The Fantasticks, an intimate show told 6 ft apart, runs Oct. 15-25


"The Fantasticks"
Director Carl Dean who also plays El Gallo in “The Fantasticks.” Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

The Fantasticks, a whimsical tale embracing everything love has to offer hits the stage of the Virginia Samford Theatre October 15-25 in Birmingham. Watch the story told in a way like no one’s ever seen it as two meddling fathers and one enigmatic narrator interfere with a teenage couple attempting to navigate life. Get tickets now.

Finding True Magic

"The Fantasticks"
A story of love and everything that comes with it—good and bad. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Without love, what do we have? The Fantasticks explores all the feelings and challenges of falling in love through the lens of two teenagers—Matt and Luisa. Among other obstacles, their respective fathers build a physical wall between the adolescents, but the barrier only increases Matt and Luisa’s longing to be together.

However magical it may seem at first, smokescreens block the truth of what lies beneath the couple’s adoring feelings. El Gallo, the mysterious narrator, is there to pull the couple back to reality and show them that, “without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”

“El Gallo sets Matt and Luisa up for experiences and adventures to open their eyes to the truth of the world and what it means to find true contentment.'”

Carl Dean, Director, The Fantasticks and El Gallo

Every Age and Person Can Relate to the Show

Maybe you’re like Matt and Luisa—an adolescent falling in love for the first time. Or, you’re a parent thinking of how you hope the world is kind to your children. No matter your age, the show has elements you can relate to—mainly that life can’t be controlled.

“Hopefully what audiences can take away from the show is that you have to take life on its terms.

You can’t expect every moment to be filled with ‘magic,’ but if you open yourself up to all the experiences you go through, the positive and the negative ones, you will find that the true magic of life lies in the beauty of embracing the simple fact that life itself is a gift.”

Carl Dean

Carl also mentions that finding love, family and a place to belong is ultimately the greatest adventure of them all. Find out what happens next—purchase tickets.

Keeping the longest-running American musical in theater history fresh + socially distant

"The Fantasticks"
“The lighting provides a really cool world for us to inhabit that makes those very theatrical ways of approaching the story play really well.” – Carl Dean. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

When you take a powerful story such as The Fantasticks, there’s no need to fill in the background with unnecessary frills. The show can credit its unbeatable run time to its strong and poignant story. All you need to do is sit back and watch.

“The fact that I can do this 30 years later and still be blown away by the power of it says a lot to the universality of the themes of the show.

I think now, especially now, the idea that love above all else in the world, no matter how hard it is and how hard we struggle to achieve it, is worthwhile and crucial. If there’s anything our world needs right now it is that.”

Carl Dean

Portraying a Message of Intimacy From a Distance

Matt and Luisa in "The Fantasticks"
Although Matt and Luisa only actually touch once in this special version of the show, you can still feel their love for each other. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Before pandemic restrictions, the show was already simple with very few props and a basic set. Now, Carl asks the audience to stretch their imaginations further as he traverses unknown terrain by presenting the show in a socially distant way.

Matt and Luisa never sing toward one another. Sword fighting scenes occur in front of the audience and not between the two opponents. Instead of looking across a “wall” at each other, Matt and Luisa look out into the crowd and we picture it’s not our gaze they’re holding, but each others’.

“I think that the beauty in this show is almost tied to the simplicity of its telling. So much of what we get used to seeing in the The Fantasticks is Matt and Luisa embracing. We fall for these tropes of romance, villains and danger, when really, at its heart, those are just the sprinkles that help tell the story.”

Carl Dean

“The story comes from the heart, soul and eyes— they convey all the physical moments.”

Contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, the big finale kiss or dangerous sword fighting scenes don’t play into the true meaning of The Fantasticks. So, even though safety measures are put in place to the point where the characters are hardly ever within six feet of each other, the strategy actually emphasizes the entire message of the show.

“It’s a different version of the story, but it still is the story. I think that anyone who knows The Fantasticks, and is coming with certain expectations, is getting the story they love, but they’re going to see it in a new and sort of strangely, almost more focused light.

Once you strip away those actions that get us in these physical moments, it’s just a story—that’s the beauty of it.”

Carl Dean

By using your imagination and placing yourself in the situations presented on stage in front of you, you’ll find a deeper connection to the story. Maybe you’ll even discover something about your own life.

Carl Dean Uses Personal Experience for His Role

Like any role, it’s impossible to embrace it properly without understanding it. Having been in Matt and Luisa’s place himself, and now watching as his children take on the world, Carl’s lived through the show in real life. As a very active and well-known member of the theater community, he also knows how important the themes in this show are.

A Role Made for Him

To start, Carl has played the role before—about 25 years ago. However, in his opinion, he didn’t have enough life experience to really understand what El Gallo was attempting to show the young couple.

“At the time I was, in all honesty, far too young to fully grasp the gravity and truth of all El Gallo attempts to teach Matt and Luisa in the play.” 

Carl Dean

So over two decades later, what’s changed in Carl’s life to prepare him for the role? I can give you a not-so-simple one-word answer: life.

“I was compelled to return to the role now that I am 46 and have experienced far more of life, love, loss…self examination of purpose, understanding and the idea of finding contentment. How have I prepared for the role? I have lived.”

Carl Dean

The Fantasticks—told like never before

"The Fantasticks"
Don’t miss The Fantasticks showing October 15-25. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now
  • What: The Fantasticks
  • When: October 15-25
  • Time: Thurdays-Saturdays at 7:30PM | Sundays at 2:30PM
  • Where: Virginia Samford Theatre, 1116 26th St S, Birmingham, AL 35205
  • Tickets | $35 General Admission Social Distance Seating

Reflect with El Gallo as he tells us the story of Matt and Luisa finding their own identities and discovering their strengths as a couple in times of both darkness and light.

“As horrible, scary, uncertain and hard as things are, we have to see a future beyond this—there is hope beyond this. We will see a future where we will touch each other again, and embrace each other again.”

Carl Dean

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VirginiaSamfordTheatre The Fantasticks, an intimate show told 6 ft apart, runs Oct. 15-25
Irene Richardson
Irene Richardson
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