I’m not often suckered into doing things through shear sentimentality, but this time a combination of latent nostalgia and pure ego overcame me. I was asked if I would like to bring my son to see The Fantasticks. Specifically, the idea was to promote their backstage tours following matinee performances. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, The Fantasticks, a twist on Romeo and Juliet set in a small town somewhere in the US, holds the title of the world’s longest running musical. After a brief hiatus it returned to its off-broadway roots in 2006 (the original production started in 1960 at NYC’s Sullivan Street Playhouse and ran for a total of 42 years and 17,162 performances). I unfortunately cannot bring my son because he is just too young to sit through what is a truly fantastic production (although I certainly plan on bringing him when he is ready to sit still for more than a minute!). The reason I decided to write about this production is not only because it has been a longtime New York fixture, but because in my short lived theatrical career in high school and college, I not only played the part of Henry (the old actor in the musical), I also worked on the lighting and set design. I was also lucky enough to see the original off-broadway show at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. When they contacted me a few weeks ago and invited me over I felt that clichéd wave of emotions wash over me as I thought back to my own time as a cast member and some of the more comical moments during that production. The one that comes immediately to mind, though, was opening night when I awaited my grand entrance from a box in the middle of the stage (you have to see the musical to fully appreciate the hilarity of the situation) with one of my classmates who was playing Mortimer who must have eaten a few too many beans for lunch. Needless to say popping out of that box could not come soon enough, although I will say it did make my entrance much more energetic!
If you are in NYC do go see The Fantasticks, with or without kids it really is a great production and you will be humming “Try to Remember” for days later.