The longest running Off-Broadway show in the world, The Fantasticks has just completed its 20,000th performance at the Snapple Theatre in downtown Manhattan. The musical is a modern, imaginative take on the classic Romeo and Juliet with music by composer Harvery Schmidt. The lyricist and creator of the play, Tom Jones, was astonished by the plays success and longevity. “Did I think it would run 20,000 performances? No, I didn’t think it would run 20,” he joked to the NY Daily News.
Between bad reviews and faltering venues, the show had a troubling start, but it was able to push through for decades and has become one of the most successful Off-Broadway shows in the world.
The Fantasticks originally opened in May of 1960 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. The tale showcases two fathers who fake a dispute to prompt a romance between their kids Matt and Luisa. Throughout the course of the story, the kids unveil the deceit that led to their arranged romance and reject it, only to end up together in the end.
The set on the stage is basically bare; only a few props are used during the performance leaving the audience to delve into their imagination and the actors to really break through and shine. The play has helped launch the careers of several actors including Kristin Chenoweth, Murray Abraham and Tony nominee, Santino Fontana. “I don’t think I could’ve dropped into more caring hands starting out,” he recalled. “I look back and smile.”
Jones, who was part of the original 1960 cast, explained his revelation when he came back for a guest appearance in the 50th anniversary performance. “The world around us had undergone vast changes,” he revealed. “So many of my friends and fellow actors had passed away. But this tale we were telling, this parable about growing up, was still able to touch people, to make them laugh and weep, after all these years. And I was very moved by that.”