Friday Favorites–The Fantastiks

As many of you know, I am a theatre person, and have been directingn plays for quite some time. Musicals are my favorite plays to direct, and one of my favorite musicals of all time is The Fantastiks. I have directed this show three separate times and every time I have loved the experience.   It is the story of two families, two fathers to be exact and their children.  The fathers have been best of friends all of their lives, and they have always wanted their children to fall in love and marry, but knowing the young and how they will often do the opposite of what their parents want them to do, they forbid their children from every speaking to each other and build a wall between the two properties. They pretend to hate each other and tell their children that only bad will come of their every associating with each other.  Of course, it works, and the two young people, Matt and Luisa, secretly meet and fall in love. Like Pyramis and Thisbe of ancient stories, they climb up the wall and meet secretly each day and profess their love for each other.  Their dads are elated.  Now the conflict–how do they give their children permission to be together and end the facade.

In steps El Gallo, a gallant, Zorro like character who travels with two  down and out actors–Henry–who recites Shakespeare badly, and Mortimer–an actor dressed as an Native American and who does death scenes.  Together they convince the fathers to pretend to “abduct” Luisa so that Matt may rescue her and end the “feud” between their families.  All is well at the end of Act One, but by the beginning of Act Two, Matt and Luisa discover the ruse and head off in separate directions to find their way in the world.  In the end, they realize that they really only want each other and return home in a bittersweet reunion.

One of the things that makes this play so delightful is the music and the wonderful message of love and family. It is also a director’s joy with a very simple set and only a piano and a harp for the orchestra.  The cast is made up of eight people, so it is easy to work with.  And it is very, very funny.   It is by far my favorite play I have ever directed or seen.

Just some historical back ground.  It was written and first performed in 1960.  The music is by Harvey Schmidt and the lyrics are by Tom Jones ( no, not the singer).  It is the longest running show on Broadway with over 42 years of productions.   It is currently on Broadway at the Snapple Theatre in NYC.  You can see some images and hear a clip or two at http://www.thefantastiks.com.  —Pam

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