February 9, 2008
The Fantasticks is an off-Broadway play that began life in 1960, apparently a college project of a group of earnest and impecunious youngsters yearning to express themselves. That 48 years later it is still winning hearts and sending audiences home humming and smiling is something of a small miracle.
When I first moved to New York in the mid-1960's, The Fantasticks had surprised its critics and the theatregoing audiences in that it just kept running. An allegorical fantasy, based upon Edmond Rostand's Les Romanesques and borrowing from such classics as Romeo and Juliet and Pyramus and Thisby. An unpretentious, low-budget production, it ran steadily until 2002, and is now being seen in a revival that will close at the end of the month.
The original production starred the youthful Jerry Ohrbach as El Gallo, the narrator and singer of the show's most-sung tune. To hear a snatch, go here, or if you're not up to it, you know what song I mean. Sing it yourself and see if you can keep from choking up.
Since I moved back to the North, my daughter has urged me to expose her sons to the theatre that I know so well. Checking with local friends on how to get discount tickets online, I discovered that I could get tickets for all four of us to see The Fantasticks today at the matinee. I took them all to see a rather forgettable offering over Christmas, but I think this one will be the real deal. Elias, who is 13, has said he wants to go, even after the rather dumb other experience, and Andy, 10, will soon be playing Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream. Much as I know they want to be cool, seeing this little play is just bound to be an adventure. Alison has never seen it, and, as a matter of fact, the only production of it I ever saw was at the International School of Geneva in the early 1980's. It was beautiful, but I suspect this one will be even better.
The three of them will drive down from their home in Kingston to meet me at the theatre just before 2. If I know them, I'll be lucky if they make it by 1:55. The more I thought about this excursion, the more I wanted to be with them all after the show, so I invited myself to join them for the ride home and return to Hoboken by bus tomorrow. I wanted to be part of their discussion of the play, and hear their reactions first hand. If they don't like it, I want to know why, but if they love it as much as I expect them to, I want to share that.
You'll hear more about this in future blog posts. I wish you could be there too.