The newly renamed Stages (sans the Repertory Theatre follow) has decided to open proceedings in its new home The Gordy with The Fantasticks, a story of young love between a neighbor boy and girl whose fathers decide they'll orchestrate events — all accompanied by a score that includes some pretty iconic music.
Nkrumah Gatling, a long time ago theater intern at Stages and now a New York actor who's appeared on Broadway (Miss Saigon) has returned to Houston to take on the crucial role of El Gallo (he'll be singing "Try to Remember" at the start of the musical.) He begins as narrator and then steps into the role of the kidnapper who abducts Luisa in a staged proceeding engineered by the fathers. The plan is that the boy Matt will step into save her and reap the benefits of the ensuing happy ending. Which is, in fact, how things go by the end of Act I.
Alas by Act II people are getting on each other's nerves. Matt finds out that the sword fight was a sham. Luisa finds herself drawn to El Gallo. The fathers can't even get along with each other.
Gatling (the brother of Houston actor/director Alice M. Gatling) said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to work in the new theater when Stages contacted him. Beside the music and lyrics written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, there is a compelling story that continues to reach audience members.
"Everybody experiences love. No matter what the situation we all remember that first time and you lose the innocence of it. You only go through that once. Also it talks about the choices we make," he says. "We invite you in with the song "Try to Remember" when we invite you in to a time when you weren't worried about things. You were just fresh into the world; you hadn't lost those ideals yet. So I think that's why it has a lot of life in it. "
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His character El Gallo is the catalyst for much of the action in the play, he says. "He serves as the narrator and plays the bandit, then the kidnapper and then goes into the person who's the teacher."
Although he knew some of the music, Gatling says he really wasn't too familiar with the show. His research didn't uncover much either — a 1960s telecast and a movie that differs from the stage show. So instead, he says, he decided to come in with fresh eyes and take his cues from director Kenn McLaughlin (Artistic Director of Stages).
"It's a show that anybody can go to," Gatling says. "It's a show that relates to pretty much every age group and it has just a great moral message to it."
Performances are scheduled for January 24 through March 15 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at The Gordy, 800 Rosine. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stageshouston.com. $25-$67.