01COVERIt’s fantastic! The Fayetteville Dinner Theatre returns after a 35-year hiatus with its inaugural performance of “The Fantasticks” under the direction of Jeanne Koonce, founder of Purple Door Productions. This romantic musical comedy premieres at the Ramada Plaza at Bordeaux July 27-29. It is being promoted and billed as “A unique theater experience.” 

Veteran director Jeanne Koonce is no stranger to this facility. She was introduced to the original FDT, which was then known as the Bordeaux Dinner Theatre, as a young Army wife. An accomplished singer, actress and director, Koonce landed her first Fayetteville job in theater with FDT. 

Billed as the longest-running off-Broadway show of all time, “The Fantasticks” is the perfect show for Fayetteville audiences. Playing off the talents of a strong cast, it has a clever storyline with lyrics written by Tom Jones and ageless music and songs by Harvey Schmidt. 

Koonce sees the intimate setting of the dinner theater as providing another major strength for this production. The show is funny, romantic and intimate, and all with only eight characters. 

“This is a musical with roots in Shakespeare, and the philosophy of young lovers and traditional family conflicts are carried forward,” Koonce said. “Under the plotline and humor, there is a deeper philosophy, depending on which character you are — the main one being, of course, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ This show needs to be right in your face, and, like in Shakespeare’s day, the focus is on the actors. It is lovely this way.” 

The cast is composed of local and regional talent many theater enthusiasts will recognize. The Girl, Luisa, is played by Fayetteville resident Amber Jansen, a junior at Massey Hill Classical High School.

The Boy, Matt, is played by Ryan Ransom. Ransom is a St. Pauls native and a music/theater student at UNC Pembroke. 

El Gallo is played by Clay Rogers. He is a native of Fairmont and employed by Givens Performing Arts Center in Pembroke.

A strong supporting cast includes Robeson County natives Matt Jacobs and Steve Chambers as the meddling fathers and Denver McCullough as Henry, the old actor. McCullough has performed in many local and regional productions at Cape Fear Regional Theatre and the former Fort Bragg Playhouse. UNCP student Dakota Hammonds plays Henry’s sidekick, Mortimer. UNCP alumni Winona Oxendine is cast as the mute and stage manager. 

The Fayetteville Dinner Theatre is being billed as “A unique theater experience.” Defined, this means the evening will include much more than a great show performed by talented actors. 

The evening begins a with a V.I.P. reception and wine-tasting and sale at 6 p.m. hosted by Fayetteville area newcomer Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery. The winery will showcase seven of its unique and exquisite wines. CFVW is in Elizabethtown and features fine dining and lakeside lodging. It is the Cape Fear area’s newest destination for hosting weddings and events. “We are thrilled to be a part of this production,” said Jeff Martin of Cape Fear Vineyard and Winery. “We love supporting the arts in Cumberland and its surrounding counties.”

At 6:30 p.m., a three-course, duel-entrée dinner will be served by the Ramada Plaza staff while the theater guests are entertained by Fayetteville’s own Cross Creek Chordsmen, an award-winning chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society Choral Group. According to spokesman Joshua Gray-Heim, the group will present a repertoire of current hits as well as traditional four-part harmonies dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s. 

The curtain will rise on “The Fantasticks” immediately following. But even then, the evening will be far from winding down. There will be plenty of prizes and surprises at intermission including a post-show meet-and-greet with the actors. The FDT and CFVW will give away a grand prize each evening worth hundreds of dollars. Prizes include a dinner for two at the winery with a complimentary bottle of wine, a flight of all seven of CFVW’s wines and a two-night stay in the cabins on the lake at CFVW.

Proceeds from “The Fantasticks” will be donated to the Kidsville News Literacy and Education Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, for securing reading and educational resources for Cumberland County children. CFVW will also donate all proceeds from the wine-tasting and sale to the foundation. 

 “With an awesome show, talented actors, a V.I.P. reception, an exclusive wine-tasting, a great dinner, door prizes, entertainment by the Cross Creek Chordsmen, and all culminating with a post-show meet-and-greet and grand prize giveaway, this will truly be ‘a unique theatre experience’” said FDT producer and Up & Coming Weekly Publisher Bill Bowman. “It’s all about giving the audience what they pay for. Value. Fayetteville residents appreciate good theater and great entertainment, and that is what we are going to provide for them.” 

Bowman also expressed his appreciation and thanks to the FDT supporters and sponsors: Ramada Plaza, Allegra Printing & Imaging, Five Star Entertainment and Women’s View Magazine.

Tickets cost $75 per person with discounts for Seniors 65+ and active duty military. Show dates are July 27, 28 and 29. To make reservations or to learn more about the show, visit www.fayettevilledinnertheatre.com Tickets are also available from 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. at the FDT Box Office at the Ramada Plaza. Call (910) 391-3859 for more information. 

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