MOVP presents ‘The Fantasticks’

The longest-running musical in the world will come to the Mid-Ohio Valley beginning Friday.

“The Fantasticks” originally opened in 1960 in Greenwich Village in New York and featured Tom Jones – not the singer but the show’s writer; Jerry Orbach, who later went on to star in “Law & Order” on TV; and Broadway and television actress Rita Gardner.

Director Kevin Paskawych proposed doing the musical at the Mid-Ohio Valley Players Theatre. The show features popular songs like “Try to Remember,” “It Depends on What You Pay,” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”

“The music sounds very simple and folksy and even younger audiences will find the songs very catchy and humorous,” he said.

The show is MOVP’s musical for the season and was last performed in the area at Marietta College in 2002.

“I was involved in that production and am very familiar with the show but this is my first time ever to direct a musical,” Paskawych said.

While there have been some cast and crew changes and scheduling issues, everyone has adjusted nicely and is ready to present an exceptional production, according to Paskawych, who credits his wife and co-director/choreographer Karen Pratt-Paskawych with doing a lot to keep things moving along.

Belpre resident Robin Kelby, 16, stepped in to the production about three weeks ago to take on the role of “Luisa” when another actor had to bow out. Since then, she has been working overtime to learn her lines and songs.

“I have watched the movie and was somewhat familiar with the show,” Kelby said, adding that Luisa is the “total opposite” of her own personality.

“She is innocent and sheltered, reads a lot, dreams of being a princess who is carried off by a prince, and is just looking for more than what her life is – but she is kind of a ditz,” she said.

Luisa is the daughter of one family who is in love with “Matt,” the son of a neighbor. There is a very “Romeo and Juliet” quality to the families’ relationship.

While Kelby has had to catch up to the rest of the cast to learn the part, she is no stranger to the stage. Her first production was “Cotton Patch Gospel” at the Actors Guild in Parkersburg in 2006, in which she acted with her mother, Susan. Other performances have included “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Godspell” at the Guild and “Oliver” and “The Miracle Worker” at MOVP.

In his first production with the Mid-Ohio Valley Players, Chris Nicholson, 30, plays “El Gallo.”

“He is the narrator but also the villain … I spend the majority of time on stage,” he said.

The 2001 Marietta High School graduate describes himself as a singer with a baritone voice, perfect for the mysterious and nefarious character.

Nicholson also had to learn a little swordplay, which he said was a bit comical at first while the actors were figuring out what to do.

“Karen mapped it out for us and it has gotten better as we become more comfortable,” he said. “I am involved in all of the fights and it has been a lot of fun.”

For Junior Players veteran Payton Burkhammer, 14, “The Fantasticks” is her first foray into a more “adult” production. As “Mute #1,” Burkhammer doesn’t actually have any lines but plays an integral role.

“I would describe my character as the silent manipulator … it has been very interesting, very different,” she said.

“The Fantasticks” will be presented Jan. 17-18, 24-25, 31 and Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 26 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $13 adults, $11 seniors/students, $8 youth (to 16), with opening night being buy one, get one free. For more information and ticket locations, visit www.midohiovalleyplayers.org.