Rostand, concerning two neighboring fathers who trick their children, Luisa and Matt, into falling in love by pretending to feud and erecting a wall between their houses. The fathers then hire traveling actors to stage a mock abduction, so that Matt can heroically seem to save Luisa, settling the supposed feud and securing their fathers’ blessings (which the young lovers have really had all along). When the children discover the deception, they reject the arranged love match and separate. Each then gains disillusioning experiences of the real world, seen in parallel fantasy sequences. They return to each other bruised but enlightened, and they renew their vows with more maturity.

But what do most people not know?

Well, it’s one of the most touching stories ever written, one of the best musicals scored. It speaks to everyone, whether you’re eight or eighty. It’s simple yet complex, light but dark, funny but incredibly touching. The show is difficult. To give The Fantasticks justice, it deserves an open mind, a talented, daring, fearless, creative, passionate director, a stellar, vocally strong, versatile and emotionally charged actors, flawless musicians who are not only technically good but give each note its own voice, and a brilliant production and technical staff who can execute the director’s vision no matter how simple or complex it may be.

The Milburn Stone Theatre’s production of this masterpiece does exactly that! Flawlessly! It is honestly the best production of The Fantasticks I have ever seen, and one of the best shows, in general, I ever witnessed.

Director S. Lee Lewis, in his Director’s Note says, “Everyone who knows me knows that I am not a traditionalist or a recreationist.” After seeing the show, I believe it. What Lewis does is deconstruct the entire production and makes it his absolute own and not once loses a moment, the story, the moral, the message, or the intentions of Schmidt and Jones. With a huge gorgeous set that includes a beautiful full moon and a gigantic tree that spreads itself throughout the stage, props, trunks, a cornucopia of musical instruments including three pianos, fabulous lighting, imaginative, unique, descriptive costumes, platforms, levels, mist, and the fact that the cast are also the orchestra (six out of the nine actors play a plethora of instruments), he makes it all work.

AJ LoPorto (Ell Gallo) is elegant, gallant, and one of the most toned down El Gallos I’ve seen, which plays perfectly. He also accompanies most of the show. He is a brilliant musician. It blew my eight year old sons’ mind when he played two pianos at the same time (Yes! Two pianos at the same time). He is a master storyteller. He stands out in the moment of need and totally vanishes into the set when needed.

Christy Wyatt (Luisa) is superb. Beautiful, beautiful voice. Strong and passionate actress never missing a nuance or a pull back to let the other actors shine. Shane Lowrey (Matt) is majestic; his entire body connects with every note, every word, every move. Lewis chose to cast John Mulvey as Huck and Cindy Mulvey as Bell, something that is often done in local productions and does not always work – not the case here. They compliment their children and each other very well, making us feel and believe that parent’s first and foremost responsibility is the happiness and well-being of their children. John also plays guitar and piano in the show and their acoustic guitar version of “Soon it’s Gonna Rain” should be recorded and on the charts.

Mike Ware plays the iconic role of Henry, the old actor. Bravo! Once again, the role tends to be usually done grand and over the top, but, with a full understanding of his character, Ware has his moment of grandeur but also immaculate subtlety and heartache. Matt Dickinson (Mortimer) dies quite well! As the faithful but not-too-bright sidekick, he and Ware are a perfect pair. Tyler Bristow (Comedy, the Mute) and Brandon Gorin (Tragedy, the Mute) provide everything and anything else from musicians, buffoons, dancers, piano movers, snow, rain, jugglers, to fire eaters! They are the back bone of the show and, though both actors do amazingly well, Gorin is mad, brilliant, evil Genius!

There is nothing I can possibly say to truly relate what an amazing experience this was. Except that real, no holds barred, creative, talented, professional theatre exists right here on the campus of Cecil College at the Milburn Stone Theatre!

Remember “You Must Always Leave The Wall.”


  • El Gallo: A.J. LoPorto
  • Luisa: Christy Wyatt
  • Matt: Shane Lowry
  • Huckabee: Dr. John Mulvey
  • Bellomy: Cindy Mulvey
  • Henry: Mike Ware
  • Mortimer: Matt Dickinson
  • The Dramatic Mute: Brandon Gorin
  • The Comedic Mute: Tyler Bristow

Disclaimer: Milburn Stone Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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worked for twenty years as a professional actor and director, as well as worked a myriad of other theatrical production roles at various levels. In recent years, he served as Artistic Director/President of STROyKA Theatre in Washington, DC. Roman privately teaches acting, voice, and piano and serves as a consultant to various groups and schools. His primary role is stay-at-home dad and full-time college student. He also directs the Voices Unlimited Youth Choir at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air, MD.

One Response »

  1. Thanks for the great review. I was hoping you liked my Harmonica interpretations in I Can See It . . . (played that instrument, too. . .)