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The iconic El Gallo is visiting Tri Valley Rep for fall season. THE FANTASTICKS is now on stage at the Firehouse Arts Center through November 17th. Director, Lexie Lazear, and the excellent cast and craft team are terrific. Tom Jones (book and lyrics) and Harvey Schmidt's (music) musical, holds the honor of being the only Off-Broadway show to have won a Tony. The musical played in New York for 42 years is also the longest running theatrical production in American theater history. Clever Lazear first directed this is 2016 and brings many of the same team to this Tri Valley production. She says this production holds a special place in her heart “it was the first show I ever directed. Give this little traveling band of actors your heart for the evening of first love and family.”

Tri Valley Rep Producer Kathleen Breedveld says "At the heart of its breathtaking poetry and subtle theatrical sophistication is a purity and simplicity that transcends cultural barriers," she goes on "The result is a timeless fable of love that manages to be nostalgic and universal at the same time." During its original run in Greenwich Village, THE FANTASTICKS logged a record breaking 17,162 performances.” When Jones and Schmidt first conceived writing a contemporary version of Les Romanesques by Edmond Rostand, a spoof of Romeo and Juliet, the two Texans were going to set it on a two adjoining ranches and title it “Joy Comes to Deadhorse”. In addition, they wanted to perform it with real horses on stage, but that idea was nixed. The iconic score includes such classics as “Try to Remember,” “I Can See It,” “They Were You,” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”

THE FANTASTICKS tells the story of a 20 year old young man, Matt, and Luisa, the 16 year old girl next door whose fathers have built a wall to keep them apart. The youngsters nevertheless contrive to meet and fall in love. The love fable is narrated by El Gallo, a handsome and mysterious man, who sets the theme in one of the classic opening numbers in musical theater: "Try to Remember." Their fathers meanwhile are congratulating themselves; they have staged a feud in order to achieve by negation a marriage between their disobedient children. Add some comic actors Henry, Mortimer the Mute, and a mime that acts as the wall.

Matt, the boy played by the handsome and earnest Matt Skinner, and Luisa, played gracefully by Brenna Sammon as expected fall in love. Their fathers, Hucklebee, played by the dapper, Jim Rupp who has played the role in Lazear’s first production. and Bellomy played by the tuneful G. Scott Phillips, the two dads secretly scheme to create a match.

The story is told through interactions with El Gallo, played by the impressive Joshua Gonzales who opens the show with the classic “Try To Remember” as he shows off his knockout voice. Later Gonzales’ solo with Skinner "I Can See It," is marvelous. The older senior traveling actor Henry played by the incomparable and comic John Blyth is also reprising his role. His sidekick, the hapless Mortimer, played by the superb M. Javi Harnly excels in physical comedy. The “Mute” is played by the nimble, ideal Kate Henderson who presents the moon or sun, depending on the story’s needs and carries out the tasks of the Mime with great comic timing.

All this action and movement flows without a hitch onstage thanks to Lazear's smooth direction. Musical director, Sierra Dee-Rankin, has an on stage keyboard and lovely harp, she keeps her keen cast in key with Eugene Therauklt on bass and Richard Gibson on percussion. Sammon is charming as Luisa, the typical teenage girl in love and chasing teenage dreams. She has a lovely singing voice in her opening song “Much More”. Her duets with Skinner are vibrant in the song “Metaphor”; the two have that fool proof on stage likability. They are especially endearing in “They Were You.” Skinner is ideal at creating the charm needed for young Matt.

Choreographer, Erin Carrino returns to recreate the dances she created for the 2016 show at the Dean Lesher. She kept the cast moving well and elegant, and costume designer, Angela Lezear’s wonderful classic dress on Luisa swooped and whipped in the dance numbers. She kept El Gallo's black tone highlighted with his red cape and the two dads in gardening browns. Harnly steals the second act with the classic death scene that THE FANTASTICKS is famous for. Mortimer’s extended “dying” scenes are amusing. As always John Blytt is wonderful as the pompous Henry, the over-the-hill Shakespearean camp actor.

The craft team is stunning including Mark Mendelson’s clever and simple set design and fold up stage. The main deck is a collapsible stage that opens up forms the set we have seen in the 2016 show. Mendelson’s design also works in the classic FANTASTICKS iconic banner the show is known for. Jon Gourdine’s lighting design is bright and filled with color and of course the floating moon and sun are a challenge. Stage managers Jess Hutchins and Jeannie Jennings keep the eight member cast moving well, as most of them are on the stage for the whole two act musical. The hour and 45 minute story asks the audience to use their imagination and try to remember falling in love and enjoying a night filled with moonlight and romance.The magic of this FANTASTICKS truly lives up to its historic theatrical name. Next up at Tri Valley Rep is the crowd pleaser MAMMA MIA at the Bankhead that opens January 18th, and April 25th DAMN YANKEES opens at the Firehouse Arts Center. In the meantime tickets are going fast for El Gallo’s tale of love and family.




Music by Harvey Schmidt

Book by Tom Jones

Directed by Lexie Lazear

Music Director Sierra Dee Rankin,

Choreography by Erin Carrino

MUST CLOSE NOV 17th 2019


4444 Railroad Ave, Pleasanton Ca

1 hour 45 min with one intermission

Tickets and more info at

Photo Credit: Bob Bronzan and DC Scarpelli

Lexie Lazear (Director), Sierra Dee-Rankin (Musical Director), Erin Carrino (Choreographer), and Brian Olkowski (Stage Manager), all Tri Valley Vets.

The cast: Joshua Gonzales as El Gallo, Brenna Sammon as Luisa, Matt Skinner as Matt, Jim Rupp as Huckelbee, G. Scott Phillips as Bellomy, John Blytt as Henry, M. Javi Harnly as Mortimer, and Kate Henderson as The Mute.

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