Carmel actor takes on role of El Gallo in ‘The Fantasticks’

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When J.B. Scoble started acting five years ago, he went full throttle.

“I took it all in at the same time,” Scoble said. “I feel more comfortable now than I did then.”

The Carmel resident started acting seriously with Carmel Apprentice Theatre’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” five years ago.

Scoble, 41, had only acted once in his senior year in high school in Massachusetts.

Since catching the acting bug in 2017, Scoble has acted as much as it can. He now gets his shot at the lead part of El Gallo in Carmel Community Players’ production of “The Fantasticks” April 22 to May 8 at The Cat, 254 Veterans Way, Carmel.

Scoble has never seen the musical but knew the classic number of “Try to Remember,” which he sings at the opening and close of the show.

“When you get in the music and the character, it’s right up my alley,” Scoble said.

El Gallo is the narrator of the story about two fathers who are neighbors and pretend to feud to get their two children to fall in love. There are lot of lines and five songs for Scoble.

“It’s a heavy lift, for sure, but it’s super fun,” Scoble said. “It’s a small, intimate show. It’s not this big, massive musical production. It’s a really great story. I’m sure a lot of people will see the messages in the show.”

Scoble said there is a little pressure because many people are familiar with the show.

Thom Johnson plays Mortimer and Duane Leatherman is cast as Henry. Both are Westfield residents.

“Our characters have been together 40 years and we’re still trying to find our niche,” Johnson said.

This is Johnson’s first time in “The Fantasticks” but he is quite familiar with it.

“I’ve seen it three times in New York,” he said. “I ran lights for the show in 1985 in Hagerstown. I know most of the lines. Most of mine, too.”

Johnson and Leatherman have become friends.

“We have playful banter as friends, and the banter as the characters carries over on the stage,” Johnson said.

Leatherman said his character recites Shakespeare and Jonson performs death scenes.

Leatherman was in the “The Fantasticks” at the Belfry Theatre in Noblesville in 2009. He played one of the fathers. He also was a stage manager of a production of the show when he attended Anderson University.

“I like how theatrical he is,” Leatherman said of his character. “He’s over the top. He and Mortimer are some of the comic relief. I love this show. It’s one of my favorites.”

The show ran for 17,162 performances at Sullivan Street Playhouse from 1960 to 2002, making the it the longest-running musical.

“I saw it there in 1990 and was taken by the simple beauty of the show and the intimacy of the venue, as it was only five rows deep,” said Rich Phipps, who is directing the show for CCP. “By the early 2000s, ‘The Fantasticks’ had become established as perhaps the most performed musical in the world, having been adapted to film and produced around the globe in 67 countries by professional, community and school theaters. I believe the show’s popularity stems from the fact that it is a very simple story, yet one that operates on many levels, and contains a profound, perhaps even religious, message.  People of all ages can enjoy it as just a colorful fable, with good music and funny characters.

“Certain audiences can draw much more from it, viewing from the lens of their own life experience.  At various life stages, some will identify with the young lovers, others the parents, the ‘old actors’ or the storytellers.”

Phipps knows many audience members will have seen the show before, some several times.

“So as a director, the challenge has been to keep it fresh while not deviating far from the essence of what made it so popular in the first place, striking a balance between how touching it is and yet how ludicrous,” he said.

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