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'Fantastick' cooperation: Local theater directors combine to feature longest-running musical

Steven Bainbridge and Kristen Luther, as Matt and Luisa, John Kelly, as Hucklebee, and Stan Behnken, as Bellomy, act out a scene during a dress rehearsal for "The Fantasticks" at Carroll Community College in Westminster Tuesday.
Steven Bainbridge and Kristen Luther, as Matt and Luisa, John Kelly, as Hucklebee, and Stan Behnken, as Bellomy, act out a scene during a dress rehearsal for "The Fantasticks" at Carroll Community College in Westminster Tuesday. (DAVE MUNCH/STAF PHOTO, Carroll County Times)

Last year, Carroll Community College theater program coordinator Bill Gillett asked Liberty High School drama teacher Tony Cimino if he would be interested in directing a spring musical.

Cimino was so eager that he committed before even knowing what musical it would be. He wanted to help no matter what.

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Turns out, Gillett picked "The Fantasticks," which is being performed 7:30 p.m. today and Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Carroll Community College's Scott Theater.

The 1960 comedy by Tom Jones earned the title of world's longest running musical with a 42-year run off Broadway with more than 17,000 performances.

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The script follows the budding romance of Luisa (Kristen Luther), a daydreaming 16-year-old girl, and Matt (Steven Bainbridge), her confident 20-year-old, next-door neighbor.

Luisa's father (Stan Behnken) and Matt's father (John Kelly) want their children to fall in love. They stage a kidnapping led by the suave El Gallo (Peter Joshua) and wacky traveling actors Henry (AnneRob Lovelady) and Mortimer (Hayden Ventrice) in the hopes of bringing the young lovers closer together.

Cimino is overseeing the production and Gillett designed the stage in what is the latest collaboration in a cooperative area theater scene.

This is not Cimino's first venture with the Carroll Community College theater club. He was an actor in last year's production of "Rent."

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"We got to know each other," Gillett said. "I went to see one of his productions at Liberty, 'Aida,' and it was great. I'm always looking to work with more local directors."

So Cimino is spending time in the Scott Center theater this week just a few weeks before his high school students perform "Beauty and the Beast."

"It's busy," Cimino said, "but I love it."

This is the latest example of working together in the local theater scene. Last week, actors and teachers from five different Carroll County high schools combined for the musical "Over the Moon." Proceeds benefited Drama Fest, an annual gathering of theatrically inclined students from throughout the county.

Cimino recently met with Century High School drama teacher Lucas Hewitt to share ideas about how to improve their departments.

"The Fantasticks" features Luther, a senior at Liberty High School and a veteran of Cimino productions there.

Cimino first read the script for "The Fantasticks" last year and recently saw the musical for the first time on Broadway. His lack of familiarity prior to last year wasn't a hindrance, he said.

"It's a good thing because you are able to really take your own spin on it," Cimino said. "It's a bad thing because you don't know the director and the author's original intent. The script only gives you so much."

After seeing the show on Broadway, it didn't change his direction much, he said. But it gave him some insight on the characters, which are played by actors that include Carroll Community College students, actors from the community and one professional.

Joshua, a singing actor, has performed opera, musical theater and Shakespeare throughout the region.

Lovelady, in her fourth semester at Carroll Community College, is in her most important role to date there.

She credited Cimino, Gillett and voice instructor Rebecca Bell for helping the actors feel at ease. Despite being just two days away from opening, Tuesday's dress rehearsal had a laid back feel.

Gillett and Cimino both expressed confidence in how "The Fantasticks" was coming along.

"They really helped us out," Lovelady said. "They helped us with the character development. It's been a nice process."

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