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Feuding fathers Daniel Day and Gary Life wonder why kids put beans in their ears.

Arts: When dreams were kept beside your pillow

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

It’s hard to say something new about the world’s longest-running musical, but the director of the production of “The Fantasticks” that opens this week at the Strand Theater managed. It’s the sets.

“There were just boxes and ladders in the original,” said Bob Gauss. They suggested the scene where two neighbors pretend to feud in order to trick their children into falling in love, where the deception is discovered and where the young couple is reconciled. “I built a set. A full set. That gives it a different interpretation,” he said.

But the essence of the play, which opened Off-Broadway in 1960 and ran for 42 years, is unchanged. “The whole thing is a poem,” Gauss said.

With a former career in light and sound for Broadway productions, Gauss is also technical director for the Swamp Fox Players. He directed “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Strand in 2014, creating the flesh-eating plant at the center of the show. His cast for “The Fantasticks” includes a mix of veterans and actors making their Strand debuts.

James Knight who plays El Gallo, the narrator and bandit, was Seymour in “Little Shop.” He also performed El Gallo at Stage Left in Myrtle Beach.

The children, Luis and Matt, are played by Dillon Frances, who started performing at the Strand in 2007 when she was 9, and Matt Ward, in his first production at the Strand. Ward also played the part in high school.

The fathers Bellomy and Hucklebee are played by Gary Life, who was last seen in “Forever Plaid” and Daniel Day, another “Little Shop” cast member.

“I have certain people that I like to work with,” Gauss said. “Half this cast has already done this show.”

Jim and Jeff Siegrist, brothers who are also Strand regulars, are Henry and Mortimer, the “Old Actors.” Sarah Louise Kelly is the Mime, a part originally listed as the Mute, but upgraded by Gauss.

While “The Fantasticks” is familiar, Gauss noted, “it’s just fun.”

If you go

What: “The Fantasticks” by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones

When: May 26-28 and June 2-4 at 8 p.m., May 29 and June 5 at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Strand Theater, Front Street

How much: $20. Call 843-527-2924 for tickets

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