'The Fantasticks' - An American Musical Play

An American musical play has been performed in New York City for almost forty-two years. On January thirteenth, however, "The Fantasticks" is finally expected to close. I'm Doug Johnson. And I'm Sarah Long. The story and music of "The Fantasticks" is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.


"The Fantasticks" has been performed about seventeen-thousand times at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York. It is the longest-running musical play in the world. Now, however, "The Fantasticks" producer Lore [loar] Noto says the show must end January Thirteenth. He says operating costs have increased. At the same time, ticket sales have decreased.

The musical opened on May Third, Nineteen-Sixty. Much has changed since then. Yet over the years people kept coming to see "The Fantasticks."

People even came to see a performance of "The Fantasticks" a few days after the September Eleventh terrorist attack in New York. The theater is in the area called Greenwich Village, very close to the target area. But about fifteen people walked through the ashes blowing from the destroyed World Trade Center buildings to see the show.

One song in the play had a new and sadder meaning after September Eleventh. This song, "Try to Remember," urges people to try to remember a very different kind of September -- a September when life was beautiful.

"The Fantasticks" is about young love, children leaving home and what it is like to be a father.

Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt wrote "The Fantasticks" in Nineteen-Fifty-Nine. They wrote it for a summer production at Barnard College in New York. Nine months later, the show opened at the Sullivan Street Playhouse.

"The Fantasticks" has played there ever since. The children and grandchildren of those who first saw the play have returned to see it.

One reason for the continuing popularity of "The Fantasticks" may be that it is different from large musicals playing in Broadway theaters. The Sullivan Street Playhouse is very small. It has only one-hundred-fifty seats. The people who see the show are very close to the actors.

"The Fantasticks" has only eight actors. There are only two musicians. The actors' clothes and the settings on the stage are very simple.

Now we present some music from the first New York production of "The Fantasticks." Jerry Orbach plays the Narrator. He helps tell the story. Mr. Orbach also plays El Gallo [GUY-yo], a handsome robber. The Narrator sings the play's most famous song, "Try to Remember."


The Narrator presents the main people in the play. They are a boy named Matt, a girl named Luisa, and their two fathers. Luisa is sixteen years old. She dreams of having more interesting experiences in her life. Rita Gardner plays Luisa. She sings "Much More."


A wall separates the homes of Matt and Luisa. Their fathers built the wall to keep the young people apart. The fathers really want Matt and Luisa to fall in love. But, they feel that the best way to make this happen is to act as if they disapprove of any relationship between their two children.

The fathers believe children will only do what their parents do not want them to do. The fathers, played by William Larsen and Hugh Thomas, sing about this in "Never Say No."


The fathers decide on a plot to bring Matt and Luisa together. They ask El Gallo to try to kidnap Luisa. Matt fights El Gallo. The young man saves Luisa. He becomes a hero. The young people and their fathers are united. Everyone is happy.

But in the second part of "The Fantasticks," Matt and Luisa discover that their fathers have tricked them. The young lovers argue. Matt decides to leave Luisa. He wants to travel to other parts of the world. He seeks new experiences. Kenneth Nelson is Matt. He sings "I Can See It."


The fathers are unhappy that their plot to bring the children together has failed. They discuss the problems of having children. They decide it is easier to grow vegetables than to raise children.


Luisa also wants to visit different places. The handsome robber, El Gallo, offers to take her with him to see the world.


Luisa prepares to go away with El Gallo, but he leaves without her. Matt returns from his travels. He has seen and experienced many unpleasant things. Both Luisa and Matt have been hurt emotionally by their experiences. Yet they also have grown up.

Matt and Luisa rediscover their love for each other. Listen as they sing their song of love, "They Were You."


This program was written by Jerilyn Watson and Shelley Gollust. It was produced by George Grow. Our studio engineer was Kevin Raiman. I'm Sarah Long. And I'm Doug Johnson. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.