Lore Noto, the producer responsible for the legendary Off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks, died July 8 at his home in Forest Hills, NY, of complications from cancer, according to publicist David Salidor.
Mr. Noto, 79, was born Lorenzo Noto in Brooklyn and studied at the New York School of Industrial Arts, the American Academy and the Theatre Studio. Although he had a career in commercial art (he was a graphic artist for publishers, including the Catholic Press, and later became an agent for artists), Mr. Noto was also an actor in such plays as Bomb Shelter (The Little Theatre, 1941) and Shake Hands With the Devil (The Blackfriars' Theatre, 1949). After seeing a 1959 Barnard production of a one-act version of a work by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, Mr. Noto commissioned the authors to expand the musical into a two-act evening of theatre.
The Fantasticks — inspired by a play by Edmond Rostand — would go on to become an international sensation, and play at the tiny living-room-sized Sullivan Street Playhouse 1960-2002, playing 17,162 performances. It closed Jan. 13, 2002, and enjoyed several cast albums, countless international stagings, an expanded and revised national tour starring Robert Goulet and a film version starring Joey McIntyre and Joel Grey (now on DVD).
Due to a "casting crisis" six weeks into the run of the show at the Sullivan Street Playhouse, Mr. Noto himself went on in the role of Hucklebee (the boy's father) and would later play the role for 17 years beginning in 1970. He played the role 6,348 performances. His son, Tony Noto, was seven when the show opened, and would become one of the production's associate producers.
At the curtain speech for the final show in 2002, Mr. Noto, who had invested his life savings in the show in 1960, said, "God bless and good luck to anyone who wants to try to run longer." The international media swarmed around The Fantasticks over the years, but never so much as around Jan. 13, 2002. "We were overwhelmed by the amount of attention the closing got," son Tony Noto told Playbill On-Line July 8. "It was something we never expected at all. I think that gave him a great deal of satisfaction — that his life's work was something that was appreciated."
Tony Noto said his father's health had been failing recently. "He knew he was sick," said Tony Noto. "He mentioned at the time that he wanted to take a final bow. He wanted to thank everybody who was involved, he wanted everybody to be there."
The show didn't necessarily make Mr. Noto rich, but he did make a living off it, his son said, adding, "How rich can you get on a 150-seat house...?" His co-producer was Donald V. Thompson.
Among other shows Mr. Noto produced was the Broadway musical flop, The Yearling.
In 2010, when The Fantasticks celebrates its 50th anniversary, Tony Noto said he would like to produce a New York revival, if the details can be worked out.
Mr. Noto is survived by his wife since 1947, Mary; daughter Janice Noto-Helmers; and sons Tony, Thad and Jody. A mass will be held 10:15 AM July 12 at Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills.