The Fantasticks Turns Would-Be Closing Into Celebration of Rebirth

News   The Fantasticks Turns Would-Be Closing Into Celebration of Rebirth
 
Usually, news is about something that happened. Sunday night, the news was about something that didn’t happen.

Edward Watts (El Gallo) gives lyricist-librettist Tom Jones a hug at the post-show party, May 3, at the Jerry Orbach Theatre.
Edward Watts (El Gallo) gives lyricist-librettist Tom Jones a hug at the post-show party, May 3, at the Jerry Orbach Theatre. Photo by Debra Novack

The Fantasticks didn’t close.

Its 20,680th New York performance, which had been planned as its last, turned from a funeral to a celebration of rebirth, owing to the generosity of two donors, as announced last week. The donors gave the show's producers a lump sum that will keep the show running for the foreseeable future.

Instead of tears and farewells, producer Catherine Russell got to hand out champagne and slices of a big cake, inscribed “The Fantasticks 1960-2015.” Lyricist-librettist Tom Jones, 87 this year, who also was a member of the original cast under the name Thomas Bruce, gave a brief pre-show curtain speech. When he heard the show was closing, he said, “I felt horrified and sick."

He compared the show’s rescue to a Greek Orthodox Easter Acclamation, in which a coffin is opened and found to be empty, and the celebrants sing “Khristós Anésti!" ("Christ is risen!”)

Tonight, he said, "Fantasticks Anésti!" He thanked Russell and other members of the producing and creative team, and said the continued run will enable the show "Either to soar to new heights or become a vampire."

Many members of the audience had arranged tickets believing it to be the final performance, so there were not a few in attendance who had been involved with the show for decades, including actors who appeared in the show over its long run.

Most of the show was played straight, but when El Gallo did the scene where he looks for players to perform the staged abduction of The Girl, actor Edward Watts ad libbed, "Does anyone here know the show?," which brought chuckles.

Later, when the two players, known as The Old Actor (MacIntyre Dixon) and The Man Who Dies (Michael Nostrand) are describing their lives together, Dixon said they'd been together 55 years–the length of time since the show's original opening.

Jones is one of three surviving members of the original cast, along with Rita Gardner ("The Girl") and Blair Stauffer (“The Mute”). Jones’ writing partner, composer Harvey Schmidt, is also still living, but unable to travel from his home in Texas.

The event took place on the 55th anniversary of the show’s original opening night. The original production ran 1960 to 2002 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. The current production is a revival that opened at the Jerry Orbach Theatre in 2006.

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