“The Fantasticks” is known as the longest-running musical in history. It played off-Broadway for almost 42 years. I assume my parents went to see it at least once because my father frequently listened to the original cast album.
My wife and I received Facebook notifications about a production of “The Fantasticks” being staged Friday and Saturday at Knoxville Catholic High School. One of our friends had a daughter, Angeline Morris, appearing in the play as The Mute. A local blogger’s son, Jake Sholly, played El Gallo. One of our son’s friends, Roxanne Cabrera, played Luisa, the female lead. Her voice was perfectly suited for the part. Another friend from church, Andrew Ballew, was the professional accompanist and music director.
The premise is like “Romeo & Juliet” but with a twist. A couple falls in love despite a feud between their fathers. Or is it because of the feud? We quickly learn that the fathers are friends, faking the feud because they know it will push the kids together. The song “Never Say No” summarizes their deception. Act 1 appears to have a happy ending. Things go awry in Act 2 when the young lovers discover they have been tricked into an arranged marriage.
This was my first time seeing “The Fantasticks” on stage. A few years back, I tried watching the film version of it, which starred Jean Louisa Kelly of “yes, dear” fame. It works much better as a stage play with an austere set than a movie filmed on location. The dialogue and songs are too theatrical to make sense when put on a real farm in the real world. Part of the conceit of the play is that El Gallo addresses the audience and acknowledges several times that we are watching a play. The character of The Mute sometimes portrays inanimate objects such as the wall the two fathers build.
My wife and I were impressed that the kids did so well with the challenging songs. She pointed out that they didn’t have a big chorus to back them up. Her comment reminded me that my high school would put on big productions like “Mame,” “Very Good Eddie” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” I always enjoy telling my wife’s friends that although she has never been to Oklahoma, she was in “Oklahoma!”