Goin’ Big Time!

Recently, I traveled to Durant to see the musical, The Fantasticks, directed by our friend, Dell McLain, at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. The Fantasticks is a small musical which ran for many years Off Broadway in New York City. The cast of eight characters includes a young girl, her father, a young boy, his father, a Mute, two “Shakespearean” actors, and a character named El Gallo.

I couldn’t help but think back to ALT’s 1985 production of The Fantasticks which was directed by Nick Sweet, where I played El Gallo, Angie Kirton from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida played the young girl, David Reed of Marietta played her father, Roy Bean from Broken Bow played the young boy, Jeff Angel of Ardmore played his father, Tony Smith and Fleet Thompson played the Shakespearean actors, and Julie Hill played the Mute and also choreographed the show. Joan Rushing Dewees was the stage manager, and the orchestra was comprised of Shirley Hatfield on piano, Elmer Stroman on string bass, Donna Ware on drums, and the harpist was Juliet Olszewki from Dallas.

Originally, another actor was cast as the young boy in our production, but had to drop out of the show, and that set us on a frantic search to find a suitable replacement. The role called for someone with a beautiful tenor voice. I ended up calling my former voice teacher, Pablo Pedraza at Southeastern, to see if he had a student that could help us out. He recommended Roy Bean, who had never done a musical before, but had performed in a couple of operas. Roy was just a sophomore, but he was willing to drive to Ardmore each day to rehearse. He was friends with Lori Lemons of Ardmore, and she was willing to drive Roy each day while he studied his lines. After Roy graduated from Southeastern, he went to Oklahoma City University to get his master degree in music. He ended up working with Oklahoma City’s Lyric Theatre for three seasons, performing with, among others, Kristin Chenoweth and former Miss America, Susan Powell, then worked with the Tulsa Opera. From there, he moved up north to work with the Chicago Light Opera. He toured the country in Man of La Mancha, The King and I, and the Kopit/Yeston version of Phantom. He ended up on Broadway playing the reporter Mary Sunshine in the musical Chicago. Roy still lives in New York City where he is an interior decorator. He had quite a career, but he got his musical comedy start with Ardmore Little Theater.

Joel Wellnitz

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