"Opera Theater SummerFest's staging in a converted ballroom is larger than the original, but some of the intimacy survives... Though Fantasticks is not a "dance" show, the action flows as the players harmonize physically as well as vocally... SummerFest serves up a more operatic Fantasticks, not just light pop.
—Michelle Pilecki, Pittsburgh City Paper
"Once a staple of the summer-theater season, “The Fantasticks” is now seldom performed. So, it's nice to see it return as part of Opera Theater's SummerFest with delightfully tuneful performances of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' score by a well-voiced cast and a quartet of musicians...If you've never experienced it, this is a fine opportunity to hear the score solidly performed as it propels the action of the play."
—Alice Carter, PIttsburgh Tribune Review
"Yes, it was fun to engage with the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, in partnership with Attack Theater at that wedding cake of a building, The Twentieth Century Club, in Oakland. And engaging it was, with the cast parading, dancing and singing amidst the audience at times... [Peter] Kope kept the cast on a taut physical rope to maximum effect, so the songs were stages so effectively and with great detail. The cast, not all of them dancers, took it all with gusto... This Fantasticks provides a great escape, along with some food for thought.
—Jane Vranish, CrossCurrents
The Fantasticks invites audiences to travel on a journey of love discovered, lost, and then rediscovered, with humor and pathos and memorable melodies. But this production is not your mother's Fantasticks—our new production, in collaboration with Pittsburgh's most exciting modern dance company, Attack Theatre, integrates movement and dance into the tale in a way you've never imagined! This is the legendary show that opened off-Broadway in 1960, and only closed after 42 years and 17,162 performances—the world's longest-running musical.
|Music||Harvey Schmidt||The Mute||Dane Toney|
|Libretto||Tom Jones||El Gallo||Sean Cooper|
|Director||Peter Kope||Matt||Adam Hill|
|Conductor||Walter Morales||Luisa||Rachel Eve Holmes|
|Scenic Designer||Marie Yokoyama||Hucklebee||Brian Hupp|
|Costume Designer||Julianne D'Errico||Bellomy||James Critchfield|
|Lighting Designer||Stevie Agnew||Henry||Martin Giles|
|Assistant Director||David Toro|
THE FANTASTICKS is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).
The mysterious El Gallo tells about love and September ("Try to Remember"). He then begins to explain the plot of the play. Two young people, Matt and Luisa, live next door to each other and fall in love. However, their fathers are feuding and order them not to speak to each other. Luisa fantasizes about the experiences she wants to have in her life ("Much More"). Matt then delivers a speech about his love for Luisa, singing over the wall to her in a mock literary/heroic way ("Metaphor"). Matt and Luisa sneak up to the top of the wall and speak secretly of Luisa's romantic vision of Matt saving her from kidnapping. Matt's father, Mr. Hucklebee, then appears and tells about his philosophy of life and gardening (don't overwater). He calls Matt and orders him to come inside the house. Luisa's father, Mr. Bellomy, then enters and gives a contrasting philosophy of life and gardening (plenty of water). He then orders Luisa inside. He then calls to Hucklebee, and the two old friends boast about pretending to feud as a means to ensure that their children fall in love. They note that to manipulate children you need merely say "no" ("Never Say No"). Hucklebee tells Bellomy of his plan to end the feud by having Luisa "kidnapped" by a professional so that Matt can "rescue" her and appear heroic.
The hired professional, El Gallo (who is also the narrator), appears and offers the fathers a menu of different varieties of "rape" – in the literary sense of an abduction or kidnapping – that he can simulate ("It Depends on What You Pay"). Deciding to spare no expense for their beloved children (within reason), the fathers agree to a "first class" rape. A disheveled old actor with a failing memory, Henry, and his sidekick, Mortimer, who is dressed as an American Indian, arrive. El Gallo engages them to help with the staged kidnapping. Matt and Luisa return and speak of their love and hint at physical intimacy ("Soon It's Gonna Rain"). El Gallo and the actors burst in and carry out the moonlit abduction scenario; Matt "defeats" the three ("Rape Ballet"). The feud is ended, with the children and the fathers joined in a picturesque final tableau ("Happy Ending"). El Gallo collects the stage properties used in the "rape" and wonders aloud how long the lovers and their fathers will be able to maintain their elaborately joyful poses. He and the Mute leave.
The children and fathers are discovered in the same poses but are visibly shaky and exhausted from the effort. El Gallo observes that what seemed romantic by moonlight may lose its charm when exposed to the harsh light of day. He exchanges the moon for the blazing sun. The fathers and lovers begin to complain about one another, noticing all the flaws that have become glaringly visible by daylight ("This Plum is too Ripe"). The children try to recreate their romantic mood from the previous night and mock their fathers. Finally, in a fit of pique, Hucklebee reveals that their kidnapping and the feud were fake. Matt and Luisa are mortified, and the fathers' mutual recrimination quickly escalates into a real feud; they storm off to their respective houses. Matt sees El Gallo and, in a desperate attempt to regain his honor and Luisa's love, challenges him to a duel. El Gallo easily disarms Matt leaves him embarrassed. Matt and Luisa then argue fiercely; she calls him a poseur, while he calls her childish.
Matt is eager to leave the provincial town. He and El Gallo discuss his vision ("I Can See It"). Henry and Mortimer then appear and lead Matt off into the real world. A month passes, and the fathers have rebuilt the wall. They speak sadly of their children; Luisa is like a statue and does nothing but sit around; Matt still hasn't returned. They then sing about the uncertainties of raising children, as compared with the reliability of vegetable gardening ("Plant a Radish"). Luisa sees El Gallo watching her and is intrigued by the handsome, experienced bandit. Impulsively, she asks him to take her away to see the world. In a long fantasy sequence, they preview a series of romantic adventures through a mask of unreality, while in the background Matt is being abused and beaten by Henry and Mortimer portraying a series of unpleasant employers. Even Luisa's fantasies become increasingly exhausting and darkly underscored ("Round and Round").
El Gallo tells Luisa to pack her things for the journey, but before she goes inside to do so, he asks her to give him her treasured necklace, a relic of her dead mother, as a pledge that she will return. As she goes inside, El Gallo promises her a world of beauty and grandeur; at the same time, Matt approaches to give a contrasting version of the cruel experiences that one can suffer ("I Can See It" (reprise)). As Luisa disappears, El Gallo turns to leave; Matt makes a pitiful attempt to stop him from hurting Luisa, but El Gallo knocks him away and disappears. Luisa returns to find that El Gallo has left her, and sits in tears. El Gallo, as the narrator, tells poetically that he had to hurt Matt and Luisa, and how he hurt himself in the process. Matt comforts Luisa, and he tells her a little about his experiences, and the two realize that everything they wanted was each other ("They Were You"; "Metaphor" (reprise)), but that they now understand that more deeply. The Fathers then return joyfully and are about to tear down the wall, when El Gallo reminds them that the wall must always remain ("Try to Remember" (reprise)).
Meet the Composer
Schmidt was born in Dallas, Texas, and attended the University of Texas to study art, but when he met Tom Jones at the University he started to accompany the drama students on the piano. They soon started writing musicals together, the first being a revue. However, after serving in the Army, Schmidt moved to New York and worked as a graphic artist for NBC Television and later as an illustrator for Life, Harper's Bazaar, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune.
All of Schmidt's major musicals were written with lyricist Tom Jones. The duo is best-known for the musical The Fantasticks, which ran off-Broadway from 1960–2002 for a total of 17,162 performances. He also collaborated on the 1995 feature film adaptation. In 1992 he received an honorary Tony Award for The Fantasticks, then in its 33rd year.
The team followed with the Broadway musical 110 in the Shade in 1963, which ran for 330 performances on Broadway and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Composer and Lyricist for Schmidt and Jones. I Do! I Do! followed in 1966, which brought Mary Martin and Robert Preston to the Broadway stage in a two-person musical and ran for 560 performances. Jones and Schmidt were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Composer and Lyricist and Best Musical.
They both appeared in a revue of their songs, The Show Goes On, at the York Theatre Company in 1997. The run was extended several times and the show was recorded on the DRG label.
Schmidt was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. His recording, Harvey Schmidt plays Jones and Schmidt was released in 2005. Schmidt and Jones wrote a musical of Thornton Wilder's Our Town which took them thirteen years to write, only to have the rights pulled by Wilder's nephew.
Schmidt and Jones were both inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in July, 2012.
Tom Jones (born 1928, in Littlefield, Texas), is an American lyricist (and often librettist) of musical theatre. His best-known work is The Fantasticks, which ran off-Broadway from 1960 until 2002, and the hit song from the same, "Try to Remember". Other songs from The Fantasticks include "Soon It's Gonna Rain", "Much More" and "I Can See It". He also wrote the screenplay for the 1995 feature film adaptation.
Jones acted in a New York City revival of The Fantasticks (identified in the program as "Thomas Bruce"), playing the part of the Old Actor, which he played when the musical opened in 1960. Jones is also the author of Making Musicals: An Informal Introduction to the World of Musical Theater.
The World's Longest Running Musical
Here are some amazing facts and figures about The Fantasticks:
- The Fantasticks is the longest-running musical in the world. The original production ran for 17,162 performances at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village.
- The Fantasticks won Tony Honors for Excellence in Theater.
- It is the most frequently produced musical. There have been over 11,000 productions in the United States in over 3,000 cities and towns. It has played all fifty states, plus Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.
- The original production of the show had a box office gross of $21,308,680. It has already paid its 44 original backers a 19,213% return on their investment.
- The Fantasticks has seen history in the making-eleven U.S. Presidents (beginning with Eisenhower!), the demise of major newspapers, blizzards, actors' strikes, blackouts, transportation strikes that crippled the city, and the 1975 knockout of telephone service for three weeks. Through it all, The Fantasticks played on.
- Internationally, The Fantasticks has been seen in 67 countries, from Afghanistan to Iran to Zimbabwe. Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Israel have all seen multiple productions.
- The Fantasticks was performed in Mandarin by the famed Peking Opera, and in 1990 under the auspices of the State Department it played for the first time in Russia.
- The Fantasticks has been performed at the White House. The show has also played for the Peace Corps in Africa, the Shawnee Mission in Kansas, the Menninger Foundation, Olympian Fields, Yellowstone National Park and the White Sands Missile Base.
- At its heart, The Fantasticks is a New York City tradition. In fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended the New Year's Eve performance before ringing in 2008 in Times Square.
- The MGM original cast recording has sold more copies than any other Off Broadway show. The hit song "Try To Remember" has been recorded by countless vocalists, notably Barbra Streisand.
- The original Off Broadway company starred Jerry Orbach ("Law and Order," "Chicago," "Dirty Dancing"). In 2007 the theater that is home to the revival was christened The Jerry Orbach Theater.
- Other notable performers who have appeared in The Fantasticks include F. Murray Abraham, Glenn Close, Liza Minnelli, Kristin Chenoweth, and Elliot Gould. Most recently, American Idol finalist Anthony Fedorov appeared in the revival as Matt.
Learn more about The Fantasticks from these books, recordings, and scores available on Amazon: