Get ready for a 'fantastic' performance

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— The Steamboat Community Players will kick off the troupe's first-ever Summer Theater Festival tonight with the showing of the classic musical tale "The Fantasticks."

Down in New York's East Village, the Sullivan's Street Theater a small theater with a small stage still casts the 1959 "The Fantasticks," making it the longest running show in America.

Local director Matt Murphy and music director Susan Ritter said they've seen the musical on stage there before.

And when Murphy wanted to move back to Steamboat Springs for a summer to do theater, he realized quickly that "The Fantasticks" would be a perfect fit for the Seventh Street Playhouse, Steamboat's small theater.

"I thought of what the limitations are of the playhouse. I wanted to choose a play where we didn't have to compromise the integrity of the show," Murphy said. "It fits wonderfully in a tiny little theater."

He said "The Fantasticks," an off-Broadway play, also fit Steamboat's talent well.

"It's wonderful, it's dynamic expressive and sentimental," Murphy said of tale. "It is about illusion and the vulnerability, and especially that wonderful and yet painful illusion of love."

"The Fantasticks" borrows from "Romeo and Juliet" in that it features a young boy and girl who find love the hard way.

Act I presents two gardens, a wall and the moonlight. Two fathers have set out to arrange for their daughter and son to marry. But a wall separates the land between the families, and the boy and girl think of it as a wall separating their love.

After the boy becomes a hero for saving the girl, the two have a chance to fall madly in love. But when the wall separating the lovers is destroyed and the couple has the chance to be together, they realize that wanting something is more enticing than attaining it.

"The lovers are like, 'He looks different in the sunlight,'" Murphy said. "So, you see the flaws in the sunlight. (And sometimes) you always want what you can't have."

Act II presents the gardens as one, no wall and the sunlight. When Act II begins, the wall has been broken down, the boy is no longer her knight in shining armor and the girl falls for El Gallo while the boy is seeing the world without her. But El Gallo becomes the voice of consciousness and tells her that her love for the boy has not ceased.

So, the wall goes up, then it comes down again creating a symbol for the obstacles of love.

"You must always leave the wall there; there always has to be some sort of obstacle," Murphy repeated from the narrator's lines. "You always want what you can't have."

Steamboat Community Players rarely stages a production in the summer. The group's mid-winter showing of "Little Shop of Horrors" was the last musical produced.

Ritter said she's excited to work with Murphy on their second musical, although she said the music for the production has been a challenge.

Intervals in the music create a gap between Brian Houston's piano and the singers on stage. Ritter has worked closely with both parties to perfect the timing of the melodies.

"It's what I call texture painting. The music paints what they're singing," Ritter said.

Ritter said she has been impressed with the professionalism of the cast.

Murphy said he could not have expected a better cast and crew for a theater production in Steamboat Springs.

For the first rehearsal, the eight cast members, who must all sing, were well versed and ready to proceed.

"They've just blown me away," Ritter said.

"Everybody is very talented musically."

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