Theatre Factory’s ‘The Fantasticks’ beautiful, clever
Like a true Pittsburgher, James Critchfield’s only complaint these days is with his commute to work.
Aside from his lengthy drive to and from rehearsals — from his home in the South Hills to The Theatre Factory in Trafford — he couldn’t be happier about his current assignment directing “The Fantasticks,” the delightful 1960 musical by Harvey Schmidt (music) and Tom Jones (lyrics) that features that unforgettable song, “Try to Remember.”
“I have a wonderful cast and I’m working with one of the best pieces of theater ever written or produced. I’m in theater heaven,” he says.
Critchfield is no stranger to the musical either, having performed in two productions of it — both times as Bellomy (The Girls’ Father) — for the former Gargaro Productions (now Pittsburgh Musical Theater) in December 1991, and for The Opera Theater of Pittsburgh (now known as Pittsburgh Festival Opera) in summer 2014.
“This brilliant piece of theater I know like the back of my hand,” he says.
A poetic script
With its poetic style of writing similar to the Pulitzer Prize- winning play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, Critchfield says, “The Fantasticks” — which ran off-Broadway from 1960 to 2002 — is one of his all-time favorite pieces of theater that he’s wanted to direct for a long time.
He’s also choreographer for The Theatre Factory production.
“We have a stellar cast of eight brilliantly talented actor/singers with one of the all-time beloved musicals right here in Trafford. This is a must-see production,” he says.
Heading the cast is Ty Kinter of Scottdale as Matt, The Boy; Carolyn Jerz of Greensburg as Luisa, The Girl, and Tom Sarp of Latrobe as El Gallo, The Narrator.
Facing feuding fathers
“Matt is a fiery and passionate 19-year-old who finds himself absolutely in love with the girl next door (Luisa), but whose love is barred by the feuding fathers,” Kinter says. “Matt has a dynamic storyline that forces him to go through substantial change through the show.”
Lacking an elaborate set and “showy effects,” the musical allows the characters to shine “in a more personal way,” he says.
Kinter’s credits include “Trumpet in The Land” and “Wizard of Oz” at Trumpet in the Land Outdoor Theatre in New Philadelphia, Ohio, and shows including “Singing in the Rain” and “West Side Story” at Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale.
For Luisa, Jerz’s character, “the world is still a magical place, full of epic characters and situations and — above all — romance.” She says the audience should like Luisa and care about her, not wanting the world to hurt or change her.
A fun show to perform
“‘The Fantasticks’ music is uniquely beautiful, and the script very clever. We have a lot of fun performing it,” she says.
Jerz is making her debut at The Theatre Factory. She has performed with Prime Stage and PICT Classic Theatre, among others. She won Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Shakespeare monologue contest three times and has acted at Geyer PAC in “West Side Story,” “A Chorus Line” and “The Crucible.”
She also has done more than 40 musicals with Stage Right and participated in its Guinness World Record “Children of Eden” show.
Critchfield has appeared in nearly 200 productions, with Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Pittsburgh Savoyards, Keystone State Music Theater, Prime Stage Theatre, Little Lake Theater and others. He also has been on the acting staff of Point Park University, University of Pittsburgh, The Falk School, Duquesne’s Vincentian Academy and PMT’s Rauh Conservatory.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.