Theatre: The Fanta sticks



The Fantasticks (which I mis-pronounced Fanta sticks thinking it was some sort of ice lolly) is now playing in the West End. It's a fifty-year old musical with whimsical songs and and tells an allegorical story that forces actors to run about and inflict injury on themselves for laughs. It played for forty years in New York and again has been revived again there recently, so there has to be something going for it. None of our party that included Johnnyfox and the West End Whingers had seen it before and the so it was as good an excuse as any for catching the second preview of this London revival...

It is great they are offering stage seats for the show. Not only are they cheaper tickets, it is more fun watching it sitting on stage, assuming you can stay awake for the full two hours (not everyone in our party could do this)...  Plus you get a special little tour backstage to get to your seats (well not so much a tour but just a walk down some narrow stairs and past the props). Of course sitting on stage you don't get to see the actors faces much, but you get their sweat and some nice rear views and side profiles (if you like that sort of thing)... And you can watch people in the audience holding hands, fidgeting, looking bored and not returning after interval...

Of course sitting on stage has its problems when you have someone like Johnnyfox next to you... After pointing out to him you've spotted West End Whinger Andrew sitting on stage opposite with his shoes off as if he is channeling Bea Arthur, several minutes of trying to hold back laughter ensues. This turns to unrestrained laughter when a line about how a man knows how to use a carrot is uttered... I'm not sure if the book is meant to have all this innuendo in it, but we sure took it that way... And finally as the stage seats are vinyl,  the slightest move to adjust ones buttocks sounds a bit like farting. None of this helps looking sensible, attentive and composed as an onstage audience member...

As for the rest of the show... Well, it's nice. There was a general consensus that the show must have been more fun in the 1960s when acid was plentiful and nobody cared about the book and the music. Going as a group added to the atmosphere and the fun (fart jokes aside)... And the actors including Edward Petherbridge are full of energy and enthusiasm that this makes up for the shortcomings of the material.  While the show will no doubt get better as the run continues, there was the feeling this was a ninety minute show dragged out to two hours...

Probably its biggest problem is that it needs a smaller venue. Even with on stage seating and in the Duchess Theatre (one of the smaller West End theatres) it still feels like it is a small show in a big space. So you get a hybrid: a Fringe show on the West End... The Fringe elements extend to the costumes that made the young cast look like they were homeless people who walked in off the street. The males also could do with a shave and a haircut (or at least some manscaping to match their publicity shots). The West End elements extend to the some parts of the stage design and the price of the ticket... My advice would be to go with a group, get the discount seats on stage and make your own West End debut... Just mind those vinyl seats... It opens June 9...

Pre-show boo, musing about those jaded bloggers
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Post show drunken boo
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