What do you get when you mix Broadway’s longest running musical with a one-of-a-kind Colorado theater group? An unforgettable impression of Phamaly Theater Company’s “The Fantasticks”.
Phamaly was founded for actors with disabilities in 1989 because they couldn’t act anywhere else. The company is different than most and so are their productions. Many people have thought they would never be on a stage, but Phamaly has helped them, roll by roll, step by step, onto the stage and into the spotlight.
Jenna Bainbridge (Luisa) told me about how Phamaly completely changed her life. When she was a teenager, she thought she would never be able to have an acting career outside of Phamaly because nobody wanted to see someone with a disability perform. A few years with Phamaly helped her realize she shouldn’t let people’s perceptions keep her from other stage productions.
Working only with disabled actors would be a problem for any other crew, but throughout the past 26 years Phamaly has developed a system that uses volunteers to help the actors manage stage cues and costume changes. “The most difficult part of making this production [The Fantasticks] was making a production that appeals to both an American and a Japanese audience, because we’re touring it from the United States to Japan,” said Bryce Alexander, Phamaly’s director for “The Fantasticks.” Alexander wants to allow American audiences to experience Japanese culture, and bring Western culture to Japan.
For disabled people who have dreamt of being actors, Phamaly itself is like a dream come true. Jeremy Palmer (El Gallo) said “my favorite part about the character [El Gallo] is that he is two steps ahead of everybody. [. . .] Plus I get to sword fight, which I’ve wanted to do on stage since I was a little kid.”
I performed with Phamaly last summer and enjoy how they work as a team both on and off the stage. They have made a great impression on me and I have gone from thinking theater is easy, to knowing theater is hard but well worth the effort.
“The Fantasticks” is playing at the Aurora Fox Arts Center now through February 15th, then at the Arvada Center the 27th through March 1st before shipping the entire set to Osaka, Japan where Phamaly performs later that month.