Last week, Lore Noto, producer of the ultra-long-running but soon-to close Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, announced that when the show shutters (after a mere 17,162 performances), the costumes will be donated to the Museum of the City of New York.
Reaction to that news has caused the producer to emend that decision somewhat. Now production spokesperson David Salidor reports that although Noto will donate some duds to the Museum, others "will be placed on ebay for purchase." The change of heart is credited to "overwhelming demand from the legions of fans."
Production spokesperson Salidor called the Museum's interest in Fantasticks memorabilia, "a testament to the show's enduring impact on New York." The musical's set, costumes and lighting were all designed by Ed Wittstein. Alas, the show's original costumes have long been worn out and discarded, so the Museum and ebay.com will get the garb worn by the current cast.
Much as it's hard to believe The Fantasticks will really and truly end its 42-year run Off Broadway on Jan. 13, the empirical evidence keeps mounting. Producer Lore Noto has just announced that when the show closes (after a mere 17,162 performances), the costumes will be donated to the Museum of the City of New York. The final performance of Harvey Schmidt-Tom Jones' tuner will be the evening show Jan. 13. It was to be an "invitation-only" event, but ticket demand proved "so overwhelming," says Salidor, that that show (now sold out) was also opened to the public. (A week after posting a Jan. 6, 2002 closing notice, the producers had added one more week to the show's four decade run.)
The Fantasticks, the longest-running show in the modern history of New York theatre, closes after 42 years and 17,162 performances at Greenwich Village's Sullivan Street Playhouse.
In late July, dire warnings were already emerging from producer Lore Noto and his son, Tony Noto, who began advertising "last weeks" for the show. (Since then, the New York Times ABC advertising list of shows has run a "Final Weeks ?" teaser with its listing of The Fantasticks.) Spokesperson Salidor told Playbill On-Line that there's no question the show will cease to exist at the Sullivan Street Playhouse as of the final date, though sources close to the production say there's already very preliminary rumor of possible movement or re-staging at another venue.
You can try to remember a time when The Fantasticks wasn't part of the New York theatre scene — but you'd have to go back to 1959. On May 3, 1960, the little musical about lovers who meet despite their feuding families (who are pretending to feud in order to get their children together!) opened at the 135-seat Sullivan Street Playhouse. It would go on to create theatre history, reaching its 41st birthday May 3.
The closing notice isn't so much the result of low grosses or even the overall national economic slump. Producer Noto has made clear that real estate is the main culprit. The Sullivan Street Playhouse is on the desirably Village-y Sullivan Street, has a new landlord, and real estate prices have escalated so precipitously, a flat-lining box office could kill a show that four decades of television, movies, rock concerts, computers and virtual reality could not.
In a statement released Sept. 4, the elder Noto said of the landlord, "The new purchasers of the building that houses the Sullivan Street Theater, had certain plans in regards to us, and we felt that we couldn't accommodate them. We came to an amicable agreement and let them have the building for their purposes. We felt we had to be honest and fair to our cast and crew who have supported the show for these many years."
Spokesperson Salidor says the producers are trying to contact original cast members to take part in the last week of performances, but that's still in the early discussion stage.
The musical, by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, was suggested by Edmond Rostand's Les Romanesques, and gave the world "Try to Remember," "Metaphor," "Soon It's Gonna Rain," "I Can See It" and "They Were You."
The show's innocence-to-wisdom themes are universal, and productions sprouted throughout the world over the years. Its blank-stage set, company of 10 (including two musicians) and breezy, experimental feel have made the show a perennial favorite in school, stock and community theatre.
A national tour with Robert Goulet as El Gallo played to arena-sized houses, but not even that (some would say) ill-advised extravaganza could sully the reputation of the humane romantic musical. Times have changed so much over the years that the 1960 version's references to rape were changed to "abduction."
The tuner opened under the direction of Word Baker, whose name is still on the title page, along with producer Lore Noto and co-producer Donald V. Thompson (who helped save the show in 1986). The original cast included Jerry Orbach as El Gallo, Rita Gardner as The Girl and Kenneth Nelson as The Boy.
Schmidt and Jones would achieve acclaim for such future works as I Do! I Do!, 110 in the Shade and their retrospective, The Show Goes On, but The Fantasticks remains their most recognized and enduring production. The show was given a 1992 Special Tony Award. A film version starring Joel Grey was released after a long delay in 2000 to unfriendly reviews that suggested the piece is inherently theatrical. The picture is now on video and DVD.
Currently in the cast are Paul Blankenship (El Gallo), Jeremy Ellison Gladstone (Matt), Natasha Harper (Luisa), William Tost (Girl's Father), Bill Weeden (Hucklebee), William Tost (Bellomy), J.C. Hoyt (Henry), John Bundrick (Mortimer). Ed Wittstein designed the production. Associate producers are Sheldon Baron and Dorothy Olim.
Sullivan Street Playhouse is at 181 Sullivan Street. For ticket information, call (212) 674-3838.
— By David Lefkowitz,
Ken Jones and Robert Simonson