Live indoor theater returns to Springfield with ‘The Fantasticks’

John Legend Theater, Springfield schools present classic musical.

The first live indoor theater production in Springfield performed by community members since the pandemic began and the launch of a new theater venture will get off to a “Fantastick” start this week.

The John Legend Theater and Springfield City Schools will present the classic musical “The Fantasticks” at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday at the John Legend Theater, 700 S. Limestone St.

With online productions being virtually the only option for live productions as the pandemic persisted, theater enthusiasts and those who work in the theater such as Terry McGonigle, the operations manager of the John Legend Theater, were eager to return to the footlights with a live audience.

A private donor enabled a new program to be established between the Legend and Springfield City Schools that will allow community members and students to collaborate on productions. In March, just before safety guidelines were beginning to lift, McGonigle turned to a smaller show as far as cast members goes with only eight, but big in terms of recognizable songs and chose “The Fantasticks.”

The show is one of the most successful musicals, playing off-Broadway for 42 consecutive years and focusing on young lovers whose fathers are feuding, leading to romance and humor.

“We thought this would be a great show to bring live theater back to Springfield and a good choice for the music and to bring people back indoors to enjoy a show,” said McGonigle, who is director and production designer.

It features a veteran cast, with “veteran” applying to experience, meaning high school students who have been on local stages for years are mixing with adult faces familiar to those attending local theater shows over the years.

Behind the scenes personnel have a similar mix with students and longtime theater hands, which is what this program is meant for. They all seem to be glad to be back onstage and the biggest challenge for McGonigle has been arranging rehearsals around vacations.

“It’s very much a community kind of show,” he said.

Recent Springfield High School graduate William Deever has performed in Youth Arts Ambassadors and Springfield Civic Theatre productions and just finished working for the Summer Arts Festival. In August, he’ll leave to start pre-law studies at Columbia University.

Playing Matt Hucklebee, a character with a sweater tied around his neck whom he describes as a Romeo-like figure in love with a girl he’s being kept from, Deever confessed Matt isn’t really like him in real life. But that’s part of why he enjoys doing theater.

“Terry has had to keep getting me into being like Matt,” he said, smiling.

Adjusting to his new surroundings and the demands of studying at an Ivy League school, Deever isn’t sure what time or opportunities he’ll have to pursue his arts interests, perhaps joining an a cappella group. But this will be a good send-off.

“I’m a huge advocate of the arts, it’s important to have that type of foundation in life,” he said. “This is my last hurrah of Springfield theater, a great cast and a nice fantasy show.”

McGonigle said the Legend Theater is beginning to book dates and has received many inquiries as to when shows will return. He plans on doing the next Legend/City Schools production in November called “All Together Now,” a global event celebrating local theater.

“(Fantasticks) is going to be a great reopening,” he said

Anyone interested in attending who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 is suggested to wear a mask and anyone experiencing COVID symptoms should not attend.

To purchase tickets or for more information, go to the John Legend Theater web page.


What: “The Fantasticks”

Where: The John Legend Theater, 700 S. Limestone St., Springfield

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 29 and Friday, July 30 and 2 p.m. Saturday, July 31

Admission: Adults $12; seniors and students $8

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