TRY TO REMEMBER WHEN LIFE WAS SO TENDER!! Over the years, there have an unforgettable history of classic musicals that have made the leap from the New York stage to the Hollywood cameras. One of them is a timeless musical heart warmer… The Fantasticks. In the Fall of 1964 (just 4 years into its original Off Broadway debut). the musical was translated into a Live Televised production from NBC and Hallmark. Years later thanks to social media, it has been rediscovered. There are 2 editions of this live presentation…. a version in both black & white and in technicolor (the version we have up now). Under the direction of George Schaffer and choreographed by Herb Ross, the cast was led by…
The late and legendary Ricardo Montalban as "El Gallo",
The comedic showstopping Bert Lahr (who we all know as the “Cowardly Lion” from The Wizard Of Oz) as "Hucklebee" (The Boy’s Father)
Acclaimed comedic stage and screen star Stanley Holloway as "Bellomy" (The Girl’s Father)
Susan Watson as "Luisa" (The Girl),
John Davidson as "Matt" (The Boy).
For this live presentation, the musical was abbreviated. Because of the timing, the characters of "The Old Actor" and "Mortimer" were both cut. Some of their lines however still remained in the show being delivered by the two fathers.
In case anyone may not remember or know, THE FANTASTICKS is considered as the World's Longest Running Musical In The World. It's an allegorical story, based on Edward Rostand's 1894 play The Romancers (Les Romanesques). The story centers on two neighboring& BFF fathers who stage a feud in attempting their have their children fall in love with each other. It features music by Harvey Schmidt along with lyrics and a book by Tom Jones. Notable songs include TRY TO REMEMBER, MUCH MORE, SOON IT'S GONNA RAIN, I CAN SEE IT, and THEY WERE YOU.
The show was first concieved in 1954 by Tom Jones with his original partner with J. Donald Robb. They were planning to create a musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand's Les Romanesques. It originally was actually called JOY COMES TO A DEAD HORSE (as a parody rip-off to Rodgers & Hammerstein). It later was reset with two Texan families and a Mexican accomplice called "El Gallo". However, the result began a crazy mix of Finian’s Rainbow, meets Our Town, meets Zorro, and several other Shakespearean comedies. It had its premiere in 1956 at the University of Mexico. However, the show turned out to be a huge flop by their fellow writers colleagues. Jones and Robb ended up going their separate ways.
A few months later, Jones teamed up with Harvey Schmidt (who had just came home from the Korean War) and began a full revamped script. Scenes were cut, new dialogue and songs were written, and several parts were updated including the role of "Mortimer" now as actor pretending to be an Indian. In addition, the original Wild Wild West setting was abandoned. It also got a name change to what we all know it as today…. THE FANTASTICKS. The idea actually came from George Fleming's 1900 adaptation of Edmond Rostand's play. The revamped play debuted in the Summer of 1959 part of a one-act play festival at Barnard College. It earned the attention of producer Lore Noto who commissioned the authors to expand the work into a full evening of musical theatre & it was given the offer of an Off Broadway run.
With a very low budget, THE FANTASTICKS made its way onto the New York Theatre in Spring 1960 playing the Sullivan Street Playhouse. It was well received by audiences creating an immediate effect with its sparse set and semicircular stage. It highly stylized and combines old-fashioned showmanship, classic musical theatre, commedia dell'arte and Noh theatrical traditions. Under the direction of Word Baker, the original cast was led by….
Jerry Orbach as "El Gallo",
Kenneth Nelson as "Matt",
Rita Gardner as "Luisa",
William Larsen as "Hucklebee",
Hugh Thomas as "Bellomy",
Tom Jones as "Henry" (The Old Actor),
George Curley as "Mortimer",
Richard Stauffer as "The Mute".
With the success of its early beginnings, the show went on to run for an unforgettable recording breaking 42 years and 17,162 performances at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. It historically closed in 2002.
It's original Off Broadway run featured hundreds of replacement actors taking on these notable roles. For many of them, this show landed them their Equity card. Notable replacements included….
With its recording breaking run, the show went on to receive a special Tony for EXCELLENCE IN THEATRE in 1991.
With the success of its Off Broadway run, THE FANTASTICKS went on to wow audiences in London's West End, on Tour across America, and went on to become a worldwide phenomenon. It played on 6 continents and was translated into every major language.
Most recently, the show returns to the New York stage Off Broadway back in 2006 playing The Jerry Orbach Theatre at The Theater Center (formerly The Snapple Theatre Center) where it ran for an unforgettable 11 years and 4,390 performances. Under the direction of Tom Jones himself paying tribute to the original staging, the original revival cast was led by…..
Burke Moses as "El Gallo",
Tony winner Santino Fontana as "Matt",
Sara Jean Ford as "Luisa",
Leo Burmester as "Hucklebee",
Martin Vidnovic as "Bellomy",
Tom Jones reprising his performance as "Henry" (The Old Actor),
Robert Oliver as "Mortimer",
Douglas Ullman, Jr as "The Mute".
Along with the success of its time on the stage, THE FANTASTICKS was captured on screen TWICE. You have this 1964 Live TV version along with a full length film version in 1995 from United Artist. Under the direction of Michael Ritchie, the cast was led by….
Jonathon Morris as "El Gallo",
Joey McIntyre as "Matt",
Jean Louisa Kelly as "Luisa",
Tony and Oscar winner Joel Grey as "Bellomy",
Brad Sullivan as "Hucklebee",
Teller as "Mortimer",
Today, THE FANTASTICKS continues to be performed around the world in schools, community, and regional Theaters everywhere.
How timeless is this musical?!!!