New Jersey's Oldest Community Theatre
October 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, 2001.
The Fantasticks remains the longest running show of any kind in American theater history, and the longest running musical in the world. The off Broadway show about youthful love, celebrated its 41st year on May 3, 2001, with its 16,875th performance. It's universal story of young love has outlasted nine presidents and predates Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon. Every generation from bobby-soxers to flower children to babyboomers, to cyberkids have embraced this timeless, nostalgic show.
The Fantasticks initial reviews were either mixed or negative, and producer Lore Noto seriously considered closing the show after its first discouraging week. But an Off Broadway award, the popularity of the song Try to Remember and, most important, word of mouth, all helped to turn the show's fortunes around. And as proof that a sunny, funny musical about love has lasting value, consider that the show's original 44 investors have recieved a 19,465% return on their $16,500 total investment.
The fragile fantasy is concerned with the theme of seasonal rebirth, or the paradox of why Spring is born out of Winter's laboring pain. In the story the fathers of two youthful lovers, Luisa and Matt, feel they must show parental disapproval to make sure that their children remain together. When this deception is revealed, the lovers quarrel and Matt goes off to seek adventure. They each yearn to experience the excitement and dangers of the outside world. At the end, after each suffers some degrading experiences, they return to each other's arms.
The Fantasticks is the creation of Harvey Schmidt (music) and Tom Jones (book and lyrics). They first began collaborating while students at the University of Texas. The Fantastics originally titled Joy Comes to Dead Horse was their first full-length musical written after graduation. Originally staged at Barnard College in the summer of 1959 as a one-act musical, The Fantasticks was then rewritten at the urging of producer Lore Noto and received its official premiere at the 150-seat Sullivan Street Playhouse on May 3, 1960.
Note: Producer Lore Note was quoted in The New York Times (9/2/01) as saying that The Fantasticks will "probably" close on January 6, 2002. According to Playbill On-Line (9/10/01), the closing date will be January 13, 2002, with the final performance on Sunday evening, January 13, 2002. Keep in mind that the first two closing notices, in 1986 and 1994, met with such public outcry that the show played on.
Music Theatre International, 421 W 54th St., NY, NY 10019
The Fantasticks is theatrical magic. Eight actors, a piano and a harp and a room full of imagination. The simple sets and costuming of the musical's long running success contributes to the success of this long running musical. The lack of a specific time or place for the action allows audiences to relate to the story without interference. It is a time and place experienced by each of us.
The Fantasticks based on Edmond Rostand's 1894 play Les Romanesques, tells an age-old tale of young love. Its ingredients are simple: a boy, a girl, two fathers, and a wall. Its stage is a wooden platform, its scenery a tattered cardboard moon. Using only these bare essentials, the author and composer have managed to bring to life a funny and quite touching story of innocence - and of knowledge.
The musical tells a simple story of a boy, a girl and their fathers who plot to get them together by keeping them apart. The boy and the girl, who are neighbors, are in love as long as a wall separates them and they believe their fathers disapprove. Actually, their fathers, both avid gardeners, are best friends who fondly hope their children will marry! Their duets Plant a Radish and Never Say No are showstoppers.
One of the eight actors who bring the story to life in the Mute, silent accomplice to the audience's imagination, alternately playing the wall, a tree, and gracefully dropping tiny glittering raindrops - a scene that accompanies the song Soon It's Gonna Rain.
Matt and Luisa think their fathers are against the romance, but it turns out that these wily gentlemen have set out to engineer the whole affair. The fathers, Hucklebee and Bellamy, the two fathers, decide to instigate a mock feud amongst themselves in order to help the boy and girl fall in love. They figure that this feud will give them the excuse to say no to the relationship, which of course will simply encourage the children's love even more.
The fathers go as far as to hire a roving bandit called El Gallo to stage a mock abduction of Luisa, in which Matt can become a hero and save her. El Gallo's assistants in the abduction include Henry an ancient actor who specializes in reciting passages from Shakespeare's plays, and Mortimer, an actor who specializes in dying. The mute, an observer and mime, holds up a stick representing the wall which divides the families.
The narrator, El Gallo slyly walks through the show letting the focus fall at the proper times on the young lovers who have been manipulated into marriage by their fathers. Act I ends happily under a bright full moon with Luisa and Matt deeply in love. Soon though the children realize their parents staged the feud and their love fades. What seems mgic by the moonlight may seem cynic by day as the sweethearts find that without a hurt, the heart is hollow.
The universal theme of The Fantasticks is the clash between romantic notions of the world and the reality of the world. The happy moonlit first act, with Luisa and Matt deeply in love gives way, in the second act, to the harsh reality of the bright sun. They yearn for the dangerous attractions of the world outside. Love fades away as the disillusioned naive romantics discover they have to take off the rose-colored glasses to see the world as it is. After learning some painful lessons while seeking their fortunes they come to appreciate a real, more mature kind of love at the end. As the lovers mature, love conquers all.
That noone can explain
Who understands the secrets of the reaping of the grain?
Who understands why spring is born out of winter's laboring pain
Or why we must all die a bit before we grow again.
A Parable about Love
Directed by Madge Wittel
Stage Manager: Peggy Seymour
Tom Pedas, The Celebration Singers and Children's Chorus