One of the most endearing musicals to ever hit the stage will come alive in Auburn this month for a limited engagement. The Fantasticks is the world’s longest-running musical; the original 1960 production ran for 42 years and 17,162 performances. It has become a staple of professional, amateur and school theatres, with an average of 250 productions staged across the country annually. Two of its songs, Try To Remember and Soon It’s Gonna Rain, were subsequently recorded by many different artists.
The allegorical play is loosely based on Les Romanesques, written in 1894 by French poet/dramatist Edmond Rostand, who is probably better known for his play Cyrano de Bergerac. Other elements of the story were drawn from Romeo and Juliet, Pyramus and Thisbe, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The story centers around two young next-door neighbors whose fathers hope that they will fall in love so they pretend to feud, assuming that the children will do the opposite of what they want. The fathers hire a troupe of traveling actors and stage an elaborate abduction of the girl, so that she can be rescued by the boy.
The Fantasticks opened on May 3, 1960, in a small theatre in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The leading role of El Gallo was played by Jerry Orbach, who starred in other musicals such as Chicago, 42nd Street, Promises, Promises, and Guys and Dolls, but is probably best-remembered for his role in TV’s Law & Order. Other notables who appeared in the show over the years include Liza Minelli, Elliott Gould, F. Murray Abraham, Glenn Close, Kristen Chenoweth, and Bert Convy.
Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt wrote the show for a summer theatre production at Barnard College. Unique in its simplicity, the eight actors in the cast of The Fantasticks are generally accompanied by only a piano. The upcoming production will be brought to the Auburn Public Theatre stage through Carnytown Productions, a group of local theatre-lovers which was established in 2009 to present plays that are not normally a part of a community theatre season, or commercial efforts which require large audiences to succeed. To that end, their first comedy, Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue, was selected due to its timely message about unemployment, even though it was written in 1970. The second production, a drama by Canadian playwright Vern Theissen, The Resurrection of John Frumm, was performed in conjunction with the Syracuse Shakespeare Festival. Both shows were well received. The Fantasticks is perfect for the stage at Auburn Public Theater. Production Staff Tom Hoey, Simon Moody, Jack Sherman and Joel Weirick decided that The Fantasticks is perfect for the Auburn Public Theater’s intimate main stage.
Starring in the role of El Gallo will be well-known local actor Simon Moody. More than 30 years of experience with area theatres and in his native Australia have given him a special polish. Recent productions include; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Sound of Music, Music Man, Oliver! and Much Ado About Nothing which earned him an Excellence in Acting Award from TANYS. His last appearance at APT was in the Carnytown Productions’ The Prisoner of Second Avenue.
Daniel Kringer of Skaneateles has been cast in the role of Matt, the boy. He has just completed the difficult vocal role of The Phantom in the Skaneateles High School production of Phantom of the Opera, directed by his father. He has been performing since he was 5 years old, and has appeared in Music Man, Pride and Prejudice, Willy Wonka, among others. In the role of the girl, Luisa, is Skaneateles junior Natalie Krause. She has always loved the theatre and was previously seen onstage in Throughly Modern Millie, Willie Wonka, Pride and Prejudice, and Noises Off, also performing since childhood.
In addition to the actors above, the cast includes the very talented Jack Sherman who will be seen next in Syracuse Shakespeare Festival Summer production with Joel Weirick who was last seen in Romero and Juliet. Collin Sullivan, who will entertain and enlighten you at Stirling Forests Renaissance Fair plays Mortimer (the Indian who dies) Paul Wenderlich has been performing for decades and this is his second turn at the role of Henry. Cole Salo has the difficult duty of playing The Mute. Cole has been performing since he was eight years old. The show is directed by James Cantu, Musical direction is by Barbara Mushko and Choreography by Yvonne Villano-Hassett. Set is designed by TANYS winner, Navroz Dabu.
The Fantasticks will be presented (with permission from Music Theatre International) on Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21, at 8:00 PM, plus Sunday Matinee on the 22nd at 2PM, at the Auburn Public Theatre in downtown Auburn. Advance sale tickets are $20, $25 at the door, and may be obtained by calling 315-253-6669 or online at www.thefantasticks.org or www.auburnpublictheater.org. Seating is limited.