Susan Watson, the First Fantasticks Girl, Witnesses Its 50th Anniversary

PlayBlog   Susan Watson, the First Fantasticks Girl, Witnesses Its 50th Anniversary
Original actors, creators and even investors associated with the Off-Broadway phenomenon The Fantasticks turned out at the Jerry Orbach Theatre May 1-3 for a series of events leading up to the show's 50th anniversary performance on May 3.

Among those present was Susan Watson who played The Girl in the original one-act incarnation of the musical that debuted in the summer of 1959 at Barnard College in New York. The reason Watson didn't play the role in two-act version that began its record-breaking 42-year run at the Sullivan Street Playhouse the following May was that in the interim she was offered a plum gig: originating the role of the teen-aged Kim in Bye Bye Birdie.

When she got word of the offer, she went to Fantasticks composer Harvey Schmidt and asked what she should do. His answer was succinct, she said: "Susan, it's a Broadway show. Take it!"

Watson's career included playing the title role in the 1971 Broadway revival of No, No, Nanette; the female lead another Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt musical, Celebration on Broadway; and even the 1964 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV version of The Fantasticks with Richardo Montalban as El Gallo and Bert Lahr as Hucklebee.

But Watson said she had "moments of regret" after Rita Gardner enjoyed her triumph as The Girl in the original Off-Broadway cast.

Sitting in the audience at the 50th anniversary performance, Watson said, "The music is still so beautiful. It never sounds old."

— Robert Viagas

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